CARNARVON, Northern Cape - MeerKAT, the largest and most powerful radio telescope in the Southern Hemisphere will be unveiled to the world tomorrow.
The MeerKat is being constructed in Carnarvon, in the Northern Cape and its 64 dishes spread across eight kilometres.
While it’s an international scientific collaboration between various countries, local communities in the North Cape are benefiting through skills training and development programmes.
The MeerKat forms part of the skeleton of the much bigger Square Kilometre Array telescope that will also be built in the Northern Cape.
The projects give high-tech firms in South Africa a boost as they’re providing home-grown technologies and equipment to these international projects.
But many local companies, such as building contractors, are also benefitting from the large-scale construction projects.
To accommodate the project, 130,000 hectares of land was bought from farmers and the community.
To compensate for the loss of economic activity the SKA is building a feedlot to assist farmers and ensure as few job losses as possible.
While the mega project focuses on science, government is developing institutions to grow the country’s capabilities and skills.
The emphasis is on human capital development, training and up-skilling of local people.
SKA SA Managing Director Rob Adam said, “We have electricians being trained, boilermakers, fitters and turners and people splashing the fibre that carries the signal from the satellites through the computers, that fibre is being splashed by people from the local community.”
The SKA project will also transfer skills and knowledge to African countries, which will build, maintain, operate and use radio telescopes.
It’s hoped the program will bring new science opportunities to Africa in a relatively short timescale and develop radio astronomy science communities in SKA partner countries.