UKZN as­tronomers to make his­tory

Vuk'uzenzele - - Egdeunceartaioln - More Mat­shediso

A R70M SOUTH AFRICAN pro­ject will al­low for the se­crets of ra­dio bursts and dark en­ergy to be in­ves­ti­gated.

Amulti-mil­lion rand tele­scope will gen­er­ate cut­ting-edge South African science, stim­u­late eco­nomic and tech­no­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ment and train stu­dents in crit­i­cal skills.

The ground-break­ing Hy­dro­gen In­ten­sity and Real-time Anal­y­sis eX­per­i­ment (HIRAX) tele­scope is be­ing funded by the Uni­ver­sity of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and the na­tional Depart­ment of Science and Tech­nol­ogy through the Na­tional Re­search Foun­da­tion.

The HIRAX tele­scope is lo­cated at the Square Kilo­me­tre Ar­ray (SKA) South Africa site in the Ka­roo and will have im­por­tant syn­er­gies with the 64dish MeerKAT, the coun­try's pre­cur­sor to the SKA.

The ex­per­i­ment, which will be man­aged by UKZN, is the re­sult of a large global col­lab­o­ra­tion.

The re­searchers will un­der­take a tech­ni­cal pro­gramme that in­volves build­ing the in­stru­ment, car­ry­ing out science ob­ser­va­tions and analysing the raw data.

The pro­ject will work with in­dus­try to de­velop new tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion, such as tele­scope hard­ware and big data anal­y­sis tools.

HIRAX will be able to de­ter­mine the char­ac­ter­is­tics of dark en­ergy dur­ing a crit­i­cal pe­riod in the uni­verse, be­tween seven and 11 bil­lion years ago, when dark en­ergy be­came the cen­tral com­po­nent in the uni­verse.

Science and Tech­nol­ogy Min­is­ter Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said HIRAX will en­hance the na­tional sys­tem of in­no­va­tion by build­ing re­search and in­no­va­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties in the coun­try.

She said the train­ing of PhD stu­dents would con­tribute to the achieve­ment of the tar­get of 100 PhDs per mil­lion peo­ple by 2030 and in­spire the next gen­er­a­tion of learn­ers to en­ter the ex­cit­ing fields of science and en­gi­neer­ing.

Vuk’uzen­zele spoke to War­ren Naidoo, who is cur­rently study­ing to­wards a Mas­ter’s De­gree in ap­plied math­e­mat­ics at the uni­ver­sity.

Naidoo is do­ing his re­search in cos­mol­ogy which is the study of the ori­gin, evo­lu­tion, and fate of the uni­verse. He said the HIRAX pro­ject pro­vides stu­dents like him­self with an op­por­tu­nity to make valu­able con­tri­bu­tions to the as­tron­omy field.

“It will give us an op­por­tu­nity to in­ves­ti­gate some of the big­gest ques­tions in cur­rent cos­mol­ogy, and that has been a life­long dream for me,” he said.

War­ren Naidoo who is study­ing to­wards a Mas­ter’s De­gree in ap­plied math­e­mat­ics says HIRAX will ad­vance his knowl­edge.

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