SA frontrunner for SKA project

2003-02-20 21:30

Cape Town - South Africa is apparently one of three frontrunners as a location for the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), the R10bn international project to build a new generation of radio telescope to detect radio signals from the universe.

According to Arts, Culture, Science and Technology Minister Ben Ngubane, the international bidding process for the SKA site has begun, and government will launch South Africa's bid in May 2003.

The SKA, with a budget of R10bn, is so named because its instrumental core is a square kilometre of radio detectors linked to each other. It is being funded and built by 2015 by an international consortium of countries and institutions representing all the major players in the international astronomy community.

"The country that hosts the SKA will derive considerable benefits from this expenditure and the long-term international use of this key facility," Ngubane told media at a briefing at Parliament on Thursday.

"It will be the premier global facility until 2050 and will complement existing world-class astronomical observatories in the subcontinent, such as the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) at Sutherland - the most powerful optical/infrared telescope in the southern hemisphere-and the High Energy Stereoscopic System (HESS) in Namibia-the most powerful cosmic ray telescope in the world."

It would put the southern African region on a par with Chile in terms of international investment in global science infrastructure in astronomy, Ngubane added.

The final decision regarding both the site and the preferred technology would be made in late 2005 by the international consortium, he said, which includes institutions from 15 countries including the US, India and China. South Africa has observer status.

"At this early stage of the bidding process, front-runners for the SKA location appear to be Australia, the US and South Africa," the Minister concluded. - I-Net Bridge