Cape Town, South Africa, Monday 6 March 2017 – The Hydrogen Epoch of Reionization Array (HERA) radio telescope, an SKA precursor telescope located on the South African SKA site, was last week awarded a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in the US to the value of USD 5.8 million. The grant was given to MIT, one of the partners in HERA, with Jacqueline N Hewitt, director of the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, as lead investigator on the grant.
In September 2016, the US National Science Foundation (NSF) invested USD 9.5 million in the project and HERA was granted the status of SKA precursor telescope – a designation for telescopes on the SKA sites carrying out scientific study related to future SKA activities as well as helping the development and testing of new crucial SKA technologies. The NSF funding allowed the array to expand to 240 radio dishes by 2018. This additional funding injection from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation will allow HERA to expand even further to 350 dishes.
HERA is one of a number of low frequency radio telescopes, including the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) in Australia and the Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR) in the Netherlands that are pathfinders for SKA1-low to be located in Australia. The experiment is designed to detect the distinctive signature that would allow astronomers to understand the formation and evolution of the very first luminous sources: the first stars and galaxies in the Universe – a period the scientists call the Epoch of Reionization (EoR). The build materials, items, and labour involved in the construction of HERA’s reflector elements have all been sourced from within South Africa, with most of the bulk materials sourced from within the Karoo region itself.
Dr Rob Adam, Managing Director of SKA South Africa said: “It is particularly fitting that the man who originated Moore’s Law, Gordon Moore, is affiliated to the SKA project through this Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation grant.” Gordon Moore is the chairman and co-founder of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The foundation was established by Gordon and Betty Moore to create positive outcomes for future generations by fostering among other things path-breaking scientific discovery. Gordon Moore predicted in 1965 that there will be a steady shrinking of computer chip circuitry. This idea that transistor density would double with each new generation of technology is referred to as Moore’s Law.