SKA an R18bn boost to South African economy

SKA an R18bn boost to economy: Hanekom

The first phase of the Square Kilometer Array radio telescope in the Karoo could result in an inflow of R18bn into South Africa, says science & technology minister Derek Hanekom.

“Preliminary estimates for the operations cost put the potential net foreign inflow into South Africa — for SKA phase one only — at close to R18bn over the lifetime of the project, ” he said in a written reply to a parliamentary question. The construction on phase one of the SKA project is set to start in 2016. The funding model to build the world’s biggest and most sensitive radio telescope was still being negotiated at an international level and the construction budget for SKA phase two has yet to be determined.

The project is managed by the international SKA Organisation, comprised of: Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden and the UK. An array of dish receptors will extend into eight African countries from a central core region near Carnarvon where a further array of mid-frequency aperture arrays will also be built. The eight African partners are Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia while a smaller array of dish receptors and an array of low frequency aperture arrays will be located in western Australia.

Guess which musician is described here.

See if you recognize this musician

He studied physics and mathematics at Imperial College London, graduating with a BSc (Hons) degree and ARCS in physics with Upper Second-Class Honours. He then commenced his studies for a PhD degree at Imperial College, studying reflected light from interplanetary dust and the velocity of dust in the plane of the Solar System. He temporarily abandoned his physics doctorate to follow a musical career, but co-wrote two scientific research papers: MgI Emission in the Night-Sky Spectrum (1972) and An Investigation of the Motion of Zodiacal Dust Particles (Part I) (1973), which were based on his observations at the Teide Observatory in Tenerife.

In October 2007, more than 30 years after he started his research, he completed his PhD thesis in astrophysics, entitled A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud, passed his viva voce, and performed the required corrections. He graduated at the postgraduate awards ceremony of Imperial College held in the Royal Albert Hall on 14 May 2008. He was able to submit his thesis only because of the minimal amount of research on the topic undertaken during the intervening years and has described the subject as one that became “trendy” again in the 2000s.

He is the co-author of Bang! – The Complete History of the Universe with Sir Patrick Moore and Chris Lintott, which was published in October 2006.

Asteroid 52665 was named in his honour on 18 June 2008 on the suggestion of Sir Patrick Moore (probably influenced by the asteroid’s provisional designation of 1998 **30).

He appeared on the 700th episode of The Sky at Night hosted by Sir Patrick Moore, along with Dr. Chris Lintott, Jon Culshaw, Prof. Brian Cox, and the Astronomer Royal, Martin Rees who, on leaving the panel told this person, who was joining it, “I don’t know any scientist who looks as much like Isaac Newton as you do”. This man was also a guest on the first episode of the third series of the BBC’s Stargazing Live, broadcast live on 8 January 2013.

On 17 November 2007, he was appointed Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University, taking over from Cherie Blair, and installed in 2008. He held the post until 2013.

He has been referred to as a virtuoso guitarist by many publications and musicians. He has featured in various music polls of great rock guitarists, and in 2011 was ranked number 26 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”. Former Van Halen vocalist Sammy Hagar stated, “I thought their band was really innovative and made some great sounding records. I like the rockin’ stuff. I think their guitarist has one of the greatest guitar tones on the planet, and I really, really love his guitar work.” This mystery man mainly used the “Red Special”, which he designed when he was only 16 years old. It was built with wood from an 18th century fireplace. His comments on the guitar:

I like a big neck – thick, flat and wide. I lacquered the fingerboard with Rustin’s Plastic Coating. The tremolo is interesting in that the arm’s made from an old bicycle saddle bag carrier, the knob at the end’s off a knitting needle and the springs are valve springs from an old motorbike.”

—     By our Mystery Man

In addition to using his home-made guitar he prefers to use coins (especially a sixpence from the farewell proof set of 1970), instead of a more traditional plastic plectrum, on the basis that their rigidity gives him more control in playing. He is known to carry coins in his pockets specifically for this purpose.

Solar Eclipse – 03 November 2013

Solar eclipse:  Like the Curry Cup, unfortunately not for Cape Town.

The Northern parts of South Africa will be able to see some of the action somewhere between shortly after 15:00 and just before 17:00.  The actual times and how much of the eclipse you will see depend on exactly where you are.

