MeerKAT Report

SKA SA finds a new home under SARAO

The Minister of Science and Technology of South Africa, the Honourable Naledi Pandor, has announced the simultaneous withdrawal of the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) as a National Research Facility and the declaration of the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) as a National Research Facility under the National Research Foundation of South Africa (NRF).

Dr Rob Adam is the Managing Director of SARAO. SARAO will incorporate HartRAO and all instruments currently operated by Square Kilometre Array South Africa (SKA SA), including the MeerKAT, the Karoo Array Telescope (KAT-7), and the AVN as well as the associated human capital development and commercialisation endeavours. SARAO will operate as a National Research Facility within the NRF and will be responsible for carrying out South Africa’s radio astronomy and space geodesy research and construction programmes.

64 MeerKAT antennas standing in the Karoo

On 18 October 2017 the last of the 64 MeerKAT dishes was lifted onto its pedestal, a major milestone for Square Kilometre Array South Africa. The next key milestone for MeerKAT will be the integration of 32 antennas using the SKA Reconfigurable Application Board (SKARAB) correlator, which will allow for 32-dish dual polarisation observations. This will place the project well on its way to successfully meet the scheduled deadline of having all 64 antennas integrated by the end March 2018.

MeerKAT makes its debut scientific contribution on an international collaboration and major discovery.

An unprecedented international collaboration of telescopes has led to the first direct detection of gravitational waves – ripples in space and time – in conjunction with electro-magnetic radiation from the spectacular collision of two neutron stars. The discovery marks the first time that a cosmic event has been viewed in both gravitational waves and electromagnetic radiation (light, radio waves and x-rays).

The discovery was made using the U.S.-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO); the Europe-based Virgo detector; and some 70 observatories on the ground and in space observing the event at their representative wavelengths. Square Kilometre Array South Africa’s new MeerKAT telescope, still under construction, contributed by observing the location of the astronomical location on three separate days between 26 August and 17 September 2017. The sensitive MeerKAT observations indicate that on those days the source was very faint, no brighter than 60 micro-Janskys at a frequency of 1.3 gigahertz. The Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) obtained a spectrum of the light from the collision.

The LIGO-Virgo results were published in the journal Physical Review Letters on the 16th of October 2017 and a separate paper published on the same day in The Astrophysical Journal Letters includes the results obtained by MeerKAT.

MeerKAT construction recognised by industry at 2017 Logistics Achiever Awards

The MeerKAT radio telescope was recognised by the construction industry on the 7th of November 2017, when it was presented with a Special Platinum Award. The awards aim to recognise professionalism and excellence in the effective application of strategic, tactical, and operational logistics and supply chain management principles, concepts and practices in Southern Africa; to encourage all companies and organisations in Southern Africa to review, evaluate and upgrade their current logistics and supply chain management practices; and to create a greater awareness and understanding of the value of effective logistics and supply chain management.

SARAO receives ISO 9001 certification

ISO 9001 is the international standard that specifies requirements for a quality management system. The Bureau Veritas Certification Holding SAS – UK Branch has certified that the Management System of SARAO has been audited and found to be in accordance with the requirements of the management system standards.

Report provided by SARAO