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South Africa's MeerKAT telescope snaps stunning shot of Milky Way center

18 July 2018

Now that MeerKAT is complete, the next stage will be to add a further 133 dishes in Karoo and then in 2030 when the second phase of the SKA kicks in, the network of dishes will be extended into eight African partner countries, meaning that some of the dishes will be located over thousands of kilometres across Africa.

According to News24, during the launch astronomers showed off the best radio image yet taken of the centre of the dramatic Milky Way galaxy as a demonstration of the capability of the instrument that will eventually form part of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). "The center of the galaxy was an obvious target: unique, visually striking and full of the explained phenomenon - but also notoriously hard to image using radio telescopes".

This is said to be some 25,000 light years away. Its weight is 4.3 million solar masses. "Although it's early days with MeerKAT, and a lot remains to be optimized, we made a decision to go for it - and were stunned by the results".

South Africa has officially switched to MeerKAT, which has been billed as the most sensitive radio telescope of its type on the planet.

But infrared, X-ray, and some radio wavelengths, like the ones MeerKAT detects, can penetrate this dust, providing a unique view of the region.

Global researchers have lauded the image quality of the MeerKAT, and it's already begun to answer three-decade-old questions.

The end result of MeerKAT's observations is a panorama shot spanning an area of about 1,000 light-years by 500 light-years.

"This image is remarkable", says Farhad Yusef-Zadeh of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, an expert on the filaments.

A stunning view of the Milky Way's fiery heart where a super-massive black hole lurks amid unusual filamentary structures.

"The telescope will be the largest of its own kind in the world with image resolution quality exceeding the Hubble Space Telescope by a factor of 50 times", David Mabuza, South Africa's deputy president, said on Friday. "The MeerKAT image has such clarity".

While it looks like a fiery swirling mess, the image shows never-before-seen features, such as the compact sources of those long, magnetised filaments that come off the central region.

It is a major milestone in the history of Africa, where investment worth of United States dollars 331 billion on MeerKAT has already started to pay off by providing the results which the scientist wants it for a decade ago, else scientists have to go to America, Europe or Australia.

South Africa's MeerKAT telescope snaps stunning shot of Milky Way center