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Dual site agreed for Square Kilometre Array telescope

25 May 2012, Amsterdam, the Netherlands – The Members of the SKA Organisation today agreed on a dual site solution for the Square Kilometre Array telescope, a crucial step towards building the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope.
The ASKAP and MeerKAT precursor dishes will be incorporated into Phase I of the SKA which will deliver more science and will maximise on investments already made by both Australia and South Africa.

Published by the editorial team, 25 May 2012

The majority of the members were in favour of a dual-site implementation model for SKA. The members noted the report from the SKA Site Advisory Committee that both sites were well suited to hosting the SKA and that the report provided justification for the relative advantages and disadvantages of both locations, but that they identified Southern Africa as the preferred site. The members also received advice from the working group set up to look at dual site options.

The majority of SKA dishes in Phase 1 will be built in South Africa, combined with MeerKAT. Further SKA dishes will be added to the ASKAP array in Australia. All the dishes and the mid frequency aperture arrays for Phase II of the SKA will be built in Southern Africa while the low frequency aperture array antennas for Phase I and II will be built in Australia.

“This hugely important step for the project allows us to progress the design and prepare for the construction phase of the telescope. The SKA will transform our view of the Universe; with it we will see back to the moments after the Big Bang and discover previously unexplored parts of the cosmos.” says Dr Michiel van Haarlem, Interim Director General of the SKA Organisation.

The SKA will enable astronomers to glimpse the formation and evolution of the very first stars and galaxies after the Big Bang, investigate the nature of gravity, and possibly even discover life beyond Earth.

“Today we are a stage closer to achieving our goal of building the SKA. This position was reached after very careful consideration of information gathered from extensive investigations at both candidate sites,” said Professor John Womersley, Chair of the SKA Board of Directors. “I would like to thank all those involved in the site selection process for the tremendous work they have put in to enable us to reach this point.”

Factors taken into account during the site selection process included levels of radio frequency interference, the long term sustainability of a radio quiet zone, the physical characteristics of the site, long distance data network connectivity, the operating and infrastructure costs as well as the political and working environment.

The agreement was reached by the Members of the SKA Organisation who did not bid to host the SKA (Canada, China, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom). The Office of the SKA Organisation will now lead a detailed definition period to clarify the implementation.

Scientists and engineers from around the world, together with industry partners, are participating in the SKA project which is driving technology development in antennas, data transport, software and computing, and power. The influence of the SKA project extends beyond radio astronomy. The design, construction and operation of the SKA have the potential to impact skills development, employment and economic growth in science, engineering and associated industries, not only in the host countries but in all partner countries.

About the SKA:

The Square Kilometre Array will be the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope. The total collecting area will be approximately one square kilometre giving 50 times the sensitivity, and 10 000 times the survey speed, of the best current-day telescopes. Thousands of receptors will extend to distances of 3 000 km from the centre of the telescope, the SKA will address fundamental unanswered questions about our Universe including how the first stars and galaxies formed after the big bang, how dark energy is accelerating the expansion of the Universe, the role of magnetism in the cosmos, the nature of gravity, and the search for life beyond Earth. The target construction cost is €1,500 million and construction of Phase 1 of the SKA is scheduled to start in 2019. The SKA Organisation, with its headquarters in Manchester UK, was established in December 2011 as a not-for-profit company in order to formalise relationships between the international partners and centralise the leadership of the project.

Members of the SKA Organisation:

• Australia: Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research
• Canada: National Research Council
• China: National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences
• Italy: National Institute for Astrophysics
• New Zealand: Ministry of Economic Development
• Republic of South Africa: National Research Foundation
• The Netherlands: Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research
• United Kingdom: Science and Technology Facilities Council

Associate member:
• India: National Centre for Radio Astrophysics

For more information contact:

SKA Organisation
Jo Bowler, Interim Outreach Officer,
Office of the SKA Organisation, UK
Office: +44 (0)161 275 4239
Mobile: +44(0)759 307 7153

Rhys Davies, Media Adviser, Australian Science Minister, Senator Chris Evans,
+61 (0)411 138 572
Amy McKenna, Media Adviser, Australian Science Minister, Senator Chris Evans
+61 (0)408 570 603

Carl Caron
Directeur général (par intérim), Direction de la stratégie et du développement
Conseil national de recherches Canada

Office: 613 9907381,
Mobile: 613 8637556

Dr. Ishwara Chandra, Convenor, Publicity and Media Relations Cell, National Centre for Radio Astrophysics, India
Office: +91 (0)202571 9228
Mobile: +91 (0)9403136630

Republic of South Africa
Tommy Makhode, South African Department of Science and Technology, South Africa
Office: +27 (0)12 843 6793
Mobile: +27 (0)82 379 8268
Kim de Boer, General Manager: People support and development and communications, South African SKA Project, South Africa
Office: +27 (0)114 422 434
Mobile: +27 (0)83 2763282

The Netherlands
Margot Custers, Press Officer, NWO, the Netherlands
Office: +31 (0)703 440 741

United Kingdom
Corinne Mosese, STFC Press Officer, STFC, UK
Office: +44 (0)1793 442 870
Mobile: +44 (0)7557 317 200



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