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The last of SA’s 64 radio dishes for the homegrown MeerKAT telescope will be in the ground later in March. While radio engineers have been getting the telescope ready, data scientists are preparing for the deluge of data that the telescope will generate — and other scientific disciplines are eyeing this capacity. SA has invested heavily in astronomy, in the region of billions of rand, although an exact figure is difficult to determine. The government views the scientific discipline as a way to generate the skilled graduates and technicians the economy requires, and to use SA’s geographic advantage of clear skies to boost research and technological niches. On completion in the 2030s, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will be the world’s largest radio telescope, with a total receiving area of 1km². It will be 50 times more sensitive than current telescopes and will aim to answer some of humanity’s most enigmatic questions, such as whether humans are alone in the universe, what happened...

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