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ANZ bid for super telescope down to the wire

SKA decision public on April 4

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The West Australian government has refused to give up on its ambitions to host the world’s largest radio telescope, the the Square Kilometre Array, despite a scientific panel’s reported recommendation that the bid go to the rival South African consortium.

The €1.5 billion construction project is slated to start as early as 2016. Once completed, the array will comprise several thousand antennas up to 5,000 kms apart operating as a single instrument. The SKA has been designed to have 10,000 times the potential of existing telescopes.

Until now, two sites have been proposed to host the SKA: South Africa partnering with Namibia, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique and Zambia; and the rival bidder Australia in collaboration with New Zealand.

According to reports, the SKA Site Advisory Committee made a confidential report last month recommending that the South Africa-led bid was the leader.

The recommendation is not final, however, and the decision now rests with voting countries China, Italy, Britain and the Netherlands on April 4.

Australia & New Zealand SKA project director Dr Brian Boyle ‏ tweeted in Friday, “ANZ team continues to respect confidentiality of the site process. We are actively engaged in current SKA Board deliberations.”

Meanwhile, WA Premier Colin Barnett told local press that the bid was far from over: ”There are still a number of processes to go through and I still believe very firmly that Australia is the best location for this extraordinary piece of science. It would be disappointing (if we did not succeed) and we still believe that Australia and particularly the WA site is the best site.”

The WA State Government has committed AUD$70 million to the project while at a federal level $400 million has been devoted to an adjunct project, the Australian SKA Pathfinder, which will result in 36 radio telescope dishes being located in the Mid-West region.

Hosting the telescope would create an almost incomparable "big data" project for the winner, demanding huge data links and computing power to handle the daily exabyte of data the instruments would collect. ®

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