Giant Radio Telescope: South Africa Wins Bid To Host The Square Kilometer Array

South Africa have won the bid for hosting the Square Kilometer Array, beating rival bidders Australia by a narrow margin. The bid was settled today by a scientific panel. However, the exact location of the telescope, especially the central square, has not been decided.

An artist's impression of the Square Kilometer Array

The Giant

The SKA is a mammoth project, having 3,000 dishes, each having a diameter of 15 meters. It will cover a very large frequency range. Owing to its huge area – the name square kilometer refers merely to the total added area of the dishes, not of the area coverage on the ground – the collecting area will be very large. This will enable it to be extremely sensitive to any radio sources in the Universe. The downside of this extreme ability is that it will also pick up a lot of Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) from ground based radio sources. This means that the location of the telescope will have to be in a very arid place, nearly devoid of any human settlement, and definitely devoid of any strong usage of radio technology.

We reported about SKA and the location problem here:

The construction of the SKA is due to start in 2016 and it is expected to be completed in 2019. The telescope should see first light some time in 2020.

Not yet over

Even though the scientific committee has voted for South Africa, the win is so narrow and the contention so strong, that other countries like China, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom might vote either way and swing it.

A final decision is awaited on 4th April, during a board meeting in Amsterdam.

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Debjyoti Bardhan

Is a science geek, currently pursuing some sort of a degree (called a PhD) in Physics at TIFR, Mumbai. An enthusiastic but useless amateur photographer, his most favourite activity is simply lazing around. He is interested in all things interesting and scientific.