April 4, 2011

Jodrell Bank Taking Part In Radio Telescope Project

Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire has been selected to take part in a $2.1 billion project to build the world's biggest radio telescope.

Jodrell Bank signed an agreement with Australia, China, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, France, Germany Italy, and the U.K. to run the Square Kilometer Array (SKA).

SKA is designed to answer some key questions about the Universe.

They have not decided on the location of the project but it could be built in Australia or Southern Africa.

The new headquarters at Jodrell Bank will open in January 2012, superseding the existing project office at the University of Manchester.

The observatory has been responsible for important astronomical discoveries since it was established after the Second World War, but here have been doubts over its future in recent years due to constant funding worries.

Hosting the project office for the SKA could see 60 new jobs created over the next four years.

Professor Richard Schilizzi, director SKA, told BBC: "The move to Jodrell Bank Observatory comes at a crucial time as the project grows from a concept to an international mega-science project.

"The new location and facilities will support the significant expansion that is planned."

The SKA will be made up of thousands of radio dishes, with a collective area totaling about 0.6 square miles.  The SKA project said in a statement that it is 10,000 times the survey speed and 50 percent the sensitivity of the best current-day telescopes.

Construction for the project could begin by 2016, with the telescope expected to be complete by 2024.

The SKA's goal is to reveal how planets and galaxies are born and also give clues to the nature of dark energy and help to detect signs of alien civilizations.

Professor John Womersley, chairman of the SKA Founding Board, said in a statement that "Given the current economic environment, it is reassuring that so many partners have recognized the importance of supporting the SKA."

"Our partners have taken this step not only because of the inspirational nature of the discoveries that the SKA will make, but also because of the economic benefits that international mega-science projects can bring to participating countries."


Image Caption: SKA dishes by night. Credit: SPDO/TDP/DRAO/Swinburne Astronomy Productions.


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