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Wildlife Wednesday - When is MeerKAT not a Meerkat?

Posted Wed, 22 Feb 2012 (2 years ago)
When it is a telescope! As part of the SKA (Square Kilometre Array) bid, South Africa has designed and developed the MeerKAT.

The MeerKAT array, currently taking shape in South Africa's Karoo region, is a world-class radio telescope designed to do ground-breaking science. It will be the largest and most sensitive radio telescope in the southern hemisphere until the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is completed around 2024.  Via MeerKAT, South Africa is playing a key role in design and technology developments for the SKA.

Artist's Impression

Close to 100 young scientists and engineers are working on the MeerKAT project. Based at the engineering office in Cape Town, and at universities and technology companies across South Africa and Africa, these researchers interact closely with SKA teams around the world. In collaboration with South African industry and universities, and collaborating with global institutions, the South African team has developed technologies and systems for the MeerKAT telescope, including innovative composite telescope dishes and cutting-edge signal processing hardware and algorithms.

Artist's Impression

The KAT-7 precursor array has been constructed and is being used as an engineering and science prototype.

Infromation from http://www.ska.ac.za/meerkat/

 

The wildlife meerkat or suricate, Suricata suricatta, is a small mammal belonging to the mongoose family. Meerkats live in all parts of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, in much of the Namib Desert in Namibia and south western Angola, and in South Africa. A group of meerkats is called a ‘mob’, ‘gang’ or ‘clan’. A meerkat clan often contains about 20 meerkats, but some super-families have 50 or more members. In captivity, meerkats have an average life span of 12–14 years, and about half this in the wild.

‘Meerkat’ is an Afrikaans word. The name has a Dutch origin but by misidentification. Dutch meerkat refers to the ‘guenon’, a monkey of the Cercopithecus genus. The word ‘meerkat’ is Dutch for ‘lake cat’, but the suricata is not in the cat family, and neither suricatas nor guenons are attracted to lakes; the word possibly started as a Dutch adaptation of a derivative of Sanskrit markata = ‘monkey’, perhaps in Africa via an Indian sailor on board a Dutch East India Company ship. The traders of the Dutch East India Company were likely familiar with monkeys, but the Dutch settlers attached the name to the wrong animal at the Cape. The suricata is called stokstaartje = ‘little stick-tail’ in Dutch. 

According to African popular belief (mainly in the Zambian/Zimbabwean region), the meerkat is also known as the sun angel, as it protects villages from the moon devil or the werewolf which is believed to attack stray cattle or lone tribesmen.  Information from www.wikipedia.com


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