During South Africa’s mid-winter months this year, SANSA hosted a group of 24 final year and postgraduate students as part of a joint Space Weather Camp (SWC).
SWC students building a receiver antenna for meteorological satellite transmissions.
This collaborative initiative between SANSA, the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) and German Aerospace Centre (DLR) is an annual camp that takes place in two countries every year, with eight students from each participating country.
This year, the first leg of the camp was hosted by the Centre for Space Plasma and Aeronomic Research (CSPAR) at the UAH in Huntsville, USA from 26 June to 7 July. The lectures and projects focused on solar physics, solar dynamics and heliospheric physics.
The second leg took place at SANSA in Hermanus from 10 to 21 July, where the focus was on space weather, ionospheric physics and geomagnetism.
The SWC offers students a great platform to interact and engage with peers and researchers from around the world. Students also learn about other cultures and the historic developments of space activities in the USA and South Africa.
The 2017 SWC student group consisted of second years from the UAH studying Physics, Solar Physics and Engineering at PhD levels; third years studying Physics and Engineering at MSc levels from various universities in Germany and South African students in BSc Hons, NASSP Hons, Physics, Computer Science and Mathematics, from the North-West university (NWU), Walter Sisulu University (WSU), Wits and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).
During each of the two legs of the camp, students attend a series of lectures presented by researchers at the host institute. The second half of each leg consisted of group projects related to a relevant field of research.
At the UAH, the lectures focused on Solar Dynamics and Heliospheric Physics. A selection of four projects were presented:
• The Grad-Shafranov Reconstruction of Magnetic Flux Ropes in Space Plasmas
• Cosmic Rays at Corotating Interaction Regions in the Solar Wind
• Build your own Gamma-Ray Burst
• Finding Coronal Holes.
Lectures in Hermanus focused on Space Physics and the Effects of space weather on technology. The four projects Presented were:
• Receiver antenna for Meteorological Satellite Transmissions
• Analysis and modelling of Neutron Monitor Data
• Fluid theory studies of Linear and Nonlinear Waves in Space Plasmas
• Analysis of Space Weather events
The group also participated in excursions in the host countries. In the USA, these included visits to the Space and Rocket Centre in Huntsville with a museum showcasing rockets, achievements and artefacts of the US space programme, as well as to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, is the largest US Department of Energy science and energy laboratory that conducts basic and applied research in energy and security.
Locally, the group visited the Launchlab, a start-up incubator at Stellenbosch University and home to Cubespace, a student-run company that develops Attitude Determination and Control System (ADCS) for.The second visit was to the Electronic Systems Laboratory in the Electronic Engineering Department of the University of Stellenbosch, where they design and build satellite systems.
“The Space Weather Camp covered a number of important space science topics, especially those related to space weather, an area of research which is equally relevant to both developed and developing nations due to our increasing reliance on space-based systems and our continued use of high frequency communication,” says Dr Stefan Lotz, SANSA Researcher and SWC Co-ordinator.
“Initiatives like these are crucial for building the skills needed for the future and to answer important scientific questions”.