Southern Africa set to host world’s largest radio telescope

KAT-7 is the world’s first radio telescope built in the Karoo, South Africa’s semi-desert hinterland. It’s the basis for what’s known as the MeerKAT array, a world-class radio telescope that will be made up of 64 dishes designed to do ground-breaking science.

All of this is just a prec-cursor to what people are calling the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). A plan to array thousands of receptors extending out to distances of 3,000 km from a central core region. The SKA will be the largest and most sensitive radio telescope ever built, used to address fundamental unanswered questions about our Universe including how the first stars and galaxies formed after the Big Bang, how galaxies have evolved since then, the role of magnetism in the cosmos, the nature of gravity, and the search for life beyond Earth.

Sites in South Africa and Australia have been short-listed to host the central core of the SKA telescope. If located in South Africa, the SKA antennas would extend from the Karoo as far out as the Indian Ocean islands. A decision is expected to be made later this month.

Artist’s impression of the SKA dishes. Credit: SPDO/TDP/DRAO/Swinburne Astronomy Productions.

Find out more about SKA and SKA Africa

Did you know? The Karoo is ideal for stargazing – it’s one of the darkest spots on earth with very little light pollution. Sutherland, in the Karoo, is home to the renowned SALT Observatory where you can do night time star gazing of the celestial big five.

Sutherland SKA telescope



I’m Holly - born and raised in the rural British Counties, my mother began life on a sugar farm in Zululand. After reading Anthropology at university in London, working for a political activist filmmaker in India, and doing a short stint under the bright lights of Bollywood – I decided it was time to return to the motherland. To earn a crust in the name of wanderlust, I finished up a post grad in media and hotfooted around South Africa as a freelance travel journalist.

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