Last Thursday, Ghana officially became the second African country to own a radio telescope after it launched its first Radio Astronomy Observatory in a bid to expand its knowledge of the African continent.
The telescope was converted from a 32-metre telecommunications antenna by the Intelsat Satellite Earth Station at Kuntunse. It will help astronomers enjoy high angular resolutions.
The launch was preceded by the Fourth Ministerial Conference in the capital Accra, which brought together the nine partner states of the African Square Kilometer Array(SKA) Consortium to discuss how they can institutionalize cooperation in radio astronomy in Africa.
They also agreed to establish a joint cooperation in the implementation of Phase Two of the international SKA project in their countries.
Thursday’s launch makes Ghana the first partner country of the African Very Long Baseline Interferometry(VLBI) network, a web of telescopes in Africa, to fully convert a communications antenna into a fully functioning radio telescope.
The telescope will be incorporated into the AVN network as the partner states await the completion of the second phase of the SKA across the continent.
Some of the countries participating in the construction of the SKA network include Ghana, Namibia, Kenya, South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, Mozambique, Mauritius, and Madagascar.
At the conference, cabinet ministers and delegates from partner countries agreed to put in place all the necessary measures for effective construction and operation of the SKA and AVN telescopes in their respective countries.
Ghanaian Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng is optimistic that the SKA project will offer a perfect opportunity for his country and South Africa to work together.
On her part, the South African Minister of Science and Technology Ms. Naledi Pandor said the SKA project promises to make great contribution to the understanding of the universe, adding that the Ghanaian telescope will reveal the future of astronomy over the next ten years.
“It’s an IT project of the kind that pushes the boundaries of global technology. Big tech companies like IBM and Cisco are already involved, because they know it will allow them to develop the knowledge and technologies that will keep them at the leading edge of computing,” Pandor said at the conference.
South Africa has been instrumental in the transformation of the Kuntunse telescope and in the planning of the VLBI Network. It solely financed the conversion project, which is estimated to have cost $9.2 million, through the African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund.
In the last decade, African countries have made great strides in their attempt to explore space. Most of them already have advanced space programs that are helping them to power their technology and military ambitions.