Thursday, January 5, 2012

SKA decision near as rumours grow

The location of one of the worlds greatest science facilities, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is expected to be announced in February 2012. Currently, the two competing sites include an Australian/NZ consortium, against a Southern African consortium. The competition has been long, with both consortia receiving strong support from their governments to win the €1.5 billion facility.

 In recent days, the internet has been awash with rumours that a possible win-win outcome might be being discussed behind closed doors. In such a scenario, each consortium might receive a part of the SKA facility (or a smaller facility each), potentially targeting different parts of the overall frequency range that the SKA was intending to target. Whist such an outcome could be a good political solution, it is likely to multiple the costs of the total SKA facilities, particularly as the infrastructure costs would be almost doubled.

 Whilst no official statements have been made to suggest that a compromise solution may be being discussed, both consortia have been lobbying hard, and have spent significant funding on pre-cursor telescope facilities to demonstrate their capability.

It is understood that no proposals have yet been made for two facilities split across different sites. Whilst it could be possible, a significant amount of work would likely be required, and further negotiations would be needed, delaying an inevitable decision.

I have my fingers firmly crossed for an Australian site selection, but keep your eyes peeled to see what will happen over the next few weeks. There may be surprises yet to come.

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