Notice: 18th SSP. (February 19-24, 2020)

The 18th Southern Star Party (Autumn 2020) is on its way. Please join us and spend some time under some of the best dark skies available within easy driving distance of Cape Town. 

View from the lawn in front of De Oude Opstal, Bergzicht, and Dalzicht across the dam along the line of the Nouga Hills. This lawn becomes the telescope area during an SSP.

The official programme runs from Friday the 21st till Sunday the 23rd of February but we urge you to pitch up on Wednesday the 19th and stay till Monday the 24th. That way you will get lots more personal observing time and lots more talk-time with the other astronomers.

The main telescope area is on the lawn in front of De Oude Opstal, Bergzicht, and Dalzi adjacent to the Social Barn. The Astrophotographers are going to move to the lawn adjacent to De Kraal. This is an effort to reduce the adverse effects of the light they produce on the observers in the telescope area. This migration will only take place if the trees and buildings around the lawn do not present insurmountable obstacles.

On Friday evening, after everyone has set up their equipment and as soon as it gets dark, there will be a short, general What’s Up tonight lasting about 15 minutes. After that, for those who are interested, there will be some short presentations in the Social Barn under the general heading of “What are you going to do tonight”. We strongly recommend that you attend these very informative sessions.

  • Which objects are suggested for photographing during this SSP.
  • Which objects can be observed during this SSP. This will be explained using an A5-sized Space Chart (which you will be given) showing the positions of a number of specially chosen celestial jewels.

The presenters of these sessions will be available in the telescope area during the course of the evening if you have questions or if you get stuck. You will just have to find them in the dark!

These presentations will not be repeated on Saturday evening, but the presenters will be around and available if you have questions.

On Saturday morning we will, as is usual, have two talks by guest speakers. At 10:00 Mattia Vaccari and Dr. Lucia Marchetti in un duetto di astronomia will start the program followed by Prof. Patrick Woudt at 11:00.

Who are Prof Vaccari (UWC) and Dr Marchetti (UCT)?

Prof. Mattia Vaccari is an AstroInformatics Research Professor, eResearch Director, and Coordinator of Data-Intensive Research at the University of the Western Cape. Mattia Vaccari was born in Italy where he studied at the University of Padova and completed an MSc in Physics and a Ph.D. in Space Science and Technology. He has since been a Research Fellow at Imperial College London, the University of Padova and the University of the Western Cape, where he was most recently a Research Scientist with the Inter-University Institute for Data-Intensive Astronomy (IDIA). In his research, he uses ground-based as well as space-based telescopes to observe distant galaxies at all wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum and thus study their formation and evolution over cosmic time. He is also interested in applying Artificial Intelligence techniques to longstanding problems in observational astrophysics such as source detection and classification.

Dr. Lucia Marchetti is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in Astronomy at the  University of Cape Town and at the University of the Western Cape. In 2012 she obtained her Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Padua, Italy, where she specialized in extragalactic astronomy and observational cosmology. After her Ph.D. she moved to the UK where she worked as a Post-doctoral Researcher at the Open University for 4 years before moving to Cape Town to join the Astrophysics groups at UCT and UWC as a SARChi Fellow. Her research focuses on statistical studies of galaxy formation and evolution, gravitational lensing analysis and Big Data Visualisation techniques. She is a passionate and expert science communicator and in 2017 she has also completed a Master’s in Science Communication organized by the CREST Institute at the Stellenbosch University.

The title of Prof Vaccari and Dr Marchetti’s presentation and an Abstract

Title : Big Data, Artificial Intelligence & Citizen Science : The Radio Galaxy Zoo

Abstract: One of the fundamental puzzles of astrophysics today is understanding how galaxies and black holes evolve and in so doing affect each other. We will introduce our current picture of how galaxies and black holes form over cosmic time and how radio observations can contribute to clarifying remaining questions in the field. We will then move on to describe how recent trends in astronomy have led to ever-increasing amounts of observational data and to the related adoption of artificial intelligence techniques. Finally, we will show how citizen science projects can help the public get acquainted with state-of-the-art astronomical datasets as well as with the burning questions of contemporary astronomy while contributing to the development of the field. Projects which come to mind are the Zooniverse – https://www.zooniverse.org, the Radio Galaxy Zoo project – https://blog.galaxyzoo.org/category/radio-galaxy-zoo/ and the LOFAR Galaxy Zoo project – https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/chrismrp/radio-galaxy-zoo-lofar – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HiWSszQ9aA which is currently about to launch, and will hopefully be available for use by the time of the SSP.

