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South Africa launches World’s largest radio telescope

South Africa launches World's largest radio telescope
A terrestrial dish from the MeerKAT Telescope Array. Image Courtesy: SKA South Africa

A bigger level space project to unlock cosmic mysteries from dark energy to exploring extraterrestrial life has got an encouragement recently. To boost the study, a 64-dish MeerKAT radio telescope was inaugurated in Carnarvon, South Africa.

A sum equal to about 23 billion rupees in Indian currency has been spent for MeerKAT. It will be incorporated into the complex Square Kilometre Array (SKA) instrument for the project. It would acquire the status of the world’s biggest and most powerful radio telescope when the facility begins its function in 2020.

It will be equipped to connect and operate up to 3,000 dishes, which have been hosted in Africa and Australia. They will be able to scan the sky 10,000 times faster. Moreover, it will also be 50 times the sensitivity of any other telescope which is being used currently. It would produce images that exceed the resolution quality of the Space Telescope, scientists claim.

The unique project of MeerKAT hopes to address some of the key science questions in the realms of contemporary astrophysics. These include the science behind the formation of galaxies, their pattern of evolvement, and the journey, where we stand now. It is claimed that for these purposes MeerKAT will prove to be the best in the world.

The chief scientific officer of the project also released a number of new images taken by MeerKAT which cover the region surrounding the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way galaxy. This is said to be some 25,000 light years away.

To turn the telescope to the centre of the galaxy and obtain the outstanding images it explains to you that you’ve done something better. Actually, MeerKAT is a followup to the KAT 7 (Karoo Array Telescope) project which was tested in the Karoo region, north of Cape Town to demonstrate South Africa’s ability to host the SKA.

MeerKAT is much more than the story of astronomy. It will push boundaries in big data and high-performance computing akin to toIBM, helping develop systems in this regard. This can collate the amazing amount of data from the individual antenna to supercomputers buried deep underground to limit radio interference.

When functional, it will be looked at as the topmost radio telescope of its kind. MeerKAT will look like a cluster of eggs from a distance, outside Carnarvon. As you approach near, each dish looks like a three-floor infrastructure, which revolves on a pedestal while it scans the galaxy or the vast sky.

The project site is the African base for hundreds of antennae that are placed in Kenya and Ghana too. The first phase in South Africa will consist of 133 antennas. The expansion is hope to begin in 2019. It will use the first prototype dish which is built in China. MeerKAT will operate independently before ultimately merging into a part of the parent project, in 2023, it is said officially.

About Anirudh Singh

Anirudh Singh is a passionate blogger and the man behind Amazing India Blog. He has 5 years of experience in the newspaper industry and he founded Amazing India Blog in 2015. Apart from writing and editing articles on Travel, Business and Technology at Amazing India Blog, he also contributes to other well known newspapers and online news blogs.