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South Africa and Australia to share SKA

By Reuters 25 May 2012

The world's biggest and most advanced radio telescope, capable of detecting signs of extraterrestrial life in the far reaches of the universe, will be spread across South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. By Chris Wickham and Sara Webb (Reuters)

The decision to split the location of the $2 billion “Square Kilometre Array” followed intense lobbying by the two leading bidders, South Africa one side and a joint bid from Australia and New Zealand on the other.

Scientists leading the project rejected the suggestion that the decision to split the location meant science had taken a back seat to political expediency.

When completed in 2024 the telescope will be made up of 3,000 dishes, each 15 metres wide, together with many more antennae, that together will give a receiver surface area of a square kilometre.

Scanning the sky 10,000 times faster and with 50 times the sensitivity of any other telescope, it will be used to study the origins of the universe and will be able to detect weak signals that could indicate the presence of extraterrestrial life.

The decision was announced at a meeting of the international consortium controlling the project, at Schipol Airport in the Netherlands on Friday. DM

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