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By Peter Pedroncelli

In an important milestone for the Square Kilometre Array project, Ghana has successfully converted a redundant telecommunications antenna into a functioning radio telescope. The 32m converted telecommunications antenna at the Ghana Intelsat Satellite Earth Station at Kutunse is now operational as a very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) radio telescope, forming part of plans for the Square Kilometre Array, according to ITWeb. This development is part of preparations for the second phase of the project, which will see the continued construction of the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope, the largest of its kind on the planet, across the African continent.

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As one of eight African countries who are partners of the Square Kilometre Array project, Ghana has now become the first to complete their conversion. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, Ghana’s minister of environment, science, technology and innovation announced the development in a joint-statement from the Ghanaian and South African governments. “The Ghanaian government warmly embraces the prospect of radio astronomy in the country and our radio astronomy development plan forms part of the broader Ghana Science, Technology and Innovation Development Plan,” said Frimpong-Boateng, according to APA.

Africa’s core role in the Square Kilometre Array

The international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope is to be hosted in South Africa and Australia. The majority of the project is based in South Africa’s Karoo desert in the Northern Cape, with the mid-frequency dish extending over Africa thanks to partners which include Botswana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zambia. Naledi Pandor, South African minister of science and technology, commented on the milestone and mentioned the need to build the abilities, policy infrastructure and capacity required for a successful Square Kilometre Array project among African partners.

“A vital part of the effort towards building SKA on the African continent over the next decade is to develop the skills, regulations and institutional capacity needed in SKA partner countries to optimise African participation in the SKA,” Pandor said, according to DefenceWeb. The Square Kilometre Array is to be build in two main phases, with construction of the first phase beginning this year, with some aspects of the telescope operational by 2020, while complete construction and function is expected in 2025. The converted Ghanaian radio telescope will now be integrated into the African VLBI Network as part of the second phase. The Square Kilometre Array will be used by scientists to understand how the universe evolved and how stars and galaxies form and change, according to an earlier AFKInsider report.

Source: AFK Insider