For more information you can visit the Johannesburg Planetarium’s general webpage or go directly to their graphic representation. NASA has a general eclipse website with comprehensive information on past and future eclipses.  There is a good animation you can view at this UK site or you can go to the Facebook page covering the event. Kos Coronaios and the Soutpansberg Astronomy club will also be covering the event at their monthly stargazing event in Louis Trichard.  If you are in that area go to their Facebook page for more information.

Please remember that you must not look directly at the sun with the naked eye.  Sunglasses, no matter how state of the art they are, old x-ray plates, glass smoked black with a candle, pieces of green wine bottles or any one of the multitude of home made devices, are all inadequate.  Using them could leave you, and especially your children, with permanent damage that might only manifest itself long after the event.

MNASSA Vol 72 Nos 5 & 6,, June 2013

MNASSA Vol 72 Nos 5 & 6, levitra , June 2013


Roy Smith (1930 – 2013)
G Roberts……………………………………………………………………………………………………….89
Synchronizing High-speed Optical Measurements with amateur equipment
A van Staden………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 91
GRB130427A detected by Supersid monitor
B Fraser…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..101
Moonwatch in South Africa: 1957–1958
J Hers………………………………………………………………………………………………………………103
IGY Reminiscenes
WS Finsen……………………………………………………………………………………………………….117
Astronomical Colloquia…………………………………………………………………………………….122
Deep-sky Delights
Celestial Home of Stars
Magda Streicher………………………………………………………………………………………………127

The June 2013 issue of the Monthly Notes of the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa can be downloaded here

Noctuary Volume 2, Number 2 (June 2013)

Noctuary Volume 2, Number 2 (June 2013)

Table of contents.
Gallery: Other Worlds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 02
An infographic of the 840 confirmed exoplanets (as at December
2012), showing their relative sizes, distribution of masses,
discovery methods and discovery time-line.

From the Archimedes Archives . . . . . . . . . . . . 03
Interesting bits and pieces to pique the astronomically curious.

Southern Milky Way . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 07
The spectacular stretch of sky from the Coal Sack to eta Carinae,
imaged by Johann Swanepoel.

Astrophotography tutorial (Part 3) . . . . . . . . . . 09
The third installment of Brett du Preez’s astrophotography tutorial
discusses polar alignment.

Unveiling the mask of Venus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Earth’s evil twin sister exposed.

Three Galaxies in the Centaur . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Three deep-sky gems in Centaurus to be enjoyed.

The Rich Man’s Jewel Box . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Think the Jewel Box in Crux is a stunner? You ain’t seen nuthin
yet. Plus: internet hoax exposed!

Briefly Noted . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
Some housekeeping announcements and other stuff that didn’t
fit in elsewhere.

Go here to download the entire issue of Noctuary or go here to download previous issues

Outreach by any other name, does the same.

Apologies to Shakespeare for borrowing the essence of his well known line for the title to this post.  An appropriate sub-title might also have been a variation on the line from  Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,  “Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to Facebook that we go.”

After discussion between Auke, Lynnette and myself, we decided to formalize the distinction between our various types of astronomy presentations and to make our outreach presence known on Facebook.

All tours will continue to be presented under the ELF Astronomy label but all our outreach activities, will in future be presented under the Star People label. Star People will also be the identity we use in future when presenting activities on behalf of the IAU, DST, NRF and SAASTA,  Star People’s Facebook page will advertise forthcoming outreach events as well as report back on past ones and, of course, become the place where interested people can follow us. ELF Astronomy is run by Lynnette and I, while Star People is a combined effort involving involving Auke, Lynnette and I, although all three of us might not always be present at each and every outreach event.

The Star People Logo designed by Auke and in use on our door magnets for several years

It is important to note that the Star People name is not new as it originated way back in 2004 and has featured prominently on our door magnets for several years.  Star People is, however, now being given a formal role as our exclusive outreach identity. The creation of a specific outreach identity has been necessitated by the perceived requirement  for such an identity when applying for funding from the likes of the  IAU or SAASTA.

We are confident that establishing a specific outreach branding will instill a greater sense of confidence in the funders of our outreach events.



