Composite image showing several MeerKAT antennas (foreground) and the centre of our Galaxy as seen with MeerKAT (background) (Heywood et al. 2019)

Image credit: South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO)

MeerKAT is a precursor of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope in South Africa which will be integrated into phase 1 of the SKA as a mid-frequency component. Originally, it was designated the name Karoo Array Telescope, but after additional funding by the South African government, it was renamed to ‚more of KAT‘, MeerKAT.

MeerKAT is an array of 64 radio telescopes of 13.5-m diameter each, with an ‘Offset Gregorian’ optical layout. 48 of the dishes are concentrated within a compact area of 1 km. The rest of the antennas are placed in a more extended two-dimensional distribution, with antennas being separated by up to 8 km. This separation is known as baseline.

MeerKAT observes the radio universe at 0.58–1.67 GHz and 8–14.5 GHz. The key science projects for MeerKAT include detecting neutral Hydrogen, up to redshifts of 1.4 by incorporating stacking and lensing techniques, in order to study how galaxies evolve. Due to the good polarisation capabilities of MeerKAT, studies of the magnetic fields and Faraday rotation can be conducted. Additionally, it will enable the study of transient sources and pulsars. The high resolution of MeerKAT allows the detection (pre-biotic) molecules even at distances further out from our Galaxy.

More information about MeerKAT can be found at the GLOW website or the SARAO website.