SARAO Outreach Department

SARAO/SKA SA celebrates Global Astronomy Month 2018

The South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO)/SKA SA participated in various science engagement activities around South Africa in April in celebration of Global Astronomy Month 2018.

Global Astronomy Month is an international event coordinated by Astronomers Without Borders and aims to bring people together to share a passion of astronomy and the wonders of the Universe.

SARAO/SKA SA content specialists supported the Department of Science Technology (DST) Astronomy Day held at the Department in Pretoria, Gauteng Province on 17 April 2018. The event was hosted by the DST in order to create ambassadors for astronomy, the SKA and MeerKAT amongst its staff and stakeholders. The SARAO/SKA SA Communications Unit introduced participants to the concepts of radio astronomy and space geodesy through hands-on activities; while SARAO/SKA SA Head of Strategy and Business Processes, Dr Adrian Tiplady, outlined the organisational structure of SARAO/SKA SA, the instruments of the facility and the science being done with these instruments, and progress on the SKA.

The month of April also saw SARAO/SKA SA content specialists promote astronomy at other events such as the Sindisa Dunga Career Expo and Eding International Science Festival.

Exploring astronomy and big data with SARAO/SKA SA

SARAO continues to participate in career expos around South Africa in order to introduce learners, educators and the public to SARAO and SKA; the variety of careers available in radio/astronomy and big data; and SARAO bursaries and graduate employment programmes.

SARAO/SKA SA content specialists and bursary holders engaged with learners through panel discussions, motivational talks and interactive exhibitions at the Sindisa Dunga Career Expo held in Butterworth, East London, Mthatha and Willowvale in the Eastern Cape Province from 23-26 April 2018, as well as the Mamelodi Career Awareness Day held in Mamelodi, Gauteng Province on 26 May 2018.

SARAO staff interacting with learners at the Sindisa Dunga Career Expo

Festivals allow SARAO/SKA SA to promote the public awareness, understanding and appreciation of astronomy, the SKA and SARAO through a programme of unique, interactive events. SARAO/SKA SA participated in the Eding International Science Festival held in Polokwane, Limpopo Province from 16-20 April 2018 and Zulfest held in Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal Province from 22-26 May 2018, where content specialists presented interactive exhibitions, motivational lectures, daily workshop sessions, and physics demonstrations in malls in these cities.

SARAO/SKA SA female bursary students and staff celebrated at 2018 Science and Technology Budget Vote

The South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO)/SKA South Africa supported the Department of Science and Technology’s 2018 Budget Vote activities by participating in a public exhibition at the Iziko South African Museum, Cape Town, Western Cape Province on 9 May 2018.

The 2018 Science and Technology Budget Vote celebrated the themeAdvancing the legacy of Mama Albertina Sisulu through people-centred science and technology.

SARAO/SKA SA honoured Mama Sisulu’s contribution to the development of women as leaders in their fields by profiling female bursary students and staff, including Carnarvon High School matriculant and third year BSc student, Ms Janethon de Klerk, and Hydrogen Epoch Reionization Array (HERA) Project Engineer, Ms Kathryn Rosie. The exhibition also introduced the public and VIPs to the instruments of SARAO and SKA through interactive models and virtual reality, and told the success story of SARAO/SKA SA’s human capacity development programme by profiling female bursary students, SARAO/SKA SA Young Professionals and staff.

SARAO/SKA SA also supported Minister of Science and Technology, Ms Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, and officials from the Western Cape Education Department on their visit to the Centre of Science and Technology (COSAT) in Khayelitsha, Cape Town on 8 May 2018.

Minister of Science and Technology, Ms Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, is provided a tour of the SARAO exhibition

Content specialists provided learners with curriculum-aligned physical science resources; introduced learners to the instruments of SARAO and SKA; demonstrated a radiometer and facilitated a virtual reality tour of the SKA site in the Northen Cape Province; and engaged with learners about bursaries and careers in science.

SARAO profiles its capabilities and research in space geodesy

SARAO/SKA SA supported the Department of Environmental Affairs SA Agulhas II Open Day held in the Port of Durban, Kwazulu-Natal Province from 8-9 June 2018. The SA Agulhas II is a South African icebreaker owned by the Department, that carries out scientific research and delivers supplies to South African research stations in the Antarctic.

SARAO staff at the SA Agulhas II Open Day held in the Port of Durban

Visitors were afforded the opportunity to explore the SA Agulhas II and learn about the work done by the Department of Environmental Affairs and its partners in ocean and coastal environments.

Content specialists from SARAO/SKA SA’s Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) facilitated an exhibition which provided visitors with information about geodesy research conducted by HartRAO on Gough Island and Marion Island, as well as information about astronomy, HartRAO, MeerKAT, SKA, as well as SARAO bursary and career opportunities.

SARAO/SKA SA hosts South Africa’s 2017 top matriculants

SARAO/SKA SA hosted South Africa’s 2017 top 20 matriculants in mathematics and physical science at the SKA site in the Northern Cape Province on 25 June 2018 and the HartRAO site in the North West Province on 27 June 2018. The visit formed part of a collaboration between SARAO/SKA SA, the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) and National Science and Technology Forum to host the students on a week-long national astronomy tour.

The students, now all first year students in science, technology and innovation-related fields, were selected by the NSTF to participate in the organisation’s Brilliants Programme. Each student was the 2017 top-performing female or male matriculant in their province, based on their marks in mathematics and physical science in the most recent National Senior Certificate (Grade 12) Examinations.

Students from the NSTF Brilliants programme at the SKA site in South Africa

The NSTF Brilliants visited other astronomy sites around South Africa, including the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), Iziko Planetarium, South African Large Telescope (SALT), Boyden Observatory and Naval Hill Planetarium; as well as various scientific tourism sites en route from Cape Town to Johannesburg.

Report provided by SARAO