Manchester Uni wins radio telescope HQ
From Sputnik to the future of space science
The University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics has been chosen as the headquarters for the next generation radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).
The SKA project, with a budget of €1.5bn, involves astronomers and engineers in 17 countries. It will be comprised of thousands of small antennae deployed over an area of thousands of kilometres, making the name somewhat misleading.
The 'scope will take in the sights of the universe, helping astronomers to explore dark energy, peer into the dim past of the universe and see the earliest stars and galaxies. It will provide a test bed for Einstein's theories, and for astronomers wanting to study the evolution of the universe and the life therein.
The university issued a statement detailing the plan of action for the new array. The scope will also study pulsars, to look for the effects of gravitational waves produced by merging blackholes; it will map the magnetic fields of distant and ancient galaxies.
"If there are extra-terrestrial intelligences out there in the Milky Way with transmitters similar to our own airport or ionospheric radars, the SKA will detect them," it said.
"This powerful new telescope will greatly extend our knowledge of the universe," explained Professor Richard Schilizzi, international SKA director. "Not only will it improve our understanding of objects ranging from black holes to the earliest stars and galaxies, but it is also bound to discover as yet unknown phenomena."
The announcement coincides with the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik, and the 50th anniversary of the completion of the Giant Radio Telescope at Lovell. It is especially fitting since the first task the Lovell scope undertook was to track Sputnik's delivering rocket as it powered the first satellite into space. ®
Manchester or Perth?
Western Australia or South Africa - why assume Perth rather than Cape Town?
Been to Manchester and Perth, and both were crawling with targets for the chav extermination project mentioned above. Admittedly the Perth in question was the one on the A9 though.
The square kilometre in the name Square Kilometre Array refers to the total collecting area of all the dishes rather than the amount of land area required to site them all, so it's not that misleading really.
While Manchester Uni/Jodrell Bank have a lot of experience with this sort of thing it still seems a surprising choice for the the location of the SKA HQ as it's going to be built (assuming it can keep the funding going) either in South Africa or Western Australia. Being in Manchester would make it a bit difficult to pop out of the lab to check on the progress of the building work, but more to the point if you were a radio astronomy boffin where would you want your office sited? Manchester or Perth?
Dear Mr Dotes
Easy on the "You'd probably love Tehran" - my brother just went to a Physics conference in Tehran and by all accounts the quality of the science and the scientists was top notch.
Admittedly there was a whole lot more dancing being banned and religious police busting parties than I am used to in West London. But there was a lot more cheap cashew nuts as well.