SA, SKA partners developing a new African network of telescopes



Pretoria – Science and Technology Minister, Naledi Pandor, says the partnerships with the eight other African nations that will host remote stations of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope remain strong and the countries are developing a new African network of telescopes.

South Africa partnered with Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia to host the world’s largest radio telescope.

“Our partnerships with the eight other African nations that will host remote stations of the SKA remains strong and we are developing with them, in preparation of the full SKA, a new African network of telescopes, the African Very-long Baseline Interferometry Network or AVN.

“We are making a valuable contribution to the training of the next generation of African scientists and engineers,” said the Minister, speaking at the Entrepreneurial Mindset Conference at Wits University in Johannesburg on Monday.

The AVN is an array of radio telescopes throughout Africa as an extension of the existing global Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network (VLBI).

The idea behind the project it is to modify existing but redundant dishes previously utilised for satellite telecommunication.  Some of the eight partner countries have redundant telecommunications antennas that can be converted into radio telescopes.

Such an African network of telescopes will help pave the way for Africa to participate optimally in the SKA by boosting interest and building skills in science and engineering, and radio astronomy in particular.

The AVN is funded by the African Renaissance Fund of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, and further support is provided by the Department of Science and Technology.

Minister Pandor said South Africa was recognised as a space nation, but more specifically as a nation investing in space science to improve the quality of living of its citizens.

South Africa plans to locate the core of the SKA telescope at a remote site 80 km from Carnavon, in the Northern Cape, and would still include the establishment of antenna stations in South Africa’s partner countries.

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Marc Mcilhone
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