Saturday, 12 March 2011

Square Kilometre Array (SKA)

Help us bring the SKA project to Africa

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will be a mega radio telescope, about 100 times more sensitive than the biggest existing radio telescope.

SKA is a €1.5 billion project, with operating costs of about €100 million a year.

It will be the first to provide mankind with detailed pictures of the “dark ages” 13.7 billion years back in time.

This mega telescope will be powerful and sensitive enough to observe radio signals from the immediate aftermath of the Big Bang.

If there is life somewhere else in the Universe, the SKA will help us find it.

At least 24 organisations from 12 countries, including Australia, Canada, India, China, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, the Netherlands, the UK and the USA, are involved.

The SKA will consist of approximately 4 000 dish-shaped antennae and other hybrid receiving technologies.

Both South Africa and Australia have suitably remote, radio quiet areas for hosting the SKA and have competing bids to host the SKA.

If Africa wins the SKA bid, the core of this giant telescope will be constructed in the Karoo region of the Northern Cape Province near to the towns of Carnarvon and Williston, linked to a computing facility in Cape Town.

Other countries where stations will be placed include Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Mauritius, Madagascar, Kenya and Zambia.

South Africa is already building the Karoo Array Telescope (MeerKAT) which is a precursor instrument for the SKA, but will in its own right be amongst the largest and most powerful telescopes in the world.

Why is Africa the best site for the SKA?
      Most valuable for science
          Low levels of radio frequency interference and certainty of future radio quiet zone.
          Significant investment in skilled human resources - bursaries for scientists from across Africa, training for technicians and artisans.
      Best imaging
          An ideal physical environment (little water vapour, calm stable weather conditions).
      Most Affordable
          Required land, labour and support services available and very affordable.
      Most Reliable
          Core basic infrastructure of roads, electricity and communication already in place .
          Ideal geographical location, sky coverage and topography.
          Safe and stable area with very few people and no conflicting economic activities.
      Most Options
          The astronomical "richness" of the southern skies & strong tradition of astronomy.
          Excellent academic infrastructure to support SKA science and technology.

More info...    Who is the barefoot astronomer?

Thursday, 10 March 2011

The Southern Star Party (2011 March, Bonnievale, South Africa)

The Southern Star Party | Suidelike Sterrefees
2011 March, Bonnievale, South Africa

The mere utterance of the words "star party" makes me tingle. As a school kid I read with wide-eyed longing of Stellafane, a mystical place far, far away where all they did at night was look at deep sky objects and spent the days pushing glass. It's taken a while, but the first inkling of a local Stellafane happened this past week-end just outside Bonnievale in the Western Cape.