The MeerKAT telescope is made of an array of 64 interlinked receptors (a receptor is the complete antenna structure, with the main reflector, sub-reflector and all receivers, digitisers and other electronics installed).
After a decade in design and construction, this project of South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology has now begun science operations.
Fernando Camilo, chief scientist of the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) which built and operates MeerKAT in the semi-arid Karoo region of the Northern Cape, said its still early days for the MeerKAT it has already revealed a lot of interesting images. “We were stunned by the results.”
“The center of the galaxy was an obvious target: unique, visually striking and full of unexplained phenomena – but also notoriously hard to image using radio telescopes”
The center of the Milky Way, 25,000 light-years away from Earth and lying behind the constellation Sagittarius (the “Teapot”), is forever enshrouded by intervening clouds of gas and dust, making it invisible from Earth using ordinary telescopes. However, infrared, X-ray, and in particular, radio wavelengths penetrate the obscuring dust and open a window into this distinctive region with its unique 4 million solar mass black hole.
The construction of the KAT-7, MeerKAT, the HERA and PAPER has created a total number of 7, 284 direct and indirect jobs. To date, R136 million has been spent at local suppliers for the construction of the above-mentioned projects.
Local industry and institutions with appropriate existing technical expertise and interest were invited to participate in the SKA Pre-Construction Design Phase, and an amount of R55 million was awarded to 14 SMME’s via the SKA SA Financial Assistance Programme to develop skills and expertise in advanced technologies. A total of R1 million has been spent on training and development of people participating in these programmes.
Overall the localisation of the R3,2 billion MeerKAT and KAT-7 projects stands at 75%.