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Edward Love

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Article commissioned for Indwe Magazine in South Africa

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SA Express' Indwe Magazine ran this feature on the Meerkat/SKA project, a major array of dish antennas designed to probe the depths of space. The SKA project is of worldwide significance, and I travelled to Namaqua Engineering in Vredendal to meet the South African team helping to bring these monocles into our great unknown to life.

Sample

The biggest science project Africa has ever seen begins with a small nodule of steel, called a node. It’s flat, rectangular and weighs about as much as a light dumbbell, with holes drilled through its frame to accommodate steel pipes. Navigate the pipes through the nodes – 284 in total – and you’ve got the backbone for a telescope.

But no ordinary telescope.

The humble node is the lifeblood of all that flows through it, and the building block of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), a battalion of telescopes shaped like enormous satellite dishes that are being installed in Carnarvon, South Africa. The array will comprise a kilometre of land and will capture data alongside eight other sites across Africa – and Western Australia too.