Who is Prof Woudt?

Prof Patrick Woudt is the Head of the Astronomy Department at the University of Cape Town and the immediate past President of the South African Institute of Physics. He obtained his Ph.D. in 1998 from the University of Cape Town, and following a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at ESO (Garching) he returned to UCT in 2000. His research focuses on the study of accretion processes and accretion-induced outflows in (ultra) compact stellar binaries using optical and radio telescopes. ADS lists over 250 publications, including more than 110 peer-reviewed papers. He is the co-PI of the ThunderKAT large survey project on MeerKAT and the co-PI of the MeerLICHT telescope.

Titel of Prof Woudt’s presentation and an abstract

Title: Astrophysical Transients with MeerKAT and MeerLICHT

Abstract: In July 2018, MeerKAT started its science mission. One of the 5-year legacy programs on MeerKAT is the ThunderKAT large survey project which aims to find, identify and understand high energy astrophysical processes via their radio emission. At the same time, the MeerLICHT robotic wide-field optical telescope is permanently dedicated to the MeerKAT observing schedule and will provide simultaneous optical data in six filters for all MeerKAT pointings. In this presentation, I will give an overview of the first scientific results from ThunderKAT and MeerLICHT and will highlight the role that the amateur astronomy community plays in these astrophysical transient studies.

Saturday Afternoon

The short talks on Saturday afternoon fall away. They will be replaced by a number of Chat Tables. These will be available for the greater part of the afternoon after the braai.

  • One table each for the two main speakers so that they can answer all the pressing questions people could not ask after their talks on Saturday morning.
  • A table where there will be somebody to answer all your questions about cleaning the optics of your equipment.
  • A table where you can go and talk about any astrophotography issues you might have.
  • Christine has promised to set up her fantastically artistic and rewarding t-shirt painting on Saturday afternoon as well. However, that is something you can only participate in if you pre-register. Otherwise, you will just have to watch the others give free reins to their artistic talents under the expert guidance of Meister Künstlerin, Christine.

First Announcement

All the information you need to register has been sent out by Lynnette. Currently, only De Kraal and De Oude Opstal, as well as some camping sites, are available. De Kraal and De Oude Opstal are both very nice venues for groups of people wishing to come to the SSP. Don’t delay because somebody might pick up these two delightfull places to stay while you are thinking about it and not acting. You can contact us at foster.lynnette@gmail.com .

Update28/01/2020

If you intend coming to the SSP please not that all the accommodation in houses & caravans has been taken except De Oude Opstal which will comfortably sleep 6 persons, could do 8 easily and, if you squashed in a bit probably 10.

Update – 03/02/2020

If you intend coming to the SSP please note that all the accommodation in houses & caravans has been taken except de Kraal. This means you now either have to book De Kraal or to camp. There are plenty of camping sites left and there are no bad camping sites at Leeuwenboschfontein. Each one has its own light, a power outlet, and a water point. However, De Kraal is a lovely place to stay, so hurry up before somebody takes it.

Update – 06/02/2020

Time left to book your place at the 18th SSP is running out quite fast now. There are still quite a few camping sites and for four people who want to do the SSP in a bit more style, De Kraal is still available. All the details about the speakers, the titles of their talks and the abstracts have been updated. It is going to be a very exciting and rewarding SSP. Don’t forget the Lucky Draw in which you can win a gift voucher to stay at Leeuwenboschfontein. Go here to find out more.

Update – 06/02/2020

Time left to book your place at the 18th SSP is running out quite fast now. There are still quite a few camping sites and for four people who want to do the SSP in a bit more style, De Kraal is still available. All the details about the speakers, the titles of their talks and the abstracts have been updated. It is going to be a very exciting and rewarding SSP. Don’t forget the Lucky Draw in which you can win a gift voucher to stay at Leeuwenboschfontein. Go here to find out more.

Update – 14/02/2020

We have had to change the order of the speakers due to a clash of commitments, so Prof Woudt will now be our second speaker at 11:00 with Prof Vacarri and Dr Marchetti opening the proceedings at 10:00. Please remember too that we have extended the deadline for the Lucky Draw. Entries now close at midnight on Sunday the 16th of February and NOT on the 08th of February.