Huge job underpins South Africa’s big eye on the sky

2013-08-19 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Throwing foundations for the biggest telescope dishes in the world isn’t like building a house.

The mammoth task of building the foundations for the 64 dish antennas that make up the MeerKat telescope has begun and will take the next nine months.

MeerKat will be the world’s biggest radio telecope for several years, until work begins on the even bigger Square Kilometre Array (SKA) facility.

Each foundation will contain 78 m³ of concrete and nine tons of steel.

“To design and build a foundation for a highly technical telescope is complex, because it has to comply with a series of standards,” said Tracey Cheetham, infrastructure manager of SKA South Africa.

The foundation has to support an antenna 13,5 metres wide and 19 metres high. The structure has to withstand winds of up to 69 km/h and earth lightning bolts to protect the equipment from damage.

Each foundation consists of eight steel-reinforced concrete pilings sunk five to 10 metres deep according to ground conditions. On top rests a concrete slab — 5,2 m by 5,2 m, and 1,25 metres thick. On this, 32 giant bolts placed in a circle form a so-called “bird’s nest”, filled with concrete.

Cheetham said tests will be done on the first foundation to ensure that it complies with all necessary standards.

“It has to be done absolutely perfectly, to support the science to be performed with the instrument.”

The foundations are being built in concert with Brink & Health Civils.

The configuration of the MeerKat array has been determined and laid out using yellow and black kerbstones. This is one of the most critical elements of the telescope, the antennae are not built randomly but according to a very specific grid pattern so they form one unit to look into space.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


10 best dressed men of 2017

And the awards for 2017's best dressed gentlemen go to...


You won't want to miss...

How to open a beer bottle without an opener
WATCH: Man films himself going down water slide upside down as things go very wrong…
WATCH: Conor McGregor: Notorious the trailer
Best date night restaurants in South Africa
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.