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Australia The Almighty Buck Science

SKA Might Be Split Between South Africa and Australia 110

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the two-times-half-not-better-than-one dept.
gbrumfiel writes "The Square Kilometre Array will be the world's most powerful telescope, assuming the nations involved can agree on where to build it. A scientific panel recently backed South Africa over Australia to host the project, but neither side has conceded defeat. Rather than splitting the partners, project leaders are now thinking about splitting the telescope between the two countries. There's little scientific advantage, but the thinking is that a split telescope would be better than no telescope."
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SKA Might Be Split Between South Africa and Australia

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @08:53AM (#39642777)

    None of the official sources has confirmed that the recommendation went to South Africa.
    It springs from two Australian newspaper articles which weren't sourced.
    This isn't to say South Africa wasn't recommended, but you shouldn't report it as fact.

    Sarah Wild
    South Africa

  • South Africa? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @08:57AM (#39642821)

    Not a place I'd want to move my family to or have any long term plans.........and it seems a lot of South Africans feels the same way.........

    http://www.sa-austin.com/blog/2011/04/what-were-your-main-reasons-for-leaving-south-africa-263.html [sa-austin.com]
    http://digitaljournal.com/article/267776 [digitaljournal.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @09:12AM (#39642981)

    Nature claims independent verification of the Sydney Morning Herald's claim that South Africa was recommended. That's pretty damn strong evidence. In any event, if you want to tell someone they "shouldn't report it as fact", you're in the wrong place. Slashdot has no reporters and does not report anything.

  • SA too risky (Score:4, Informative)

    by mauriceh (3721) <maurice@@@harddata...com> on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @09:23AM (#39643075) Homepage

    Ask anyone who is a resident or ex resident of S.Africa..
    It is simply a matter of time until the place descends into chaos.
    And yes, i have lived there.

  • Re:Interferometer (Score:4, Informative)

    by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @09:24AM (#39643093) Homepage Journal

    Make it a interferometer? Seems obvious, so there must be something wrong with that idea.

    Not very useful, since there's not a lot of sky visible both from South Africa and western Australia.

    Also, any radio telescope array is already a interferometer. The SKA is the mega-version of a interferometer, or you could say a hybrid of an ATA and VLBI.

  • Re:SA too risky (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @09:43AM (#39643345)

    We have the longest period of economic growth since the 94 elections and our democratic institutions are functioning pretty...

    Keep in mind that most of that 3.4% growth comes from mining exports (including manufactured iron and steel). This shouldn't be confused with diversified economies in more stable regions like... Australia.

    Also just last year there were renewed fears of increased violence against foreigners as the the rate of xenophobic violence continues to rise unabated by the anemic attempts by the South African government. Some political leaders have been implicated in the report from the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) Monitoring Project.

  • Re:Interferometer (Score:4, Informative)

    by Hadlock (143607) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @09:46AM (#39643385) Homepage Journal

    The real reason is that it's much harder to kill the telescope project once it's in two separate jurisdictions. The B-2 bomber had parts made in all 50 states so nobody could vote to kill the project without killing jobs in their state when the project went horrendously over budget (it's still a cool plane, though).

  • Re:Interferometer (Score:5, Informative)

    by Idarubicin (579475) <allsquietNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @10:06AM (#39643599) Journal
    The design already calls for dishes scattered across a circular region roughly 3000 km wide (though the highest density of dishes will be in patches 5 km across in the center of the array) to create a very large synthetic aperture.

    The problem with an interferometer having just two widely-separated points is that it only provides high angular resolution along the axis between those points. (It's not useless, but it is very limited.) The two sites are about 10,000 km apart, which somewhat limits the amount of sky that both sites will be able to see simultaneously (and observe continuously for any extended period of time). If a large number of telescopes are involved in the interferometer array, one needs some very high bandwidth data connections, which I'm not certain exist between South Africa and Australia. In practice, I suspect that what you'd be getting would be more like two Half-Kilometer-Arrays rather than a long-baseline SKA.

    What has been proposed, and should be technically feasible, is dividing the array up by frequency band. The plan already calls for three overlapping arrays of different types of telescopes in order to capture three different frequency bands. (Phased array dipole antennas work great at 100 MHz, whereas you need dishes for 10 GHz.) In principle, one could put the low- and mid-frequency arrays on one site and the high-frequency arrays on another. That avoids the problems with bandwidth associated with long-baseline interferometry, and it allows each array to scan its entire local sky without worrying about what's over the distant station's horizon.

    The downside is that this increases overall costs. Two sites need to be prepared; two sets of computing facilities need to be built; two different national governments have to be placated. Scientifically, it means that the entire array can't always be 'pointed' in the same place across its entire frequency spectrum--sometimes the high- or low-frequency portion of the array will be below the horizon.

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