April 2, 2012 / 3:35 PM / 6 years ago

Factbox: A look at the groundbreaking SKA telescope

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa and Australia are fighting for the right to host what will be the world’s most powerful radio telescope, a device called the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

The international consortium funding the project is expected to announce the winner this week.

Here are some key facts about the SKA:

It will use 3,000 antennas and receptors to detect radio frequency signals from deep space that are then processed by a super computer.

The SKA will be 50 times more sensitive and 10,000 times faster than any other telescope on the planet.

The name comes from the surface area of all the receptors, which will total one square kilometre. The antennas will be arranged in five spiral arms extending to distances of at least 3,000 km (1,870 miles).

The antennas and receptors will be located in as remote a location as possible, free from radio and seismic interference.

The SKA will generate enough raw data to fill 15 million 64-GB iPods daily.

It will expand research relating to questions such as how galaxies evolve, what is dark energy, is there extra-terrestrial life and how black holes were formed.

The project will be funded by international agencies as well as partner countries including Australia, China, South Africa, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Netherlands.

Construction is expected to begin in 2016 and it is expected to be fully operational around 2024.

Australia’s bid would be centered at the Murchison Radio Astronomy Observatory (MRO) in the mid-west region of Western Australia and stretch to New Zealand.

The South African bid would be centered in the Karoo desert in the south-central part of the country and extend to partners Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Madagascar, Mauritius, Zambia, Kenya and Ghana.

Source: Square Kilometre Array consortium; Reporting by Jon Herskovitz and Enos Phosa; Editing by Andrew Osborn

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