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MeerKAT radio array produces clearest picture of the galaxy yet

The MeerKAT is the precursor to the square kilometre array, which will be the world's biggest radio telescope when it's complete.

Clearest picture yet of the centre of the Milky Way taken by the MeerKAT. Picture: Supplied

CAPE TOWN - Ever wondered what the centre of the galaxy looks like?

Well, we have our clearest image yet, thanks to the MeerKAT radio array in the tiny Northern Cape town of Carnarvon.

The MeerKAT is the precursor to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), which will be the world's biggest radio telescope when it's complete.

Scientists revealed the image of the centre of the Milky Way earlier on Friday.

There are 64 satellite dishes at the Northern Cape site right now but by the time the SKA is completed, there will be dozens more covering a full square kilometre.

Astronomers believe harnessing the power of those telescopes will yield the best images of the universe ever produced.

They believe it will be particularly useful in the study of pulsars, celestial bodies that from earth look like rapidly blinking stars.

This, in turn, could help scientists understand extreme states of matter.

For the moment though, the centre of the galaxy is the big boast and one of the clearest images ever produced.

SKA chief scientists Fernando Camilo said: “Many of the projects on the telescope can start using the capabilities that we have and by the end of this year, we’ll have new capabilities. By sometime next year roughly speaking, we should be having all the capabilities that scientists have been waiting for for nine years or so.”

Other projects will focus on the study of how stars form and how galaxies interact with each other when they are found in clusters.