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The Four Tenors of Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory

Submitter: Michael Garrett
Description: During the recent e-VLBI meeting in South Africa (see recent AJDI by Z.Paragi), a visit to Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory was organised. By chance, this event brought together the three past directors and the current director of HartRAO in front of the 26 metre telescope and the urge to snap a picture of all four was irresistible. From left to right: Justin Jonas (Director No.2), Roy Booth (Director No.3), Mike Gaylard (current Director, No.4) and last but not least, George Nicholson (Director No.1).

Originally, the 26 metre telescope was constructed to track spacecraft as part of NASA's Deep Space Network, including the Apollo programme. When NASA gave the facility up in 1975, George Nicholson saw the possibility of dedicating the observatory to radio astronomy, including VLBI for both astronomy, astrometry and geodetic applications. In particular, the observatory now co-locates all the main geodetic measurement techniques: VLBI, Satellite Laser Ranger (SLR), Global Positioning System (GPS) and Doppler Orbitography by Radio positioning Integrated on Satellite (DORIS). This collocation makes HartRAO one of only a few fiducial reference points in the International Terrestrial Reference Frame (ITRF) and the only one on the African continent. Also hosting the KAT 15-metre prototype antenna, the observatory has a strong link with MeerKAT and South Africa's future SKA ambitions.
Copyright: ASTRON
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