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RAS and IoP back UK bid for HQ of world’s largest telescope

24 March 2015

The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) and the Institute of Physics (IoP) have responded to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Organisation's decision to extend its selection process for a permanent array headquarters site.

Artist's impression of the antennas within the central core of the Square Kilometre Array (image courtesy of the SKA Project Development Office and Swinburne Astronomy Productions)

Set to cost €650 million (£475 million), the first phase of the SKA will consist of some 200 dishes in South Africa and 130,000 antennas in Australia, and the UK’s Jodrell Bank Observatory is competing with Castello Carrarese in Italy to host the headquarters. In 2014 the UK government announced funding of £100m for the SKA, which has had its current home at Jodrell Bank since 2011.

RAS President Professor Martin Barstow offered his support to the UK. “The SKA is an important facility that will allow us to probe closer to the beginnings of the universe than ever before," he says. "It’s exactly the kind of facility that we should want the UK to be involved in as much as possible – especially after already having invested so much in it.”

“We want all physicists and astronomers in the UK and Ireland to be able to access world-class facilities like this" says IoP president Frances Saunders. "Moreover, the UK physics and astronomy base is world-leading; the Jodrell Bank Observatory is one of the founding sites for radio-astronomy, and has done a great job as the current HQ for the SKA. The UK would make an excellent home for such a project, and we hope that the panel comes to a similar conclusion.”

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