Australia and NZealand join in super telescope bid

Aug 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

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User comments : 6

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yyz
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.
cosmicelk
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.
rfw
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!!!
paulthebassguy
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.

ThomasS
not rated yet Aug 22, 2009
from wikipedia: "The SKA is a global collaboration of 19 countries"
nuge
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.