Telescope under the night sky
Telescope under the night sky

Africa Millimetre Telescope

The first ever picture of a black hole was a ground breaking scientific accomplishment. However, to secure long-term future science observations, a crucial piece is missing: a millimetre-wave radio telescope in Africa. Astronomers from Radboud University have teamed up with the University of Namibia to realize such a telescope: the Africa Millimetre Telescope. 


The Africa Millimetre Telescope (AMT) project is co-led by two teams at the Radboud University Nijmegen and the University of Namibia and aims at realizing a 15-m single-dish radio telescope on the Gamsberg mountain in Namibia. Its main purpose is to provide an essential link to the network of telescopes around the globe known as the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) which has recently produced the first ever picture of a black hole. With this ground breaking accomplishment, the EHT presented the direct evidence for the existence of black holes, showing that Einstein (and hence the theory of General Relativity) was right. A major scientific breakthrough! 


Africa as a missing link

For the future of black hole research, more telescopes are needed in the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) network. A telescope in Southern Africa will improve the quality of the image and make the EHT network more stable. The EHT network functions as a virtual telescope the size of the earth and its imaging quality is comparable to photographing an apple on the Moon from Earth. The effectiveness of the EHT network depends on the number of telescopes that are looking at the target at the same time and their location relative to each other. The more connections that are possible between these telescopes, the better the image quality, the longer the separation of these telescopes, the better the resolution. 

The existing telescope that will be refurbished

The telescope

The AMT has been designed as a 15-meter single-dish telescope that will operate at millimetre wavelengths. An existing telescope will be refurbished and moved to Namibia. This decommissioned telescope that is currently at La Silla in Chile, was generously donated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and the Onsala Space Observatory (OSO). Refurbishment will be done by IRAM, who have ample experience in designing and building these kind of telescopes. A group of Namibian engineers will be trained at that facility to aid in the reconstruction and maintenance of the AMT.


The intended location of the telescope is on top of a spectacular table mountain, the Gamsberg in Namibia, as observations in the millimetre-wave regime require both a high altitude and extremely dry atmospheric conditions. At a height of 2350 m, 600m above the surrounding, it is Namibia’s 2nd highest peak. The mountain plateau is property of the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, a major German science organisation.


Visual timeline of AMT

Social impact

In addition of forming an essential link in the EHT Network, the AMT will be the only radio telescope in the mm-wavelength regime in Africa. Hence, the AMT will have a significant global scientific and regional societal impact. By donating 80% of the observing time to Namibia, the project team tries to maximise the science opportunities for Namibia, and science cases are being developed on: 

  • A survey of the sky visible from Gamsberg at 100 and 300 GHz;
  • Continuum emission from the Milky Way at 100 and 300 GHz
  • The inner parts of rotation curves of spiral galaxies to map the dark matter
  • Monitoring of Active Galactic Nuclei
  • Wide-field spectroscopic mapping
  • The Sunyaev-Zel’dovich (SZ) in low-redshift galaxy clusters
  • Participate in existing or future networks, for intance the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project

These science cases will be developed by the UNAM science team in close collaboration with the team at the RU. 
The social and economic impact is further enhanced by setting up an education and outreach programme (such as developing educational material, scholarships and fellowships) and boosting innovation and spin offs in Namibia (for example in civil/mechanical/electrical engineering, big data and sustainable energy). 

How to help

Our Mobile Planetarium Programme will spearhead the developments in Namibia. Help us to inspire thousands of children in Namibia and to expand their horizons. We need € 25.000 to purchase the mobile planetarium. Every contribution is welcome.


In addition, we are looking for supporters. People who are taken by the project, enthusiastic and willing to support us in one way or the other. For instance by opening up networks, introducing us to critical stakeholders or by advising us on local questions. And of course by contributing to the project, either in kind or with a donation.

Please contact m.vermeulen [at] (Marjolijn Vermeulen), AMT Programme Manager, if you would like to help!


Experience shows that the funding of such a telescope via conventional (inter)national science funding could take up to a decade, well past the end of operations of the Event Horizon Telescope. So while funding for the initial studies necessary for building the AMT is covered by scientific grants, further donations and private funds are sought to realize the construction of the telescope within the needed timeframe.

The estimated break-down of cost is as follows:

  • Project initiation & management: 2,6 M€ (preparatory studies, telescope design, project planning and coordination, fundraising, travels etc.)
  • Getting the Telescope to Namibia: 6,4 M€ (acquiring the telescope, breaking it down, shipping it to the Gamsberg and upgrading it)
  • Scientific instrumentation: 1,6 M€ (making sure the telescope functions and has all the necessary instruments)
  • Local infrastructure: 5 M€ (road upgrade, housing, power supply, network connection, foundation for the telescope, data center)
  • Construction of the telescope: 1,3 M€ (building the telescope on the Gamsberg and fine tuning all equipment)
  • Education & outreach: 1,2 M€ (mobile planetarium, educational material, staff, scholarships etc)
  • Operation & maintenance for 5 years: 3,3 M€

Which makes a total budget of 21,3 M€. Already 26% of that budget is covered by both Universities, the donation of the telescope by the European Southern Observatory (ESO; 3,5M€) and a contribution from The Dutch Research School for Astronomy (NOVA; 450k€). In 2023, the European Research Council (ERC) has awarded a Synergy Grant, named “BlackHolistic”, of 14 M€.

For the remaining part we’re contacting business, philanthropists and funding agencies. Please contact m.vermeulen [at] (Marjolijn Vermeulen), AMT Programme Manager, if you would like to help!


The Africa Millimetre Telescope project is a project with a potentially high impact both on a scientific level as and on a social and economical level. In order to make sure this project reaches its full potential, we’re building a strong network with crucial partners. Scientific partners who work with us on the science cases for the telescope as well as the technical aspects, educational and outreach partners who are developing our social impact programme together with us, and industry partners who support us with donations, their expertise and work together with us on innovation.