MeerKAT - a proudly South African achievement

The launch of the first MeerKAT antenna is forming part of the country’s contribution to the Square Kilometre Array project. Video: eNCA

KAROO - It's a proudly South African achievement.

The launch of the first MeerKAT antenna, forming part of the country’s contribution to the Square Kilometre Array project -- an international effort to build the world's largest radio telescope.

Work on the MeerKAT radio telescope began two and half years ago.

Now, the first antenna has officially been launched.

By the end of 2016, the remaining 63 will be constructed -- and then, South Africa will be ready to make great strides in science.

How has the universe changed over its lifetime? How are galaxies distributed?

These are the questions the MeerKAT radio telescope will answer.

"We want to look as far out as we can," says Dr Bernie Fanaroff, SKA SA project director.

"[We want to ] find lots of galaxies with hydrogen gas in them, and use that to understand a lot of things, but mainly, how the structure of the universe has changed over its lifetime, by looking how the galaxies are distributed in space, in the universe, and how they change over time."

Each MeerKAT antenna will transmit data along underground fibre-optic cables to the facility’s computers.

These will be further processed to turn them into pictures.  The information will then be sent down through a fibre optic cable network to Cape Town.

The processed data will be available to scientists around the world.

Astronomy teams globally have signed up to start using MeerKAT as soon as 16 antenna have been commissioned.

* Watch eNCA reporter, Bibi-Aisha Wadvalla's video report, in the gallery above.


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