Thu, 30 Aug, 2012
Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor came to Grahamstown, Monday 27 August, to celebrate South Africa’s successful bid to host the world’s largest radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). She also honoured scientists at the launch of Rhodes University’s new Radio Astronomy Centre.
The event held at the university was the first time that the team of scientists leading South Africa’s bid for the SKA came together, and could be recognised for their contribution to the advancement of radio astronomy in the country.
Pandor commended the university’s Radio Astronomy Techniques and Technologies (RATT) centre team, led by head of Physics and Electronics, Professor Justin Jonas. She said that winning the bid to host the mega-telescope, comprising of 2 500 satellite dishes, was a wonderful opportunity to show the world what South Africa and Africa could achieve.
But the hard work has only just begun, Pandor cautioned, and hosting and funding agreements with the other countries involved still have to be dealt with.
SKA Project Director, Professor Bernie Faranoff, explained that the SKA will be shared between 10 African countries, with the bulk of the satellite in South Africa. Australia will also host a sparse low frequency array.
He also said that the SKA would be built in two phases, the first being the pre-construction phase where the RATT centre will be pivotal to developing the design and technology of the telescope.
“We aim to have the blueprints ready by 2016 and then we will go out on tender for the building of the 2 500 dishes,” Faranoff said. Construction is set to be completed by 2020 in order to bring the mega-telescope online by 2023, he added.
The SKA construction site at Carnavon in the Northern Cape is home to the KAT-7 array, a series of satellite dishes that were built as a precursor to the MeerKAT project that will comprise of 64 dishes.
“Through the KAT-7 project we learnt how to build dishes and now we are ready to begin construction on the 64 MeerKAT dishes,” Faranoff explained. “We’ve issued the contracts and the construction companies are already on site building infrastructure.”
To read the interview with Rhodes University’s newly-appointed top international radio astronomer, Prof Oleg Smirnov, turn to page 11 of the print edition (31 August 2012).
Official SKA animations:
The official SKA science animation
The official SKA antennas animation
MeerKAT: Precursor telescope to the SKA