Cutting edge science

The sky is the limit with SKA

Cutting edge technology puts Africa on the map
Technology puts Africa on the map

The sky is the limit when it comes to science and thanks to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, South Africa and Africa as a whole now have a platform with which to prove their worth.

The opportunity to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) has given South Africa and Africa as a whole a platform to prove to the world that the continent has what it takes to deliver the cutting-edge science project, says SKA Associate Director, Professor Justin Jonas. He expressed his faith in the ability of South Africa and its partners to successfully pull off the venture.

South Africa and Australia share the hosting of the most advanced scientific project in the world. Africa is responsible for building the two biggest components of the SKA, while Australia will build one. About 70% of the facility will be built in Africa. Both South Africa and Australia have been working on precursors to the SKA, the 64-dish MeerKAT telescope and the six-dish SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) respectively.

According to Professor Jonas, the SKA will be a massive scientific infrastructure and its development and construction will require participation by a wide range of industries to achieve its ambitious performance, schedule and cost targets.

Jonas is confident that the project will be ready by 2016. More than 2 500 dishes are expected to be built. Originally, the South African SKA Project had a budget to build a 20-dish array but after a significant increase in funds from the Department of Science and Technology, they were able to move beyond the 20-dish array. It is also known as KAT (Karoo Array Telescope).

South Africa is fast becoming a global centre for information technology, fundamental physics, astronomy and high-tech engineering. International directors and location scouts won't be the only ones flocking to our shores. Top scientists and engineers throughout the world are expected to flock to Africa as a result thereof. 

The MeerKAT Array, currently taking shape in South Africa’s Karoo region, is a world-class radio telescope designed to do ground-breaking science. It will be the largest and most sensitive radio telescope in the southern hemisphere until the SKA is completed around 2024.

Close to 100 young scientists and engineers are working on the MeerKAT project. The MeerKAT will consist of 64 dishes of 13.5metre diametre each, with an offset Gregorian configuration. The commissioning of the MeerKAT will take place in 2014 and 2015, with the array coming online for science operations in 2016. 

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