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Telescope to get fibre-optic link

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The National Research Foundation (NRF) has made available R64 million to the South African National Research and Education Network (SANREN) for the construction of an Internet broadband fibre-optic link to the national fibre optic backbone.

The link will bring fast internet connectivity to the very remote site in the Northern Cape outside Carnarvon, where South Africa is building the MeerKAT and plans to construct the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope which South Africa is bidding for. The Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) in Sutherland will also be linked to the national fibre optic backbone thus drastically improving data transmission to the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), where data from the SALT is analysed.

‚This investment further demonstrates South Africa’s commitment to research in astronomy and astrophysics. The NRF is pleased to have been able to secure these funds so as to provide the necessary infrastructural support to the work being done at SALT and to future operations of MeerKAT. This investment is also a clear indication of our commitment to South Africa’s bid to host the Square Kilometre Array telescope.‚ said Dr Gatsha Mazithulela, Vice President: Research Infrastructure & National Research Facilities.

The linking of these sites to the to the SANREN broadband fibre-optic backbone will increase data transmission speeds to between 1Gb/Sec and 10Gb/Sec.

Commenting on the investment, the Chairperson of the SALT Board Dr. Ted Williams said “This high-speed network will complete a long-term effort to allow data to flow in near-real time from SALT to the South African Astronomical Observatory, South African universities and the international partners. Not only will this enhance the efficiency and productivity of the telescope, it will also significantly strengthen our outreach and educational programs. We applaud the commitment and foresight of the NRF that has made this achievement possible.””

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