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Africa takes another step towards hosting SKA
9 June 2010, News

The Department of Science and Technology has announced another major milestone in the MeerKAT (Karoo Array Telescope) project.

The first four telescopes in the MeerKAT precursor array, also known as KAT-7, were linked together recently as an integrated system to produce the first interferometric image of an astronomical object.

Interferometry refers to the astronomic technique in which radio signals collected at the same time by a system of networked radio telescopes are processed into a high-resolution image.

This is a significant step because it means South Africa has its own functioning radio interferometer. Technically, it could be handed over to astronomers who could begin to do science with it; science that was not possible in Africa before. It is significant in terms of the African bid to host what will be the world’s largest radio telescope, the square kilometre array (SKA), because it demonstrates that Africans have the technical expertise to build such a complex working instrument.

In her budget vote speech on 20 April, the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, said that, if Africa was chosen to host the SKA, “significant international funding” would flow into South Africa and its partner countries on the continent. “If we win the bid, the central location will be in Carnarvon in the Northern Cape, with other parts of the array as far as 3000 km away in eight African partner countries,” she said.

For more information contact Tommy Makhode, DST, tommy.makhode@dst.gov.za


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