Editor’s Note: This story was originally published August 6, 2018
A telescope built in South Africa is revealing new details about the Milky Way.
“It’s the clearest view ever made of the center of our galaxy,” chief scientist Fernando Camilo said of images produced by the MeerKAT radio telescope.
The telescope is made up of 64 satellite dishes that are connected across five miles in a semi-arid and sparsely populated area of South Africa, where signal interference is minimal.
Each satellite dish stands 65 feet tall, and weighs roughly as much as seven large African bush elephants. The number and sensitivity of the dishes have enabled scientists to produce breakthrough images using the telescope.
“They just did everything right,” said Farhad Yusef-Zadeh, an astronomy expert at Northwestern University in Illinois. “This image that I saw it just blew me away, I never thought we would see these details.”
Built over 10 years at a cost of $330 million, the telescope is used by scientists to study hydrogen activity and pulsars. MeerKAT could deepen our understanding of how the universe was formed, and is “the best in the world” at what it does, according to Camilo.