Media release

MeerKAT telescope team honoured with prestigious Royal Astronomical Society Award

13 January 2023

The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) has awarded its 2023 Group Achievement Award to the MeerKAT team. In its citation, the RAS recognised the MeerKAT team “for a series of spectacular observations in radio astronomy, the highlight being the images of the Galactic Centre region and the spectacular radio bubbles. In addition, the MeerKAT team has supported the development of science and technology in Africa and stress-tested technology for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).”

On behalf of the team of scientists, engineers and technicians that developed the MeerKAT telescope from an ambitious notion into a tangible scientific instrument delivering extraordinary early science results, the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory expresses gratitude to the RAS for the generous recognition of the technical and scientific achievement associated with this Group Achievement Award. The MeerKAT project derived from the aspiration to have a South African SKA precursor telescope that would be a powerful instrument in its own right. This award is accepted with pride because it confirms the successful rendition of this aspiration into physical reality on African soil.

The greater MeerKAT team extends beyond SARAO, as indicated by the diversity of institutions recognized through the award. Colleagues and partner institutions from around the world have expressed their confidence in MeerKAT by providing instrumentation, software and know-how to enhance the telescope capabilities, and in turn the scientific exploitation of the telescope capabilities has involved collegial international partnerships. Looking to the future, the success of MeerKAT demonstrates that the scientific and technological prerequisites for the SKA telescope in South Africa (known as SKA-Mid) are in place. We are excited by the scientific opportunities and discoveries that will derive from the progression from MeerKAT to SKA-Mid, via the MeerKAT extension project currently underway.

The core of the MeerKAT array telescope, in the Northern Cape province of South Africa, with a radio image of the Milky Way showing the previously unknown ‘MeerKAT bubbles’ (from top right towards lower left) surrounding the black hole at the centre of our galaxy. Credit: SARAO, I Heywood (Oxford), S Dagnello (NRAO/AUI/NSF).

The MeerKAT telescope in the Karoo. Since its inauguration in 2018, the 64 dish array has been used to investigate a variety of questions in modern astrophysics such as how galaxies form and evolve across cosmic history. Credit: SARAO.

NOTES TO EDITORS

  • Recent previous winners of the award include: The EAGLE simulations Team (2022); The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) Team (2021); The Astropy Project Team (2020); The Galaxy Zoo Team (2019); The Planck Team (2018); The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) Team (2017).
  • The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), founded in 1820, encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. The RAS organises scientific meetings, publishes international research and review journals, recognises outstanding achievements by the award of medals and prizes, maintains an extensive library, supports education through grants and outreach activities and represents UK astronomy nationally and internationally. Its more than 4,000 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.

The RAS accepts papers for its journals based on the principle of peer review, in which fellow experts on the editorial boards accept the paper as worth considering. The Society issues press releases based on a similar principle, but the organisations and scientists concerned have overall responsibility for their content.

  • The South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO), a facility of the National Research Foundation, is responsible for managing all radio astronomy initiatives and facilities in South Africa, including the MeerKAT radio telescope in the Karoo, and the geodesy and VLBI activities at the HartRAO facility. SARAO also coordinates the African Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network (AVN) for the eight SKA partner countries in Africa, as well as South Africa’s contribution to the infrastructure and engineering planning for the Square Kilometre Array Radio telescope. To maximise the return on South Africa’s investment in radio astronomy, SARAO is managing programmes to create capacity in radio astronomy science and engineering research, and the technical capacity required to support site operations.

Contact

SARAO

Khulu Phasiwe  
Head: Communication & Science Engagement 
+27 72 263 8749
khulu@sarao.ac.za

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Last Updated on January 13, 2023

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