Starting from nothing in 2008, the University of the Western Cape has built up a strong presence in Astrophysics. Today the Astro Group is internationally recognised for its research in cosmology and galaxy evolution. We are also known for our vibrant research and training environment and our commitment to transforming the astronomy community.
UWC Astro plays a major role in MeerKAT, the South African 64-dish radio telescope array that will be absorbed into the future Square Kilometre Array (SKA). SKA will be the world’s largest astronomy facility, and most of it will be located in the Karoo area of South Africa, with the regional data centre in Cape Town.
The Astro Group has a high-profile role in the international SKA Project, including leading roles in SKA Science Working Groups (with 3 chairperson positions in the last 6 years) and in SKA data science collaborations. We work closely with IDIA (Inter-University Institute for Data-Intensive Astronomy), which is leading the South African MeerKAT/ SKA data science effort. Amongst South African institutions, UWC contributed the highest number of chapters, and the highest number of lead-author chapters, to the 2015 SKA Science Book. In the period 2014 – 2019, nearly 500 research papers with Astro Group co-authors were published in the leading international journals. The URAP World University Rankings placed UWC at 157 in the world in Astronomy & Astrophysics for 2018/2019.
In 2021, the Astro Group has 9 faculty (including 3 Research Chairs), 13 postdoctoral researchers and 25 research students (MSc and PhD). UWC hosts the Centre for Radio Cosmology, supported by the South African SKA through SARAO (SA Radio Astronomy Observatory) and is a member of the Inter-University Institute for Data Intensive Astronomy (IDIA) and of the Ilifu facility. We are highly active in the training of postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers, many of whom are supported by SARAO and are working on SKA-related science. UWC is making a contribution towards training the new generation of researchers that will help South Africa to do world-class science with MeerKAT, SKA and other telescopes.