WHITE LAKE, BC — Canada is one step closer to proving it has built the best radio telescope in the world.
The giant radio dish, which is the first of its kind to be made with a single piece of carbon fiber, was built at the White Lake Observatory near Penticton and funded by the National Research Council.
It is part of a much larger international effort to create the most powerful telescope — called the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) — which will have the ability to explore the universe like never before.
This morning, the dish was put in top of its pedestal, marking the final step in its assembly process.
The dish itself isn’t very heavy considering its size, but due to the steel poles that help support it, the entire structure is nearly 9 tonnes. Crews worked slowly and meticulously during the lift.
“It feels tremendous,” said Gary Hovey, the project manager for Canada’s radio telescope dish prototype.
“We’ve proven that we can make a dish, we’ve proven that the cost is in the target range for the SKA, the next step is to prove it really performs the way we think it will.”
Hovey said the project is now back on track after it was veered off course back in October, when a strong gust of wind flipped the dish inside out while it was being transported by a helicopter.
It put an unexpected dent in the timeline, but engineers managed to repair it to its original form.
Peter Dewdney is based in the United Kingdom and is one of the head architects that designed the outline of the SKA.
He has seen what other countries are building and praised this Canadian group for its prototype.
“The ability to recover from that kind of accident is unbelievable,” said Dewdney.
“We’re certainly pleased to see a rapid recovery. It just illustrates the robustness of the design.”
Canada is one of a dozen countries building prototypes for the SKA, but only two other countries, South Africa and China, are building dishes.
Dewdney said the election process to select the best designs may not happen for another two or three years.