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How wet is it here?

Submitter: Rob Millenaar
Description: Well, not very, even though the image suggests otherwise. What you see here is one of the two small dishes that are pointed towards a geostationary satellite. The location is in the Karoo, the site of KAT7 and the future MeerKAT array, and possibly also the SKA. The latter depends on the decision for the site of the SKA: Australia or Africa.

One of the many aspects that will decide where it will go is the quality of the core site for doing radio astronomy, and one of the parameters that are studied is the stability of the troposphere. Using an interferometer with a baseline of about 200 meters the phase stability of the troposphere over the site is recorded during a campaign that hast just started in South Africa. As soon as Australia has followed suit, at least one year of data will be collected at both sites. This will be processed and analyzed to give statistics on the delays exerted on the incoming wavefront by tropospheric phenomena such as clouds.

The instrumentation was built by JPL and was recently commissioned by a team from SKA Africa and SPDO. The system is operating as expected and is taking data, oblivious of the stunning scenery.

Courtesy of JPL, SPDO, SKA Africa.
Copyright: Rob Millenaar
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