Statement: DST: SA-Mauritius colaboration on SKA

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JOINT MEDIA RELEASE FROM THE MINISTRY OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, SOUTH AFRICA AND MINISTRY OF TERTIARY EDUCATION, SCIENCE, RESEARCH AND TECHNOLOGY, MAURITIUS

On Monday, 19 September 2011, Minister Jeetah, the Mauritius Minister of Tertiary Education, Science, Research and Technology, hosted Minister Pandor, the South African Minister of Science and Technology. The issues for discussion were the preparations for the Square Kilometre Array bid and the strengthening of research and development cooperation.

The two Ministers agreed that the next decade will be a decisive one for Africa in relation to taking advantage of the opportunities that the continent has to offer. Partnerships will allow the countries to be more competitive through collaboration in many areas of research, development and innovation. Emphasis was laid on the fact that astronomy could be a scientific instrument which will allow development for the advancement of science and technology in Africa. It is now urgent to embark into areas that will lead to the African knowledge enterprise. To be in the top ten of competitive nations, it is opportune to partner in a smart way that create synergies.

The two Ministries announced that Mauritius and South Africa will build a low frequency array telescope with stations in both countries. This low frequency array will be called Multifrequency Interferometry Telescope for Radio Astronomy (MITRA). In Sanskrit mitra means friendship.

The MITRA is radio astronomy project which aims to do extremely wide field imaging with heterogeneous non coplanar arrays. The planning started a few years ago in a collaboration led by Girish Kumar Beeharry, from the University of Mauritius(UOM), and Stuart David Macpherson and Gary Peter Janse Van Vuuren, from the Durban University of Technology (DUT).

The first two MITRA nodes are being developed collaboratively at the Mauritius Radio Telescope site at Bras d’Eau, Poste de Flacq and at the DUT campus site, Durban, South Africa. The DUT has received funding to this effect from the Department of Science and Technology, South Africa (DST SA), The design of these nodes is such that each can be expanded in intra-nodal groups of antennas to form a nodal array of antennas. Radio astronomy observations will be done at each node. The radio data from a number of nodes will be combined to form an international aperture synthesis telescope using techniques of Very Large Baseline Interferometry (VLBI).

The core drivers of the partnership will evolve around human capital development, high performance computing, enhance technology for space science and attracting research scientists to Africa.

Description
-A sensitive high resolution multi-frequency dual polarity instrument in the range 30 to 800 MHz using multiple stations of low-cost dipoles, such as log-periodic antennas.
– Baselines will range from a few metres, in one station, to some 250-500-1000-3000-5000 km for the whole instrument.
– The instrument & each station is modular in nature
– A station will be able to function in its own right
– Subsets of the whole instrument could also be used.
– The desired final technical specifications of the whole instrument are a function of the number of participants.

Station outline
– Each station is planned for observations on own.
– Sufficient sensitivity and resolution built in
– The front-end & the back-end should be integrated with the data acquisition locally.
– The data pipeline should also cater for intra-station as well as inter-station correlation.
-Local hub managing system which will be synchronised, by the central hub, with other stations.

Technology
– Near real time Very Long Baseline Interferometry(VLBI) and electronic-VLBI
– Data Management
– High Capacity Correlation
– Digital Data Processing
– Antenna design
– Receiver system design
– Data acquisition system design
– Radio Frequency(RF) Electronics
– Networking

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Science
– Extremely Wide Field Imaging
– Issues of Non-coplanarity
– Analysis Algorithms for Radio Maps
– Solar: flares, coronal mass ejections
– The Galaxy and the galactic centre star forming regions
– Galaxies and clusters of galaxies,
– Pulsars
– Supernova Remnants
– Transient sources
– Spectral and recombination line observations
– Study of spectral indices of sources
– Interstellar scintillation: lower end of spectrum
– Jupiter: lower end of spectrum
– Ionospheric and Space Weather

Issued by the Ministry of Science and Technology

Lunga Ngqengelele

Ministerial Spokesperson (South Africa)
012 843 6802
082 566 0446
[email protected]