SKA South Africa and its partners in Africa are investigating the construction of the African Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network (AVN), an array of radio telescopes throughout Africa as an extension of the existing global Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network (VLBI). The proposal is to modify existing but redundant dishes previously utilised for satellite telecommunication.
SKA South Africa and its partners are looking at converting large (about 30 m in diameter) satellite telecommunications dishes found in many African countries, into radio telescopes. The dishes have been rendered obsolete by the construction of terrestrial and marine optical fibre networks throughout Africa. Telecomm operators in two countries have already indicated that they are open to handing over the dishes. The idea is to link all these telescopes together, and to radio telescopes in South Africa, forming what has been described as the African VLBI Network. This, in turn, would be connected to radio telescopes and arrays in Europe and elsewhere in the world, including North and South America, Asia and Australia. The longer the baselines - i.e. the greater the array of linked telescopes - the greater is the astronomical detail that can be discerned. It is for this reason that the baseline to Southern Africa is important and why European astronomers want to use the Southern African facility.
Thus, the Africa VLBI facility could significantly improve the science which can be done with the global VLBI network. The project would also stimulate astronomy in the participating countries and help to develop skills in electronics and information and communications technology.
Further information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Very_Long_Baseline_Interferometry
Coordination is provided by ISC Intelligence in Science as one of the initiators of AERAP, together with the South African Mission to the EU.
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