The Jodrell Bank Observatory (in Cheshire) has been selected to become the headquarters for a new £1.3bn project to build the world’s biggest radio telescope.
An agreement to run the “Square Kilometre Array” from Jodrell was signed by the UK, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, China and South Africa.
The SKA (which could be built in Australia or southern Africa) is designed to answer some key questions about the Universe. It takes it’s name from the size of its collecting area, made up of thousands of smaller dishes rather than one giant one (the combined size being approximately one square kilometre giving 50 times the sensitivity, and 10,000 times the survey speed, of the best current-day telescopes).
The new headquarters at Jodrell is expected to open January next year. Partners from 20 countries are currently involved in the project and construction of the SKA could begin by 2016, with the telescope expected to be complete by 2024. It’s hoped it will reveal how planets and galaxies are born, give clues to the nature of dark energy and even help to detect signs of possible alien civilisations.
Jodrell Bank has been responsible for some hugely important astronomical discoveries since it was established after the Second World War.
A more detailed article can be found on the BBC website.