UKZN Applied Maths masters graduate, Kabelo Kesebonye has a passion for radio astronomy

DURBAN - The truth is out there - or it is for applied mathematician Kabelo Kesebonye from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal who graduated with an MSc in Applied Mathematics this week for his work done on the ground-breaking HIRAX radio astronomy project.

His research on HIRAX Instrumentation and Prototype Characterisation involved setting up a prototype telescope from the ground up, as well as testing and developing the subsystems that made up the telescope to ensure it worked efficiently.

The multi-million rand HIRAX (Hydrogen Intensity and real Time Analysis Experiment) telescope will be located at the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) South Africa site in the Karoo.

HIRAX will be a compact radio telescope array of over 1000 six-metre dishes that will map a third of the sky during four years of observation. It will be able to determine the characteristics of dark energy during a critical period in our universe between 7 - 11  billion years ago when dark energy became the dominant component in the universe causing it to expand at an accelerated rate.

Kesebonye, who had already achieved a BSc in Applied Mathematics and Physics and an honours degree in Applied Mathematics, said, “Once the prototype works and has been fine-tuned, then the final telescope construction can begin.

“Astronomy is an important field of science that studies the universe and aims to provide answers to a lot of questions about the universe we inhabit. The technology that is developed in the study of the universe is transferable to other scientific fields, as well as electronic and mechanical instruments that people use daily,” he said.

His supervisor Dr Cynthia Chiang said Kesebonye has made key contributions to a wide variety of HIRAX subsystems.

“He’s an excellent example of the type of instrumentation expert who will be critical to the success of the project,” said Chiang.

Kesebonye, who is from Botswana, added that he has always had a passion for radio astronomy.

He said since visiting radio observation sites in his undergraduate years, he had been “in awe” of radio telescopes and will now be registering for a PhD in radio astronomy.

Independent on Saturday