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South Africa and Australia to share SKA telescope

 

Both South Africa and Australia are going to share the hosting of the most sophisticated scientific project in the world – the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope.

The announcement was made late last week by Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor.

The final choice as to who would host the SKA was reached by members of the SKA Organisation at its meeting in the Netherlands. South Africa and Australia – whose bid included New Zealand – were the final countries in the running to host the telescope.

“Following nine years of work by the South African and Australian SKA site bid teams, the impartial SKA Site Advisory Committee, made up of world-renowned experts, performed an objective technical and scientific evaluation of the sites in South Africa and Australia, and identified by consensus Africa as the preferred site. Having said that, in order to be inclusive, the SKA Organisation has decided to take into consideration the construction of one of the three SKA receiver components in Australia. Two are going to be constructed in Africa,” stated the minister.

She revealed that the meeting of the members had made a decision to divide the project which happens to be an unusual decision considering the search for a single site.

“We had were hoping the unambiguous unbiased and professional recommendation of the SSAC would be accepted as the most sound scientific outcome.”

She pointed out that South Africa accepted the compromise in the interest of science and thanked the South African SKA team and scientists which in fact have done sterling work over the past years.

The SKA will comprise of approximately 3 000 dish-shaped antennae spread over a wide area.

South Africa is most likely to build the telescope in the Karoo in the Northern Cape, while the joint site spreads from the Murchison Shire in Western Australia’s Mid-West region to the top of New Zealand’s South Island.

Building is likely to get started around 2016 and the telescope should be completed by 2024. It should be in a position to do early science in 2020.

The SKA Organisation postponed announcing its preferred site in April following an agreement that a small scientific working group should examine possible implementation alternatives that would make certain that there was an inclusive strategy to SKA, in addition to maximizing the value from the investments made by both candidate host regions.

The working group was supposed to report back to the members this month. The report was expected to make available further information to facilitate the site decision for SKA.

Scientists hope to utilize the SKA to search the universe for answers about how precisely stars and galaxies are formed and just how galaxies and the universe have evolved over the past 14 billion years.

Hosting the project is predicted to generate substantial investments and opportunities, not to mention give science and engineering a significant boost.

In South Africa, the MeerKAT array happens to be taking shape in South Africa’s Karoo region. This is a world-class radio telescope which is designed to carry out ground-breaking science. It will be the largest and most sensitive radio telescope in the southern hemisphere up until the SKA is completed.

At the same time, in Australia, the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) is a new radio telescope which will provide a crucial testbed for SKA technology in addition to being a world-leading telescope in its own right.

Source: BuaNews

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SA drums up support for SKA bid

Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor unveiled a countrywide advertising and marketing campaign to build up support for the bid to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) in South Africa.

With just a couple of months remaining ahead of the bid winner announcement, the campaign, created around astronomy and the moon as themes, is ready to promote interest in the initiative and demonstrate how Africa is rapidly proving itself to be an international hub of astronomy.

All South Africans are encouraged to join the Department of Science and Technology (DST) in its SKA bid by placing messages of support at http://www.ska.ac.za/endorsements/index.php.

 

 


The DST, together with the South African State Theatre, will make use of the remaining months to rally support from communities countrywide to play their part by hosting Full Moon Fever campaign on Fridays, Saturdays or Mondays closest to the full moon.

The launch brings together exhibitions, a laser show, performing arts presentation of African Stars and a night sky view.

On top of that, there will be career exhibitions in collaboration with the Tshwane University of Technology and University of South Africa to spotlight the a variety of fields of science and technology accessible to students and possible career paths with specific focus on astronomy and radio astronomy.

 

Three of the seven KAT-7 dishes

Pandor pointed to South Africa’s perfect environment for radio and optical astronomy and the fact that the country enacted the Astronomy Geographic Act of 2008 to safeguard its astronomy reserves from damaging effects.

Among the many advantages as a result of this was the Southern African Largest Telescope (SALT), the giant facility which has transformed the country into a prime place to go for the world’s scientists and researchers.

“The establishment of the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) is a welcome development that has grown to become a crucial vehicle for promoting our expanding satellite industry in addition to a wide range of innovations in space sciences, earth observation, communications, navigation and engineering,” Pandor said.

 

 

As part of the African commitment to the SKA project, South Africa is constructing the Karoo Array Telescope, the MeerKAT, in the Northern Cape.

This telescope will be a world-class radio telescope in its own right when finished in 2016.

This precursor is a demonstration telescope of technologies being taken into consideration for the SKA. Phase 1 of MeerKAT, which is KAT-7 (a seven-dish array telescope), is now complete with operations starting in early 2012.

Source: BuaNews

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South Africa enters space race with launch of new space agency

South Africa has decided to have its own space agency to promote and also coordinate space science and technology programmes in the nation.

The long-awaited South African National Space Agency (Sansa) is going to be launched in Midrand, Johannesburg, on 9 December 2010.


Sansa’s National Space Strategy will be presented right away to put South Africa among global frontrunners in space science and technology.

A parliamentary Act to establish Sansa had been passed in December 2008, and ever since then the Department of Science and Technology has been spending so much time to make the body a reality.

“The South African National Space Agency will coordinate and integrate national space science and technology programmes and conduct long-term planning for the implementation of space-related activities in South Africa,” said the department’s spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele in a statement.


