Cape Centre News Letter, 19th March 2016

Dear Cape Centre members and friends,

 Upcoming Events

23 March, 20:00, SAAO Auditorium: Dr Nicolas Erasmus of SAAO will present a talk entitled Femtosecond Electron Diffraction: Making an Atomic Movie!

Trying to explain macroscopic properties of materials from a microscopic perspective has been the challenge for many physicists, past and present. In the past two decades several technological advancements have resulted in new techniques being developed that now enable the atomic dynamics within materials to be studied on the sub-picosecond time scale. Femtosecond Electron Diffraction (FED) is one of these techniques. By instantaneously disrupting the material with a femtosecond optical pulse, and following the evolution of the sample’s response via electron diffraction patterns in real time, valuable insight can be gained behind the principles and interesting physical properties that occur in several exotic materials.

In this talk I will introduce the principle behind the method, known as a “pump-probe” measurement that is employed in FED to temporally resolve atomic motion on the sub-picosecond time-scale. I will also show results from our most recent experiments demonstrating the investigating power of FED.

13 April, 20:00, SAAO Auditorium: Cape Centre member Dr Christian Hettlage of SALT will present a topical talk entitled From Falling Apples to Gravitational Waves.


SAAO Open Nights and Public Events

26 March, 20:00, SAAO Auditorium: Dr. Bradley Frank will present a talk entitled ‘SKA – a Crash Course’.

9 April, 20:00, SAAO Auditorium: Prof DJ Pisano of West Virginia University will present a talk entitled How do Galaxies Get Their Gas?

 All open night talks will be followed by a tour of the site and star gazing, if weather permits.

Kirstenbosch Star Walks

These will take place every Saturday evening, weather permitting, from 19 March until 30 April. Contact Frank Jacobs 083 348 6764 or George Abrahams 083 400 0188 if you would like to assist. Call Starline 088 131 1001 to find out if the walk is going ahead or if it has been cancelled due to unfavourable weather.

What’s Up

Consult the ASSA website  ,the Cape Centre Facebook page  or the SAAO What’s Up page  for observing highlights this month.

 The SAAO Viewing the Sky page contains a wealth of general information about observing, including a list of interesting objects in the Southern sky, calendars of solar and lunar information including eclipses and a page of useful websites.


The Monthly Notes of the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa  is the ASSA official journal and publishes material of interest to professional and amateur astronomers. Case Rijsdijk, the editor, has started a section called “On the Bookshelf”. The aim is to highlight recent books that members have read and that they feel others might enjoy. He is not looking for a review, just a title, author and a few lines about both – the sort of stuff you find on the dust cover/cover. Send your contributions to Case at or

Iziko Planetarium: Check their website for information about their shows for all ages, events and courses. They also supply a useful sky map and summary of the evening skies for the current month

Items For Sale:


Dr Ian Glass is an authority on the history of the SAAO and of astronomy in South Africa and his recently updated book on the identification of Proxima Centauri as the nearest star to the sun, as well as his beautifully illustrated The Royal Observatory at the Cape of Good Hope can be ordered directly by emailing or from Thembela Mantungwa at  . We still have a copy which can be bought for R150 at a Cape Centre meeting.

Cape Centre Mugs:

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the launching of the Hubble Telescope we have printed new mugs with 25 spectacular images. They are available to members for R70.

Celestron Astromaster 130 EQ Newtonian

This was an unwanted gift in February 2014, it cost R2950 new and has never been used. Lionel Veater, the owner, lives in the Strand, will accept a reasonable offer and can be contacted on 082 892 1520 or 021 853 5185


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.

Your Cape Centre Committee

Cape Centre of  the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa

P O Box 13018, Mowbray, 7705, CAPE TOWN

088 123 1634 | starline: 088 131 1001 | |

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