International Space Week & International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN) 2013

As a result of the infamous Cape Weather we had to move the event indoors.  This meant that there was no solar viewing during the day and eventually also no viewing of the Moon either.

It was wet, windy and cold

Shortly after 08:00 we were all on site.  As Lynnette and I  disembarked the first thing we saw was Auke, coffee and pipe in hand outside Pannarotti’s.  We fetched shopping trolleys and and as I unloaded, Lynnette, Alan and Rose moved the gear indoors out of the drizzle.  After sorting out a territorial dispute with ADT about the prime spot we set up the tables, spread the table clothes, unpacked brochures, models and other paraphernalia and also got all the posters put up.

Auke’s InOMN poster with a very informative one on Space Junk, which he also produced, below that. Sue Duffell of In-Touch Printing provided an excellent service, at very short notice, for printing and laminating all our posters.
The World Space Week poster.

By 10:00 we were operational.  Lynnette and I manned the table, Alan took up position as solar system adviser and Rose and Auke took of in opposite directions to hand out flyers to all the shops in the Mall.

Alan doing his thing on the Solar System model
Auke, Saturn 5 and a crowd of interested spectators

The Solar System model drew a lot of attention and Alan barely had time to grab a bit to eat.  The model of the Saturn 5 rocket was also quit a popular item and focus for interaction which Auke handled with his usual flair.  At the table Lynnette was kept busy making sure that visitors did not make off with multiple copies of the more interesting brochures and also that as many visitors to the stand as possible signed our visitor’s book. The brochures kindly supplied by Catherine Webster of  SANSA (South African National Space Agency) were especially popular.  Strange how signing the visitor’s book seems to be a problem for so many people.  Quite a few refuse point blank to sign while others are clearly suspicious and many have to be begged to take up the pen.

During the course of the afternoon it became apparent that the predicted clearing of the weather forecast for later in the afternoon was not going to materialize.  We packed up at 17:00, loaded everything into the vehicles and went off to have supper in the Spur.  During the course of supper we received word that the Orion Observation Group had cancelled their Moon viewing event at the Afrikaans Language Monument in Paarl.  By the time we had finished supper at around 18:30 the clouds were still there and, although the Moon was visible from time to time, these periods were far too short to be of any use to us, so we called of our event as well.

A fleeting glimpse of the Moon from an overcast Zevenwacht Mall

Up in Limpopo Kos Coronaios and his team had perfect weather and they were able to do InOMN proud so it was Limpopo 1 Western Cape 0!

There are more photos of our activities to be seen here.

The Spring 2013 SSP in pictures

Snorre proclaimed himself the “official” SSP-cat.
The marquee tent that we hired instead of using the infamous SSP-tent that featured at previous events
Paul’s vehicle at the turnoff to Night Sky Caravan Park


Ready and waiting, a view inside the marquee from the admin table
The inside of the marquee seen from the coffee table
The all important coffee table
Coffee break
Everyone. F.l.t.r. Johan, Emmy, Fritz, Jana, Gys, Carolina, Toekie, Koos, Candice, Micheal, Christo, Iain, Laura, Willem, Jannie, Monique, Eddy, Lynnette, Leslie, Rose (only just visible), Edward, Brett, Alan, Auke and seated in front Paul.
Part of the attentive audience attending Christo Rademan’s talk about his thesis work on robotics in the Engineering Faculty at the University of Stellenbosch.
The Quiz Master for the SSP Pub Quiz, Auke Slotegraaf. He’s probably wondering if the questions weren’t too easy.
Laura, Rose (behind Laura), Iain and Micheal (back to the camera, battling with the Pub Quiz questions.
Emmy, Johan, Carolina and Koos (back to the camera) debating a Pub Quiz issue.
Alan seems to think the situation is more serious than Leslie does
Emmy seems to be taken aback by a question or was it an answer?
Toekie and Gys showing the concentration that took their team to the top as winners of the 2013 SSP Pub Quiz.
Micheal seems to think that even among friends one needs to look over one’s shoulder in a competition as fierce as the Pub Quiz
Lynnette making sure every thing adds up
Carolina in a pensive mood during the Pub Quiz
The SSP Pub Quiz champions for 2013 f.l.t.r. Friz, Jana, Toekie and Gys. Well done against some stiff opposition. The halos are camera artifacts and not indications of a supernatural affiliation
Christo presenting his interesting feedback on their IAU sponsored African Outreach expedition.
Fritz, from ORMS North, in a serious mood about the errors people make when buying cameras and why they make the errors
Brett du Preez as Rubini captivating the audience with his magical expertise
Paul Kruger captured this tranquil early morning view of Night Sky Caravan Park
Christo Muller’s black and white study of the view from their house on the jetty
Christo Muller’s midnight view across the dam toward Bonnievale from their house on the jetty

If you would like to read a full report please go here and you can also visit the Southern Star Party website for more information.

