Square Kilometre Array Is Buying 455 Square Miles Of Karoo Farmland

Square Kilometre Array Is Buying 455 Square Miles Of Karoo Farmland

The world’s largest radio telescope needs a radio-quiet zone to do its intended job of detecting very faint radio signals from space, and the Square Kilometre Array South Africa office has begun buying 118,000 hectares (about 455 square miles) of land in the Karoo to build it.

The international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Organisation has budgeted 650 million euros (about $700 million US) for SKA1.

South Africa made a commitment to host the international SKA project with Australia, and it chose a quiet place — a productive area of sheep farms in the Karoo 90 kilometers from the small town of Carnarvon in the Northern Cape, BusinessDayLive reports.

Construction is expected to begin in 2018 through 2023, according to a press release by the South African government.

The targeted area of 118,000 hectares or 291,584 acres includes 36 parcels of farmland owned by individuals and family trusts, BusinessDayLive reports. The land is productive, yielding wool and mutton, according to Agri Northern Cape executive member Willem Symington.

The Square Kilometre Array will be used by scientists to understand how the universe evolved and how stars and galaxies form and change, according to an earlier AFKInsider report.

This huge project is designed to take down roadblocks to astronomical progress, TheGuardian reported. “These include searching for the first celestial objects to form in the universe, investigating whether we need to develop a new theory of gravity, and looking for the building blocks of life in space.”

The land earmarked for SKA South Africa includes farms in the Losberg and Meysdam regions designated Astronomy Advantage Areas by South Africa’s Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act of 2007. MeerKAT/SKA telescopes will be protected from harmful radio frequency interference there, according to the government.

The South African government can expropriate the land if negotiations fail, BusinessDayLive reports.

The SKA South Africa project office began the land-acquisition process in October, holding public meetings with affected property owners and local residents to inform them of its plans. The next step will be formal valuations of the sheep farms, which will be paid for by SKA SA.

Regulations restrict the use of certain activities and radio frequencies around the site. Affected parties will get compensated, according to the South African government.

“It doesn’t necessarily alienate people,” said Saul du Toit, CEO of the Cape Town Appraisal Corp. which is doing the valuations. “In 99 percent of cases, it’s not necessary to expropriate.”