Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Scientists set sights on world's largest scop -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

ELEANOR HALL: Australia's astronomy community is turning up the heat on its competitors in the race
to host the world's largest telescope.

Australia and South Africa are the front-runners to secure the Square Kilometre Array project,
which involves the construction of receiver dishes across thousands of kilometres.

And the scientists are optimistic that the launch in Perth today of the International Centre for
Radio Astronomy Research will secure the SKA project for Australia.

In Perth David Weber reports.

DAVID WEBER: The Premier Colin Barnett has said the research centre will be crucial to the bid to
host the SKA project.

COLIN BARNETT: This is important in itself, but it is very essential for Australia's bid to be the
site for the international Square Kilometre Array project, which is one of the world's truly great
scientific endeavours. It's right up there with the space race, nuclear science, genetic research.

It will give us information about the universe that would not have been thought to have be possible
to be known even just a few years ago.

The cost of the centre at the University of Western Australia is around $100 million, with about
one fifth of that coming from the State Government. The centre's director, Professor Peter Quinn.

PETER QUINN: The International Centre For Radio Astronomy Research is firstly for radio astronomy
research - to look at the universe, to use the data coming from the new telescopes we're going to
build at Murchison Radio Astronomy Observatory, it's going to be to help CSIRO build that facility,
it's going to be to help the international project design the SKA, and it's also going to be for
education and outreach - those four main missions.

DAVID WEBER: The idea for the SKA project is that the array of dishes would spread out from an area
in Australia's mid-west, in WA terms that's the Murchison region north-east of Geraldton.

The international director for the SKA project, Professor Richard Schilizzi.

So what are WA's chances?

ROBERT SCHILIZZI: For selection of the site? Well they're very good of course, then when I'm in
South Africa I say they're very good in South Africa too.

DAVID WEBER: Nineteen countries are currently involved in the SKA concept - South Africa is said to
be the preferred choice as the G8 nations want to provide more development assistance for Africa.
Professor Richard Schilizzi says politics will play a roll.

ROBERT SCHILIZZI: It's going to be a government decision, originally we the scientists thought we'd
be able to make this decision by ourselves but we were told fairly early on that it wasn't going to
be the case. It happens all the time in big scientific facilities, it happens in high energy
physics and fusion.

DAVID WEBER: Surely that defeats the purpose of the project?

ROBERT SCHILIZZI: I would say so as a scientist yes, I mean I will certainly be advocating strongly
that the position that the scientists find on the site be the one that is adopted.

DAVID WEBER: Professor Schilizzi does say that Australia is ahead of South Africa in infrastructure
terms, but he says both sites are attractive and more measurements need to be done to determine
which one is more radio quiet.

ROBERT SCHILIZZI: The initial measurements that were made some years ago show that both sites were
sufficiently good, but they were fairly light level, low level measurements. We're now going to be
doing very deep measurements for three months in both places.

DAVID WEBER: A final decision on where the Square Kilometre Array project will be based isn't
expected for three years.

ELEANOR HALL: David Weber reporting.