Max Planck Society funding for MeerKAT S-band receivers

December 8th, 2014, Published in Articles: EngineerIT


The first Meerkat dish about to be mounted on its Pedestal (March 2014)

The first MeerKAT dish about to be mounted on its pedestal – (March 2014).

The Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy will build the S-Band receivers for the Meerkat telescope currently under construction at the SKA site in the Karoo, Northern Cape.

The Minister of Science and Technology,  Naledi Pandor  and the president of the Max-Planck-Society (MPG), Martin Stratmann, 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 the MeerKAT S-band  radio receivers .

At least 75% of the components making up the Meerkat dish will be manufactured in South Africa by several sub-contractors. Key local suppliers include Efficient Engineering (pedestals and yokes); Titanus Slew Rings (azimuth bearings) and Tricom Structures (back-up structure) – all based in Gauteng.  Stratosat Datacom is the primary industry partner on the manufacturing of the MeerKAT antennas, leading an international technology consortium. In some instances foreign companies will manufacture components for the first antenna – such as the first set of reflector panels, first receiver indexer and first sub-reflector – but the rest will be made locally.

The receivers to be built  by the MPIfR will operate in the S-band (2 to 4 GHz) and  will be used primarily for research on pulsars, the rapid spinning neutron star which emits 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 UHF band frequencies, are already under construction in South Africa.

Martin Stratmann, President of the Max-Planck-Society,” We consider MeerKAT to be an important undertaking and light-house project for science in Africa”

Martin Stratmann, president of the Max Planck Society, “We consider MeerKAT to be an important undertaking and lighthouse project for science in Africa.”

Stratmann said, “We consider MeerKAT to be an important undertaking as it is not only a pre-eminent astronomy project, but also a lighthouse 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 seeing MeerKAT’s first glimpse of the universe.”

Minister 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. “This is a significant investment by a leading global research organisation.”

The Max Planck Society is Germany’s most successful research organisation. Since its establishment in 1948, no fewer than 18 Nobel laureates have emerged from the ranks of its scientists. The more than 15 000 publications each year in internationally renowned scientific journals are proof of the outstanding research work conducted at  the 82 Max Planck Institutes, covering basic research in the service of e mankind in the natural sciences, life sciences, social sciences, and the humanities.

“It is an important vote of confidence, in South African science in general and the MeerKAT specifically,” Minister Pandor said. “South Africa and Germany have a vibrant science and technology partnership, with radio astronomy fast becoming a blossoming flagship area of cooperation, evidenced by huge interest in academic and industrial cooperation from both sides.”

MeerKAT will be the most sensitive cm wave radio telescope in the world until the SKA is built. It is expected to provide transformational science on pulsars and other areas of astronomy.

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