South Africa’s MeerKAT radio telescope team awarded prestigious international award

Part of the MeerKAT array

Part of the MeerKAT array

Photo by SARAO

16th January 2023

By: Rebecca Campbell

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


Font size: - +

South Africa’s MeerKAT radio telescope array team has been awarded the Royal Astronomical Society’s (RAS’) prestigious Group Achievement Award for 2023. The award was made, in the words of the RAS citation, “for a series of spectacular observations in radio astronomy, the highlight being the images of the Galactic Centre region and the spectacular radio bubbles. In addition, the MeerKAT team has supported the development of science and technology in Africa and stress-tested technology for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) [international radio telescope programme].”

The MeerKAT has been developed, and is operated by what is now designated as the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO). But, as SARAO itself pointed out in its press release, the greater MeerKAT team extends beyond the observatory itself and embraces a diversity of institutions around the world.             

“On behalf of the team of scientists, engineers and technicians that developed the MeerKAT telescope from an ambitious notion into a tangible scientific instrument delivering extraordinary early science results, [we express] gratitude to the RAS for the generous recognition of the technical and scientific achievement associated with this Group Achievement Award,” stated the SARAO. “The MeerKAT project derived from the aspiration to have a South African SKA precursor telescope that would be a powerful instrument in its own right. This award is accepted with pride because it confirms the successful rendition of this aspiration into physical reality on African soil.”

The MeerKAT team is the ninth winner of the Group Achievement Award. The award places it in the very top rank of major astronomy and astrophysics programmes and instruments active today. The previous winners were the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) team, in 2017; the Planck team (2018); the Galaxy Zoo team (2019); the Astropy Project team (2020); the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) team (2021); and the EAGLE simulations team (2022).

LIGO started the era of directly-detected gravitational-wave astronomy. Planck was a European Space Agency space telescope that operated from 2009 to 2013 and mapped the cosmic microwave background (relic radiation left over from the Big Bang, with which our universe started) in unprecedented detail. Galaxy Zoo is on ongoing project, which is focused on classifying galaxies by their shape and structure, thereby helping scientists understand how galaxies form and evolve; remarkably, this work is done by amateur scientists in their spare time, Galaxy Zoo providing the platform. The Astropy Project is actually a computer software project, aimed at creating a common core software package for the global astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology communities, permitting interoperability between research teams. The EHT captured the first direct image of a black hole (strictly speaking, of the shadow cast by the black hole on its surrounding disk of highly energetic matter), and continues its programme today. The EAGLE (Evolution and Assembly of GaLaxies and their Environments) team is focused on large-scale hydrodynamic simulations of what is called the Lambda Cold Dark Matter universe, with the primary objective of elucidating the formation of galaxies and their co-evolution with their associated and surrounding gas clouds.

MeerKAT is currently being extended. Its success, SARAO noted, has established that the scientific and technological preconditions for setting up the SKA-Mid telescope in South Africa have been met. (The SKA will be divided into a middle-frequency array in South Africa, which will incorporate MeerKAT, and a low-frequency array, in Australia.)

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter



Goodwin Submersible Pumps Africa (Pty) Ltd
Goodwin Submersible Pumps Africa (Pty) Ltd

Goodwin Submersible Pumps Africa is sole distributors for Goodwin electrically driven, submersible, abrasion resistance slurry pumps.


Rentech provides renewable energy products and services to the local and selected African markets. Supplying inverters, lithium and lead-acid...


Latest Multimedia

sponsored by

Magazine round up | 19 April 2024
Magazine round up | 19 April 2024
19th April 2024

Option 1 (equivalent of R125 a month):

Receive a weekly copy of Creamer Media's Engineering News & Mining Weekly magazine
(print copy for those in South Africa and e-magazine for those outside of South Africa)
Receive daily email newsletters
Access to full search results
Access archive of magazine back copies
Access to Projects in Progress
Access to ONE Research Report of your choice in PDF format

Option 2 (equivalent of R375 a month):

All benefits from Option 1
Access to Creamer Media's Research Channel Africa for ALL Research Reports, in PDF format, on various industrial and mining sectors including Electricity; Water; Energy Transition; Hydrogen; Roads, Rail and Ports; Coal; Gold; Platinum; Battery Metals; etc.

Already a subscriber?

Forgotten your password?







sq:0.148 0.208s - 166pq - 2rq
Subscribe Now