Visit of the Square Kilometre Array site [fr]
Ambassador Barbier visited the SKA site on Saturday 28 February, where Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor, unveiled the second of 64 MeerKAT antennas, in presence of local mayors, community members and members of the diplomatic corps.
Organized by the Department of Science and Technology, the event was the opportunity to showcase the MeerKAT radio telescope, currently being built outside Carnarvon in Northern Cape. As a precursor to what will be the world’s biggest and most sensitive radio telescope, the 64-dish MeerKAT radio telescope will be the largest radio telescope in the world and most sensitive radio telescope of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, until the completion of the SKA.
With thousands of antennas and receiving stations extending out to distances of thousands kilometers, the SKA will have a total collecting area of approximately one square kilometer, making it 50 times more sensitive than any other radio instrument. About two-thirds of the instrument will be hosted in South Africa and in the 8 African partners countries, the last third (low frequency antennas) being installed in Australia and New Zealand.
The project is strategic for South Africa, who dedicates an entire branch of the National Research Foundation (NRF) to research on the giant telescope. Dr Bennie Fanaroff was the Director of SKA Project South Africa since the programme was launched in 2008, and has been replaced by Rob Adam in 2014. The second MeerKAT dish was named in honour of Dr Fanaroff, commended by Deputy President on the 28th of February.
For its major contributor to SKA project, France has been attributed an observer seat at the SKA consortium in 2014. French researchers, notably at the Observatoire de Paris and Bordeaux I University, are indeed working on key technologies for several SKA sub-systems (electronic components, antenna systems, softwares, signal processing, low frequency antennas), using funding from their own institution, the French government or European programmes.
The SKA will address fundamental unanswered questions about our Universe including how the first stars and galaxies formed after the Big Bang, how galaxies have evolved since then, the role of magnetism in the cosmos, the nature of gravity, the search for life beyond Earth.
Articles in French on the SKA: