The South African SKA Project is a project of the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation and comprises Africa’s bid to host the Square Kilometre Array Radio Telescope (SKA), the design, construction and operation of the Karoo Array Telescope (MeerKAT) and a youth into science and engineering programme focused on supporting science and engineering students and postdoctoral fellows.
Africa has been short-listed with Australia to host the SKA. If Africa is selected to site the SKA, the core of the telescope will be located in the Karoo region of the Northern Cape with additional stations distributed throughout South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Mauritius, Madagascar, Ghana and Kenya.
The SKA will:
- Revolutionize our understanding of the Universe
- Be completed by 2025 with a life-span of at least 50 years
- Be the next generation radio telescope for the global community
- Be continually upgradeable as computer power increases
- Use new technology antennas, signal transport, signal processing and computing in a marriage between radio frequency technology and information and communication technology.
- Consist of an array of 3000 antennas spread over 3000 km
To contribute towards the development of technology and science for the SKA, South Africa is building MeerKAT at the same site selected for the SKA. MeerKAT will be the most sensitive centimeter- wavelength radio telescope in the southern hemisphere, and will make significant contributions to both galactic and extragalactic astronomical research. MeerKAT will explore phenomena such as cosmic magnetism, the evolution of individual galaxies and clusters of galaxies, the influence of dark matter on galaxies and clusters, and the nature of transient radio sources. The first seven-antenna prototype array (KAT-7) is already being commissioned and will do science in 2012. The full MeerKAT array of up to 64 dishes will start to do science in 2013.