The Minister for Science and Technology of South Africa and the President of the Max-Planck-Society (MPG) today announced that the MPG and the Max-Planck-Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) in Bonn will make available a total of €11 million (approximately R150 million) to build and install radio receivers on the South African MeerKAT radio telescope.
The receivers will be built by the MPIfR and will operate in the S band of radio frequencies. They will be used primarily for research on pulsars, the rapid spinning neutron star which emit very regular radio pulses and so can be used as highly accurate clocks to test extreme physics. Two other sets of receivers, for the L band and ULF band of frequencies, are already under construction in South Africa.
The President of the MPG, Martin Stratmann, said: “We consider MeerKAT to be an important undertaking as it is not only a preeminent astronomy project, but also a light-house project for science in Africa in general. The MPG is very pleased to enable close collaboration between its scientists and the South African community and looks forward to see MeerKAT’s first glimpse of the Universe with the receivers of the MPIfR”.
Welcoming the strong and growing collaboration between South Africa and Germany, Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor said that the investment is an endorsement of the excellence of the MeerKAT and the South African team which designed and is building it. Minister Pandor added that “this significant investment by a leading global research organisation of prestigious repute, home to several Nobel Prize winners, was an important vote of confidence, in South African science in general and the MeerKAT specifically.” South Africa and Germany have a vibrant science and technology partnership, with radio astronomy fast becoming a blossoming flagship area of cooperation, evidence by huge interest in academic and industrial cooperation from both sides. Minister Pandor concluded, “MeerKAT is already acclaimed internationally as a world-class instrument“ thanks to our partnership with Max Planck, MeerKAT’s ability to perform transformational science for the benefit of global knowledge production will be considerably boosted. Awaiting the start of construction of the SKA, South Africa and our international partners such as Max Planck, continue to set the pace for global radio astronomy.”
MeerKAT will be the most sensitive cm wave radio telescope in the world until the SKA is built. It is expected to do transformational science on pulsars and other areas of astronomy.