Top achievement award for MeerKAT team

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The Royal Astronomical Society’s (RAS’s) 2023 group achievement award winner is South Africa’s MeerKAT team.

In its citation, RAS recognised the MeerKAT team “for a series of spectacular observations in radio astronomy, the highlight being the images of the Galactic Centre region and the spectacular radio bubbles. In addition, the MeerKAT team supported the development of science and technology in Africa and stress-tested technology for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA)”.

On behalf of the team of scientists, engineers and technicians that developed the MeerKAT telescope from an ambitious notion into a tangible scientific instrument delivering extraordinary early science results, the SA Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) expresses gratitude to the RAS for” generous recognition” of the technical and scientific achievement associated with this award. The MeerKAT project derived from the aspiration to have a South African SKA precursor telescope that would be a powerful instrument in its own right according to s SARAO statement. “This award is accepted with pride because it confirms the successful rendition of this aspiration into physical reality on African soil”.

The greater MeerKAT team extends beyond SARAO, as indicated by the diversity of institutions recognised through the award. Colleagues and partner institutions from around the world expressed confidence in MeerKAT by providing instrumentation, software and know-how to enhance the telescope capabilities and in turn the scientific exploitation of telescope capabilities involved collegial international partnerships. Looking to the future, the success of MeerKAT demonstrates the scientific and technological prerequisites for the SKA telescope in South Africa (SKA-Mid) are in place.

“We are excited by the scientific opportunities and discoveries that will derive from MeerKAT’s progression to SKA-Mid via the MeerKAT extension project currently underway,” the statement has it.

The MeerKAT radio telescope, 90 km from small Northern Cape town Carnarvon, is a precursor to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope and will be integrated into the mid-frequency component of SKA Phase 1.