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200 Years of Astronomy in South Africa: From the Royal Observatory to the ‘Big Bang’ of the Square Kilometre Array

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Dubow, SH 


South Africa is currently in the process of building the world’s largest radio telescope as part of an international consortium headquartered at Jodrell Bank outside Manchester, England. MeerKAT, the precursor to this ambitious project, is already taking shape in a remote area of the semi-desert Karoo. When the Square Kilometre Array begins to operate over the next decade it is envisaged that the network of dishes will offer exceptional image resolution quality and allow astronomers to catalogue radio sources with unprecedented speed and range. As well as providing a glimpse into the moment of Big Bang before stars and galaxies formed, and testing Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity by studying pulsars, the South African component of the SKA professes a strong developmentalist agenda: Africa, it is hoped, will be integrated into European and global science; a new generation of African scientists and technicians will receive advanced training; the infrastructure of very fast computing and big data will benefit the country; local communities will be able to take advantage of educational and employment opportunities.2



4303 Historical Studies, 43 History, Heritage and Archaeology

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Journal of Southern African Studies

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Taylor & Francis