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SKA reaches significant milestone

SKA reaches significant milestone

The successful conversion of Ghana's communications antenna into a functioning radio telescope marks a significant development for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

This is according to a statement, which says this development cements preparation for the second phase construction of the SKA radio telescope across the African continent.

The 32-metre converted antenna at the Ghana Intelsat Satellite Earth Station in Kutunse will be integrated into the African Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) network.

In a joint statement, the South African and Ghanaian governments announced the combination of first light science observations confirming the successful conversion.

The combination first light science observations included methanol maser detections, VLBI fringe testing and pulsar observations. Reaching the three objectives confirm the instrument can operate as a single dish radio telescope and also as part of global VLBI network observations, the statement notes.

"The Ghanaian government warmly embraces the prospect of radio astronomy in the country and our radio astronomy development plan forms part of the broader Ghana Science, Technology and Innovation Development Plan," says Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, Ghana's minister of environment, science, technology and innovation.

The SKA project is an international effort to build the world's largest radio telescope to be hosted in SA and Australia. SA's Karoo desert in the Northern Cape will host the core of the mid-frequency dish array, ultimately extending over the African continent.

The plan is to build the world's largest radio telescope in two main phases, with construction of the first phase planned to start in 2017/18 and some elements operational by 2020, with full operation under way in 2025.

Eight countries on the continent, including Ghana, are the partners of the SKA project, with the West African nation becoming the first to complete the conversion project.

Speaking about the developments, science and technology minister Naledi Pandor says: "A vital part of the effort towards building SKA on the African continent over the next decade is to develop the skills, regulations and institutional capacity needed in SKA partner countries to optimise African participation in the SKA."

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