Launching the largest telescope in the world
Part I: All eyes on South Africa
Launching the largest telescope in the world
Levison Wood FRGS has explored over 100 countries. His documented expeditions cover the Nile, the Americas, Himalayas, Eastern Europe and the entire Arabian Peninsula. So why visit South Africa and what makes this region different? Levison tells CNBC Catalyst, “South Africa has a raw energy that makes anything seem possible — the culture is incredibly vibrant, nothing stands still. And Cape Town is at the heart of this ongoing positive change.”
Levison meets Justin Jonas, chief technologist of SKA International and lead of MeerKAT telescope project, to find out why Cape Town is an innovation and networking hub for over 500 global scientists.
Against the backdrop of Table Mountain, Levison visits the Iziko Museum Planetarium, one of the most digitally-advanced planetariums on the continent. Not only does the center offer immersive (3D and 8K) educational experiences, it’s also a hub for e-research, data collation and cross-sector collaboration. The planetarium is a second home for Justin Jonas of SKA International who is responsible for launching the highly-innovative MeerKAT telescope. It’s a major world-first and has already attracted $2.1 billion dollars of investment. The team comprises over 500 global scientists from disciplines including astronomy, physics and space intelligence. But what is the impact of MeerKAT — and can South Africa really claim to be a leading tech hub?
Justin explains to Levison, “South Africa really is at the bleeding-edge of advances in tech. We’re doing things here that nobody else has ever seen. MeerKAT can scan the sky 10,000 times faster than any other telescope and exceeds the quality of Hubble images. It’s a precursor to the planned SKA (Square Kilometer Array) telescope which is described in the industry as ‘one of the most ambitious international science projects in history.’”
SKA will incorporate MeerKAT’s 64 antennas, technology developed by an international consortium that includes Oxford and Cambridge University. With launch of SKA planned for 2020s, Justin believes that constant knowledge exchange and networking is key to innovation: “Experts from all sectors meet here in South Africa. Cape Town International Conference Centre (CICC) is a great springboard to launch ideas to a global audience.”
Justin hints that conferences are only part of the picture, “We meet like-minded people at CICC — but my SKA team also visits research centers and different industry sites across South Africa to ensure we stay at the forefront of global innovation. Our technology impacts everything from space to marine conservation.”
Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo, chief convention bureau officer, The South African National Convention Bureau (SANCB) agrees, “There is a great opportunity to network here and brush shoulders with global experts. Conventions not only benefit the South African business scene but the worldwide knowledge economy. Our message is clear: ‘Come to South Africa, drink from the fountain of innovation then go out and share it with the world’.”
As a conservationist, Levison is acutely aware of the urgent need to stabilize ecosystems and support species. South Africa’s geographical location between two oceans provides the perfect opportunity to observe sharks, seals and numerous wildlife in one place so it’s only right that he takes a short trip to Seal Island to witness species in their natural habitat. Shark cage diving is also on the agenda where onboard marine scientists collate shark data to monitor species’ wellbeing. As Levison is lowered into the water and sharks surround the cage, he observes that “this is nature at its rawest.” For those who travel to Cape Town, the entire experience can be all in a day’s work.
‘Meet Here, Grow Anywhere’
The primary focus of The SANCB is to grow world class business events in South Africa. As the host of COP17, FIFA World Cup, WEF, International AIDS conference, BRICS and many more, South Africa is fast-gaining a reputation for enabling and exporting the world’s next big ideas. Our focused MICE strategy (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) connects business leaders to the right audiences, skills and knowledge. Thanks to South Africa’s rich and diverse history and culture, delegates benefit from a truly innovative and unique experience. The SANCB supports all aspects of your conference, from planning to navigating government policy to marketing and launch.