Former Vodafone dish changes its outlook to deep space

Alan Burkitt-Gray
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Now there’s fibre, what happens to old satellite dishes? In Ghana, there’s a project to convert them to radio telescopes

A satellite dish that once connected Ghana to the rest of the world is being converted to one of the few radio telescopes in Africa.

The 32 metre dish at Nkutunse near Accra used to deliver voice, data and television to Ghana, but it has been made redundant thanks to high-bandwidth subsea fibres connecting the country to the rest of the world.

Now Vodafone, which bought Ghana Telecom in 2008, has handed over the 36-year-old dish to be converted into a radio telescope.

“It’s a moment of pride and joy that we have reached this far,” project manager TL Venkatasubramani told Scientific American magazine. He told the publication that science operations should begin next year.

The 15 metre dish will be connected into a network with other radio telescopes in Europe and South Africa – using the very fibres that have made Nkutunse redundant. Astronomers are looking at converting and linking other former satellite dishes across the continent.

The project is largely funded by South Africa’s African Renaissance and International Co-operation Fund and its Department of Science and Technology with a reported $9 million.