SKA opens headquarters in Manchester

The Square Kilometre Array Organisation has opened its headquarters in Manchester. (R Millenaar, SKA)

The Square Kilometre Array Organisation has opened its headquarters in Manchester. (R Millenaar, SKA)

The international organisation's central facility is situated at the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank in the United Kingdom.

It was announced last year that South Africa and Australia would both host the €2-billion telescope, which will comprise thousands of antennas and will be the largest scientific experiment on Earth. It will be so sensitive that it will be able to detect signals from the beginning of the universe.

"The opening of the SKA headquarters at Jodrell Bank means that the world's largest radio telescope now has a home in the UK – a major milestone for this truly inspirational international science project to explore the origin and evolution of the universe", said John Womersley, chief executive of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and chairperson of the SKA Organisation.

The £3.34-million building, funded by the University of Manchester, will house more than 60 staff members, including visiting scientists and engineers, the SKA said on Tuesday.

"The Square Kilometre Array is set to be one of the world's most exciting international science projects, giving us new and unparalleled insights into the universe", said the UK Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts MP, who opened the facility.

The SKA, which is only expected to be fully operational in 2024, will be funded by an international consortium. The SKA Organisation, at the moment, has 10 members – Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden and the UK – but SKA organisers say that they anticipate more countries to join the project.

While funding has been procured for the pre-construction phase, which will continue until 2016, member countries are still negotiating how the telescope itself will be paid for and how much countries will have to contribute in terms of money and in-kind contributions.

*Wild is author of Searching African Skies, a popular science book about the SKA and South Africa's bid to host the mega-telescope. It was published by Jacana Media in 2012.

Sarah Wild

Sarah Wild

Sarah Wild is a multiaward-winning science journalist. She studied physics, electronics and English literature at Rhodes University in an effort to make herself unemployable. It didn't work and she now writes about particle physics, cosmology and everything in between.In 2012, she published her first full-length non-fiction book Searching African Skies: The Square Kilometre Array and South Africa's Quest to Hear the Songs of the Stars, and in 2013 she was named the best science journalist in Africa by Siemens in their 2013 Pan-African Profiles Awards. Read more from Sarah Wild

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