MeerKAT telescope gets R150 million investment for radio receivers

The South African MeerKAT radio telescope just received a huge boost from the Max-Planck-Society (MPG) and the Max-Planck-Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) in Bonn, as SA’s Minister for Science and Technology announced that around R150 million will be made available from the two entities to build and install radio receivers on the telescope.

According to a media statement, the receivers will be built by the MPIfR and will operate in the S band of radio frequencies. They will be used primarily for research on pulsars, the rapid spinning neutron star which emit very regular radio pulses and so can be used as highly accurate clocks to test extreme physics.

“We consider MeerKAT to be an important undertaking as it is not only a preeminent astronomy project, but also a light-house project for science in Africa in general. The MPG is very pleased to enable close collaboration between its scientists and the South African community and looks forward to see MeerKAT’s first glimpse of the Universe with the receivers of the MPIfR,” said President of the MPG, Martin Stratmann, in the statement.

South Africa’s Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor, echoed the same sentiments, and added that since the telescope is already known to the international astronomy community, and this will be a huge boost for the various projects.

“MeerKAT is already acclaimed internationally as a world-class instrument – thanks to our partnership with Max Planck, MeerKAT’s ability to perform transformational science for the benefit of global knowledge production will be considerably boosted. Awaiting the start of construction of the SKA, South Africa and our international partners such as Max Planck, continue to set the pace for global radio astronomy.”

The first of 64 antennas that will eventually make up largest and most sensitive radio telescope in the southern hemisphere – MeerKAT- launched in the little town of Carnarvon in the Northern Cape a while ago, and is a precursor to the highly prestigious Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope which will be constructed in the Karoo. Four MeerKAT receptors will be fully assembled, integrated and verified by the end of this year, while the project is expected to be completed by the end of 2017.

“Once up and running, the MeerKAT will generate enough data from the antennas to fill about four and a half million standard 4.7 GB DVDs in a day,” said Dr Jasper Horrell, the general manager for science computing and innovation at the SKA, at the time.

[Source and image – SKA]



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