Australia, NZ to make joint $3.1 billion telescope bid

A win would boost New Zealand's supercomputing and networking infrastructure

The New Zealand and Australian governments will make a joint bid for the $3.1 billion Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope project, to build a massive radio-telescope distributed across Australia and New Zealand.

Professor Sergei Gulyaev, director of AUT University’s Institute for Radio Astronomy and Space Research, welcomed the announcement.

“Today’s announcement is the fruition of five years’ work by many people, under the umbrella of SKA New Zealand. SKA represents an enormous opportunity for New Zealand, with the potential for massive scientific breakthroughs, job creation and economic spinoffs," he says.

AUT University has begun to build a prototype of the 12 metre diameter radio telescope required for the SKA in Warkworth. Around 5,000 of those telescopes would be needed if SKA happens in New Zealand.

The telescope will allow answer questions that have stumped astronomers for years, he says.

“As an astronomer I am passionate about the significance of SKA. I am thrilled that the New Zealand government has been so supportive. It is that belief and commitment that has seen us reach this milestone today.”

In 2007, Gulyaev told Computerworld (podcast) the telescope would be used for VLBI observations. VLBI stands for very long base-line interferometry. But the SKA project will perform its observations in real time, streaming data to a supercomputer to allow real-time observations of transient events.

The formal arrangement for the SKA bid was signed by New Zealand’s Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee and the Australian Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr, at the Australia-New Zealand Leadership Forum in Sydney this morning.

Gulyaev says Australia was looking for something to distinguish its bid from a rival one from South Africa. The New Zealand connection, spreading the base-line of the telescope even further than the expanse of Australia, provided that.

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