MeerKat

First MeerKAT radio telescope dish launched

Derek Hanekom, South African Science and Technology Minister, has formally launched the first dish of the MeerKAT radio telescope array in the Karoo, some 90 km west of Carnarvon. When completed, MeerKAT will have 64 such dishes.

“The MeerKAT is something concrete,” Hanekom told Engineering News Online . “It is a wholly South African designed and funded project. MeerKAT will be the world’s largest radio telescope when it is commissioned. It is a demonstration of our own South African capabilities.”

The dish is an offset Gregorian design with a diameter of 13,5 m and the complete antenna is 19,5 m tall and weighs 42 tonnes. The design means that there are no struts over the dish which could reduce or scatter incoming radio waves, thus increasing the sensitivity of the antenna.

When completed, all the MeerKAT dishes will be connected by 170 km of optical fibre cable and will be operated together as a single instrument from a control room in Cape Town.  MeerKAT is designed to be integrated into the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope, which will be co -hosted by South Africa and Australia.

“In just two years from now, 64 dishes will be standing in the Karoo,” enthused Hanekom. They will be in addition to the seven, smaller and differently designed, dishes of the prototype KAT-7 array, which has now transitioned into an operational scientific instrument.

When Phase 2 of the SKA is developed, outstations will also be placed in other countries, including eight other African states: Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia.

Hanekom also opened the MeerKAT Karoo Array Processor Building, which is a high-technology data processing centre built at the Karoo observatory site. The building is below ground level to help shield the dishes from radio frequency interference from the computers, processors and other electronic and electrical equipment housed in it. In addition, within the building these systems are housed in shielded rooms.

Source: Engineering News

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