Science Visitor Centre Information PDF Print E-mail

1. Purpose

To provide an information about the Science Visitor Centre, in Carnarvon.

2. Background

The Department of Economic Development and Tourism, has appointed WorleyParsons to do the feasibility study for the development of the Science Visitor centre.

The Karoo Array Telescope or “MeerKAT” as it is affectionately known is a pathfinder for the SKA telescope project. The project is named after the MeerKAT which is a type of mongoose that is commonly found in the Karoo. Based on the latest specification, which completed, MeerKAT will feature 64 dishes each measuring 13.5 meters in diameter.

The idea behind the establishment of a Science Centre, is to showcase the MeerKAT project for the benefit of:

  • Tourist and the tourism industry
  • Local residents most notably young learners
  • People involved in MeerKAT or similar initiatives in the area in various ways.

MeerKAT will be used to conduct important scientific research whilst also acting as a pathfinder for the SKA. The MeerKAT Science Centre is intended to showcase the MeerKAT project that is of interest to a wide range of local and international stakeholders and tourists. The Science Centre has been designed and orientated on the site in such a way that it can be extended at a later date for any reason.

3. Site of the Science Visitor Centre

The site selection process involved discussions with officials from the Northern Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism, SKA project team members and local municipality officials.

A suitable site in Carnarvon was identified, it is located at the Western entreane to Carnarvon and is bounded by End Street and the town centre to the East, the R63 (main road in Williston) to the South. The site is known as erf 431 and is approximately 4.5 hectares. The site belonged to the Department of Education, however they donated it to the Department of Economic Development and Tourism as the project has educational benefits.

The three main criteria for site selection:

  • Local community needs
  • MeerKAT and SKA project team needs
  • Tourist needs.

4. Facilities to be includes in the Science Centre

The following facilities were identified for inclusion in the Science Centre.

  1. The reception area including seating and a reception counter strategically located towards the back of the room. Service personnel can monitor or control the reception area, store room, computer server, café and souvenir shop.
  2. The café and souvenir shop will be located adjacent to the entrance of the Science Centre.
  3. The locker room has been specifically included to enable visitors to deposit their cellphones and other devices that may cause radio frequency interference in a safe location.
  4. The bathrooms.
  5. The focal point or central feature of the visitors centre is the proposed functional scale model of a MeerKAT radio telescope strategically located in a round section of the building. This section will be in the style of a Corbelled House “Korbeelhuis” a unique style of building found only in the Karoo.
  6. A full sized radio telescope to be located outside the building.
  7. The multi-purpose hall will include a stage and a screen, designed to accommodate up to 50 people with additional space if there are bigger groups.
  8. It is envisioned that tourists will start with a visit to the café for coffee followed by a briefing session and a short video in the multi-purpose hall before being shown the fully functional scale model telescope and experiencing the interactive displays. A visitor would spend up to 2-3 hours within the visitor centre.
  9. The café and terrace can also be used by casual visitors, local residents and learners, scientists and tourists.
  10. A resource and career guidance room that will contain astronomy and science reference material, computers, desks and chairs for learners.
  11. Braai area as well as a stargazing platform.
  12. Parking lot located along End Street, that can accommodate over 20 vehicles as well as tour busses.

5. Benefits of the Project

The MeerKAT project has already had a positive impact on the socio-economic situation within the area. Carnarvon has benefited from additional employment opportunities and local guesthouses has benefits from the visitors to the area due to the MeerKAT project and related developments.

1. Infrastructure in and around the site

The following positive developments have a positive impact on the feasibility of the Science Centre.

  • Tarring of the road from Vosburg-Carnarvon
  • Installation of a High-Speed Fiber Optic Line
  • Possible Upgrade of the Carnarvon Airfield.