06-05-201406/05/2014, Powerful enough to pick up a mobile phone signal on Saturn

The first of 64 antennas that will make up MeerKAT, South Africa’s new radio telescope, has been officially launched.

MeerKAT is currently under construction in the Karoo semi-desert in the Northern Cape. It will be the largest and most sensitive radio telescope in the southern hemisphere until the SKA (Square Kilometre Array) is completed in 2024. MeerKAT is a precursor to the SKA telescope and will be integrated into its Phase 1 mid-frequency component.

Until then, MeerKAT will be the most sensitive L-Band radio interferometer in the world. The full array will consist of 64 identical receptors connected by 170km of underground fibre optic cable. The receptors will operate as a single, highly sensitive astronomical instrument, controlled and monitored remotely from the MeerKAT control room in Cape Town.

Once all 64 antennas are operational, it’s claimed that each one will generate enough data to fill around four and a half million standard 4.7GB DVDs in a day, and that the instrument will be sensitive enough to pick up a mobile phone signal from Saturn.

SKA SA engineers and contractors will now continue to produce the massive, high-precision components of the remaining MeerKAT antennas, and install them in the Karoo. The first four receptors are expected to be standing by the end of this year and all 64 will be installed by the end of 2016, with final commissioning being completed in 2017.

For more information visit: http://connectingafrica.net/2014/04/30/powerful-enough-to-pick-up-a-mobile-phone-signal-on-saturn/

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