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The NRF receives its mandate from the National Research Foundation Act (Act No 23 of 1998, as amended). According to Section 3 of the Act, the object of the NRF is to contribute to national development by:
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Africa’s leading research facility for accelerator based science. Probing fundamental structure and the origins of matter; Advancing the understanding of condensed matter; Impacting the Societal need through provision for the health and environmental sector
The iThemba Laboratory for Accelerator Based Sciences is the continents' biggest facility for particle and nuclear research.
The SAAO is a national facility of the NRF and the national centre for optical and infrared astronomy in South Africa.
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SAIAB provides unique skills and infrastructure support in marine, estuarine and freshwater ecosystems research, molecular research, collections and bioinformatics.
SARAO is a national facility of the NRF and incorporates radio astronomy instruments and programmes such as MeerKAT and KAT-7 telescopes in the Karoo, (HartRAO) in Gauteng...
South Africa’s innovation revolution must assist in solving our society’s deep and pressing socio-economic challenges. Global competitiveness, shrinking resource availability, and the requirements of a skilled labour force mean that, increasingly, an awareness and understanding of why science and research are critical to our lives is essential for developing an innovation culture.
Within the next five years, the aim is to begin to more fully embed engagement in and with science in the core NRF missions of supporting and promoting new knowledge and growing new knowledge workers. This is led by the formulation of an acceptable NRF position on engaged research which will guide the NRF approach…
NRF | SAASTA is the NRF business division tasked with leading and coordinating the science engagement programme across the NRF and beyond. The NRF is equally committed to ensuring that the science engagement leadership and national coordination role…
The NRF provides leading-edge research infrastructure platforms that ensure that the national research enterprise has the requisite infrastructure to undertake globally competitive discovery science, train the next generation of researchers, support engagement with science by and with the public and promote innovation that positively impacts society, the environment, the economy.
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The National Research Foundation (NRF) is guided by its Supply Chain Management Policy in its procurement of goods and services. The Policy sets out the prescripts issued by National Treasury with the exact note referenced in the footnotes. The Supply Chain Management policy adheres to the National Treasury’s prescribed supply chain system framework.
The NRF’s Supply Chain Management Policy and the conduct of supply chain management at the NRF seeks to give effect to section 217 of the South African Constitution which requires that all procurement of goods and services must be done in a manner that is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective.
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Two giant radio galaxies have been discovered with South Africa’s powerful MeerKAT telescope. These galaxies are amongst the largest single objects in the Universe and are thought to be quite rare.
The fact that MeerKAT detected two of these monsters in a relatively small patch of sky suggests that giant radio galaxies may actually be much more common than previously thought. This gives astronomers further vital clues about how galaxies have changed and evolved throughout cosmic history.
The discovery has been published today, Monday, 18 January 2021 in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
In some active galaxies, charged particles interact with the strong magnetic fields near the black hole and release huge beams, or ‘jets’, of radio light. The radio jets of these so-called ‘radio galaxies’ can be many times larger than the galaxy itself and can extend vast distances into intergalactic space.Many galaxies have supermassive black holes residing in their midst. When large amounts of interstellar gas start to orbit and fall in towards the black hole, the black hole becomes ‘active’ and huge amounts of energy are released from this region of the galaxy.
Dr Jacinta Delhaize, a Research Fellow at the University of Cape Town and lead author of the work, said “Many hundreds of thousands of radio galaxies have already been discovered. However, only around 800 of these have radio jets exceeding 700 kilo-parsecs in size, or around 22 times the size of the Milky Way. These truly enormous systems are called ‘giant radio galaxies’.”
Despite the scarcity of giant radio galaxies, the authors found two of these cosmic beasts in a remarkably small patch of sky.
Dr Delhaize said, “We found these giant radio galaxies in a region of sky which is only about 4 times the area of the full moon, though the galaxies are much further away and much larger than the moon. Based on our current knowledge of the density of giant radio galaxies in the sky, the probability of finding two of them in this region is extremely small.”
“This means that giant radio galaxies are probably far more common than we thought!”
Dr Matthew Prescott, a Research Fellow at the University of the Western Cape and co-author of the work, said, “These two galaxies are special because they are much bigger than most other radio galaxies. They are more than 2 Mega-parsecs across, which is around 6.5 million light years or about 62 times the size of the Milky Way. Yet they are fainter than others of the same size.”
