The MeerKAT telescope in South Africa is the most sensitive telescope of its kind in the world, and it’s looking to get even bigger and better.
According to Business Insider, the MeerKAT telescope is set to be upgraded with another 20 dishes in order to increase its power. The extension of the MeerKAT is a joint venture between Germany and South Africa with both countries pledging about $270-million each. The Max Planck Institute of Radio Astronomy will provide the actual dishes.
“The timing of [the] MeerKAT Extension coincides with a planned refresh of the existing MeerKAT computer hardware in order to capitalize on technology advances’, says Rob Adam, South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO)’s managing director.
The upgrades the MeerKAT is to receive are in order for it to join the SKA or Square Kilometer Array. This new radio array would be the largest radio telescope on Earth and will include thousands of dishes on the African Continent and millions of antennas in Australia.
The SKA is set to be built in stages with the first phase, costing about $1-billion, expected to start later next year. SARAO’s Adam expects the new dishes will be operational by the end of 2022. The installation of the 20 extra dishes also requires an overhaul of the telescope’s computing hardware, because the new dishes will push computing requirements 10-fold.
“The value of the extension will be part of South Africa’s contribution to SKA”, says Adam. “It also fits with existing SARAO plans to develop prototype computer infrastructure of SKA1 as part of our contribution to developing SKA1 systems”.
The telescope has already made significant discoveries, including the finding of two giant radioactive bubbles about 1400 light-years in length in the centre of our galaxy.