SKA telescope will boost skills

Monday, February 1, 2010

Pretoria - Hosting the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope in South Africa will boost the development of high level skills and cutting edge technology infrastructure, says President Jacob Zuma.

Speaking at the African Union Heads of State and Government Assembly in Addis Ababa, Zuma said that if South Africa won the bid to host the radio telescope, other parts of Africa would also reap the benefits.

"Hosting the Square Kilometre Array will underscore Africa's capability in science and innovation," he said, adding that investment in infrastructure would also contribute to economic growth in the region.

"The requirement for ultra-high speed internet across Africa to operate the Square Kilometre Array will lead to improved ICT infrastructure and access for millions of people."

He said since the high-tech facility was about 50 to 100 times more sensitive than any other radio telescope on Earth, it was well positioned to be to probe the edges of the universe.

"It will help us to answer fundamental questions in the fields of astronomy, physics and cosmology, and may even detect intelligent life elsewhere in the universe," Zuma said.

South Africa and Australia are competing to host the multi-billion rand telescope which will allow astronomers to peer back in time almost to the birth of the universe.

The Karoo region of the Northern Cape Province has been chosen as the ideal location for the radio astronomy telescope because it is remote and sparsely populated, with a very dry climate.

South Africa has developed partnerships with eight other African countries to allow for an SKA station, namely Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia.

The announcement of the choice of site is expected between 2011 and 2012 and construction is scheduled to start in 2013.

Meanwhile at the summit, it was also announced that Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika would take over the rotating presidency of AU from Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who currently holds the post