A piece of news I should have passed on sooner than this is the announcement that the Headquarters for the Square Kilometre Array will be based at the Jodrell Bank Observatory which, as you all know, is situated in the English Midlands.
The Square Kilometre Array (known to the astronomical community as SKA) will be, when it’s built, the largest radio telescope, and in fact the largest telescope of any kind, ever constructed. Building it will be a huge technical challenge, and it involves teams from all around the world. Although it hasn’t yet been decided where the actual kit will be sited – Australia and South Africa are two strong contenders – it’s definitely a coup for the UK to be hosting the Project Office. So congratulations to Jodrell Bank and to John Womersley, Director of Science Programmes at the Science and Technology Facilities Council who will be heading up the operation.
I think that the SKA is by far the most exciting project in ground-based astronomy on the STFC books: it has a significantly stronger science case than its competitor in the optical part of the spectrum, the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), although it is admittedly more of a challenge to build it from a technological point of view. Over the last few years I’ve feared on many occasions that STFC would have to pull out of one of these two very expensive projects and that E-ELT would be the one that survived because it is within the remit of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) to which we pay a hefty subscription. Fortunately the clouds seem to have lifted a bit and it looks like we’re going to remain in both, which is excellent news for UK astronomy.
I was thinking of putting up a bit of music to celebrate the good news. Hmmm….Ska….radio. No brainer really. I wonder who was The Selecter for the location of the SKA Project Office?
P.S. I just looked at the date when On My Radio was in the charts. October 1979, when I was 16. I have to confess that in those days I had a massive crush on lead singer Pauline Black …