The MeerKAT Radio Telescope from South Africa is one of the most powerful instruments on Earth, even if it operates at only a quarter of its capacity.
The image released on Saturday reveals no less that 1,300 galaxies in a place where until know, astronomers discovered the presence of only 70.
The MeerKAT Radio Telescope will have a total of 64 receptors, and after the construction will be finished the instrument will be integrated into an international Square Kilometre Array, which will become the most powerful radio telescope in the world.
The device is placed a couple of hundred miles away from Cape Town, near the small city of Carnarvon.
South Africa has so far invested the equivalent of $205 million into the project. Even though the country has a somehow slow economy, the financing was sourced from the public budget and science research partners.
“It’s a first for us as Africa and also it’s a first for the world because the world hasn’t done this in Africa. We are building a global infrastructure for the world,” said Naledi Pandor, the South African Minister of Science and Technology.
The chief scientist of the Square Kilometre Array stated that this first image produced by the telescope exceeds their expectations. Even with only the 16 receptors that are installed so far, the instrument still proves to be one of the best in the southern hemisphere.
The project will be finalized in 2020 when the network will comprise 3,000 dishes and will have a total surface of 0.4 square miles or one square kilometer, a fact that provided the name of the project.
Its potential is said to be 10,000 times higher than any of the other instruments invented so far. The scientists will use it to explore black holes, dark energy, and supernovas, in the hopes to find more information on the origins of our Universe.
The Square Kilometre Array will have two main clusters, one being the MeerKAT telescope and the other an instrument which will be built in Australia.
The MeerKAT technology is the work of more than 200 scientists, engineers, and technicians. The headquarters of the project is based in Britain, while other 20 countries are members of the network.
Almost 500 scientific groups originating from 45 countries have enlisted to use the MeerKAT radio telescope, thus the instrument will be busy all the way to 2022.
Image Source: Wikipedia