Dominion Post: Stretching international boundaries

An opinion piece by science writer Marilyn Head, looking at the joint Australian-New Zealand bid for the Square Kilometre Array project.

An excerpt: (read in full here)

“Despite Australia’s acknowledged global leadership in radio astronomy and superb cutting-edge designs for both the low and high frequency parts of the array, the ultimate decision will depend on the politics as well as the science.

“New Zealand could make the difference, on both counts. The configuration of the Australian SKA design is such that, geographically, it is perfectly located to host a couple of array-stations and extend the baseline – the distance between the most widely separated antennas, from 3000 to 5000 kilometres.

“The effect of that is to vastly increase the resolution of the telescope, which, for some of the science objectives, would be extremely useful.

“Though the South African design has the potential to be similarly extended to Ghana, the infrastructural and political challenges it already faces in having to place array-stations in Namibia, Botswana, Madagascar, and other territories within range, make it unlikely in the short term. With New Zealand on board from the start, Australia can offer the highest resolution immediately and pretty much guarantee it over the lifetime of the project.”