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Mining plans pose threat to South African astronomy site

South Africa's commitment to hosting the world's most sensitive radio-telescope array is being tested by a request from oil giant Shell to drill for natural gas in the remote region that would house the facility.
South Africa is competing with Australia to be the home of the 1.5-billion (US$2.1-billion) Square Kilometre Array (SKA), a collection of around 3,000 antennas with a total collecting area of 1 kmē.

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As the South African and Australian cricket rugby teams prepare to do battle in the world cup this month, the countries are also competing for access to the stars.
The two are bidding to host the 1.5 billion euro Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope, and on Friday Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor urged South Africans to get behind their bid to persuade a 16-nation consortium to build the core of the radio telescope in the Northern Cape, near Carnarvon in the Karoo.

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New breakthroughs for SKA project
Africa's bid to build and host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope - which will provide the first detailed pictures of the "dark ages" of the universe, 13.7-billion years back in time - is gaining momentum with significant scientific breakthroughs.
An important milestone was recently reached with the "detection of fringes" in a what is known among astronomers as a joint very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) observation - the first time South Africa has completed the experiment without assistance from other countries.



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Bandwidth dearth threatens SKA

SA's bandwidth situation poses a threat to the country's bid to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope.
SKA SA project manager Bernie Fanaroff says this is a challenge that SA has to overcome to beat Australia in the bid.

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Two County Durham engineering firms have won contracts to provide technology for one of the worlds largest astronomy projects.
DPE Automotive and Durham Precision Engineering, both based in Newton Aycliffe, have been awarded work on the Square Kilometre Array (Ska) project.
The seven-year project will deliver the biggest radio telescope in history, in a bid to unlock the secrets of the universe by looking deeper into space than ever before.



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A single telescope is great for looking at the local universe or galaxies and clusters of galaxies. The planned Square Kilometre Array will allow us to see ten times as far as we can see now. The most ambitious part of the project is handling the data the dishes will generate.
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South African astronomers could rightly feel that Australia's got the inside track in the race to be the site for the world's most powerful telescope.
How so? The CSIRO has nabbed an influential player in the international project to build the $3 billion Square Kilometre Array: radio astronomer Phil Diamond, formerly of Britain's Manchester University, home to the SKA program development office.

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Preparing the way for the Square Kilometre Array international radio telescope

The design of and preparations for the euro1,5-billion international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project are being driven out of a suite of offices in the University of Manchester, in England. These house the SKA Programme Development Office (SPDO).
The SKA itself will be sited either in South Africa (in the Karoo, in the Northern Cape province, with outstations in some other African countries) or in Australia (with out- stations in New Zealand). The final decision on the siting of the instrument, which will be the biggest radio telescope ever built, is planned to be made in early 2012.

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A second step in one of the world's most ambitious telescope projects has moved closer with commissioning of plans to build one of the engine rooms to be built in Geraldton.
The CSIRO has called for designs for a $3.8 million building at the Geraldton Universities Centre.
It will provide support facilities to the showcase for Australia's bid for the Square Kilometre Array project.

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Joint Australia - New Zealand SKA Project Bid on Track

At an international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) forum in the Netherlands on 15 June 2010, Australian and New Zealand government representatives briefed the gathering of scientists and officials on the joint bid. The two countries are competing with South African interests for the SKA's location.
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