SKA helps NCape develop into radio astronomy region

Read time 1min 50sec
MeerKat, a 64-dish radio telescope, will be incorporated into phase one of the SKA.
MeerKat, a 64-dish radio telescope, will be incorporated into phase one of the SKA.

Carnarvon, the desert site that is home to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), now hosts over 70 radio telescopes.

This is according to Dr Zamani Saul, Northern Cape premier, noting the province has witnessed the site grow massively over the years.

"We are excited about the Northern Cape being able to contribute to the socio-economic development of this country, and the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory's (SARAO’s) efforts to grow human capital in radio astronomy," says Saul.

SARAO, which includes the SKA South Africa project, is said to have invested heavily in the Northern Cape, upgrading knowledge centres, creating jobs and providing students with academic funding.

A total of about 1 000 students have received bursaries since 2006. Of the recipients, about 130 have come from SKA African partner countries, and many have returned to initiate radio astronomy programmes at their home universities.

In addition, focused investment in social development in the region will ensure neighbouring communities can benefit fully from the far-reaching astronomy project, through better education and training, investment in small businesses, and increased job opportunities, states the premier.  

The SKA is not a single telescope, but a collection of thousands of antennas to be spread over 3 000km. It will be co-located in Africa and Australia, with the African component comprising SA as the core region, with Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia.

Once it is completed, the radio telescope will conduct transformational science to improve the understanding of the universe and the laws of fundamental physics, monitoring the sky in unprecedented detail and mapping it hundreds of times faster than any current facility.

Last year, the MeerKAT radio telescope, the 64-dish SKA precursor telescope, was officially launched

The MeerKAT array has been described as the most sensitive telescope of its kind in the world.

It is already performing scientific work and making significant discoveries. One notable scientific achievement was the production of the clearest view so far of the centre of the Milky Way.

See also