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NC primed for astrotourism boom after MeerKAT launch

Local leaders say that they are confident that the town’s 9,400 residents will benefit hugely from the tourism boost.

The Square Kilometre Array is a large multi-radio telescope is a project hosted by Australia and South Africa. Sixty-four operational radio telescopes have been launched at the SKA site outside Carnarvon on 14 July 2018. Picture: Kevin Brandt/EWN

CARNARVON - With the MeerKAT radio satellite capturing world-first images of the galaxy from the Northern Cape province, astrotourism in the region is set to take off.

The precursor to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project was launched outside Carnarvon on Friday.

Local leaders say that they are confident that the town’s 9,400 residents will benefit hugely from the tourism boost.

Sixty-four radio satellites are now meticulously arranged across the Karoo region’s SKA site.

Kareeberg Municipality Mayor, Norman Van Wyk, says that R3 million has been spent on catering and a further R4 million on transport in the area since construction began in 2012.

One hundred and seven locals have been employed by the South African Astronomical Observatory between 2015 and 2017.

The Northern Cape Tourism Authority’s Dianna Martin, says plans are afoot to stimulate tourism activities along the broader Karoo Highlands Route.

"We have developed five routes in the Northern Cape to develop tourism into the area. People are coming and they are exposed to all the small villages of Williston, of Nieuwoudtville, Calvinia and then of course Carnarvon and Loxton and even to Victoria West and Fraserburg…”

She says that a new visitor information centre in town will allow tourists passing through to gain some insight into the SKA project and the surrounding communities.

WATCH: MeerKAT radio telescopes unveiled

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