The MeerKAT Telescope is a radio telescope currently being built in South Africa. As it stands, it currently has 16 out of the planned 64 dishes integrated into its telescope array. That didn’t stop MeerKAT from capturing 1,3000 galaxies in the first image released by South Africa’s Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor.
Prior to today’s MeerKAT images, only 70 galaxies were known in this location which comprises less than 0.01 percent of the entire celestial sphere. This is astounding considering the telescope hasn’t reached its planned capacity, making MeerKAT the best telescope of its kind in the southern hemisphere.
MeerKAT is currently being constructed in Karoo, and when complete will be integrated into the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), a radio telescope project built in South Africa and Australia. SKA South Africa Chief Technologist Professor Justin Jonas says that, “[b]ased on the results being shown today, we are confident that after all 64 dishes are in place, MeerKAT will be the world’s leading telescope of its kind until the advent of SKA[.]”
In the press release for today’s findings, Minister Pandor said, “South Africa has already demonstrated its excellent science and engineering skills by designing and building MeerKAT. This telescope, which is predominantly a locally designed and built instrument, shows the world that South Africa can compete in international research, engineering, technology and science.”
MeerKAT is currently being built in phases so as to make sure each new addition functions properly. When complete, MeerKAT will comprise of 64 receptors, each with a 13.5-metre diametre dish antenna, cryogenic coolers, receivers, digitiser, and further electronics. The next phase, AR2 will expand AR1’s 16 dishes to 32, and the completed 64 dish AR3 is expected in 2017.
For a more detailed look into the images captured by MeerKAT, SKA released these close-ups which shows two galaxies with black holes at their center.