The agency is without a doubt expected to fast-track South Africa’s position in global space ventures. The Department of Science and Technology said one of the main goals of Sansa will certainly be to strongly encourage the peaceful use of outer space.

It’s also anticipated that Sansa will help to make it simpler for South African bodies to carry out their own astronomy research. The administration wants the agency to stimulate cooperation on space-related projects between the nation and the global community.

Global space agreements

The Department of Science and Technology said international deals will certainly be signed at the launch, as well as an inter-agency cooperative agreement together with the Algerian Space Agency on space science and technology.

A memorandum of understating will be agreed upon between Sansa and the National Institute for Space Research of Brazil and the China Centre for Resources Satellite Data and Application.

Mark Shuttelworth

A major deal will additionally be clinched to permit the reception and distribution of China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite (CBERS-3) data within South Africa and the Southern African region, said the department.

Sansa’s CEO and a board of between 10 and 15 members are predicted to be introduced at the launch. The executives will be designated by the Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor, as stipulated in the Act.

Science and Technology Minister, Naledi Pandor

South Africa’s space institutions

South Africa is in fact already heading up a number of notable space projects, which includes the Square Kilometre Array, the Southern African Large Telescope and SumbandilaSat. Sansa will become the umbrella body that will will synchronize all these projects.

The agency will also incorporate the country’s current science and technology establishments, such as the Satellite Applications Centre run by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.


Most of these bodies already “play a significant role in the scientific study, exploration and utilisation of space”, according to the Department of Science and Technology.

The French South African Institute of Technology, based at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, is one of the front-runners in establishing space science and technology in the country.


There are about 74 companies that trade within the aerospace and defence sector in South Africa, according to the International Astronautical Federation.

The federation will host its 62nd International Astronautical Congress in Cape Town in October 2011. This will be the first time such a congress is organised in Africa.

“South Africa has some of the best space infrastructure in Africa,” reads a report released by the department.


The actual country’s participation in astronomy dates back to 1685, at what time a temporary observatory was established in the Western Cape. Subsequently, a permanent observatory was set up in 1820 outside Cape Town.

Where can I study Astronomy and Space Science after school?

* The National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme
(run by a consortium of institutions)
University of Cape Town, Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics
Private Bag Rondebosch 7701
Tel: (021) 650-2344/650-2334, Fax: (021) 650-2334

* University of Cape Town
Department of Astronomy, University of Cape Town
Private Bag Rondebosch 7700,
Tel: (021) 650-3342, Fax: (021) 650-3342

* University of the Free State
Department of Physics, University of the Free State
PO Box 339, Bloemfontein 9300,
Tel: (051) 401-2926/6158

* University of Natal, Durban
School of Pure and Applied Physics, University of Natal
Durban 4041, Tel: (031) 260-2775, Fax: (031) 261-6550

* University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg
School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, University of Natal
Private Bag X01, Scottsville 3209
Tel: (033) 260-5326, Fax: (033) 260-5009

* Potchefstroom University
School of Physics, Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education
Private Bag X6001, Potchefstroom 2520
Tel: (018) 299-2423, Fax: (018) 299-2421

* Rhodes University
Department of Physics and Electronics, Rhodes University
PO Box 94, Grahamstown 6140,
Tel: (046) 603-8450, Fax: (046) 622-5049

* University of South Africa
Department of Mathematics, Applied Mathematics and Astronomy
PO Box 392, UNISA 0003
Tel: (012) 429-6202, Fax: (012) 429-6064

* University of Stellenbosch
Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, University of Stellenbosch

Private Bag X1, Matieland 7602
Tel: (021) 808-4368, Fax: (021) 808-4981

* University of the Witwatersrand
School of Computational and Applied Mathematics
Private Bag-3, Wits-2050, Johannesburg
Tel: (011) 717-6138, Fax: (011) 717-6149

Source: mediaclubsouthafrica.com, radionz.co.nz, boston.com, africaninspace.com

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Flex your science and tech muscle to help win SKA bid

South Africans have been urged to help the country win the bid to host the world largest radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), by highlighting their science and technology strengths.

Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor made this plea at the CSIR Biennial Conference on Tuesday in Pretoria.

Science and Technology Minister, Naledi Pandor

“In the run-up to the vital decision about who will host the SKA, all of us must make an effort to showcase our strong science and production capabilities across all of the areas that are required for the SKA to run successfully. We need to highlight that such a project has the power to strengthen science, technology, and innovation in Africa,” she said.

The minister added that all had a role to play in strengthening the bid, including researchers, the media and local industry.


South Africa and Australia are the only two countries shortlisted to host the SKA – poised to be by far the largest radio telescope in the world. SKA funders are expected to announce the host country in March 2012.

If South Africa wins the bid it would consolidate Africa as a major hub for astronomy in the world.


The core of the telescope will be located in Carnarvon in the Northern Cape, with about three antenna stations in Namibia, four in Botswana and one each in Mozambique, Mauritius, Madagascar, Ghana, Kenya and Zambia. Each antenna station will consist of about 30 to 40 individual antennae.


The minister said the SKA was a science project that offered immense opportunities for advancing technology development, engineering and innovation in areas that range from computing and information and communication technology, as well as the development of new materials to construct the satellite dishes, right through to innovative energy solutions to power the SKA.

Source: BuaNews, futuretimeline.net, salt.ac.za,

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