Limpopo Astronomy Outreach (2009 Oct 16)
by Kos Coronaios
"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 from SAAO at the University of Venda in Thohoyandou on the 16th October as part of the world wide IYA 2009 celebrations.
"The invitation also included an evening of stargazing at the campus. Unfortunately due to time constraints I was not able to set up the astronomy display prior to Nicola's presentation but the University of Limpopo's Science Centre's telescopes and astronomy posters were displayed at the entrance of the library.
"Proceedings started with a short address by the Programme Director, Dr J Kirui (HOD, Physics Department, UNIVEN) followed by a welcome from Prof A K A Amey (Vice Dean, School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences at UNIVEN). The IYA background and introduction of the presenter was handled by Sandile Rikhotso.
"Nicola hails from London, UK, and studied Astronomy and Physics at University College London before completing her PhD in astrophysics at Oxford University. Her PhD thesis investigated quasar clustering using the 2dF QSO Redshift Survey. She began working at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory in the UK in 2001, using the XMM-Newton satellite. She joined the SAAO / SALT telescope team in October 2005 as a SALT astronomer. She spends much of her time helping with the re-commissioning of the SALT telescope and its instruments.
"Nicola's professionalism and knowledge of astrophysics had everyone in the packed auditorium listening attentively and the subsequent question and answer session was most informative. Maphefo Chauke from SAASTA handled the vote of thanks and brought proceedings to a close inviting everyone to return for the evenings stargazing. A welcome and enjoyable lunch organised by the campus' cafeteria was followed by a quick look to confirm were we would be setting up for the evening. We all agreed to meet back on site at around 17:00 to organise electricity cables and screens and set up the equipment.
"Shortly after 18:00 we had our first views of Jupiter projected on the screen and the two six-inch dobsonians manned by Sandile and Nicola were also pointing at the giant planet.
Proceedings officially started at 19:00 and I gave a quick talk on IYA 2009 and Galileo's contributions to astronomy. This was followed by views of Jupiter and its moons through the eyepiece and also projected onto the screen. Various astronomy clips were shown and visible constellation were pointed out to the 100-plus strong crowd, when suddenly the flood lights around the immediate area went off.
Grabbing the opportunity to look at some of the brighter deepsky objects visible I asked everyone to gather around to explain what we would be looking at. Apart from the usual double stars, open clusters etc. highlights at the eyepiece were 47 Tuc, Dumbbell Nebula and the Silver Coin Galaxy.
Nicola was always surrounded by groups of students asking questions and Sandile had his hands full tracking Jupiter with the two dobsonians.
"My personal (non-stellar) highlights for the evening, in no order: The flood lights being turned off, meeting and having a chat to Maphefo and the opportunity to be part of a group of very enthusiastic stargazers.
"The following morning found me on the phone to Dr Kirui and Professor Jan Crafford (Dean, School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences, UNIVEN) organising the first evening of the upcoming Galilean Nights to be held on campus."
via: Sandile Rikhotso (U.Limpopo Science Centre) for the photos
nothing more to see. please move along.