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The Square Kilometre Array: Australian Misses Out

Most readers will have heard of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope project which SILICON CHIP reported on in the December 2011 issue. It was supposed to be a bidding contest between Australia and South Africa. In simple terms, South Africa won and we lost. But that's not the end of the story.

By Geoff Graham

THE SKA is a $2.5 billion international project to build a giant radio telescope using thousands of individual dishes spread over thousands of kilometres. Using immensely powerful computers, yet to be developed, scientists hope to combine the signals from all these dishes to give ultra-clear and sensitive images of the radio sky.

With such a big project on offer, the competition for the right to host the SKA was fierce and it came down to a contest between South Africa and Australia/New Zealand. Australia’s proposed site was in the Murchison region of Western Australia and we even went as far as building the $220 million ASKAP radio telescope on the site, partially to demonstrate our capability in this field.

As was widely reported on 25th May 2012, the SKA Organisation decided to share the telescope between the two contenders. This seemed like a simple enough decision and a win-win for both sides. But is it?

Click for larger image
An artist's impression of the high-frequency dishes that will be installed in the Karoo desert in South Africa. These are the type of antenna that we normally associate with a radio telescope. Photo credit: SKA Organisation/Swinburne Astronomy.

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