If you didn’t know, today is a great day for South African astronomy!

Back in May we wrote about MeerKAT producing its first significant images, and over the weekend the radio telescope delivered some more stunning visuals of space.

The latest images from MeerKAT’s First Light shows more than 1300 galaxies in the distant universe, where previously only 70 were thought to be.

The patch in which it discovered the other galaxies are less than 0.01 percent of the entire celestial sphere – so it is rather a big deal.

MeerKAT
Each white dot represents the intensity of radio waves recorded with 16 dishes of the MeerKAT telescope in the Karoo (when completed, MeerKAT will consist of 64 dishes and associated systems). More than 1300 individual objects – galaxies in the distant universe – are seen in this image.

The first array of 16 dishes (Array Release 1) will eventually form part of the much larger 64-dish Square Kilometre Array (SKA), so if just these 16 dishes could detect those galaxies, imagine what all 64 could achieve.

“The launch of MeerKAT AR1 and its first results is a significant milestone for South Africa. Through MeerKAT, South Africa is playing a key role in the design and development of technology for the SKA,”said Dr Rob Adam, Project Director of SKA South Africa.

“The South African team of more than 200 young scientists, engineers and technicians, in collaboration with industry, local and foreign universities and institutions, has developed the technologies and systems for MeerKAT.”

MeerKAT
The two panels to the right show distant galaxies with massive black holes at their centers. At lower left is a galaxy approximately 200 million light years away, where hydrogen gas is being used up to form stars in large numbers.

According to the Department of Science and Technology, MeerKAT will consist of 64 receptors, each comprising a 13.5-metre diameter dish antenna, cryogenic coolers, receivers, digitiser, and other electronics.

While Array Release 1 consist of 16 receptors, the second array will consist of 32, and the final phase (Array 3) will be made up of all 64.

“Based on the results being shown today, we are confident that after all 64 dishes are in place, MeerKAT will be the world’s leading telescope of its kind until the advent of SKA,” explained Professor Justin Jonas, SKA South Africa Chief Technologist.

Charlie started his professional life as a motoring journalist for a community newspaper in Mpumalanga, Charlie explored different journalistic angles since his entry into the fast-paced world of publishing in 2006. While fostering a passion for the arts, Charlie developed a love for technology – both which allowed him to serve as Entertainment and Technology Editor for an online publication. Charlie has since been heavily involved in consumer technology for various websites and publications. He thoroughly enjoys World War II films and cerebral documentaries; aviation; photography and indie music. Oh yes, and he also has a rather strange obsession with collecting coffee mugs from his travels.