Are you interested in astronomy and the exploration of the universe? Do you want to learn more about the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) and its fascinating initiatives? If so, we invite you to share your experience and thoughts by reviewing SARAO on Google!

SARAO, a facility of the National Research Foundation, is responsible for managing all radio astronomy initiatives and facilities in South Africa. Its flagship project, the MeerKAT Radio Telescope in the Karoo, has made significant contributions to the global scientific community, including the discovery of rare and exciting phenomena in the universe.

As a SARAO user or enthusiast, you can help promote and support the organization by sharing your honest opinions and feedback through a Google review. Your review can provide valuable insights for potential visitors, partners, and researchers who are interested in SARAO’s work and facilities.

Writing a review is easy and takes only a few minutes. Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Go to Google and search for “South African Radio Astronomy Observatory.”
  2. Click on the “Write a review” button on the right side of the page.
  3. Sign in to your Google account or create a new one.
  4. Rate SARAO by selecting the number of stars you want to give, from 1 to 5.
  5. Write a detailed review, including your experience, thoughts, and suggestions.
  6. Submit your review and share it with the world!

Your review can make a big difference for SARAO and its mission to advance radio astronomy research in South Africa and beyond. So, whether you had a positive or negative experience, we encourage you to share it with us and help us improve our services and facilities.

Thank you for your support, and we look forward to reading your reviews!

The South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) announces an opportunity to apply for observing time on the MeerKAT telescope.

A minimum of 1,750 hours of telescope time will be awarded through this opportunity. Novel proposal types and observing capabilities are offered in this Call.

MeerKAT consists of 64 dishes with superb sensitivity on baselines of up to 8 km. This Call offers continuum, spectral line, and pulsar/fast transient capabilities employing the UHF (580-1015 MHz), L- (900-1670 MHz), and S-band (1.75-3.5 GHz) receivers.

Instructions, documentation, and the tools required to prepare and submit proposals are available on the MeerKAT Knowledge Base. Proposals are due no later than 12:00 UTC on Tuesday, 3 May 2023.

The South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) is pleased to announce the availability of several scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships for the year 2024. SARAO is a leading research institution that plays a critical role in advancing radio astronomy in South Africa and beyond. These opportunities are available to highly motivated individuals who are keen to advance their research careers in radio astronomy.

Click here to view available Scholarships and Postdoctoral Fellowships

While using the MeerKAT radio telescope to study a distant galaxy towards PKS 1830-211, scientists discovered something unexpected: gas clouds made up of some of the largest hydrogen atoms in the universe, Rydberg atoms. It is the first time scientists observed these hydrogen atoms in a distant galaxy. What’s more, they believe the large atoms are spread throughout the galaxy in ionized interstellar gas clouds. The discovery could help researchers to understand the nature and evolution of interstellar gas in galaxies and how Rydberg atoms are formed in space. An article reporting this discovery was recently published in the Astrophysical Journal (link).

Located in the constellation Sagittarius, PKS1830-211 is a very distant quasar 11.1 billion light years away (redshift 2.5). However, it is one of the brightest radio sources in the sky since the high-power jet from its super massive black hole is pointed directly at Earth. PKS 1830-211 is a hot spot for studying astrochemistry in the universe. The light from PKS 1830-211 passes through a foreground galaxy 7.3 billion light years distant (redshift 0.89) on its way to Earth, illuminating molecular chemistry in the spiral arms of the foreground galaxy. This rare alignment has allowed the large Hydrogen atoms to be observed.

A Rydberg atom refers to an atom with an electron in a high energy state. Radio light amplifies the Rydberg atoms. Under just the right conditions, the atoms become naturally occurring lasers, and light becomes brighter at the radio wavelengths emitted by the atoms. Finding just the right conditions for this to occur in distant galaxies has been a long standing mystery. But next-generation radio telescopes observing the Universe at cm to meter wavelengths are making it possible for the first time.

The South African MeerKAT radio telescope is currently the most sensitive radio telescope observing at these wavelengths. Large surveys that cover the sky using wide bandwidth receivers have high enough precision to look for spectral fingerprints from many wavelengths simultaneously. The MeerKAT Absorption Line Survey (MALS; is one such survey which observes at 18 to 52 cm wavelengths. Because MALS is targeting the brightest radio sources in the sky, it is currently the most sensitive survey for detecting absorption signatures from hydrogen atoms (in the ground state) and molecules like OH – and unexpectedly, also the large Rydberg atoms.

Using the MALS survey, scientists found 44 fingerprints from Rydberg atoms. “We used hydrogen Rydberg atoms to study the physical and dynamic structures in a galaxy 7.3 billion light years away towards PKS 1830-211. The Rydberg atoms could be coming from large clouds of gas that are ionized by the radiation from young massive stars. These atoms tell us that interstellar gas in this galaxy is much more dense than what is found in the Milky Way,” says Kimberly Emig, a Jansky Fellow at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) of USA and lead author of the paper.

Scientists hope to discover more of these oddball atoms. Emig explains, “We were excited to discover these high-excitation hydrogen atoms in such a distant galaxy. It gives a new way to observe our Universe and possibly study the evolution of interstellar gas in galaxies over cosmic time. They could also help us to understand how interstellar gas drives and inhibits the activity of super massive black holes.”

