Published: Wed, July 18, 2018
Science | By Joan Schultz

South Africa unveils super radio telescope

South Africa unveils super radio telescope

SKA South Africa facilitates human capital development programmes to 22 schools that are located in town that surround the SKA project, which reaches 5 400 learners.

The clearest image yet of the centre of the Milky Way galaxy has been released from South Africa's shiny new radio telescope, MeerKAT.

Built at a cost of 4.4 billion rand, ($329.56 million) MeerKAT will be incorporated into the complex Square Kilometre Array (SKA) instrument, which when fully operational in the late 2020s would be the world's biggest and most powerful radio telescope.

"The telescope will be the largest of its own kind in the world with image resolution quality exceeding the Hubble Space Telescope by a factor of 50 times", David Mabuza, South Africa's deputy president, said on Friday.

Researchers said the panorama captured an area of about 1,000 light years by 500 light years.

But infrared, X-ray, and some radio wavelengths, like the ones MeerKAT detects, can penetrate this dust, providing a unique view of the region.

The center of the Milky Way is hard to see from Earth, thanks to thick clouds of dust and gas in the way, but radio telescopes are able to peer through.

All 64 dishes of the MeerKAT radio telescope array, up and running in South Africa.

"Although it's early days with MeerKAT, and a lot remains to be optimised, we chose to go for it - and were stunned by the results", said Fernando Camilo.

Farhad Yusef-Zadeh of Northwestern University said, 'It shows so many features never before seen, including compact sources associated with some of the filaments, that it could provide the key to cracking the code and solve this three-decade riddle'. "The MeerKAT image has such clarity".

Michael Kramer, director of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, praised the early data returned by MEERKAT as "better than we expected".

Scientists and officials expect that MeerKAT will continue to raise the profile of South African science. Data is processed in real time by a "correlator", followed by a "science processor", both purpose-built.

South Africa has unveiled a new super radio telescope that will study galaxy formation, a first phase of what will be the world's largest telescope in a project to try to unravel the secrets of the universe.

Until now, the most powerful radio telescope in the world thought Chime in Canada, and most powerful optical telescope constructed in the Atacama desert, Chile. With MeerKAT online, scientists can scan the sky and peer through the dust and gas obscuring the view of traditional telescopes.

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