Published: Mon, July 16, 2018
Science | By

Launch of the MeerKAT celebrated

Launch of the MeerKAT celebrated

It is an integral part of the wider Square Kilometre Array (SKA), a 3,000 - dish project which will be the largest radio telescope in the world upon completion.

They have released the clearest image yet of the centre of the universe.

SKA chief scientist Dr Fernando Camilo said: "Time and time again history shows that when you build a really good telescope, it ends up doing, if you look at 10 years later or 20 years later when you look back people will see what we've built and what it was built to do and some of those are the most exciting sometimes". It is obscured by intervening clouds of gas and dust, making it invisible from Earth using ordinary telescopes.

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

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.

He adds that the MeerKat site will allow South African astronomers the opportunity to do some research with regards to the galaxy.

MeerKAT captures centre of the Milky Way

After a decade in design and construction, this project of South Africa's Department of Science and Technology has now begun science operations.

He said the MeerKAT "shows so many features never before seen" that it could provide the key to cracking the code of some of our astronomical riddles. "This is the eyes, with the MeerKAT being the ears as a radio telescope".

South Africa enjoys another unique advantage: the area of focus - the centre of the Milky Way - passes over the country and is visible for roughly 12 hours a day. MeerKAT consists 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. The vast amounts of data from the 64 dishes (up to 275 Gbytes per second) are processed in real time by a "correlator", followed by a "science processor", both purpose-built.

When completed, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescopes will enable astronomers to monitor the sky in unprecedented detail and survey the entire sky much faster than any system now in existence, according to the project.

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