Jodrell Bank to become headquarters for the world’s largest radio telescope

“CHESHIRE’S very own Jodrell Bank has been chosen as the permanent headquarters for the world’s biggest radio telescope.

artist's impression of SKA headquarters by the Lovell

artist’s impression of SKA headquarters by the Lovell

With an estimated worth of £1bn in private sector investment, the project will  result in a huge economic boost for Cheshire East.  On top of this, the venture will help to secure an additional 200 jobs on the University of Manchester site near Holmes Chapel.

The Square Kilometre Array telescope is said to be capable of looking all the way back to the aftermath of the Big Bang.  It will spread across two continents using 2,500 dishes and a whopping one million antennae.

Announced just yesterday at a meeting of SKA members, the news comes days after Cheshire East Council agreed to invest £1m in Jodrell Bank.

Caroline Simpson, the Council’s executive director for economic growth and prosperity, said: “This is a real statement of confidence in scientific research in Britain and also in Cheshire East.

“The Council believes this will lead to further opportunities in the Cheshire and Manchester region and the Council has set out a clear action plan to develop the technology and science corridor in the area. Jodrell Bank plays a key part in this plan.

“We will continue to work closely with partners across the Manchester city region to develop the site’s record in hosting world-class science and visitor activities.”

Both Italy and the UK put in a bid to host the new headquarters and were judged as ‘excellent’ and both suitable for the project’s needs.   But after a great deal of consideration, Members of the SKA organisation went with the UK, thanks to the strong package offered by the government.

Professor Stephen Watts, Head of the School of Physics & Astronomy at The University of Manchester, said: “This is great news for Jodrell Bank. Not only will it mean cutting edge science will continue to be carried out at the site for the foreseeable future but it will also help inspire the thousands of children who visit here every year from schools across the country. It is a great honour to be chosen as the headquarters of the largest telescope ever built.” Knutsford Guardian 30th April 2015

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Britain has been chosen to host the permanent headquarters for the world’s largest radio telescope, an observatory that aims to delve deep into the early history of the universe.

Members of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project decided on Wednesday that the Jodrell Bank site would become the full-time home for the telescope’s operational centre, despite an impressive Italian counter-bid.

Rather than employing one enormous dish, the SKA will draw on more than one hundred thousand dishes and antennae spread across Africa and Australia to create a collecting area of one square kilometre. Construction is due to begin in 2018.

The challenge for project’s engineers is to build a radio telescope that is tens of times more sensitive and hundreds of times faster at mapping the heavens than today’s best observatories.  The telescope will be powerful enough to pick up extremely faint radio signals that were emitted from cosmic sources more than 13 billion years ago, when the first stars and galaxies began to form.

Astronomers hope that the vast telescope will help to answer some of the toughest questions of the universe, such as how did the cosmos form and evolve; what is the invisible dark matter that seems to cling around galaxies; and what is dark energy, the mysterious force that appears to drive the universe outwards?

The project has been operating from the Jodrell Bank Observatory on a temporary basis, but yesterday’s decision to make the Cheshire site the permanent headquarters is an important boost for the region. The telescope is expected to operate for 50 years.

The telescope will generate data at an extraordinary rate. In its first phase, scientists anticipate 160 terabytes of raw data per second coming from the machine, the equivalent of more than 35,000 DVDs every second.   The Guardian 30th April 2015

 

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