Officially launched in July, the telescope has also made South Africa a key global destination for radio astronomy. The telescope is used by scientists to study hydrogen activity and pulsars.
MeerKAT was funded by the South African government and 75% of the work went to local companies. Organizers say the project supported over 7,000 jobs in rural local communities.
EMSS Antennas, which is based near Cape Town, built the receivers for MeerKAT using a team of 30 engineers.
The telescope is made up of 64 satellite dishes that are connected across five miles in a semi-arid and sparsely populated area of South Africa, where signal interference is minimal.
“It’s the clearest view ever made of the center of our galaxy,” chief scientist Fernando Camilo said of images produced by the MeerKAT radio telescope.
Each satellite dish stands 65 feet tall, and weighs roughly as much as seven large African bush elephants. The number and sensitivity of the dishes have enabled scientists to produce breakthrough images using the telescope.
“They just did everything right,” said Farhad Yusef-Zadeh, an astronomy expert at Northwestern University in Illinois. “This image that I saw it just blew me away, I never thought we would see these details.”