The desert regions of South Africa, provide the perfect radio quiet backdrop for the high and medium frequency arrays that will form a critical part of the SKA’s ground-breaking continent wide telescope.
South Africa is not alone in hosting components for the SKA. Eight partner countries around the African continent will also have radio telescopes contributing to the network that will provide scientists with the worlds most advanced radio astronomy array.
In SKA Phase one, the addition of 190 SKA dish antennas will expand the 64-dish MeerKAT precursor array which is currently in development and expected to come online in a few years time..
Phase two SKA will host the mid frequency aperture array antennas, expected to be completed and fully operational by the early 2020s.
This will complete the SKA and give South Africa a world leading position in scientific exploration.
To see a stunning wide panoramic image of the SKA site in South Africa – Click Here (External Link)
SKA Precursors – MeerKAT and KAT-7
Already in the process of development the South African Karoo region,the MeerKAT telescopes, located where the final SKA core will have its home, are a precursor to the full SKA system and as an independent instrument will themselves be conducting critical science for some years before being integrated in to the first phase of the full SKA. When completed the 64 offset Gregorian dishes each 13.5 m in diameter will provide invaluable scientific data ahead of the full SKA telescope becoming operational.The first seven dishes the precursor to MeerKAT are complete and are known as KAT-7. (External Link), itself already delivering valuable science. The first of the MeerKAT dishes will be placed on site in 2014.Working with South African industry and universities, and collaborating with institutions around the world, the South African team has developed technologies and systems for the MeerKAT, including innovative composite telescope dishes and cutting edge signal processing hardware and algorithms.
This innovation combined with the scale of the project has resulted in the first five years of observing time on these telescopes being already allocated to international project teams for ten priority large radio sky surveys.
If you would like to know more about the specifics of the MeerKAT, KAT-7 and SKA operations in Southern Africa, you can visit their website here SKA Africa website
- The SKA Africa website
- SKA Africa explains what radio telescopes do and what KAT7 is in video http://www.ska.ac.za/learn/videos.php
- SKA Africa’s information on MeerKAT and KAT7 – http://www.ska.ac.za/meerkat/kat7.php
- In 2013 all seven of the KAT-7 dishes were successfully fitted with “cold” radio receivers, which marks the successful completion of the telescope antennas.
- The first astronomical image taken with the cold receivers was of the galaxy Centaurus A, whose intense radio emission is powered by a massive black hole in the centre of the galaxy.