A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to institutionalize co-operation in Radio Astronomy has been signed between the Government of Ghana (GoG) and eight other African countries.

The MoU, which followed the launch of a Ghc30 million Ghana Radio Astronomy Observatory at Kutunse in the Greater Accra Region, is expected to facilitate collaboration between the partnering nations in scientific studies and projects.

The Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI) signed on behalf of GoG while the 8 African countries are Republics of Botswana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia.

Under the MoU, the signatories agreed to establish a Joint Co-operation Framework that will work together and outline the goals, spirit, and scope of the collaboration in radio astronomy with primary reference to the SKA, AVN and related projects.

Radio astronomy is a subfield of astronomy that studies celestial objects at radio frequencies.

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope with, eventually, over a square kilometre (one million square metres) of collecting area. The scale of the SKA represents a huge leap forward in both engineering, research and development towards building and delivering a unique instrument, with the detailed design and preparation now well under way.

Early science observations are expected to start in 2020 with a partial array.

Organizations from ten countries are members of the SKA Organisation – Australia, Canada, China, India, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

This global organization is managed by the not-for-profit SKA Organisation, which has their headquarters at the Jodrell Bank Observatory, near Manchester in the United Kingdom.

In July 2013, the SKA Board passed the following resolution:

Following the recommendation of the Director-General of the SKA Organization, the SKA Board has instructed the SKA Office to proceed with the design phase for SKA Phase 1 assuming a capital expenditure cost ceiling for construction of €650M. The evolution of the SKA Phase 1 project to fit within this cost ceiling will be guided both during the design phase and construction by scientific and engineering assessments of the baseline design undertaken by the SKA Office in collaboration with the community and SKA’s advisory bodies including the Science and Engineering Advisory Committee (SEAC). This decision is consistent with the primary objective of building an exciting, next-generation telescope capable of transformational science.

As one of the largest scientific endeavours in history, the SKA is expected to bring together a wealth of the world’s finest scientists, engineers and policy makers to bring the project to fruition.

On the other hand, the African  Very Long Baseline Interferometric (VLBI) Network (AVN) project is a project to build a network, partly by converting redundant satellite Earth-station antennas across Africa to use for radio astronomy.

The project aims to train researchers in Ghana to monitor methanol masers to VLBI-capable radio telescopes on the African continent that will strengthen the science which the international VLBI community can do.

The AVN will, therefore, help to develop the skills, regulations and institutional capacity needed in SKA partner countries to optimize African participation in the SKA and enable participation in SKA pathfinder technology development and science.

The AVN programme will transfer skills and knowledge in African partner countries to build, maintain, operate and use radio telescopes.

It is expected to bring new science opportunities to Africa on a relatively short time scale and develop radio astronomy science communities in the SKA partner countries.
Ghana is the second African country with a Radio Astronomy Observatory facility—a radio telescope which will be the second element, after HartRAO, of what will eventually become the AVN.   

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, who launched the facility, described the development as the beginning of a new era in Ghana’s quest to harness the potentials of Space Science and Technology for the accelerated socio-economic development for Ghana.

Source: ISD (G.D. Zaney)