AFRICA’S ULTRA-SENSITIVE RADIO TELESCOPE

Science & Technology

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One of the most remarkable developments in science has recently taken place, where one can now study the further depths of the galaxy and our solar system. The scientists have obtained the pictures from the centre of the universe, all with the help on an intercontinental radio astronomy project. The first of its kind, the largest and the most powerful radio telescope has taken shape in the Southern Hemisphere. It is named as the MeerKat and is located in a semiarid desert in the northeast of Cape Town, in the continent of South Africa. The telescope was revealed by Africa in July this year.

The MeerKAT is a part and first phase of the world’s largest telescope projects that aims at unravelling various secrets of the universe. It consists of 64 dishes and can be fully integrated into the multinational Square Kilometre Array. The SKA incorporates several of the world’s most powerful telescopes, including integration of the MeerKat, which is expected to be close to the year 2030. After this powerful integration, the MeerKat will exceed the image resolution quality of all other renowned telescopes in the world, which also includes the Hubble Space Telescope. And this will be more than 50 times powerful, creating a milestone for Africa’s scientific journey.

Africa's Ultra-Sensitive Radio Telescope

With one of the first ultra-sensitive radio telescopes of the world, Africa is contributing towards the civilisation and science and catching up at a great pace with the other parts of the world. Furthermore, by the year 2030, the Square Kilometer Array or the SKA will consist of 3,000 dishes that are spread over an area of one square kilometre across the terrains of Africa and America, so that astronomers can dig deeper into space and observe the details with the precision like never before.

Even before the full potential of the MeerKat could be demystified, a panorama was captured by it that showed one of the most unobstructed views of the black hole that exists in the centre of our galaxy, the Milky Way. According to the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory, the picture obtained from the telescope was one of the ‘finest views’ yet of the black hole. The SKA is all set to explore black holes, exploding starts into space and even the origins of the space that trail back to nearly 14 billion years ago. The investment that has been made into the telescope by Africa is off nearly $240 million so far.

With further developments towards the telescope, another telescope known as the MeerLITCH that is built 125 miles towards the south of Carnarvon has been linked to the MeerKAT. This has come forward to increase the simultaneous optic and radio study of cosmic events occurring in the space. The telescope is further being built with international co-operation of countries such as India, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, Britain, Canada, China, Sweden and the Netherlands. Similarly, various African countries are involved in the project that includes Kenya, Madagascar, Zambia, Nambia, Botswana, Ghana among others.

According to the famous magazine Nature, the telescope will bring revolutionary expertise to the scientists that will be crucial for the knowledge of the deep. They also predicted that after the launch of MeerKAT, it would be ready for scientific operations within two months, the result of which has already been observed in the form of the high-resolution black hole image. Throwing further light on the picture, it is not just pretty to look but has some fantastic qualities that are readily providing great insights for discovery. The image shows the magnetised filament structures present near the black holes along with their sources that explain the nature of these filaments.

Several projects are running underway to make use of the complete potential of the telescope. One of these projects aims at uncovering the hydrogen in galaxies, while the other will trace the rapid radio bursts happening in the galaxy. The first one will help in finding the history of the universe while the latter will provide answers to several of the astronomical question and lead to further research in science. MeerKAT will serve as the basis of 8 large scientific projects that will lead to the answers of several questions bothering the civilisation for years.

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