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SA’s astronomy site in the Northern Cape will eventually become a nature reserve, according to conservation experts and astronomy officials. The site will ultimately host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), which when complete in the 2030s will be the largest radio telescope on Earth. However, the environmental management plan for the site — expected to be opened for public comment in 2018 — could create no-go zones, hindering the construction of the telescope. The SKA, shared between SA and Australia, will comprise thousands of dishes and 1-million antennas in those countries. It is intended to answer some of humanity’s most enigmatic questions. Are we alone in the universe? What is dark matter? What happened just after the Big Bang? Being able to answer these questions hinges on the sensitivity and capabilities of the telescope — which in turn depends on where the dishes and antennas are placed. But the environmental management plan, now with the Department of Environmental Affairs,...

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