World's Most Sensitive Radio Telescope Peeks at Our Local Supermassive Black Hole

The image of the centre of our galaxy managed to capture with the help of super radio telescope MeerKAT

In his address at the launch of the 64-dish MeerKAT on 13 July in Carnarvon, Deputy President David Mabuza said 75% of the components that went into the construction of the MeerKAT were sourced locally. Image by Square Kilometer Array, South Africa.

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

Because that center is obscured from view by traditional methods of observation, since it's behind the constellation Sagittarius, clouds of gas and dust make it invisible from Earth using traditional telescopes.

'Although it's early days with MeerKAT, and a lot remains to be optimised, we chose to go for it - and were stunned by the results'.

Worldwide researchers have lauded the image quality of the MeerKAT, and it's already begun to answer three-decade-old questions. The panorama covers the area of approximately 1000 x 500 light years, and the colors in the image correspond to intensity of a radio signal, from a mild red to bright white.

A stunning view of the Milky Way's fiery heart where a super-massive black hole lurks amid unusual filamentary structures. The telescope sent back images of such astonishing clarity and detail that even the optimists were shocked.

Michael Kramer, director of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, praised the early data returned by MEERKAT as "better than we expected".

MeerKAT is a followup to the KAT 7 (Karoo Array Telescope), built in the vast semi-desert Karoo region north of Cape Town to demonstrate South Africa's ability to host the SKA. The recent image has shown compact sources associated with the structures that might help solve the three-decade-old riddle, he said.

Facts and figures about South Africa's new MeerKAT satellite. Data is processed in real time by a "correlator", followed by a "science processor", both purpose-built. After further offline analysis, images of the radio sky are generated.

Last month, scientists linked a powerful optical telescope, MeerLITCH, built 200 kilometres (125 miles) south of Carnarvon, with the MeerKAT to allow for simultaneous optic and radio study of cosmic events as they occur.

"MeerKAT is what attracted me to South Africa", says Fernando Camilo, chief scientist at the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory, who moved from the United States in 2016 to South Africa to join the MeerKAT project.

The MeerKAT offers a view of the sky unavailable in the northern hemisphere.

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