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FEATURE

Supplied by: SKA SA

Reaching for the stars

A

multi-million rand funding injection into the Hydro-

An innovative telescope

gen Epoch of Reionisation Array (HERA) telescope

This innovative telescope aims to detect the distinctive

will increase the possibility of detecting the first

signature that would allow astronomers to understand the

stars and galaxies ever to be created. Recently, the US National Science Foundation announced

the first stars and galaxies in the Universe. The HERA radio

a US$9.5 million (approximately R136 million) investment to

telescope follows in the footsteps of a precursor instrument

expand HERA’s capabilities.

called PAPER (Precision Array for Probing the Epoch of Reioni-

HERA is located only a few kilometres from the MeerKAT ra-

sation), also located in the Karoo.

dio telescope, which began initial science operations in July.

The much more sensitive HERA, operating in the Karoo

HERA, which was recently granted the status of a Square

with minimal man-made radio interference, will explore the

Kilometre Array (SKA) precursor telescope, currently has 19,

billion-year period after hydrogen gas collapsed into the

14-metre radio dishes at the SKA South Africa Losberg site

first galaxies, a few hundred million years after the Big Bang,

near Carnarvon in the Northern Cape. These radio dishes will

through the ignition of stars throughout the Universe – the

soon increase to 37. The US$9.5 million in funding will allow

first structures of the Universe we observe today.

the array to expand to 220 radio dishes by 2018.

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formation and evolution of the very first luminous sources:

“The Universe was formed in a hot Big Bang of particles

Public Sector Manager • December 2016 / January 2017

PSM December/January Edition 2016/2017  

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