The Square Kilometre Array – the largest telescope ever built – is perhaps the most exciting thing to happen to the science of the sky. It will be able to answer questions scientists only once dreamed of being able to know such as: what is dark matter? It may even be able to tell us if there is life elsewhere in the universe.
The scale of the SKA represents a huge leap forward in both engineering and research and development towards building and delivering a radio telescope, and will deliver a correspondingly transformational increase in science capability when operational. Many different countries are working together to build – and pay for – the SKA. At least 13 countries and close to 100 organisations are already involved, and more are joining the project.
The project is seen as an unparalleled opportunity for South Africa, which will host the bulk of the antennas. For the next ten to twelve years, job opportunities will be created by the building of and support services to MeerKAT – SKA’s precursor in the Northern Cape – and the SKA itself. Following that, the running and maintenance of the SKA will create jobs for the next 50 years.
Another important impact of South Africa’s SKA Project is the belief that it will cause a surge of interest in studying mathematics, engineering and astrophysics at local universities, and attracting top students and academics from around the world to South Africa.