Parliamentary Question: dst:

1908

Statement: South Africa promotes the Africa Square Kilometre Array (SKA) bid at World Conference of Science Journalists

South Africa is already displaying its ability to deliver large-scale scientific projects in a number of areas, not least of which is through the imminent commissioning of the KAT-7 telescope, part of the MeerKAT project – South Africa’s precursor to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

The South African Minister of Science and Technology, Mrs Naledi Pandor, will be addressing journalists at the 7th World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ 2011) in Doha today.

WCSJ 2011 will be looking at the past, present and future of science journalism and Minister Pandor will provide the conference with an insider’s view of Africa’s bid to host the iconic Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope.

According to Minister Pandor, “Africa is both the cradle of humankind and the continent of the future, and we are confident that we present an outstanding site and the best home for the SKA.”

The SKA will be the most powerful radio telescope ever built and presents an exciting opportunity for the global scientific community to answer some of the remaining fundamental questions challenging scientists in the modern world.

Upon completion, the SKA will be approximately 50 times more powerful than any radio telescope in existence today, with survey speeds 10 000 times faster than present-day radio telescopes.

In the African bid, the core site will be in South Africa, with outstations in Namibia, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique and Zambia.The SKA Africa bid is a truly pan-African project and was endorsed as such by the African Union in July 2010.

South Africa is already displaying its ability to deliver large-scale scientific projects in a number of areas, not least of which is through the imminent commissioning of the KAT-7 telescope, part of the MeerKAT project – South Africa’s precursor to the SKA.

Upon completion, MeerKAT will be the most sensitive radio telescope in the Southern Hemisphere until the SKA is operational.Astronomers from around the globe have already booked five years of observing time with this predominantly African designed and built instrument.

Minister Pandor says, “The South African Government has provided its full support to the SKA Africa project team.We have passed legislation to ensure that our site is legally protected and my department has already made significant investments for the construction of the MeerKAT, the SKA SA Human Capital Programme and the SKA site bid.”

The MeerKAT array is just one area in which South Africa has begun to gain international support for its pristine site and leading scientific capabilities.South African astronomers and engineers are already collaborating with their counterparts from around the world on various radio astronomy projects that highlight South Africa’s ideal location for radio astronomy.

One such project is the Precision Array to Probe the Epoch of Re-ionisation (PAPER).This array is in the Karoo, and falls within the Central Astronomy Advantage Area, which is legally protected by South Africa’s Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act of 2007.

According to Dr Bernie Fanaroff, project director for South Africa’s SKA bid, “Not only does South Africa provide the ideal location and scientific capabilities for the SKA, the location of the proposed SKA site means the project could be delivered for considerably lower cost than alternative sites.”

He adds, “Our cost advantage means the full scope of the SKA is more likely to be delivered in Africa, with significantly lower risk of delays and runaway costs.The less we spend on building the instrument, the more we can devote to the science we do with it.”

Following her address at WCSJ 2011, Minister Pandor – along with the SKA Africa bid team – will be travelling to Banff, Canada, to attend the annual SKA Global Forum 2011, where they will be presenting the African bid to the international SKA community with a focus on the continent’s competitive advantages.
“Africa’s capable and enthusiastic team is able to provide the best home for the SKA.Our site is excellent and can provide revolutionary science, our costs and infrastructure are realistic and offer clear advantages, and our precursor to the SKA displays our ability to provide cutting-edge technology which has been predominantly African designed and built in conjunction with South African industry partners,” concludes Dr Fanaroff.

Enquiries:

Tommy Makhode

Tel: 082 379 8268

E-mail: [email protected]



Issued by: Department of Science and Technology
28 Jun 2011