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.
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.”
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.