The Mahikeng Astronomical Observatory at North West University. Picture: NWU

Mahikeng - Science and Technology Minister  Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubani is expected to launch the Mahikeng Astronomy Telescope (MAT) at the North West University on Friday.

The North-West University’s Mahikeng Campus is the first historically disadvantaged institution in South Africa to develop an observatory for astronomy research, putting the institution on a par with developed institutions such as the Universities of the Western Cape and Cape Town.

The MAT is co-funded by the department of science and technology and is an effort to develop astronomy and related sciences at historically disadvantaged universities.

It also demonstrates the country’s growing capabilities in the field, led by world-class projects like the building of the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope.

The MAT programme is led by Professor Thebe Medupe who started astronomy in the physics department of the university in 2010, attracting students and postdoctoral fellows to North West University.

Science and Technology Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)

The Mahikeng physics department has four astronomers with PhDs, one student completing his PhD and two space scientists, as well as many other physicists. Several top astronomers have also been to the campus to do research, demonstrating that the programme has potential for further growth, the university said in a statement.

The telescope is a 16-inch Meade LX200 GPS, which is housed at the Mahikeng Astronomical Observatory. 

It will be operated remotely, which will allow learners and educators to access it from anywhere in the country.

The telescope will be used for bright star research 60 percent of the time, allowing astronomers at the Mahikeng campus to study the interiors of stars, and their evolution. 

It would also be used for outreach purposes in communities and across the country as it can be operated remotely.

African News Agency/ANA