PKS 1830-211 was the first target of MALS. Its observations helped to characterize the performance of the new MeerKAT telescope.  The large volumes of MALS data (1.6 petabytes) are processed using an automated pipeline utilizing the task and tools based on the Common Astronomy Software Applications (CASA) package of NRAO, at a dedicated high performance computing facility setup at the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), India.

The MALS survey primarily uses a transition of atomic hydrogen at 21 cm wavelengths and transitions from the hydroxyl (OH) molecule at 18 cm wavelengths in order to determine the occurrence of atomic and molecular gas in and around galaxies. “Only a small number of these transitions have been detected in distant galaxies so far due to technical limitations. If we detect a large number (several 100) of these transitions then we can assess the physical conditions of cold gas which serves as fuel for star formation in galaxies. Studying ionized gas through hydrogen Rydberg atoms is highly complementary to studying interstellar gas in its atomic and molecular phases and would help us to explain the changes in the properties of galaxies at different ages of the Universe,” explains Neeraj Gupta, astronomer at IUCAA  and lead investigator of the MALS project.

Making this discovery has been a team effort. The South African Radio Astronomy Observatory operates the MeerKAT telescope. An international collaboration from India, Europe, South Africa, North America, and Australia carries out the MeerKAT Absorption Line Survey. Data from the observations is processed through tools of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, and Thoughtworks Technologies India Pvt Ltd, among others.

Notes to Editors:

The scientific results of this study are published in:

Discovery of Hydrogen Radio Recombination Lines at z=0.89 towards PKS 1830-211 Kimberly L. Emig, Neeraj Gupta, Pedro Salas, Sebastien Muller, Sergei A. Balashev, Francoise Combes, Emmanuel Momjian, Yiqing Song, Preshanth Jagannathan, Partha P. Deka, Gyula I. G. Jozsa, Hans-Rainer Klockner, Abhisek Mohapatra, Pasquier Noterdaeme, Patrick Petitjean, Raghunathan Srianand, Jonah D. Wagenveld, 2023, accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal


The South African MeerKAT radio telescope, situated 90 km outside the small Northern Cape town of Carnarvon, is a precursor to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope and will be integrated into the mid-frequency component of SKA Phase 1. The MeerKAT telescope is an array of 64 interlinked receptors (a receptor is the complete antenna structure, with the main reflector, sub-reflector and all receivers, digitizers and other electronics installed).


MALS is the MeerKAT Absorption Line Survey. MALS consists of 1655 hrs of MeerKAT time (anticipated raw data ~ 1.7 PB) to carry out the most sensitive search of HI and OH absorption lines at 0 < z < 2, the redshift range over which most of the cosmic evolution in the star formation rate density takes place. The MALS survey is described in Gupta et al. (2016).

Key Science Themes of MALS:

  1. Evolution of atomic and molecular gas in galaxies and relationship with star formation rate density
  2. Fuelling of active galactic nucleus (AGN), AGN feedback and dust-obscured AGNs
  3. Variation of fundamental constants of physics
  4. Evolution of magnetic fields in galaxies, and
  5. Physical modeling of the ISM, Astrochemistry and Cosmology.

Attention all fellow space enthusiasts and radio astronomy fans!

We would like to extend a warm invitation for you to follow our Facebook page. Our page is a hub for all things related to radio astronomy and the latest developments in the field.

As a leader in the industry, we are dedicated to sharing the latest advancements and exciting discoveries with our followers. Whether you are a professional astronomer, a student, or just have a passion for the cosmos, our page is the perfect place for you to stay informed and connected.

We regularly post updates on the MeerKAT radio telescope and other observatories, as well as the latest scientific results and findings. You will also have access to behind-the-scenes photos and videos, as well as insights into the work that we do.

In addition to our commitment to sharing the latest news, we also value engagement with our followers. Our page is a platform for discussion and exchange of ideas, and we encourage you to share your thoughts and opinions with us.

So if you’re looking for a place to stay up-to-date on the latest developments in radio astronomy and connect with like-minded individuals, be sure to follow our company Facebook page. We look forward to seeing you there!

Click here to view our Facebook page

Working in an environment like SARAO and closely linked to the SKAO, a lot of staff members are leading the way in their respective fields – and therefore, have a story to tell. This story could inspire others to follow similar paths and it could even lead to a more scientifically literate society! You have to power to be the change!

Please complete the short questionnaire to indicate where you would be interested to contribute, your information will be used only for SARAO purposes and in compliance with the POPI Act.

Please see the link to the questionnaire:

Kind regards
The SARAO Science Engagement Team

Give feedback about the SARAO website, If you can’t find what you’re looking for, land on a broken link or have a general comment, please let us know by using the form below.

The South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) held the first Open Day for 2023, aimed at allowing members of the public to visit the MeerKAT radio telescope and other instruments that are hosted on the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) site.

The MeerKAT radio telescope, an array of 64 interlinked receptors, is situated 90km outside the Northern Cape Town of Carnarvon. The MeerKAT is a precursor to the SKA telescope, and will be integrated into the mid-frequency component of SKA Phase 1.

Details of the Open Day are as follows: 

  • Date: Wednesday, 01 February 2023

New dates will be announced in due course.

  • Meeting point: SASSA Hall, corner of Lang and Burger Streets, Carnarvon
  • Duration of Tour: 08h00-15h00

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