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SKA, world's largest radio telescope, will be based in the UK (Wired UK)

SKA telescope

The SKA array will comprise of 2,500 dishes and one million antennas spread over the deserts of South Africa and Australia

SKA Project Development Office and Swinburne Astronomy Productions

The world's largest radio telescope, capable of looking all the way back to the aftermath of the Big Bang, will be headquartered in the UK.

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope is so large it will spread across two continents and be comprised of 2,500 dishes and one million antennas. It will be more than 50 times more sensitive than any existing radio telescope.

The organisation behind the SKA received two bids -- one from the UK and another from Italy. The success of the UK's bid means the headquarters will be located at Manchester University's Jodrell Bank site, which has been the temporary home of SKA in recent years. The Italian bid had proposed a site in the Padua region, near Venice.

SKA members praised both bids, saying they were "excellent and suitable for the project's needs". The SKA headquarters will sit alongside the groundbreaking Lovell telescope, which was the world's biggest manoeuvrable radio dish when it was constructed in 1957.

SKA is intended to help answer fundamental questions about the universe and the Big Bang, as well as testingEinstein'stheory of gravity and help in the search for intelligent alien life. Itis considered one of the most ambitious scientific projects of the modern era and will cover an area of approximately one million square kilometres in the deserts of South Africa and Australia.

Engineering and technical difficulties will be significant, with some of the technology required not yet invented. The SKA will be capable of collecting so much data that it will require greater data capacity than the entire global internet. Current systems for handling data would be unable to cope with the demands of the SKA and it is hoped technology will catch up by the time it is completed.

The cost of the project is likely to be more than 1.2bn, with construction due to begin in 2018 before becoming fully operational by around 2025.

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