South Africa's MeerKAT to help unlock mysteries of universe

A radio telescope dish of the KAT-7 Array

The former Science and Technology Minister, along with other senior government officials, have attended the launch of the precursor to the first phase of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) in Carnarvon in the Northern Cape on Friday.

South Africa has unveiled a powerful radio telescope, part of an global project that scientists say will provide new details on the Milky Way and other galaxies.

At the inauguration, Camilo also revealed some new images taken by MeerKAT.

"However, infrared, X-ray, and, in particular, radio wavelengths penetrate the obscuring dust and open a window into this distinctive region" and its black hole, the statement said.

The telescope will be completely operational during the 2020s and once that's done, it will become the world's largest and most powerful radio telescope.

The first phase of SKA 1 in South Africa is to add 133 antennas to that (of MeerKAT),' Daily Mail reported Rob Adam, an SKA worldwide board member, as saying.

"We wanted to show the science capabilities of this new instrument", says 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.

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"Although it's early days with MeerKAT‚ and a lot remains to be optimised‚ we made a decision to go for it and were stunned by the results‚" said Camilo. These include some features that could provide a basis for unlocking the mystery of the filaments, says Yusef-Zadeh, who is affiliated with Northwestern University in IL.

"It's an exceptional achievement - congratulations to our South African colleagues‚" he added.

While it looks like a fiery swirling mess, the image shows never-before-seen features, such as the compact sources of those long, magnetised filaments that come off the central region.

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. More telescopes are set to be built.

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

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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