West Africa’s First Radio Telescope Launched

West Africa's First Radio telescope
President Akuffo-Addo launching the Radio Telescope

An old telecommunications dish in Ghana has been converted into a radio telescope, making it the first functioning telescope in Africa outside South Africa. On August 24, 2017, the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo officially inaugurated Ghana and West Africa’s first radio telescope.

He described the development as the beginning of a new era in the country’s quest to harness the potential of space science and technology for accelerated national development. The new era, he said, would not only witness the deepening of knowledge and skills development in electronics and information and communications technology (ICT) for Ghanaian scientists but also enhance their capacity to contribute to the world body of knowledge in the ever expanding field of astronomy and space science.

The project began in 2011 after an agreement was signed between the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) and Vodafone Ghana for the transfer of an abandoned antennae.

In 2013, the country’s Minister for the Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr Joe Oteng-Adjei, announced plans for the telescope. He also highlighted that the telescope will also be used for future planet discoveries and also present students in Ghana with career opportunities in science and engineering.

The radio telescope located at a site in Kuntunse near Accra is the first of many to be built across Africa as part of the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) project over the next five years. It forms part of the African Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) Network (AVN), a network of VLBI-capable radio telescopes in Africa. The SKA AVN partners of South Africa are Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zambia.

There are already plans to convert telecommunications dishes in Zambia, Madagascar and Kenya by the middle of 2019. The GH ₵30 million Ghana Radio Astronomy Observatory will monitor movements of planets in space and help promote the use of scientific technologies in Ghana. By June 2019, the South African partners will officially hand over the project fully to Ghana.

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