Presented by: Dr Kurt van der Heyden, Department of Astronomy, University of Cape Town
From the earliest humans people have always wondered about the planets, the stars, the galaxies and the Universe itself. New telescopes have advanced our understanding, revealing things that we had not imagined. Now astronomers plan to build the most powerful radio telescope ever, to look back to before the first stars and galaxies formed. The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will be built and funded by an international consortium which currently consists of sixteen countries. The budget for building it is $2 billion and it will cost about $200 million per year to operate.
South Africa, with eight African countries as partners, and Australia, have been picked as possible sites to build the SKA. Both South Africa and Australia are now constructing SKA precursor telescopes to demonstrate their ability to manage large projects, and these demonstrator telescopes will be powerful instruments in their own right. The South African Karoo Array Telescope (MeerKAT), currently taking shape in the Karoo, will be a world-class radio telescope designed to do ground-breaking science. It will be the largest and most sensitive radio telescope in the southern hemisphere until the SKA is completed around 2024. Via MeerKAT South Africa is playing a key role in design and technology developments for the SKA. This lecture discusses recent developments related to the MeerKAT and SKA projects, and highlights some of the large science projects that are aligned with them.
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