Cape Centre News Letter, 09 March 2015

Dear Cape Centre members and friends,

Special Announcement

Kirstenbosch Star Walks: A magical evening was enjoyed by all on Friday and our thanks go to Andrew Jacobs of Kirstenbosch for his enthusiasm and his willingness to volunteer his free time to make this special outreach possible.

Next weekend three of the Cape Centre volunteers will be unavailable so we appeal again for members and friends with telescopes to help us, even for only one evening, on 13 or 14 March.

Contact Eddy Nijeboer on or 082 335 4851 if you would like to volunteer. He needs to know who will be coming because there is limited access for vehicles on the upper road. Check Starline on 088 131 1001 to find out if the walk is going ahead. Because the cloud build up changes so rapidly Starline will be updated until 19:00.

Although there will be no walks on 20 or 21 March we will continue into April if weather permits. Walks take place on Friday evenings at 19:30 for 20:00 but will be rescheduled to Saturday if the Friday walk is cancelled.

Upcoming Events

11 March, 20:00, SAAO Auditorium: Francois Kapp, the technical development manager on MeerKAT is our guest speaker on the topic Radio Astronomy and High Performance Computing: A Marriage Made in the Heavens.  He briefly says the following about his talk:

Radio Astronomy is expanding the boundaries of its reach into time and space. The next generation of telescopes, South Africa’s MeerKAT and the international Square Kilometre Array, will need more signal processing capability and interconnection than ever before. This has made close companions of High Performance Computing and Radio Astronomy. Together these two disciplines will tap into the largest physics laboratory in the universe, the universe itself.

25 March, 20:00, SAAO Auditorium: Dr Jonathan Schock of the UCT department of Mathematics will present a talk entitled A Briefer History of String Theory. He will take us through ideas of the fundamental nature of the universe from ancient civilisations through to the present and show us how scientists arrived at this controversial theory which underlies much current thinking in physics and cosmology

8 April, 20:00, SAAO Auditorium: Dr Yannick Libert will talk about what it is to be a “field” astronomer. He was an Astronomer on duty for the Plateau de Bure Interferometer back in France and is now a member of the commissioning team of KAT7. Among other initiatives he is building a two-element radio interferometer on the UCT campus.  

His talk has been inspired by his work at Sutherland and elsewhere and he will be combining it with the practical example of the work he is currently doing regarding circumstellar envelopes around AGB stars. He will be speaking about what it takes to get the data for the work he and other professional astronomers do. Although a lot happens ‘remotely’ in astronomy today, there are still those weeks up on the plateau… indeed even people interested in astronomy probably do not generally  give much thought to how astronomers spend their working days – and especially nights!  – up there.  During his talk he will refer also to the teaching project he was managing when he was  in Paris.

SAAO Open Nights and Public Events

14 March, 20:00, SAAO Auditorium: Associate Professor David Thrilling (Visiting scientist from University of Northern Arizona) will present a talk entitled When asteroids hit the Earth. This will be followed by a tour of the site and (weather permitting) star gazing.

28 March, 20:00, SAAO Auditorium: Dr Lee Townsend of UCT will present a talk entitled Using X-ray and optical telescopes to understand transient X-ray binary systems in nearby galaxies followed by a tour of the site and (weather permitting) star gazing.

Other Events of Interest

The Royal Society of Southern Africa: Wednesday 18 March 17:00, SAAO Auditorium: Professor Gideon Wolfaardt, ERWAT Chair in Wastewater Management at Stellenbosch University will present a public lecture entitled Water and our Love Hate Relationship with Bacteria.

Iziko Planetarium : Apart from The Sky Tonight  at 13:00 on Saturdays and Sundays, the exciting new showFull Circle is on every day, for those who didn’t attend the free showing in January or who would like to see it again.

Science Café: Thursday, Thursday 26 March 18:00: Simon Travers will present a talk entitled HIV: Why can’t we cure it?

Field Trips

March 27 – 29 (depart 29), Anysberg Nature Reserve: Chris and Kechil are organising another star-gazing trip with students to Anysberg. The last trip in 2012 was a great success:  We have again secured the reserve and we are looking for funding for the students. Kechil is following up with the SKA. We can book out the cottages on a first come first served basis. Please let Kechil or Chris know if you are keen and how many there will be in your party. The cottages have different accommodation arrangements and if you recall from last time have very comfortable beds and bedding. All you have to bring is yourself, braai food for two nights, and of course a telescope if you have it.

Hope you can come!


Our thanks to new member James Smith who has volunteered to maintain the Cape Centre website.


Don’t forget to look us up on Facebook and ‘like’ our page there if you have not done so yet.   We share a lot of information about events etc, but also some information of a general astronomy-interest nature on that page.

Please let us know if there is news that you may be aware of and that may also interest our other members.  Direct your mail at the general Cape Centre e-mail address and we’ll be happy to consider your item for inclusion.


Our thanks to Peter Harvey and the Hermanus Astronomy Centre for the attached Sky this Month.  Click here to view the Sky this Month.

 Your Cape Centre committee