Fritz van Zyl also put some pictures in the Dropbox which can be accessed here.

Report on the Spring Southern Star Party: October 04th to October 06th 2013

Report on the Spring Southern Star Party: October 04th to October 06th 2013.

The Spring Southern Star Party could be very briefly summed up by stating that on Friday everyone arrived, but the clouds got there before them.  Then on Sunday everyone left, while the clouds hung around until Monday.

Fortunately the Southern Star Party, as presented by ELF Astronomy and Star People, is a fully fledged star party and not just a star gazing excursion.  At the Southern Star Party we present a full supporting programme of talks and other activities as well as the star gazing activities.  Just in case the weather lets us down, we always have a supplementary programme in reserve – the ubiquitous Plan B.  So, for this overcast weekend, it was Plan B all the way.

Lynnette, Snorre and I went through on Wednesday.  Along the way we stopped off at the Pitkos farm stall to buy wine and have two of Francis’s delicious, hot roosterkoek with sliced biltong and melted cheese washed down with freshly brewed coffee.  At Night Sky Alan and Rose had already set up camp and Alan had done some observing the previous night.  On Thursday afternoon Anneliese Carstens, from Bonnievale Verhuring, arrived with the marquee tent. She was accompanied by one male and one female assistant and I was rather dubious because, not only did I think there were too few people to do the job, but I thought the stiff breeze would make the tent unmanageable.  I set up the camera to record the process, and potential “disaster” as a time lapse sequence, with shots at 1 minute intervals.  Four hours later they were done without any mishaps, although there had been tense moments and I went over to the camera to look at the photos.  To my dismay I discovered that I had pressed the shutter button instead of the start button to start the process, so my sequence consisted of exactly one photo showing a wide expanse of green grass, a pickup truck and trailer with three people in a huddle next to the vehicle.  I was very eloquent about my mistake, but most of that was unprintable.

On Friday the clouds came in accompanied by a chilly wind.  Alan and Rose pitched in with Lynnette and I to get the stuff in the tent organized – banners and posters put on display, the projection wall set up, coffee table laid out, sale table contents unpacked and the admin table organized.  Then Alan and Rose kindly lent a hand to get the gazebo set up for Auke and the tent pitched for Fritz so, when the first guests rolled in, everything was ready for the show to roll.  Without Alan and Rose’s willing hands, Lynnette and I would have been really hard pressed to get everything done in the available time.  Thanks guys!

On Friday evening we lit the fires and everybody had a quick braai before Leslie ran us through his collection of astro-photos explaining where and how he had taken them.  Then Auke took over, using the same photos to highlight a plethora of interesting astronomy information about the various objects. This was followed by Christo Rademan, who spoke about the work on robotics that he is carrying out for his M-thesis in the Engineering Faculty at the University of Stellenbosch.  No stars unfortunately but lots of thick low clouds and the odd drop of rain as well.

On Saturday morning it was still overcast, windy and chilly.  We started off with a very short official word of welcome followed by the Pub Quiz, compiled and run by quizmaster Auke Slotegraaf.  The winning team was a bit of a surprise as it contained no recognized astronomers, amateur or otherwise, but Fritz, Jana, Toekie and Gys were very worthy winners, especially if one takes into consideration that at least one of the other teams had treated the quiz as an open book affair.  Well done, and we hope you will all be back at the 2014 Autumn SSP to defend your title.