“We suspect that many more galaxies like these should exist, because of the way we think galaxies should grow and change over their lifetimes.”
The giant radio galaxies were spotted in new radio maps of the sky created by the MeerKAT International Gigahertz Tiered Extragalactic Exploration (MIGHTEE) survey. It is one of the large survey projects underway with South Africa’s impressive MeerKAT radio telescope and involves a team of astronomers from around the world.
The two giant radio galaxies have never been identified before, despite the sky region having already been observed by other radio telescopes such as the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array in the USA, and the Giant Metre-Wave Radio Telescope in India.
Dr Ian Heywood, a co-author at the University of Oxford, said “The MeerKAT telescope is the best of its kind in the world. We have managed to identify these giant radio galaxies for the first time because of MeerKAT’s unprecedented sensitivity to faint and diffuse radio light.”
“This made it possible to detect features that haven’t been seen before. We found large-scale radio jets coming from the central galaxies, as well as fuzzy cloud-like lobes at the ends of the jets.”
“We know that these galaxies are several billion light years away, and so it was the discovery of these enormous jets and lobes in the MIGHTEE map that allowed us to confidently identify the objects as giant radio galaxies.”
Why only very few radio galaxies have such gigantic sizes has been somewhat of a mystery. It is thought that the giants are the oldest radio galaxies, which have existed for long enough (several hundred million years) for their radio jets to grow outwards to these enormous sizes. If this is true, then many more giant radio galaxies should exist than are currently known.
With the discovery of objects like these giant radio galaxies, a clearer understanding of the evolutionary pathways of galaxies is beginning to emerge.
“The existence of the two MIGHTEE giant radio galaxies provides tantalising evidence that a large population of faint, very extended giant radio galaxies may exist,” said Dr Delhaize.
“In the past, this population of galaxies has been hidden from our ‘sight’ by the technical limitations of radio telescopes. However, it is now being revealed thanks to the impressive capabilities of the new generation of telescopes.”
“We hope to uncover more of these giant galaxies in the MIGHTEE survey as it progresses. We also expect to find many more with the future Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope. The SKA will reveal larger populations of radio galaxies than ever before and revolutionise our understanding of galaxy evolution.”
Construction of the highly anticipated trans-continental SKA telescope is due to commence in South Africa and Australia in 2021 and continue until 2027. Science commissioning observations could begin as early as 2023.
Properties of the two giant radio galaxiesName: MGTC J095959.63+024608.6Distance: 2.08 billion light-yearsDiameter: 2.42 Mpc (7.9 million light-years)
Name: MGTC J100016.84+015133.0Distance: 3.8 billion light-yearsDiameter: 2.04 Mpc (6.7 million light-years)
1. Delhaize, I. Heywood, M. Prescott, et al., (2021), “MIGHTEE: Are giant radio galaxies more common than we thought?”, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 501, 3833-3845: https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/staa3837
The MeerKAT International Gigahertz Tiered Extragalactic Exploration (MIGHTEE) survey is a Large Survey Project being conducted with the MeerKAT telescope. Its overarching goal is to study the formation and evolution of galaxies. The principal investigators are Prof Matt Jarvis (University of Oxford) and Prof Russ Taylor (University of Cape Town, IDIA). Further details: http://idia.ac.za/mightee/
The MeerKAT telescope is located in the Karoo region of South Africa and is comprised of 64 radio dishes. It was inaugurated in July 2018. MeerKAT is managed by the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO), which is a facility of the National Research Foundation. Further details: https://www.sarao.ac.za/science/meerkat/
Jacinta DelhaizeEmail: firstname.lastname@example.orgContact: +27 (0) 66 310 9605Astronomy DepartmentUniversity of Cape Town
Khulu PhasiweEmail: email@example.comContact: +27 (0) 72 263 8749SARAO Head of Communications and Science Engagement
The South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO), a facility of the National Research Foundation, is responsible for managing all radio astronomy initiatives and facilities in South Africa, including the MeerKAT radio telescope in the Karoo, and the geodesy and VLBI activities at the HartRAO facility. SARAO also coordinates the African Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network (AVN) for the eight SKA partner countries in Africa, as well as South Africa’s contribution to the infrastructure and engineering planning for the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope. To maximise the return on South Africa’s investment in radio astronomy, SARAO is managing programmes to create capacity in radio astronomy science and engineering research, and the technical capacity required to support site operations.
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