Namibia on board the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope project
The Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation, Dr. Itah Kandjiei-Murangi signed a multilateral agreement on the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project which is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, with over a square kilometer of data collecting area.
The project is hosted and chaired by the South African government, under the Department of Science and Technology. Nine African partner countries are members, whilst ten member countries are the cornerstone; around 100 organizations across about 20 countries are participating in the design and development of the SKA.
The SKA is investigating the construction of the African Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) Network (AVN), an array of radio telescopes throughout Africa as an extension of the existing global VLBI. The proposal is to modify existing but redundant dishes previously utilized for satellite telecommunication.
The SKA Africa project at its 14th Ministerial Meeting on 24 August in Accra, Ghana, gained momentum when an agreement between nine countries, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia, was signed.
The signing of this agreement is in accordance with the Cabinet decision of 11 October 2011 that gave its endorsement to Namibia to partake in the SKA project.
According to the Permanent secretary in the ministry, Van Kent, Namibia will host four SKA remote stations at Maltahöhe, Karibib, Okahandja and Opuwo. Some of the benefits to Namibia will include: frontier research being conducted in astronomy, astrophysics, high performance computing, with which major events being explained in understanding galaxies and the big bang theories, among others.
“Namibia has already started to enjoy the benefits of SKA Africa project. Some of the benefits include the 10 specialized computers from the Development in Africa with Radio Astronomy Project funded by the UK’s Newton Fund. The computers were successfully installed at the University of Namibia and the Namibia University of Science and Technology with the aim of training students in the area of SKA/AVN related fields,” Van Kent said.
According to him, the high performance computing racks were donated from South Africa’s Centre for High Performance Computing to Namibia in order to strengthen and support the “Big Data Africa”, an initiative for Africa to be able to handle and use the voluminous data from telescopes, in preparation for the SKA/AVN project.
Research Chair for Astronomy/Astrophysics through the joint support of South Africa and Namibia, facilitated by the National Commission on Research, Science and Technology will soon be finalized.
“The research chair is envisioned to provide for the much needed human capacity in SKA/AVN as well as other related space science fields,” Van Kent concluded.