PARLIAMENT - The 64-dish South African radio telescope, MeerKAT, which is the precursor to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) - set to become the world's largest telescope - is complete and has been declared a national key point, Science and Technology Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane announced on Wednesday.
Presenting her department's budget vote in Parliament, Kubayi-Ngubane said this was a "major milestone" as it would put South Africa at the forefront of astronomy globally.
"The MeerKAT was built through our agency, the National Research Foundation (NRF), and the Square Kilometre Array Project at a cost of R3.2 billion – exactly the cost projected originally in 2007/08. The MeerKAT has been declared a national key point to protect this investment," she said, meaning the project was of national strategic importance and would be heavily guarded to prevent sabotage.
South Africa and Australia will jointly host the SKA, which gets its name from the fact that the total radio wave receiving area of its 3,000 satellite dishes adds up to one square kilometre.
Many of the receiving satellite dishes will be located in various other African countries.
"Ghana recently become the first of South Africa's eight African SKA partner countries to complete the conversion of a communications antenna into a functioning radio telescope," said Kubayi-Ngubane.
Astronomers believe the SKA will help them unlock some of the universe’s biggest mysteries, including the origin of dark energy and whether Einstein’s gravitational waves really exist.
African News Agency/ANA