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Giant radio telescope gets split location

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The world’s biggest and most advanced radio telescope, capable of detecting signs of extraterrestrial life in the far reaches of the universe, will be split between the two leading bidders for the project; South Africa and Australia with New Zealand. The decision was made at a meeting of the nations controlling the project, at Schipol Airport in the Netherlands today. “We have decided on a dual site approach,” said SKA board chairperson John Womersley at a press conference held at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, following a meeting of the SKA organisation’s members in the Dutch capital. Both South Africa and Australia were competing to win the $2 billion contract for the SKA, an instrument that will be 50 times more sensitive than today’s most powerful radio telescopes. Its construction is scheduled to start in 2016, becoming fully operational in 2024.

Its construction is scheduled to start in 2016, becoming fully operational in 2024.

Scientists hope the SKA, a massive radio telescope, will shed light on fundamental questions about the universe, including how it began, why it is expanding and whether it contains life beyond our planet. The eagerly awaited decision now means that engineers can connect antennas at Australia’s core site at Mileura station, about 100km west of Meekathara in western Australia. Other antennae are distributed across Australia and New Zealand. South Africa’s site in the arid Karoo region will now also be connected by a remote link to a network of dishes stretching across southern and eastern Africa and as far away as Ghana. Its construction is scheduled to start in 2016, becoming fully operational in 2024.

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