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UK Minister of State Jo Johnson visits the SKA Headquarters

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Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Jo Johnson MP, with SKA Director-General Prof. Philip Diamond (right) and Head of Project Alistair McPherson (left) in front of the current SKA Headquarters building.

SKA Headquarters, Jodrell Bank, Thursday 9 February 2017 – The UK Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation Jo Johnson MP visited the SKA Headquarters at Jodrell Bank yesterday to be briefed on the international Square Kilometre Array project.

The Minister was received by SKA Director-General Professor Philip Diamond as well as senior members of the SKA leadership team and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). He was briefed on the current status of the project, including the ongoing negotiations to establish the SKA as an intergovernmental organisation, and was shown the plans for the new SKA Global Headquarters on site, whose construction is due to start in the next few weeks.

“We want our world-leading science sector to continue to flourish, which is why we made science, research and innovation one of the key pillars of our Industrial Strategy.” said Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson.

“We are committed to the international SKA Project and proud to be hosting what will be its global headquarters at Jodrell Bank. It will welcome world-class scientists and engineers to work on cutting-edge international collaborations to better understand our Universe.”

As a running observatory, the SKA Global Headquarters will oversee the procurement, construction and operation of the two SKA telescopes located in Australia and South Africa. Industry from the SKA member countries including the UK will be involved in procuring the elements to build the telescopes. Over its 50-year lifetime, the key decisions on the observational and technological-development programmes of the observatory will be made here. The facility at Jodrell Bank will include a remote monitoring room where operations teams will be able to monitor the telescopes’ operation and performance. A Council Chamber will regularly host representatives from the SKA’s member countries overseeing the strategic governance of the observatory. It will also double as an auditorium able to hold scientific conferences and public talks.

“It is our intention for the SKA headquarters to become a real nexus for big data radio-astronomy internationally, with top scientists coming here from around the world to collaborate on cutting-edge astronomical research using the SKA. This will be in large part possible thanks to the strong commitment the UK Government has continuously shown for the project” declared Prof. Diamond.

As part of his visit in the area, the Minister was given a tour of the Jodrell Bank Observatory facilities on site, including the control room and Lovell Telescope, and met for discussions with the University of Manchester’s President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell. Professor Rothwell added: “Jodrell Bank is one of the most important assets in UK science, so we were delighted that the Minister was able to find out more about our work here and the value of having the headquarters of an international project like SKA in this country.”

The new SKA Headquarters should be fully operational by mid-2018.

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The Minister and leaders from the SKA, the University of Manchester and Cheshire East Council look at plans for the new SKA Headquarters at Jodrell Bank. From left to right: Cheshire East Council Chief Executive Mike Suarez; Minister of State for Universities, Research and Innovation Jo Johnson MP; Prof. Steve Watts, Head of the School of Physics at the University of Manchester and SKA Headquarters project sponsor and Prof. Philip Diamond, SKA Director-General.

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Aerial view of the Square Kilometre Array Headquarters at Jodrell Bank.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the SKA

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, led by SKA Organisation based at the Jodrell Bank Observatory near Manchester. The SKA will conduct transformational science to improve our understanding of the Universe and the laws of fundamental physics, monitoring the sky in unprecedented detail and mapping it hundreds of times faster than any current facility.

The SKA is not a single telescope, but a collection of telescopes or instruments, called an array, to be spread over long distances. The SKA is to be constructed in two phases: Phase 1 (called SKA1) in South Africa and Australia; Phase 2 (called SKA2) expanding into other African countries, with the component in Australia also being expanded.

Already supported by 10 member countries – Australia, Canada, China, India, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom – SKA Organisation has brought together some of the world’s finest scientists, engineers and policy makers and more than 100 companies and research institutions across 20 countries in the design and development of the telescope. Construction of the SKA is set to start in 2018, with early science observations in 2020.

Learn more about the SKA Headquarters project.

About Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics

Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics is part of the University of Manchester’s School of Physics & Astronomy. A world leader in radio astronomy-related research and technology development, the Centre has 28 academic staff and around 180 researchers including 50 PhD students, and is one of the UK’s largest astrophysics research groups. Jodrell Bank Observatory operates the 76-metre Lovell Telescope (jointly funded by the University of Manchester & STFC) and a distributed network of 6 additional radio telescopes that form the UK’s e-MERLIN Radio Astronomy National Facility. e-MERLIN regularly operates as part of the renowned European VLBI network (EVLBI).

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