The permanent headquarters of the world's biggest radio telescope is set to be based in Britain, it has been announced. Members of the international Square Kilometre Array (Ska) project said they had chosen to work out of Jodrell Bank in Cheshire and negotiations would now start with the UK Government.
Ska will be the world's largest and most sensitive radio telescope when it begins operating in 2020, with receiving stations stretching between South Africa and Australia. Its widely dispersed network of antennas will produce a radio telescope with a collecting area of one square kilometre (0.4 square miles).
South Africa's KAT-7 radio telescope array at The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) in Karoo, near Carnarvon in the remote Northern Cape province
The project aims to address unanswered questions about the universe, including how the first stars and galaxies formed after the Big Bang, how galaxies have evolved since then, the nature of gravity, and the search for life beyond Earth. Ska members also considered a bid from Italy to host the project's headquarters.
Chancellor George Osborne said: "This is major boost for UK science and for our vision of a northern powerhouse. One of the most important scientific projects in the world will be run out of Manchester and Cheshire. Everyone from the Prime Minister down has fought hard for this day. And it means more jobs and scientific excellence for the North of England and the whole UK."
Science Minister Greg Clark said: "This fantastic news is a vote of confidence in the excellence of UK science and our standing in the international world of scientific collaboration. This is one of the biggest and most exciting scientific projects in the world. We look forward to working with our global partners to advance our understanding of the universe and to opening up new avenues of progress in analysing data and in high performance computing".
The Ska project has already occasionally been working out of Jodrell Bank, home to the famous 76m (250ft ) Lovell radio dish. In a statement, it said: "Members of the international Square Kilometre Array (Ska) project have today decided that negotiations should start with the UK Government to locate the permanent headquarters of the future Ska Observatory in the UK, at the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank site - current site of the Ska organisation's headquarters."