In DepthAstronomy

Radio arrays take shape in the global south

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Science  22 Jun 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6395, pp. 1285
DOI: 10.1126/science.360.6395.1285

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On the wide-open plains northeast of Cape Town, South Africa, the largest and most powerful radio telescope in the Southern Hemisphere is listening to the sky. The last of 64 13.5-meter dishes was installed late last year, and next month, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will officially open the facility. MeerKAT, which stands for Karoo Array Telescope combined with the Afrikaans word for "more," is one of several precursor instruments for the proposed Square Kilometre Array (SKA), which will be Earth's largest radio array by far. That effort got a boost this week as Spain agreed to join the 10 existing member countries. The first phase of SKA construction, which could begin in 2020 at an estimated cost of €798 million, would add another 133 dishes to the MeerKAT array, extending it across 150 kilometers, and place 130,000 smaller radio antennas across Australia—but only if member governments agree to fully fund the work. Months of delicate negotiations lie ahead.