The Meerlicht Optical Telescope, unveiled in Sutherland on Friday, has been set up to help scientists gain a better understanding of the vast cosmos. The University of Cape Town is responsible for the high powered telescope, which is a sister to the MeerKat, a radio array telescope.
MeerLICHT, the Dutch translation for ‘more light’ – is an astronomical project which aims to provide a simultaneous, real-time optical view of the radio (transient) sky as observed by MeerKAT, South Africa’s SKA precursor radio telescope array. As such, it provides a uniquely broad contemporaneous view of the southern skies through multiple windows of the electromagnetic spectrum – says UCT.
By combining the excellent resolution of both telescopes, astronomers will be able to study galaxies in two parts of the spectrum simultaneously. For six years, scientists have been hard at work on the technology to make the telescope successful, and finally it was pieced together.
MeerLICHT will be run by the South African Astronomical Observatory – and will map insight into exploding stars across the universe in a whole new dimension.
The team behind the telescope say it can see the area of more than 13 times the full moon, while being able to resolve 1km on the moon and sees objects one million times fainter than is possible with the naked eye.
The telescope “achieves this amazing combination” by coupling a 65cm-diameter main mirror with a single 100-megapixel detector‚ which is a full 10cm x 10cm. This is the largest single detector used in optical astronomy anywhere in the world. It was designed and built in the Netherlands‚ then shipped and assembled in South Africa.
“It fits perfectly in our strategy to turn the Sutherland Observatory into an efficient transient machine to study the dynamic universe‚” said the observatory’s Dr David Buckley yo TimesLive.