Page 68 - UCT Research Report 2011

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UCT Research Report '11
and supernovae or the relativistic outflow of material from
an accretion neutron star or black hole) with MeerKAT
The department’s access to SALT (the Southern African
Large Telescope in Sutherland) allows them to combine
optical and radiotelescopic images. This is significant
because a complementary telescope working at a different
wavelength provides a different – and therefore very
valuable – piece of the puzzle to researchers. This is
particularly relevant for LADUMA, which has been rated
as one of two Priority Group 1 surveys to be performed
on MeerKAT.
Through SALT, researchers measure the distances to
the galaxies (redshifts), enabling them to calculate
the average (neutral gas) mass of galaxies in their
observations. The survey will be the deepest neutral
hydrogen survey to date and has been awarded 5
000 hours to observe a single pointing centred on the
Extended Chandra Deep Field South (ECDF-S), with
the aim of observing neutral hydrogen in galaxies out to
redshifts greater than one.
Associate Professor Patrick Woudt explains the real-
time observations that will be done with MeerKAT within
the ThunderKAT project will open a new time domain in
astrophysics. “The multi-wavelength approach is critical
in modern-day astrophysics,” he says.
“By looking at the sky in very high cadence, you can see
the variation of celestial bodies quickly and when you see
it in real time, you can trigger an immediate follow-up at
other telescopes to study the object during an outburst.
That was not possible in the past – the real-time element
is enabling new science.”
Associate Professor Woudt emphasises there is more
than enough reason to be excited about the projects
involving MeerKAT and its precursor KAT-7, regardless
of the SKA.
“Each of the (MeerKAT) projects involves teams of
between 30 to 50 people from the international astronomy
community, who are experts in the field and everyone is
excited to come to South Africa to work on MeerKAT. It
is obvious that the South African landscape is changing
for astronomy.”
As was seen over the past year with KAT-7, astronomy
breakthroughs aren’t waiting for MeerKAT or the SKA,
with the capture of images of the first atomic hydrogen
spectral line of NGC 3 109, a small spiral galaxy about
4.3 million light-years away from earth, located in the
Hydra constellation. The department announced in
March 2011 that the team, led by UCT PhD student
Bradley Frank, saw neutral hydrogen gas (HI) emission,
as well as the movement of the galaxy itself, linking up
to the science planned for MeerKAT and the SKA, where
astronomers are planning to map the Universe and
determine how it has changed over time.
As the South African SKA Research Chair in Multi-
Wavelength Astronomy in the department, Professor
Claude Carignan believes this is only the beginning of
many breakthroughs to come.
“One of the big science drivers for the SKA is to look
for neutral hydrogen. We have shown we can do it with
seven antennas (from KAT-7). When MeerKAT is up and
running, with its 64 antennas, we will do research that
cannot be done anywhere else.”
Research grouping
associated with this theme
Astrophysics, Cosmology and Gravity Centre
The Astrophysics, Cosmology and Gravity Centre (ACGC) is a research centre incorporating members of the
UCT Department of Astronomy and the Cosmology and Gravity Group from the UCT Department of Mathematics
and Applied Mathematics. The ACGC aims to create a research environment at UCT in which South African-led
cutting-edge science projects will be discussed, developed and taken to fruition. Maximising the opportunities
for interaction between theorists and multi-wavelength observers is essential for stimulating new approaches
to research. The centre also aims to become an attractive location for postgraduate students and postdoctoral
fellows, as well as international visitors.
Directors: Professor R.C. Kraan-Korteweg and Professor P.K.S. Dunsby E-mail: and Web:
“Each of the (MeerKAT) projects
involves teams of between 30 to
50 people from the internat ional
astronomy communi ty, who are
experts in the field.”