There’s been a bit of talk lately about a thing called the Square Kilometre Array, a radio telescope project equal in significance to the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.
[The Square Kilometre Array] will enable astronomers to see the formation of the early Universe, including the emergence of the first stars, galaxies and other structures.
… Antennas will be grouped in patches, or stations, of ~100 m diameter. About 150 stations — accounting for half the SKA area — will be distributed across continental distances (~3000 km). The remaining area will be concentrated within a central region of 5 km diameter.
Two bids are competing for this array of radio telescopes: South Africa and a joint Australia and New Zealand bid:
A formal arrangement committing both countries to the $3.1 billion Square Kilometre Array project was signed at the Australia-New Zealand Leadership Forum in Sydney [in August 2009].
The project is a large-scale radio-telescope that will be the most powerful of its type in the world, with a discovery potential 10,000 times greater than current instruments.
It will involve up to 4000 antennas spread over a 5000km baseline across Australia and New Zealand to create a single deep-space listening device.
The final decision is a few years away yet — 2012, I believe — but winning the bid will surely help New Zealand consolidate its position as an excellent location for astronomy.
Also in the works, of course, is the Starlight Reserve bid, down at Tekapo.
The image above is: “SKA reference design (Design study by SKA Project Office and XILOSTUDIOS)”. Source: skatelescope.org/pages/page_pubout.htm