With three years to go before construction begins for the Square Kilometre Array telescope (SKA), the world’s largest radio telescope which is due to be built mostly in South Africa, the foundation overseeing the project has announced that the UK has beat Italy to become the permanent headquarters for the research part of the team.

Italy was pipped by UK for the right to become the SKA’s permanent home late last month following a “strong package offered by the UK government” as detailed on the Department of Science and Technology (DST) website.

Phase 1 of the construction of what is billed as the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope will take place in South Africa and Australia with expansions to the rest of Africa and other parts Australia as part of phase 2. The SKA will be headquartered at the University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre. Two other UK Universities, namely Oxford and Cambridge, will support the design and construction of the headquarters.

The SKA Organisation‘s Director General Professor Phillip Diamond recounted the selection of headquarters on the DST website as needed clarity “ahead of international negotiations to form an inter-governmental organisation and the beginning of construction IN 2018”.

SKA antenna dishes numbering in the thousands are already being built in the Karoo close to Carnarvon in the South African leg of the project. Our MeerKAT telescope already has dish-shaped antennas installed in the Northern Cape. The SKA has already created employment opportunities in South Africa and has sparked interest in mathematics, engineering and astrophysics for South African youth in particular.

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