Africa and Australia have been shortlisted to host the world’s most powerful radio telescope, which would be able to look billions of years back in time, Reuters reports. The Square Kilometre Array telescope, which will be 50 times more sensitive and 10,000 times faster than any other radio imaging telescope ever built, will eventually consist of about 3,000 antennas. If Africa wins the bid, which will be announced in 2012, half of them will be at the main site on the Northern Cape of South Africa, with the rest in countries including Namibia, Ghana and Zambia. South Africa has already built the first seven antennas of the Karoo Array Telescope in this location. “The SKA will look back into the beginnings of the universe, over 12 billion years ago, when galaxies started to form out of the Big Bang. We will be able to study the evolution of the universe,” project scientist Deborah Shepherd told Reuters. It will scan for alien life in other galaxies and look at the first black holes and stars. The telescope should be fully operational by 2022, and will have a lifespan of at least 50 years.
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