South Africa, Australia and New Zealand will jointly host the world's largest telescope, known as SKA, or Square Kilometer Array, it was announced today.
The SKA project involves the construction of thousands of linked antennas that will scan the sky, studying the early Universe and even searching for signs of alien life. The aim is to produce a radio telescope with a combined collecting area of one million square meters.
Two thirds of the SKA antennae technologies will be built in Africa and a third in Australia and New Zealand, the South African Press Association reported. South Africa and Australasia had put forward competing bids to host the project.
“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,” Michiel van Haarlem, interim director general of the SKA Organization, said in a statement.
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South Africa hopes the $2-billion project will raise its international profile and boost the economy by creating thousands of jobs, the BBC reported.
The SKA will have 3,000 antennas across a vast semi-desert region of South Africa called the Karoo, already home to a major telescope.
Bernie Fanaroff, the SKA South Africa project director, told the BBC he was delighted at the news.
"It means that for the first time in our history, Africa will be the host to the world's largest scientific instrument, he said.
Fanaroff added: "And it shows a great deal of faith by the rest of the world in our ability and our capacity to both build and operate such a sophisticated instrument. It also reflects the recognition in Africa of how important science and technology is to our future."
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