The growing interest of American astronomers in South Africa’s astronomy capabilities was evident at the special session entitled “Astronomy Across Africa: A New Dawn’’ which was held at the annual winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). The 223rd AAS meeting took place at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, Maryland, USA on 5-9 January 2014.
The AAS is the biggest meeting of US astronomers gathering under one roof to promote the advancement of astronomy and closely related branches of science as well as enhancing astronomy education and providing a political voice for its members through lobbying activities. The US has a strong astronomy base with the highest number of astronomers in a single country and constitutes about a third of the total number of astronomers in the world.
The session was organised and hosted by US astronomers, namely, Dr Kartik Sheth (NRAO), Dr Aaron Parsons (University of California), Dr Joseph Lazio (JPL) and Dr John Mester (AUI). Kartik Sheth presented on the initiative to develop the next generation of scientists with US-Africa Exchange Programs and Aaron Parsons talked about the plans to build the HERA telescope in South Africa following the success of PAPER experiment in the Karoo. The good results from the PAPER experiment, which has now been expanded to 128 Antennas, further illustrates the merits of the Karoo site and the technical expertise that assisted the project from the South African SKA project office.
Takalani Nemaungani, Director of Global Projects at the South African Department of Science and Technology and a group of South African astronomers braved the extreme cold winter in the US caused by the polar vertex to participate at this special session. The main aim of the session was to showcase existing collaborations and to forge new partnerships.
The South African astronomers who took part in the session programme include Dr Ted Williams (Director, South African Astronomical Observatory), Dr Sarah Blyth (University of Cape Town), Dr Ilani Loubser (North-West University) and Jean-Christophe Mauduit (IAU Office for Astronomy Development). The South African delegation talked about the emergence of Africa as a hub for astronomy and giving examples of telescopes such as the SKA, African VLBI, SALT, HESS, etc. While giving his closing remarks at the session, Takalani invited the US astronomers to partner with Africa in its efforts of building human capital and technological expertise needed to expand the astronomy base.
The session was also attended by European astronomers including the Director of the SKA Organisation, Dr Phil Diamond and also the Director-General of ESO, Prof Tim de Zeeuw.
Read more at: http://www.aerap.org/event.php?id=25
Coordination is provided by ISC Intelligence in Science as one of the initiators of AERAP, together with the South African Mission to the EU.
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