The biggest science project Africa has ever seen begins with a small nodule of steel, called a node. It’s flat, rectangular and weighs about as much as a light dumbbell, with holes drilled through its frame to accommodate steel pipes. Navigate the pipes through the nodes – 284 in total – and you’ve got the backbone for a telescope.
But no ordinary telescope.
The humble node is the lifeblood of all that flows through it, and the building block of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), a battalion of telescopes shaped like enormous satellite dishes that are being installed in Carnarvon, South Africa. The array will comprise a kilometre of land and will capture data alongside eight other sites across Africa – and Western Australia too.