PRETORIA– The launch of the MeerKAT, the world’s most sensitive telescope, will place South Africa at the cutting edge of scientific research, says Deputy President David Mabuza says.

Speaking to journalists shortly after unveiling the 64th dish of the MeerKAT array on Friday, he said the unveiling of the now completed star of the Karoo is very significant, as it will help not only South Africa but other countries conducting research to help them innovate, invent and tackle the challenges facing their respective regions.

The MeerKAT has, with its recent observation of the centre of the galaxy, joined the global league of astronomical research.

This is a very significant project that sets the country on a path towards development. It is not South Africa alone that will benefit. All the countries that came today to contribute are going to benefit. In terms of science and research, South Africa will be on a good footing, Mabuza said.

While the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) optical telescope is located in Sutherland, also in Northern Cape Province, in order to obtain images through the area’s dark skies, the MeerKAT detects gravitational waves to get images even through matter and dust, and at any time of the day.

The MeerKAT is the precursor of the Square Kilometre Array international astronomical project which upon its completion will consist of an array of antennas in South Africa and other member countries, principally Australia, another country with wide open unpopulated areas.

A largely South African project that was designed and built locally, the MeerKAT will be integrated into the first phase of the international SKA Phase One mid-frequency array.

The Deputy President said the completion of the MeerKAT is the first step in the right direction. Science and technology will always be on the cutting edge of our moving forward, so there can’t be any development, any innovation, [without] research,” he noted.

Everything starts from research, then you innovate and move forward as a country. This is a good platform to enable us to study and learn of lot of things and in the process, we can invent new technologies that can be used by generations to come.

Speaking later at the official launch event, Mabuza said the launch of the MeerKAT is a source of pride for the continent. He commended the SKA project office for ensuring that the project was completed within the projected budget of R3.2 billion.

Local scientists have already described the telescope near Carnarvon in the Karoo, the inland, semi-arid and sparsely part of the country, as the most sensitive and possibly � in terms of its capabilities � the best in the world.