A recent paper in Nature (Anglada-Escudé et al, Nature 536, 437, 2016) has convincingly demonstrated the existence of a surprisingly earth-like planet in orbit around the nearest star, Proxima Centauri. The mass of this planet is estimated at 1.3 earth masses (minimum) and its orbital period is 11.2 days. Its orbital radius is around 0.05 times the distance of the Earth from our Sun.
With speculation about possible life on the planet orbiting Proxima (Proxima b), this report on past observations may throw some gloom on that prospect. Several stellar flares have been recorded on Proxima Centauri during observing sessions of time series photometry performed at the Bronberg and Kleinkaroo Observatories over the period 2006-2012. Telescopes of 30 and 35cm aperture were used with CCD cameras and photometric filters.
The Hydrogen Epoch of Re-ionization Array (HERA) brings more international funding to South Africa with a $9.5 million investment to expand its capabilities, as announced today by the US National Science Foundation. HERA is located only a few kilometres from the MeerKAT radio telescope, which began initial science operations in July, marked by Department of Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor.
Wednesday, October 19 - Eta Carinae is a massive, bright stellar binary system. The more massive component is one of the largest and most luminous stars known. In the central region of the binary, the powerful stellar winds from both stars collide at speeds up to 10 million km per hour. An international research team led by Gerd Weigelt from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) in Bonn including SA Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Nicola Clementel has for the first time studied Eta Carinae using near-infrared interferometric imaging techniques. The team obtained unique images of the wind collision regions between the two stars. These discoveries improve our understanding of this enigmatic stellar monster. The observations were carried out with the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) of the European Southern Observatory (ESO).
An annular eclipse of the Sun occurred on Thursday morning of 1 September, 2016. The narrow path of annularity extended across central Africa and across to northern Madagascar. From Southern Africa, this was observed as a partial solar eclipse, with decreasing levels of eclipse experienced further south. The eclipse was seen as a potential educational tool and the ASSA council assembled a core team to create an eclipse information "project page" on the website, contributed material for at least three articles in the print media. The Star newspaper produced an article based on the web page, Case Rijsdijk wrote an article for the George Herald covering the Southern Cape, Kos Coronaios for the Zoutspansberger and the Mirror, covering the bulk of Limpopo. Dr Claire Flanagan also provided three radio interviews before the event.
With heightened public interest in the arrival of the latest ExoMars mission to Mars, including the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and the Schiaparelli Entry, Descent and Landing Demonstration module (which unfortunately appears to have crash landed), Clyde Foster Shallow Sky director, and Mars specialist, was invited to Auckland Park, Studio 9 on 24 October to take part in a live televised interview on SABC 3 news Channel 440 at 21h10 with Rene Vest. The interview was titled "The Race to Mars" but actually consisted of two segments.
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.
Also included in this section are the colloquia/seminars at the SAAO, UWC and the Astrophysics, Cosmology and Gravity Centre at UCT, ACGC. Also included are the SAAO Astro-coffees which are 15-20min informal discussions on just about any topic including but not limited to: recent astro-ph papers, seminal/classic publications, education/outreach ideas and initiatives, preliminary results, student progress reports, conference/workshop feedback and skills-transfer.
Gary Fildes grew up in a blue collar neighbourhood in the North East of England. After leaving school he worked as a bricklayer for 25 years. From an early age he had a great interest in astronomy, and taught himself to observe the heavens, using a series of amateur telescopes. He also was active in astronomy clubs and their outreach activities. At first these took place in a dark site not far from his home town of Sunderland. Eventually an excellent dark site was located in the Kielder Forest, part of the Kielder Water & Forest Park in the county of Northumberland. Fildes was the driving force behind the erection of an observatory in the park, where the public could be shown what the skies look like at night, unhampered by light pollution. Today this observatory is visited by thousands of interested people every year, where they are entertained by lead astronomer Gary Fildes and his team.
Muller is Prof of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley. He takes a fresh look at the enigmatic question of the Arrow of Time. A well argued look at the fundamental nature of Time, something that has troubled theologists, philosophers, physicists and you and me, from the earliest of times. He explores the real question of what is Now! And also what is "the flow" of Time?
Muller's monumental work will spark major debate about the most fundamental assumptions of our Universe, and may crack one of the longest standing enigmas of Physics.