After the Pub Quiz and coffee, Christo Rademan talked us through their IAU-funded Africa-outreach in which their group went all the way form Stellenbosch to Uganda and back.  After this Fritz van Zyl from Orms North in Bellville spent time pointing out the most common errors that people make when they buy cameras and also why they probably make these errors.  After another coffee break Edward spoke about the Early History of Rockets and Space Flight, after which we all went outside for the group photo.  The photo-session was followed by Auke’s talk, Operation War on Light Pollution and, while that was in progress, Lynnette and I lit the fires for the braai.

Probably due to the chilly and overcast weather, the convivial atmosphere around the fires resulted in the braai lasting much longer than planned and we only got going again at around 20:00 with Edward’s talk on the Odyssey of Life, which highlighted the role stellar evolution had played in forming the key elements required for life, as we know it on Earth, to function.  This was followed by Rubini’s magic show presented by Brett du Preez, winner of the Dalin trophy at the Cape magic Circle in 2013.  Time constraints imposed by the late start of the evenings proceedings meant that we had to cancel the intended discussion forum on the formation of OWL.  This is the acronym for “Operation War on Light Pollution (South African Dark Sky Survey and Light Pollution Monitoring), an organization that is to be launched with the specific objective of combating light pollution.

On Sunday morning Alan and Rose again pitched in to help take down all the trimmings in the tent and leave it ready for Anneliese and her crew to cart away.  Everyone else was also packing up and the group slowly trickled off, eventually leaving only Alan, Rose, Lynnette, Snorre and myself in sole possession of the whole Night Sky Caravan Park.  After taking down the gazebo and Fritz’s tent, once again with the much appreciated assistance of Alan and Rose, Lynnette and I spent the rest of the day packing up and loading the trailer and the Vito so that we would be able to leave fairly early on Monday as I had a dentist’s appointment and Lynnette had an appointment in Somerset West.  Just before we left, Anneliese and her team rolled in to take down the marquee and this time I had the camera set up and started correctly to record the 40 minute exercise. The three of them made it all look so easy.

By the time Lynnette, Snorre and I left, Alan and Rose had also started breaking camp.  We made a brief stop at Pitkos for the obligatory roosterkoek and coffee and were still on time for my dentistry exercise as well as Lynnette’s appointment in Somerset West.  We even managed to fit in a flying visit to Auke as well as unload most of the stuff from the Vito and the trailer before going to bed.  The sorting and packing away, however, only took place on Tuesday.

We think this SSP was a success, despite the unfavourable weather.  Judging by the comments on the feedback forms the participants agree with us.  We sincerely hope that we will see all the new faces, that were there this time, at the Autumn SSP in 2014.  Snorre probably enjoyed the SSP more than anyone else.  The wide open spaces and the endless supply of birds, which he never gave up trying to ambush, left him exhausted by sundown every day.

We are indebted to our sponsors Waltons in Stellenbosch, Andrie at Eridanus Optics, Orms North in Bellville, Elf Astronomy and SAASTA, for their invaluable support.  Auke, Lynnette and I would very much like to find a sponsor who will be prepared to fund the presentation future SSP events.  We would like the SSP to become the premier Star Party in Southern Africa but need a strong financial backer to achieve this.

At the Spring SSP there were, once again, various prizes to be won.  Here is the list of prizes, donors and winners.

Prize:  A Galileo Scope
Donor: Christo Rademan and the African Outreach Safari
Winner: Emmy Olivier.

Prize: A voucher for an A2 canvas print.
Donor: Orms North, Bellville.
Winner: Jannie Nijeboer

Prize: A R100 cash prize.
Donor: Elf Astronomy.
Winner: Eddy Nijeboer

Prize: A special deck of unusual playing cards.
Donor: Auke Slotegraaf.
Winner: Micheal Kloos

Lynnette deserves a great big thank-you for all her hard work to get the SSP up and running.  She is, without doubt, the administrative face of the SSP. Lynnette has all the information at her fingertips and knows who goes where, pays how much and what for. She is the one who worries about all the little details that Auke and I tend to gloss over, but which can easily upset the whole apple cart, if not attended to.  Lynnette is the one who makes sure the SSP does not run at a loss and also makes sure that all the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed before the Star Party starts, thank you Lynnette.

You can read more about the event at the Southern Star Party website

For a pictorial view of the Spring 2013 SSP please go here.

Fritz van Zyl also posted some pictures in Dropbox which you can view here.