The Jodrell Bank Observatory is set to become the international headquarters for the Square Kilometre Array, a distributed telescope that will be thousands of times more powerful than any other, once built.
The University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank was picked by the international partners behind the telescope as the project office for the scheme, the observatory announced on Saturday. It will administer the design and pre-construction phase for the €1.5bn (£1.3bn) Square Kilometre Array (SKA), which will be composed of thousands of receptors and provide 50 times the sensitivity and 10,000 times the survey speed of contemporary telescopes.
SKA will have a collecting area of over a million square metres, which will be made up of over 3,000 dishes and thousands more small radio wave sensors, known as aperture array antennas, spread out across either South Africa or Australia.
Credit: SPDO/Swinburne Astronomy Productions
Once built, the SKA will be used to trace the evolution of magnetic fields through the history of the universe, along with the study of Earth-like planets outside the solar system.
"The Square Kilometre Array is a project of global significance. This is evidence of the high reputation of Britain's management of international science projects," David Willets, the Minister for Universities and Science said in a statement.
The SKA program development office is already based out of Manchester University. The announcement means that the project office team will grow from 15 engineers and administrators to around 60. This team will be employed throughout the pre-construction phase, which runs through to 2015.
"All the crucial development work [for the Square Kilometre Array] will be done in the next four years from Jodrell Bank," Jo Bowler, outreach officer for the SKA program development office told ZDNet UK.
The engineers will work across signal processing, system engineering, software, computing and receptors across aperture rays and dishes, she said.
"All of these [engineering] domains will be growing. At the moment we have one domain specialist for each and now we will employ additional engineers beneath that."
The SKA project is a collaboration between Australia, China, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa and the UK.