CARNARVON, SOUTH AFRICA– The construction of South Africa’s MeerKAT radio telescope near this town in South Africa’s Northern Cape Province has finally been completed after all 64 antennas are installed onto the device.

The telescope, which is a precursor to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope, will be integrated into the mid-frequency component of the first phase of the SKA, which is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, with eventually over a square kilometre (one million square metres) of collecting area.

The SKA area has been declared a national key point for South Africa as the government wants to protect its investments. Recently, the MeerKAT observed a rare burst of activity from an exotic star, demonstrating outstanding capabilities as a new instrument for scientific exploration.

SKA project spokesperson Lorenzo Raynard says: We have managed to meet our milestone target and that is to ensure 64 antennas are standing tall in the Karoo and have been integrated to function as a radio telescope.

We are in the process of verifying the investments are fully functional at the moment. Once the verification is in place, we will obviously release images and then the science process will commence and parallel to that we have already worked with an international company of scientist to identify a large survey projects that has been prioritised to use the instruments.

The scale of the SKA represents a huge leap forward in both engineering and research and development towards building and delivering a unique instrument, with the detailed design and preparation now well under way.

Both South Africa’s Karoo region and Western Australia’s Murchison Shire were chosen as co-hosting locations for many scientific and technical reasons, from the atmospherics above the desert sites, through to the radio quietness, which comes from being some of the most remote locations on Earth.

South Africa’s Karoo desert will host the core of the high and mid frequency dishes, ultimately extending over the African continent. Australia’s Murchison Shire will host the low-frequency antennas.

As one of the largest scientific endeavours in history, the SKA will bring together some of the world’s finest scientists, engineers and policy makers to bring the project to fruition.

The SKA will eventually use thousands of dishes and up to a million low-frequency antennas which will enable astronomers to monitor the sky in unprecedented detail and survey the entire sky much faster than any system currently in existence.

Its unique configuration will give the SKA unrivalled scope in observations, largely exceeding the image resolution quality of the Hubble Space Telescope.