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    S/Africa and Ghana forge ahead in radio astronomy - minister

    APA-Pretoria (South Africa)

    South Africa and Ghana are making progress in radio astronomy, according to Ghanaian Minister of Science and Technology, Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng.

    The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) programme, an array of powerful antennas aimed towards the sky, has reached yet another milestone, with a significant development that cements the way towards the second phase construction of the colossal telescope, APA has learnt.

    “The Ghanaian government warmly embraces the prospect of radio astronomy in the country and our radio astronomy development plan forms part of the broader Ghana Science, Technology and Innovation Development Plan,” Frimpong-Boateng said in Pretoria on Friday.

    The minister’s statement came as the Ghanaian and South African governments announced the combination of ‘first light’ science observations, which confirm the successful conversion of the Ghana communications antenna from a redundant telecoms instrument into a functioning Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) radio telescope.

    Ghana is the first partner country of the African Very Large Baseline Interferometer (VLBI) Network (AVN) to complete the conversion of a communications antenna into a functioning radio telescope.

    The 32-metre converted telecommunications antenna at the Ghana Intelsat Satellite Earth Station in Kutunse will be integrated into the African VLBI Network (AVN) in preparation for the second phase construction of the SKA across the African continent.

    The combination ‘first light’ science observations included Methanol Maser detections, VLBI fringe testing and Pulsar observations, according to the scientists working on the programme.

    Reaching these three objectives confirmed that the instrument could operate as a single dish radio telescope and also as part of global VLBI network observations, such as the European VLBI network, they added.

    Following the initial ‘first light’ observations, the research teams from Ghana and South Africa -- together with other international research partners -- continue to do more observations and are analysing the data generated, with the aim of characterising the system and improving its accuracy for future experiments, they said.

    Nine African partner countries are members of the SKA AVN.

    These are Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zambia.

    NM/as/APA

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