Media release

SKA SA presents first Array Release 1.5 images taken with MeerKAT 32 to Minister Naledi Pandor

16 May 2017

The Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, delivered the Budget Vote of the Department of Science and Technology in Parliament on Tuesday, 16 May 2017.

Students sponsored by SKA SA and staff members were invited to attend in the gallery.

Prior to the Budget Vote, the Minister embarked on a tour of the exhibition at the Iziko Museum, where SKA SA joined other exhibitors for the showcase.

During the Minister’s visit to the exhibition, SKA SA Chief Scientist Dr Fernando Camilo and SKA SA Head of Science Commissioning Dr Sharmila Goedhart, released to the Minister the recent AR1.5 results, images achieved by using various configurations of the 32 antennas currently operational in the Karoo. This milestone of the integration of 32 antennas with single polarisation correlator was achieved on schedule by the end of March 2017. The 32 antennas are part of the eventual 64 instruments which are being built at the Losberg site in the Northern Cape.

Dr Camilo and Dr Goedhart presented to the Minister:

  • The view of the hydrogen gas in M83, a famous galaxy discovered in Cape Town in 1752, generated by MeerKAT. The image was done with the MeerKAT configuration using seven 50-minute exposures – achieving this detail and sensitivity much faster than any previous observations.
  • A linear feature – a radio galaxy – that is 4 million light years long, identifying it as a Giant Radio Galaxy, the first such extreme object identified by MeerKAT.
  • A star-forming region in the Milky Way. The previous best image of this star-forming region was obtained with the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA). The MeerKAT image is sharper and more sensitive; and shows fainter features with additional detail.
  • The increased observation power of MeerKAT through demonstrating the images taken with KAT-7 in 2012, MeerKAT-4 in 2016, MeerKAT-16 in 2016 and MeerKAT-16 in 2017. The same black hole was observed with the increasingly improved arrays of antennas.
  • The first radio image of a distant spiral galaxy, showing both the visible light and the radio waves which left this galaxy 230 million years ago.

View the presentation

In her Budget Vote, the Minister announced that the Research Development and Support Programme will transfer R693 million to the National Research Foundation to ensure the completion of MeerKAT, as a key priority for 2017/18.

“The SKA will be the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope. Key economic benefits from this investment will be the leveraging of foreign direct investment from the SKA Organisation for constructions costs of phase 1 of SKA,” Minister Pandor said.

The theme for this year’s budget vote is The Oliver Tambo legacy – positioning the national system of innovation for the future.

“Government announced the celebration of OR Tambo this year, as it would have been his centenary had he lived. OR Tambo wasn’t just a luminary of our struggle for freedom; he was also an outstanding mathematics and science teacher,” said Minister Pandor.

Large scale bubbles and arcs seen with MeerKAT show stellar nurseries (where stars are born) in the Milky Way. For comparison, the previous best image of this star-forming region is shown at the bottom, obtained with the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA).

A galaxy in the distant universe imaged with ever better South African radio telescopes.

First ever radio image (right panel) of a spiral galaxy previously photographed in visible light (left panel). Both the visible light on the left and the radio waves on the right left this galaxy 230 million years ago.

MeerKAT in the Northern Cape provides a magnificent view of the hydrogen gas in M83, a famous galaxy discovered in Cape Town in 1752.

MeerKAT identifies a new Giant Radio Galaxy. Infrared emission in blue and MeerKAT radio emission in orange.


Lorenzo Raynard
SKA SA Head: Communication and Stakeholder Relations
Mobile: +27 (0)71 454 0658

Last Updated on May 19, 2017