21 Aug 2009

NZ, Australia join forces to host space telescope

7:44 pm on 21 August 2009

The New Zealand and Australian governments are joining forces to bid for a $3.1 billion international science project, with the potential to revolutionise people's understanding of the universe.

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) large scale telescope has been described as one of the world's most significant science projects.

When built, the telescope would be up to 100 times more sensitive than any other radio telescope.

A formal arrangement between the governments was signed in Sydney on Friday to want to jointly host the telescope project.

Southern Africa also wants host the project. The host site will be revealed in 2012.

Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee says the telescope will use up to 4,000 antennas over a 5,000km baseline to explore the universe and promises to be one of the top global science projects of the century.

The head of the New Zealand SKA research and development consortium says the project is a ground-breaking opportunity.

Melanie Johnston-Hollitt, of Victoria University, told Checkpoint it will enable New Zealand to be at the forefront of research and development, and to work with large international teams involved in cutting-edge science.

Ms Johnston-Hollitt says this is likely to be the first agreement between countries to host a telescope.