South Africa’s 64-dish MeerKAT telescope is set to get quite an addition to its already powerful repertoire of microscopes. It will have a growth of almost one-third, which means 20 new dishes.
All those dishes don't come quite cheap, though. They come with a $54 million price tag, to be shared evenly between the South African government and Germany’s Max Planck Society.
“The extended MeerKAT will be an even more powerful telescope to study the formation and evolution of galaxies throughout the history of the universe,” said to Science Fernando Camilo, the chief scientist at the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO).
Francisco Colomer, director of the Joint Institute for Very Long Baseline Interferometry European Research Infrastructure Consortium, further added that the expansion would “enhance an already impressive instrument.” And the new dishes will both have a different design and be better than the older ones, boasting a diameter of 15 meters instead of 13.5 meters.
MeerKAT also has an ambitious plan. The telescope will eventually be combined into the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and become the largest radio telescope in the world.
To do this, it'll expect new disks to come online as early as 2022. SKA will be composed of exorbitant thousands of dishes across Africa and one million antennas in Australia.
With all this arsenal, the radio telescope hopes to finally understand what happened immediately after the big bang, how galaxies formed, and delve into the very nature of dark matter. Ambitious and very high hopes indeed, but not inconceivable.
In the end, only time will tell what this new joint venture will achieve.