South Africa unveils new telescope aimed at galaxies

MeerKAT captures centre of the Milky Way

Built at a cost of 4.4 billion rand, 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.

Developed with the objective of finding answers to "some of the key science questions in modern astrophysics", such as galaxy formation and evolution, "MeerKAT is the best in the world" to do the job, said Fernando Camilo, chief scientist at SARAO. It is obscured by intervening clouds of gas and dust, making it invisible from Earth using ordinary telescopes.

Yusef-Zadeh adds that 'MeerKAT now provides an unsurpassed view of this unique region of our galaxy.

After MeerKAT is entirely set up, almost 3,000 dishes located around Africa and Australia will be able to examine the sky successfully 10,000 times faster and it will obtain 50 times more sensitivity than the existing telescopes.

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South African Radio Astronomy Observatory has built and operates it.

They've built an instrument that will be the envy of astronomers everywhere and will be in great demand for years to come'.

The 64-antenna telescope officially opened its doors on Friday, but has already started operations, including the rare image taken of a burst of activity roughly 25 000 light-years away.

He said the MeerKAT "shows so many features never before seen" that it could provide the key to cracking astronomical riddles.

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"Today is a special day of pride for the continent of Africa". These dishes "provide 2,000 unique antenna pairs, far more than any comparable telescope" and are created to run on up to four cryogenic receivers, the first of which operate between frequencies of 900 MHz and 1670 MHz. "This is the eyes, with the MeerKAT being the ears as a radio telescope".

Higher Education and Training Minister Naledi Pandor says the MeerKAT radio telescope catapults South Africa into one of the world's top computing destinations.

MeerKAT is a South African project, consisting of 64 antennas (or dishes), each 13.5 meters in diameter, located on baselines (distances between antenna pairs) of up to 8 km.

The dishes are of a highly efficient design with up to four cryogenic receiver systems operating in different bands of the radio spectrum.

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Spread over an area of a square kilometer (0.4 square miles), the jaw-dropping SKA is expected to be 50 times more powerful than all other telescopes and will help astronomers image inaccessible areas of deep space "with unprecedented detail", reports Phys.org.

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