PRETORIA._ South Africa is involved in a far reaching mega-project which will result in the creation of the world’s largest telescope.
The South African Minister for Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, has confirmed that the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) project, on which 11 nations are collaborating, is making great progress.
Apart from South Africa, SKA Organization members include Australia, Canada, China, Germany, India, Italy, New Zealand, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Additionally, several other countries have expressed their interest in joining the team in years to come.
At a meeting recently held in Pretoria, Pandor and her counterparts from Mozambique, Madagascar, Zambia, Mauritious, Kenya, Ghana, Namibia, and Botswana evaluated the project’s development.
While the SKA project established in Carnavon, Northern Cape, is still in its infancy stage, “we are confident that the construction of the SKA will start in 2018 and expect the first scientific observations to be conducted in 2020,” she commented.
With a 650-million euro budget, the design of the project’s first phase, SKA1, comprises two instruments of global reach: one in South Africa and the other one in Australia.
In South Africa, this stage will involve the installation of around 200 parabolic dishes – similar to, but far bigger than, domestic satellite dishes – and more than 100,000 TV dish-like dipole antennas.
Recently, SKA Organization’s scientific director, Robert Braun, said that “thanks to these two complimentary instruments we can tackle a broad spectrum of front line science.”
With this telescope, the expert signalled to the possibility of “the observation of pulsars and black holes to detect gravitational waves foretold by Einstein as well as signs of life in our galaxy.”
He also expressed his hopes to study one of the last remaining unexplored periods in universal history - the reionization age - which would bring us back to the universe’s first billion years during which the very first stars and galaxies were formed.
The project has two functional precursors; the South Africa MeerKat telescope, which is connected to SKA antennas, and the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope, a state of the art instrument operational in Western Australia that will continue to gather world leading information for the SKA program.
Through the installation of a scientific instrument many times greater than anything that has existed to date, the SKA will dramatically change experts’ understanding of the universe.
Headquartered at the Jodrell Bank Observatory in the U.K., the SKA Organization was established in December 2011 in order to formalize international partner relations and to centralize the project.
According to John Womersley, President of the SKA Administration Council, the next step will be to work with partner nations on the development of an international organization before the construction of the telescope in 2018.
While many still consider this sciencefiction, others are convinced that the gigantic spy-glass will boost technological development in the Big Data age and produce findings worthy of a Nobel Prize.Share on FB Share on TT