MeerKAT Receives a Prestigious Award from the Royal Astronomical Society

Since MeerKAT began its full operation in 2018, it has made detailed discoveries of regions and objects in space within and beyond our galaxy. In a world where we live our lives in pursuit of more knowledge and understanding of our place in the universe, these discoveries are crucial in helping us build our story. And the MeerKAT telescope has made important data contributions allowing scientists to study more and expand our knowledge.

The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) has recognised these achievements and awarded the MeerKat team the 2023 Group Achievement Award (A). The RAS acknowledged that in a short amount of time, MeerKAT had made significant contributions to radio astronomy. 

Some of those contributions that RAS cited are MeerKAT images of the Galactic Centre region that revealed for the first time the fantastic large-scale radio bubbles around Sgr A* (Sagittarius A) and the evidence of a common origin for these bubbles. MeerKAT also tracked the radio afterglow of the first ever observed neutron star merger event and revealed powerful ejections from a stellar-mass black hole and contributed to the detection of the first afterglow from a gamma-ray burst detected by ground-based Cherenkov telescope.

Other than these contributions to Astronomy, the RAS has also acknowledged MeerKAT for supporting an intensive programme of human capital development in Africa, stress-testing the technology for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and helping to train the next generation of radio astronomers.

The SARAO website usually has opportunities to support students or scholars who are interested in or are already in the world of astronomy at certain times. These are in the form of specialised grants, workshops and skills development opportunities. If you’re looking for such opportunities, keeping an eye on the website will be worth your while.

The Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, welcomed the award to the team. He congratulated the MeerKAT team and also noted that the MeerKAT had also benefited local businesses, as the majority of materials used in construction were sourced locally, from towns near the telescope site, like Carnarvon, essentially benefiting poor communities.

MeerKAT continues to make ground-breaking discoveries, providing unprecedentedly clear data and contributing to and shaping our knowledge of the universe within which we exist, that’s something worth an award, isn’t it?