"The centre of the galaxy was an obvious target: unique, visually striking and full of unexplained phenomena - but also notoriously hard to image using radio telescopes", Fernando Camilo, the chief scientist of SARAO, explains in a statement.
With a stunning image of the galactic centre to mark its inauguration, South Africa's Deputy President Mr David Mabuza unveiled MeerKAT, a set of 64 telescopes that has already joined the ranks of the world's great scientific instruments and will one day be incorporated into something even larger.
The telescope is being built by an worldwide consortium, including Australia, Britain, Canada, China, India, Italy, New Zealand, Sweden and the Netherlands.
The end result of MeerKAT's observations is a panorama shot spanning an area of about 1,000 light-years by 500 light-years.
There is a new radio telescope up and running now, based in Karoo, South Africa.
"Although it's early days with MeerKAT, and a lot remains to be optimized, we made a decision to go for it - and were stunned by the results", Camilo continued.
The MeerKAT has allowed astronomers to view this distinctive region using infrared, X-ray, and radio wavelengths.
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"This image is remarkable", said Farhad Yusef-Zadeh of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
The center of the Milky Way, 25,000 light-years from Earth and lying behind the group of stars Sagittarius (the "Teapot"), is perpetually covered by intervening clouds of gas and residue, making it undetectable from Earth utilizing normal telescopes.
The 64 MeerKAT dishes will eventually be absorbed into the first phase of the SKA, which will consist of another 130 dishes in South Africa and up to a 130,000 antennae in Australia. "The MeerKAT image has such clarity".
Parts of MeerKAT have been collecting data since they were erected in 2016. The recent image has shown compact sources associated with the structures that might help solve the three-decade-old riddle, he said.
"With this new instrument, South Africa stands poised to be at the forefront of astronomy and data science". After further offline analysis, images of the radio sky are generated.
The biggest radio telescope of its kind in the southern hemisphere, MeerKAT looks like a cluster of eggs when you first see it about an hour's drive outside Carnarvon.
The project has spurred the country's astronomy ambitions, which take advantage of conditions in places such as the Northern Cape, a sparsely populated area selected for its reliably cloudless skies.