The nations belonging to the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) organization, following a meeting held in Amsterdam on Friday, decided to host the biggest radio telescope ever built, a project that could cost an astonishing €1.5 billion, BBC said.
The radio telescope, which would have thousands of small antennas spread over thousands of kilometers, ‘a combined collecting area of one million square meters - equivalent to about 200 football pitches,’ aspired to sweep the sky for answers to the major outstanding questions in astronomy, probe the early Universe, test Einstein's theory of gravity and even search for alien intelligent life.
SKA board chairman Prof John Womersley, speaking at a news conference held at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, said "We have decided on a dual site approach," referring to the Australasian bid (ASKAP) which was centered on a site at Boolardy Station, about 500km north of Perth in Western Australia, and for South Africa (Meerkat), the central location put forward was in the Karoo in the Northern Cape, about 95km from Carnarvon.
Womersley told BBC News: "The important aspect of doing it this way is that we will get more science out of the project in the first phase by taking advantage of the existing ASKAP and Meerkat investments. So, while there'll be some additional operating costs associated with this implementation, we will get more science in return."
Dr Bernie Fanaroff, the SKA South Africa project director, said "The construction phase alone will last from about 2013 to 2025. So, there's direct spin-off from construction, and there's the creation of employment through operations and maintenance that will go on for about 50 years.
The SKA's members include the UK, Netherlands, Italy, China, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. India has associate member status.