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Rhodes celebrates SKA bid success

Date Released: Fri, 24 August 2012 09:59 +0200

On Monday, 27 August, Rhodes University will celebrate the country’s recent achievement in winning the SKA bid and the University’s progress made in Radio Astronomy in the past 50 years.

The celebrations will also include the official launch of the recently established Centre for Radio Astronomy Techniques and Technologies (RATT) and to introduce the head of the Centre and our new SKA Chair, Prof Oleg Smirnov.

The Minister of Science and Technology, Ms Naledi Pandor and her entourage from the department that include Dr Phil Mjwara the Science and Technology Director General, SKA Director South Africa Project, Dr Bennie Fanaroff, Associate Director for Science and Engineering of South Africa’s Square Kilometre Array (SKA), Prof Justin Jonas will grace the occasion.

The Acting Vice-Chancellor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela, Head of Department of Physics and Electronics Prof Makaiko Chithambo, Dean of Science, Prof Ric Bernard, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Dr Peter Clayton, senior staff members and Rhodes postgrad students will attend this historical moment at Rhodes.

Also in attendance will be colleagues from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Walter Sisulu University and University of Fort Hare.   

Rhodes believes winning the historic bid - described by the Vice-Chancellor, Dr Saleem Badat as the world cup of science and certainly likely to be bigger than the 2010 FIFA soccer world cup both in significance and impact - must not only be acknowledged but celebrated as it heralds a new era for science, for African scientists, for the Radio Astronomy and academics and postgraduate students at Rhodes.

Rhodes University has a renowned radio astronomy unit established more than half a century ago, which has made a significant contribution to the development of SA’s own pioneering radio telescopes (the seven-dish KAT-7) and the MeerKAT array.

Prof Justin Jonas has been one of the lead scientists in SA’s SKA project and Dr Bernie Fanaroff, the director of the SKA South Africa Project, holds a Rhodes Honorary Doctorate. A number of Rhodes students, including Dr Adrian Tiplady, the site manager for the SKA project, worked on building the telescopes.

Rhodes was recently awarded, along with a few other universities, the prestigious SKA chair in radio astronomy techniques and technologies to which Prof Smirnov of the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON) has been appointed. 

Prof Smirnov will be heading the recently established Centre for Radio Astronomy Techniques and Technologies at Rhodes (RATT). The Centre has already started working with leading international radio astronomy groups and will play an important role in the design and development of the SKA, bringing together a number of scientific fields, including mathematics, physics and computing.

The University through RATT will actively work towards attracting a new breed of postgrad and postdoctoral students to work on this exciting project, as has already been demonstrated with the attracting of outstanding mathematics and physics students from rural areas such as Limpopo Province and the Eastern Cape.

For more information on RATT visit: http://www.ru.ac.za/physicsandelectronics/ratt/

Picture by Sophie Smith

Caption: Associate Director for Science and Engineering of South Africa’s Square Kilometre Array (SKA), Prof Justin Jonas.

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