The South African Telescope called MeerKAT has discovered thousands of galaxies, never seen before. The 16 antenna dishes are located in the Northern Cape, at the Square Kilometer Array. The first image captured by MeerKAT demonstrates that the telescope is going to be a “discovery machine”, as Dr. Fernando Camilo, chief scientist of the project puts it.
The MeerKat is the best telescope in the southern hemisphere, and it only has sixteen dishes. Results show that the radio telescope in Northern Cape is going to be a significant research tool, researchers believe.
The Minister for Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor unveiled the first sixteen dishes of the telescope and presented the public with its first image. By the end of 2016, the South African –crafted telescope will have a total of sixty-four dishes. It will then be the best telescope of its kind in the world.
Dr. Camilo left Columbia University in New York, to take up the project in April. The first image showed experts and the world that the telescope is working.
This 3 billion dollar engineering jewel is owned and funded by South Africa. It will be incorporated into the SKA, which is going to be the biggest collective telescope in the world. The SKA project will be hosted by South Africa and Australia, with satellites in eight African countries which are involved in the partnership.
This project will aim to answer humanity’s most burning questions: Are we alone in space? What’s dark matter? How does the evolution of galaxies work and what happened following the Big Bang?
Starting with 2018, a whopping 133 dishes will be added to MeerKAT to form Phase One of the SKA project, with a cost of up to 10 billion dollars.
The first photo taken by the telescope was an image of about 1300 radio galaxies. The telescope works by catching radio waves from stars and galaxies. The radio spectrum is broader than visible light, so this means telescopes can peer more deeply into space.
More than 20 countries are in partnership with the SKA project. The telescope will have a potential for discovery thousands of times greater than the most advanced modern instruments. It is a milestone for astronomy science.
Pandor also pointed out that the SKA brought opportunities to South Africa and the continent of Africa.