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Super radio telescope shows potential

CARNARVON, South Africa – Even operating at a quarter of its eventual capacity, South Africa’s MeerKAT radio telescope showed off its phenomenal power Saturday, revealing 1,300 galaxies in a tiny corner of the universe where only 70 were known before.

The image released Saturday was the first from MeerKAT, where 16 dishes were formally commissioned the same day.

MeerKAT’s full contingent of 64 receptors will be integrated next year into a multi-nation Square Kilometer Array which is set to become the world’s most powerful radio telescope.

The images produced by MeerKAT “are far better that we could have expected,” the chief scientist of the SKA in South Africa, Fernando Camilo, said at the site of the dishes near the small town of Carnarvon, 600 kilometers north of Cape Town.

This “means that this telescope as is today, only one quarter of the way down (to its full contingent) is already the best radio telescope in the southern hemisphere,” Camilo told AFP.

When fully up and running in the 2020s, the SKA will comprise a forest of 3,000 dishes spread over an area of a square kilometer across remote terrain around several countries allow astronomers to peer deeper into space in unparallelled detail.

It will have a discovery potential 10,000 times greater than the most advanced modern instruments and will explore exploding stars, black holes, dark energy, and traces of the universe’s origins some 14 billion years ago. (AFP)

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