Many people will remember 30 May 2009 as the day the Blue Bulls won the Super14 crown in a runaway 61-17 victory over the Chiefs. ''Die beste tot nog toe. Hulle het alles perfek gedoen'', said Naas Botha, speaking of the game and not of ScopeX, which was also held on 30 May. ScopeX 2009 did equally well.
On 3 November, a workshop was held at the University of Cape Town on SALT, MeerKAT and possible synergies from joint work. About 60 people from the South African astronomical community, including six universities, attended. It was mentioned that interest in astronomy has reached the point that there were 100 applicants for places in the NASSP (National Space Science and Astronomy Programme) this year!
The SAAO has received funding of R1.5 million from the Department of Science and Technology (DST) for a Science, Technology and Community Development Centre in Sutherland. This project will be a joint effort with all the relevant stakeholders of the Karoo Hoogland, in the interests of developing the youth and other people of the Northern Cape. It represents an opportunity to build the relationship between the SAAO and the community which surrounds the observatory.
NASA's Spitzer infrared space telescope has discovered an extremely faint but enormous ring around Saturn (see cover picture). The new ring is tilted by 27 degrees to Saturn's main ring plane and is quite thick, about 20 times the diameter of Saturn. The bulk of its material starts about six million kilometers away from the planet and extends outward roughly another 12 million kilometers. If it was visible from Earth, it would span one degree (two full Moon diameters) on the sky. One of Saturn's farthest moons, Phoebe, circles within the newly found ring, and is likely to be the source of its material.
Limpopo Astronomy Outreach was invited by Sandile Rikhotso from the University of Limpopo Science Centre to attend a presentation on The physics behind astrophysics by Dr Nicola Loaring, SALT Astronomer from SAAO.
In August this year I became a grandmother. This would have had no astronomical significance at all, except for two things. Firstly, it resulted in my flying overseas to go and help with the newborn, with an east-side window seat on an overnight flight. And secondly, it happened exactly at the time when our school's annual ''astronomy camp'' took place - this year at Sutherland - so other Graaff-Reinetters got the chance to go there in my place.
Epsilon Aurigae is a very interesting eclipsing binary system that has been intriguing astronomers for more than 150 years. A bright 3rd magnitude star located very close to Capella, it eclipses every 27.1 years. The primary component of the system is a supergiant F star, with a radius of approximately 1AU.
The Bronberg Observatory (25° 54' 32 S, 28° 26 18 E, alt. 1590 m) is situated 40 km south-east of Pretoria, on plot 39, Rietfontein JR 395, which is located on top of the Bronberg ridge, stretching from Pretoria to just East of the observatory. The Observatory, which is run by Berto Monard, is also the African participant in the global CBA (Centre for Backyard Astrophysics) network under the name of CBA Pretoria and the dedicated observing station for the microlensing follow up network (μFUN).
It is hard to think of any scientific endeavour that has changed more during the past century than cosmology. A hundred years ago other galaxies were thought of as gas clouds probably somewhere in our galaxy.
On the evening of 18 October 2009 the whole of South Africa was in a position to observe arguably the most spectacular space event ever to have occurred above us. Unfortunately details were not made public in advance and only a handful of people were able by chance to observe the event - one which generated reports of a spectacular UFO. It certainly was spectacular!
It is only appropriate to conclude the IYA2009 by considering one of the most vital parts of the telescope - the reticle - immortalised by the constellation Reticulum. Reticulum is Latin for 'net'. One can imagine astronomers fishing out the discoveries from among the southern stars. But the name translates more simply as an eyepiece reticle instead of a fishing net.