Decision time for SKA bid

Summary:Australia is about to learn if it has been recommended as the site for the world's most powerful telescope, known as the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

Australia is about to learn if it has been recommended as the site for the world's most powerful telescope, known as the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

An independent scientific committee will today make a recommendation to the SKA project's board of directors in London about whether the array's core should be based in Western Australia or South Africa.

A further month of negotiations is likely before Australia is officially notified about whether it has won the $2.5 billion project.

Australia teamed up with New Zealand to put in a bid to host the SKA, which is touted as the largest and most advanced radio telescope ever to be constructed.

If the bid succeeds, 3000 dishes will extend from the central location in the Murchison region, in WA's remote northwest, across Australia and into New Zealand.

Once built, the SKA will be able to survey the sky 10,000 times faster than existing technology.

Scientists hope the SKA will provide answers about how galaxies evolve, how the first black holes and stars were formed, and whether there is any other life in space.

Behind Australia's bid is $400 million in state and federal funding, as well as a decade of scientific work. Included is $80 million, which is being spent on supercomputing resources to crunch the numbers for the telescope and other projects.

The first stages of the supercomputer, to be housed in three separate locations, have already been installed.

WA Premier Colin Barnett travelled to Europe last June to push his state's case for the array.

He said then that, if the bid was successful, the SKA would add a "whole new dimension" to WA's economy, with possibly thousands of scientists from across the world working in the state.

Suzanne Tindal contributed to this article.

Topics: Government, Government : AU

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