The Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), Africa's most powerful eye on the sky, has been used to discover a supermassive black hole in the centre of a modest galaxy, SAGE0536AGN. All but the smallest galaxies are thought to harbour black holes, but in this case the black hole was found to be thirty times more massive than what one would have expected for this size galaxy. It leaves scientists scratching their heads in pursuit of an explanation.
Thomas Henderson, at the Royal Observatory of the Cape, was the first person to measure the distance to a star in 1834. Robert Innes, at the Union Observatory in Johannesburg, discovered that Proxima Centauri was the nearest star to the Sun in 1915. The idea of marking the 100th anniversary of the discovery of Proxima Centauri in 2015 led to the development of a Stellar Highway, similar to the well-known scale models of the Solar System or Planetary Highways, but showing the scaled distance between stars.
During the 1830s there arose a strong international movement, promoted by Carl Friedrich Gauss and Alexander von Humboldt, to characterise the earth's magnetic field. By 1839 the Royal Society in London, driven by Edward Sabine, had organised a "Magnetic Crusade" - the establishment of a series of magnetic and meteorological observatories around the British Empire, including New Zealand, Australia, St Helena and the Cape. Members of the Royal Artillery were assigned to man them.
This part deals with the various MOONWATCH stations set up in the Pretoria and Johannesburg area. Valhalla was at Pretoria as was Colbyn. At Johannesburg were Moonwatch stations 0415 (Republic Observatory) and Johannesburg II. The latter was the last Moonwatch station to be set up in South Africa.
These form an important part of a research facility, often as a sort of prepublication discussion or a discussion of an individual's current research, and as such it is virtually impossible to "publish" this material. However by recording the topics discussed in the form below does indicate to those, who are unable to attend, what current trends are and who has visited to do research: it keeps everyone 'in the loop' so to speak.
This is a new part of MNASSA which will try to get readers to share their experience of "good reads" of popular science writing by some of the world's leading scientists. These are not reviews, just comments and pointers to enjoyable and informative writing.
The Royal Observatory at the Cape of Good Hope was founded in 1820, and 150 years later became the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO). The author, Ian Glass, professional astronomer and science historian, has been intimately involved with the SAAO for the past 40 years and has now written a delightful and accessible book about this venerable institution. Delightful because it is generously illustrated with many photographs and drawings of the buildings, equipment and people involved. Accessible because the history is presented in a straightforward way, and the science is well explained and easy to grasp.
When looking for a textbook that provides a good introduction to modern astronomy - one that is written by two acclaimed teachers of astronomy and visually presented in a way that is accessible, with clear, descriptive text, yet also comprehensive enough to cover all the main topics in astronomy - this surely has to rank high on the list. The subject matter is presented in an user-friendly style and illustrated throughout with numerous photographs, clear figures, graphs and star charts. This fourth and updated edition includes many of the latest developments in astronomy: '... we describe the current state of astronomy, both the fundamentals of astronomical knowledge that has been built up over decades and the incredible advances that are now taking place. We want simply to share with you the excitement and magnificence of the Universe.'
It cannot be otherwise: if the southern starry skies have a cross (the constellation Southern Cross) then of course one also has to be found in the northern skies. Isn't that the way our human minds work?
Well, a cross can indeed be found in the north - in the star combination of the constellation Cygnus. And the Northern Cross can definitely boast with some exceptional objects within the constellation, which is found in the lower reaches of the Milky Way. What I always find interesting is the way nicknames are given to deep-sky objects, and particularly by northern amateurs. Cygnus, therefore, has no shortage of objects that boast an array of nicknames in abundance. Cygnus is better known as the Swan, and appears to represent some flying bird or other.