India and South Africa collaborate in tracing evolution of Galaxies


Two countries with supportive partnership of 20 years between India and South Africa decided to collaborate and investigate the evolution of galaxies.

The world’s most powerful radio telescope Square Kilometer Array (SKA) with stations located in Africa and Australia. India set to participate with South Africa working with signals at a longer wavelength.

“Research areas that India and South Africa have been collaborating on include the study of transient events. Developing new technology for optical and radio telescopes, and future research with the SKA,” Steven M. Crawford, SALT Science Data Manager, South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), told IANS. “It is a very exciting time for South Africa-India collaboration especially with how quickly both the communities are growing”, Crawford says

MeerKAT radio telescope

The Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) is the largest optical telescope in Southern Hemisphere. The SAAO operates it on behalf of the SALT foundation. Although, it includes South Africa, Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics in Pune, India, and other international partners. Meanwhile, it can detect invisible gas and can reveal areas of space that may be obscured by cosmic dust. Further, MeerKAT, a 64-dish precursor radio telescope to SKA. In the 2020s, SKA will have a chance of at least 3,000 dishes spread across a square kilometer spanning two continents.

However, there are a number of key science programs. It will be done and some of these involve South Africa and India partnerships. An international team of researchers led by N. Gupta and R. Srianand of Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune, will use MeerKAT in its first five years of operations to carry out the MeerKAT Absorption Line Survey (MALS) to trace the evolution of galaxies. Crawford, to trace the distribution of galaxies and matter in the universe.

Petabytes of Raw Data

In addition, the MeerKAT telescope will start functioning at full capacity in 2018. But it is already generating data from its 16 to 32 dishes. Over five years, MALS will produce four petabytes of raw data and 12 PB of science data products images and spectra.

Moreover, a close collaboration with SKA South Africa has set up to deal with this challenge. For MALS, we are exploring new methods of data processing. The crossroads of traditional astronomy, applied mathematics, and computer science technologies,” he said.