Daily Management Review

South Africa’s Giant Telescope – SALT, is Proving its Worth


04/30/2016




South Africa’s Giant Telescope – SALT, is Proving its Worth
In what is being described as the latest co-discovery that has astronomers eager to use the largest optical telescope in the southern hemisphere to unlock the galaxy's secrets, South Africa’s SALT telescope has helped detect the first white dwarf pulsar.
 
A senior astronomer at the SALT consortium during a media visit that the quick reaction times, as well as being significantly cheaper than similar European or American facilities in producing the science are key competitive advantages.
 
 “SALT is now living up to expectations, producing high-quality science data that probe the far reaches of the universe,” said Ted Williams, a director at the South African Astronomical Observatory managing the site.
 
Neutron stars, large objects about the size of the Sun that have compacted down at the end of their lives to something about 10 km (six miles) across have been known to scientists as the last stop before a black hole.
 
Pulsars, which emit regular pulses of radio waves and other electromagnetic radiation at rates of up to one thousand pulses per second, are produced by these incredibly dense objects and these objects have been known to exist and scientists have been reading them for decades now.
 
“But there is another class of compact objects called white dwarfs, bigger, the size of the earth. So rather than 10 kilometers in size we are looking at 6,000 kilometers and we’ve just discovered the very first white dwarf pulsar,” Williams said of the previously unknown celestial phenomena.
 
The $43 million SALT telescope used its powerful spectroscopy light measurement tool to prove the existence of the white dwarf pulsar and is situated atop a hill in the desolate Northern Cape around 350 km north of Cape Town.
 
SALT’s queuing system allows it to interrupt routine observations and within minutes focus its 10-metre optical telescope on new discoveries and is shared by a consortium of partners from South Africa, India, America and Europe, said Williams.
 
A spectrum of a supernova in the nearby Centaurus A galaxy was taken for the first time in history by SALT - a major telescope, in February hours after its discovery of the supernova.
 
The biggest explosions ever recorded in the universe, 200 times more powerful than a typical supernova and believed to have shone at 570 billion times the brightness of the Sun was alsp helped to be recorded by SALT. 
 
“It is what we wanted for South Africa and for Africa, not to stay at the margins but actually at the center and beginning to do world-class quality work,” said Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s science minister who visited the telescope.

The $2 billion "Square Kilometre Array" telescope which will study the origins of the universe and help probe for extraterrestrial life is being co-hosted by South Africa together with Australia. This telescope is reportedly the  world's biggest and most advanced radio telescope.
 
(Source:www.reuters.com) 






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