The team responsible for the MeerKAT project consisted mostly of South Africans, including members of the communities in the area.
South Africa Launches Biggest Radio Telescope In World
The South African government officially launched the 64-dish MeerKAT array, a significant milestone in radio astronomy, in Carnarvon in the country's Northern Cape on Friday.
The MeerKAT is currently the world's largest radio telescope of its kind, CCTV reported.
The team responsible for the MeerKAT project consisted mostly of South Africans, including members of the communities in the area. About $230 million was spent on the various elements.
The MeerKAT and Square Kilometer Array (SKA) projects are continent wide initiatives, with the MeerKAT project actually being a precursor to the first phase of the SKA project, which will see another 133 dishes and radio telescopes developed, built and erected in the northern cape.
"They built a telescope that is the best of its kind in the world. They have made an image of the very center, the core of our Milky Way galaxy, 30 thousand light years away, the clearest sharpest image ever made, by anyone on earth," said Dr Fernando Camilo, the chief scientist of SKA Africa.
Deputy President David Mabuza led the unveiling of the world's largest radio telescope, while showering it with praise.
"This is a very significant project that sets the country on a path towards development. It's not South Africa alone that would benefit. All the countries that came together to contribute are going to benefit," said Mabuza.
MeerKAT and SKA projects will span eight African countries and one of their initiatives includes creating a new telescope center in Ghana, a country located in west Africa, for training purposes. All in all, education is one of the primary foundations of this initiative.
"We have already graduated quite a number of PhDs that have gone back to their countries. Many of them initiated the discipline of astronomy in their own universities, which was not the case before," said Takalani Nemaungani, the chief director of the Department of Science and Technology.
The project will be funded by Canada, China, India, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
"That one will have by the way, antennas here in the Karoo that are spaced out to 120 maybe even 150 kilometers, rather than just the eight kilometers. So it is three times, four times as many antennas all together, the dishes, but spread over much longer distances," said Fernando Camilo.
While this is a major milestone, it's still only the first of many steps needed in order to better understand the universe in which we live in.