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Eight African countries to get low-cost radio telescopes

Image: Tmolteno [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Instruments would allow Africa to train astronomers at “fraction” of current costs

African astronomers are planning to assemble low-cost telescopes in eight countries in a bid to train more scientists on the continent.

The Transient Array Radio Telescopes (Tarts) would be built in eight of the nine countries that belong to the African Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network.

South Africa, the ninth member of the network, already has two Tarts, one at Rhodes University in Makhanda and another at Stellenbosch University (pictured).

The telescope design was originally developed in New Zealand. It uses only open-source hardware, and the new telescopes will costs a mere €2,500 each.

African extension

Plans to build Tart in more African countries were discussed at a workshop held in Makhanda from 9 to 13 October.

The scheme would be supported by Rhodes University and the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (Sarao). The countries that would get the instruments are Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia.

“We are hoping to establish a vibrant Tart programme with African partners interested in expanding their teaching and research to include radio astronomy,” Bonita De Swardt, Sarao programme manager of strategic partnerships for human capital development, told the workshop.

She added that an African Tart network could collaborate on student workshops, academic exchanges and research collaborations.

Carla Michell, Africa programme manager at Sarao, said the telescopes would allow African countries to train students “at a fraction of the cost of using a conventional radio telescope”.

“It’s a win for Africa,” she added.

This article was updated on 19 October to update the pricing of the telescopes. An earlier version of the article stated that the telescopes cost €1,000, which is the price of an earlier design.