SKA will help us see galaxies far, far away

The University of Pretoria’s first PhD graduate in astrophysics is gearing up to use the world’s largest radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array.

01 July 2024

Charissa Button

From black holes to dark matter, studying the universe may seem abstract, but it actually has everyday implications that influence technology, innovation and how we understand the world. Astrophysics, and radio astronomy in particular, is a burgeoning field because it allows scientists to observe cosmic phenomena that can’t be seen with optical telescopes.

In the Karoo, near Carnarvon, two radio telescopes – the SKA (Square Kilometre Array) and its precursor, MeerKAT – have inspired many budding scientists. For Charissa Button, the University of Pretoria’s first PhD graduate in astrophysics, these groundbreaking instruments fuelled her desire to study radio astronomy. “While I was doing my undergraduate studies, I heard about the field of radio astronomy and the MeerKAT project in South Africa,” says Button. While MeerKAT officially started operating in 2018, SKA’s construction only started in 2022 and is only expected to be fully operational by 2028.

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