Artist's impression of SKA dishes (credit: SPDO/TDP/DRAO/Swinburne Astronomy Productions)

Cheshire observatory will be HQ for world's largest radio telescope

Jodrell Bank Observatory will be the headquarters for a £1.3bn project to build the world's biggest radio telescope.

The observatory in Cheshire will be the base for the global Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project which will seek to answer some of the most fundamental questions about the Universe.

The UK, Australia, China, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand and South Africa signed an agreement in Rome to work together in securing funding for the next phase of the project.

The new board will also coordinate groups carrying out SKA research and development work in their respective countries.

Board chairman Professor John Womersley said: "Our partners have taken this step not only because of the inspirational nature of the discoveries that the SKA will make, but also because of the economic benefits that international mega-science projects can bring to participating countries.”

The SKA Project Office (SPO) in the UK, which is hoped to grow to 60 people over the next four years, will supersede the existing SKA Program Development Office (SPDO) currently based at the University of Manchester.

The move to Jodrell Bank Observatory is scheduled for January 1 next year, while the SKA telescope itself will be located in either Australia, New Zealand or southern Africa.

Professor Richard Schilizzi, director of the SKA, said: "The move to Jodrell Bank Observatory comes at a crucial time as the project grows from a concept to an international mega-science project.

"The new location and facilities will support the significant expansion that is planned."

The SKA project will drive technology development in antennas, fibre networks, signal processing, and software and computing. Spin off innovations in these areas will benefit other systems that process large volumes of data.

The design, construction and operation of the SKA has the potential to impact skills development in science, engineering and in associated industries.

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