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Largest telescope will have U.K. base

LONDON, April 4 (UPI) -- Britain's Jodrell Bank Observatory has been chosen as the headquarters for a $2 billion effort to build the world's largest radio telescope, astronomers say.

An agreement to put the headquarters of the Square Kilometer Array at Jodrell Bank has been signed in Rome by Australia, China, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, the BBC reported Saturday.

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The Square Kilometre Array has been named for the size of its signal collecting area, but it will not be a radio dish a kilometer across but rather thousands of smaller ones spread across a wide area, project astronomers say.

The location has yet to be determined but two leading candidates are Australia and South Africa.

The total collecting area will be about 1 square kilometer (0.38 square miles) providing 50 times the sensitivity of the best current telescopes, a statement by the SKA project said.

Partners from 20 countries will take part in the project with construction expected to start by 2016, with a projected 2024 completion date.

"Given the current economic environment, it is reassuring that so many partners have recognized the importance of supporting the SKA," John Womersley, chairman of the SKA Founding Board, said.

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"Our partners have taken this step not only because of the inspirational nature of the discoveries that the SKA will make, but also because of the economic benefits that international mega-science projects can bring to participating countries."

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