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June/July 2011
Special edition
In this issue
Location, location, location - South Africa's SKA site is best of both worlds
Making the most of MeerKAT
It doesn't get much quieter than this
Karoo infrastructure ready for the SKA
PAPER demonstrates suitability of SA site
C-BASS eye on the southern sky
Moore for less
Top astronomy talent lights up African SKA bid
Researcher response to MeerKAT demonstrates SKA potential
A new generation of astronomers emerges in Africa
Karoo workshop boosts astronomy capacity in Africa
VLBI network to be deployed across Africa

The conversion of Ghana's 32-m satellite communications antenna as part of an African VLBI network will provide a model for similar dish conversions across the continent.

Conversion work on the dish in Ghana has begun.

VLBI network to be deployed across Africa

An African radio telescope network would fill in a major gap in the global VLBI network and that is what South Africa and its SKA partner countries are working towards. Such a network will also boost engineering and science skills development across the continent.

There are at least 26 satellite ground segment dishes, possibly more, spread out over Africa which could become a part of this new VLBI network.

Where countries do not have existing antennae suitable for conversion, converted dishes from other parts of Africa could be "transplanted". In some cases, new dishes will be built. "We are exploring options tailor-made for each partner country," explains Dr Bernie Fanaroff, director of SKA South Africa. "This is essentially a bottom-up project, where governments are talking to telecommunications operators to gain access to the redundant dishes".

The project will kick off with the conversion of a Vodafone 32-m satellite communications antenna at Kuntunse, Ghana. This project is already well underway with a dedicated team in Ghana driving it. At the same time, preparatory work to establish a dish in Mozambique has already begun.

"We should be able to track an astronomical object within nine months." Fanaroff adds. "By December 2012, the dish in Ghana should demonstrate first light as part of a joint VLBI observation with the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory in South Africa."

"An ambitious and challenging road map with many intermediate steps have been defined towards this goal", explains TL Venkatasubramani (aka "Venkat"), manager of the African VLBI Network project.