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Should the Square Kilometre Array telescope be shared between South Africa and Australasia?

By James Dacey

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Since 2006, South Africa has been battling it out with Australasia for the right to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). This €1.5bn radio-astronomy telescope, consisting of 2000 to 3000 linked antennas, will probe the first 100 million years after the Big Bang for clues about galaxy evolution, dark matter and dark energy. Last Friday – after months of deliberation – the SKA committee finally reached its decision, which came as a surprise to many outside of the astronomy community: a split-site solution whereby part of the array will be constructed in South Africa and the other part in Australia and New Zealand.

It appears that in reaching this decision a certain degree of politics has been involved. A report submitted by the SKA Site Advisory Committee last February concluded that, while both sites were suitable, South Africa was the preferred choice. But the SKA members also received advice from a separate working group that was set up to consider the dual-site option. We want you to let us know what you think about the decision by taking part in our poll.

Should the Square Kilometre Array telescope be shared between South Africa and Australasia?

Yes, it is a good compromise
No, it should be built exclusively in South Africa
No, it should be built exclusively in Australia and New Zealand

Have your say by visiting our Facebook page. As always, please feel free to explain your response by posting a comment on the Facebook poll.

In last week’s poll we shifted away from current events all the way back to ancient Greece. We asked you to select the famous thinker whom you considered to have made the most important contributions to natural philosophy. The most highly regarded among our list of seven ancient Greeks was Archimedes, who picked up 45% of the vote. Second place went to Aristotle (23%) and third place went to Euclid with 11%.

Given the magnitude and diversity of these philosophers’ contributions, the poll naturally attracted debate among voters. For instance, Jonas Persson voted for Archimedes but he appears to have been somewhat torn: “Difficult to answer with one person and without a discussion. For modern science, I would say Archimedes. But the influence of Plato is one of the main reasons for the Copernican revolution. Aristotle was more into biology. Thales was the first, so hard to say,” he wrote. Alan Saed, who opted for Euclid, was more forthright in his opinion: “Aristotle should not be up there in the list at all! He held back scientific progress for more than a millennia.”

Thank you for your participation and we look forward to hearing from you in this week’s poll.

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