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African Radio Astronomy: Square Kilometre Array (SKA)

Southern Africa, with a bid from 9 countries led by South Africa, was one of two candidate sites for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). Expected to be operational by 2025, the SKA will be a revolutionary radio telescope that will allow scientists to address many of the fundamental, unanswered questions about the Universe we live in. According to decision of the SKA Organisation in May 2012, the SKA will be located both in Africa and Australia and will be by far the largest and most sensitive radio telescope ever built. It will comprise more than 3,000 dish antennas, each about 15 m wide, which will be hosted by in Africa. In Australia thousands of fish-eye low frequency antennas will be installed. They will be arranged in five spiral arms extending from a central core to at least 3,000 km. The SKA will be 50 times more sensitive than any existing radio telescope, providing continuous frequency coverage from 70 MHz to 10 GHz in the first phases of its construction, and reaching 30 Ghz in the final phase. Astronomers and engineers from more than 70 institutes in 20 countries are working on the SKA project. Once in operation, it will be a truly global science facility, and its data will be distributed and processed in centres around the world.

Southern Africa offers rare advantages that make it an ideal location to host the SKA. In addition to offering wide coverage of the astronomically “rich” southern sky, South Africa is and will remain a radio quiet zone, with low levels of radio frequency interference. There is good basic infrastructure of roads, electricity and communication. It is an area with no seismic activity, politically stable, and with very low population density. There is an excellent and advanced industrial base and land, labour and services are available and very affordable. There is an excellent academic infrastructure are in place to support science and technology. In addition, an SKA project in Africa could harness the current growth in science capacity that is underway in Africa

Further information: www.ska.ac.za/about/project.php