Saturday, March 23, 2013

Little Maya and the Big Radio Telescope: Day Trip to Carnarvon

A quick and frantic post while taking a break from packing/attempting to eat the remaining contents of my refrigerator since I'm leaving for Ethiopia in apprx 13 hours (!!!)

This week, I had the special opportunity to visit Carnarvon in the Northern Cape, which is home to the main site of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), soon-to-be largest radio telescope in the world. Right now, the site is only home to KAT-7, the seven-dish precursor to MeerKAT, which will consist of 50+ dishes and be the pilot project for the 1000+ (yes, not a typo -- ONE THOUSAND) SKA dishes to come over the next decade or so. In total, the SKA will have 3000+ dishes, and span two continents, making it the most sensitive and powerful telescope on the globe.

In summary: Big Science to happen here SOON.

Five of the seven KAT-7 dishes 
At SciFest last week, I met Dr. Nadeem Oozeer, Operations and Commissioning Scientist for the SKA, and he offered to show JC (new project director of the OAD) and I around the SKA site. Nadeem organized for us to fly to Carnarvon and back on the same day with the special SKA 8-passenger plane, and so we were able to see this fairly remote place in the Karoo without having to make a huge trip.
JC and Nadeem at the top of the hill above the KAT-7
Tiny plane we took to Carnavron! Felt like a celebrity.

It was awesome! Again, I felt like I was meeting a celebrity when I saw the KAT-7 dishes. It's wonderful to think of all of the incredible science that will come out of this place in the years ahead. I also hope/expect that, as with SALT in Sutherland, the SKA will work to contribute to the community of Carnavron. It will be cool to come back in a few years and see what it's like!
Giving one of the KAT-7 dishes some love

Many many thanks to Nadeem for taking the time to show us around the site and organizing our trip up! 

1 comment:

  1. Little Maya and her PRIVATE JET. nbd.

    <3. mkc