SARAO supports Botswana to host its first radio telescope

The South African Radio Astronomy Observatory intends to collaborate with the Botswana International University of Science and Technology, the German Centre for Astrophysics and the Max-Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy Germany, for the University to host the first radio telescope in Botswana through the Africa Radio Astronomy Programme.

The Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) is the custodian of the Botswana participation in the Africa Radio Astronomy Programme, after being appointed by the Botswana Ministry of Communications, Knowledge, and Technology.

The partnership between BIUST and the German Centre for Astrophysics (DZA) was made official through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the project on 26 February 2024 at Hilton Garden Inn Hotel in Botswana.

The Africa Radio Astronomy Programme serves to implement the strategic intent of the MoU for Institutionalising Cooperation in Radio Astronomy, signed in Ghana in 2017 by South Africa and the eight SKA Africa partner countries. This has resulted in a multi-pronged approach to establish radio astronomy research capacity, instrumentation and VLBI capability through engineering and skills development initiatives. This programme will benefit Botswana in developing engineering skills, scientific knowledge, national regulations, and institutional capacity required for full participation in the SKA project.

Stakeholders from SARAO, the Botswana International University of Science and Technology, the German Centre for Astrophysics and the Max-Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy Germany at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the hosting of the first radio telescope in Botswana through the Africa Radio Astronomy Programme.

BIUST Vice-Chancellor Professor Otlogetswe Totolo remarked last year during a stakeholder workshop on the Botswana national astronomy development plan, that the challenges of space exploration in Botswana have sparked new scientific and technological knowledge of inherent value to humankind, leading to better understanding of the universe and the solar system.

SARAO Africa Programme Manager, Carla Mitchell, attended the signing and said that the organisation is proud to have African partners to actively use MeerKAT data to develop radio astronomy capabilities. “The MeerKAT project has contributed significantly to socio-economic development through education and skills training, job creation, technological innovation, international collaboration, infrastructure development, and scientific research. These benefits highlight the importance of investing in large-scale scientific projects not only for their scientific output but also for their broader impact on society and the economy.”

Mitchell continued: “The MeerKAT telescope is the most advanced radio telescope of its kind in the world and its development has spurred technological innovations, particularly in radio astronomy technology, data processing, and telecommunications. These innovations can have broader applications in other sectors, driving technological advancement and competitiveness. The MeerKAT telescope significantly contributes to our understanding of the universe. It supports a wide range of scientific research, including studies on cosmic magnetism, galactic evolution, dark matter, and the search for techno signatures. The knowledge gained can have profound implications for humanity and our place in the Universe.”