Australia and NZealand join in super telescope bid

August 21, 2009
A large galaxy in Andromeda is seen in this file photo, provided by NASA. Australia and New Zealand announced a joint bid on Friday for a giant radio telescope project which will reach for the earliest traces of the universe in a search for intelligent life.

Australia and New Zealand announced a joint bid Friday for a giant radio telescope project which will reach for the earliest traces of the universe in a search for intelligent life.

The Pacific neighbours said their joint 2.5 billion dollar (2.1 billion US) bid was one of two on the shortlist for the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA), a project which will use 4,000 telescopes as a single device to tap into deep space.

"The SKA project promises to be a top global science project of the 21st century, using one of the world?s most powerful computers to explore fundamental questions in science," said New Zealand Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee.

The array, which will be able to see back to the formation of the first stars, was one of the world's most significant "mega-science" projects, said Brownlee, who signed the formal agreement in Sydney on Friday.

Australia's Science Minister Kim Carr said the joint bid proposed erecting 4,000 antennas that would stretch 5,000 kilometres from Australia's west coast to New Zealand, and described the trans-Tasman involvement as "crucial".

A final decision on whether Australia and or rival bidder South Africa will host the SKA will be made in 2012, and construction will take between six and eight years, the ministers said.

has already outbid Argentina, China and the United States to make the final two.

A global consortium involving more than 50 institutions from 19 countries was driving the SKA programme, and finance for the project was expected to come from international partner governments, they added.

The SKA would be 10,000 times more powerful than current instruments and would aim to answer fundamental questions about the universe, including whether there was intelligent life beyond Earth and what happened after the Big Bang.

It would also explore questions of gravity and magnetism, and how galaxies were born and evolved against the backdrop of "dark energy" that fills the universe, the ministers said.

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: Australia, South Africa, short-listed for giant telescope

Related Stories

University helps map the universe

September 19, 2007

The University of Manchester is developing high-speed data crunching technology that will be crucial to the success of one of the greatest scientific projects of the 21st century.

MIT to lead development of new telescopes on moon

February 19, 2008

NASA has selected a proposal by an MIT-led team to develop plans for an array of radio telescopes on the far side of the moon that would probe the earliest formation of the basic structures of the universe. The agency announced ...

Astronomers reveal a 'blue whale of space'

July 7, 2009

CSIRO astronomers have revealed the hidden face of an enormous galaxy called Centaurus A, which emits a radio glow covering an area 200 times bigger than the full Moon.

Recommended for you

Proto-planet has two masters

February 13, 2016

A Rice University researcher will discuss images that may show the formation of a planet—or a planetary system—around a distant binary star at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science ...

Gravitational waves found, black-hole models led the way

February 11, 2016

Gravitational waves were predicted by Einstein's theory of general relativity in 1916, and now, almost exactly 100 years later, the faint ripples across space-time have been found. The advanced Laser Interferometric Gravitational-wave ...

The 'glitching' of the Vela pulsar

February 9, 2016

(—A team of Australian astronomers has conducted an intensive observation of a curious young pulsar to investigate changes in its rotation frequency known as 'glitching'. Located about 910 light years from the ...

Earth-like planets have Earth-like interiors

February 8, 2016

Every school kid learns the basic structure of the Earth: a thin outer crust, a thick mantle, and a Mars-sized core. But is this structure universal? Will rocky exoplanets orbiting other stars have the same three layers? ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

3 / 5 (2) Aug 21, 2009
Great to read about progress on this important project, although the press release seems rather poorly worded. Mention is made about "... a giant radio telescope project which will reach for the earliest traces of the universe in a search for intelligent life." This seems to imply that researchers would be looking for SETI signals in the first few million years or so after cosmic reionization. I seriously doubt that intelligent life would have time and material to evolve in the harsh, metal-poor environment that was the early universe.
1 / 5 (2) Aug 21, 2009
Do we really want to find intelligent beings elsewhere. History already shows what happens on this planet when people from a more advanced technology with better weapons invades the country of people with a less advanced culture.
If we pick up the messages of a far off civilization, there is a good chance they are bound to be more technically advanced than us on Earth.
3 / 5 (1) Aug 21, 2009
It seems fairly clear that this search must be made gazillions of light-years from here 'cause if they turned it around & looked at terra firma they would be hard-pressed to find anything of significance. :-)

BRAVO for this project. We hover in the wings waiting with excitement for the data stream!!!
5 / 5 (2) Aug 21, 2009
I am looking forward to seeing the results of these telescopes once they are finished. It will be so interesting to see how the first stars and galaxies were formed, and to see known star systems and exoplanets in more detail.

not rated yet Aug 22, 2009
from wikipedia: "The SKA is a global collaboration of 19 countries"
not rated yet Sep 01, 2009
That's great, but I'd like to point out that they probably meant the EAST coast of Australia.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.