SANSA Space Science News

Newly NRF-rated researchers at SANSA

on .

SANSA Chief Scientists, Prof Mike Kosch and Dr Michel Verstraete, respectively at the Space Science and Earth Observation Directorates, recently received a B rating from the National Research Foundation (NRF) in the areas of space science and Earth observation, both as first-time rated researchers. 

NRF ratings are based on research outputs and impact and aim to encourage researchers to publish their outputs in high impact journals, as well as impart cutting-edge skills to the next generation of researchers. Individual ratings are based on the quality and impact of research outputs over the past eight years as evaluated by local and international peers. The rating identifies researchers who are leaders in their fields of expertise and recognises those who constantly produce high-quality work.

According to Mike Kosch, an exciting new area of middle atmosphere research is the NRF-funded 'sprites' project. Sprites are optical gas dischargers in the atmosphere triggered by lightening. "Although reported on before, we have never seen them in Africa", says Mike.

SANSA is setting up a new, three-year experiment with a video camera system in a new optical station in a large, 6 m container at Sutherland. The intention is to make recordings during summer – the thunderstorm season in South Africa – by pointing the camera northwards to capture the elusive sprites that occur at high altitudes, well above the clouds. "Some lighting goes towards the ground and we need very large positive lightning strikes, which are quite rare."

EISCAT Symposium and 42AM

on .

SANSA has been selected to host the 17th biennial EISCAT symposium and the 42nd annual optical meeting (42AM), which will run concurrently from 14-18 September 2015 in Hermanus, Western Cape. A Radar School will also be offered from 12-13 September 2015 at SANSA in Hermanus for postgraduate students.

Radar School application submission - 10 July 2015
EISCAT & 42AM early bird registration & payment - 17 July 2015
Abstract submission closes - 1 August 2015
EISCAT & 42AM registration closes - 14 August 2015

For more information and registration please see or
E-mail us: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We look forward to welcoming you to SANSA and Hermanus!

Using imagery to monitor water quality in the Vaal Dam

on .

The Vaal Dam in South Africa was constructed in 1938 and lies 77 km south of OR Tambo International Airport. The flood attenuation properties of the dam were severely tested in February 1996 when the largest flood ever recorded at the Vaal Dam site was experienced. 

This image shows four SPOT 6 multispectral colour composites between May and June of 2014.

Infrared band has been used to show algal bloom in the dam. Such imagery can be utilised for water quality monitoring. 

Algal bloom is a rapid increase or accumulation in the population of algae (typically microscopic) in a water system.

Cyanobacteria blooms are often called blue-green algae. Algal blooms may occur in freshwater as well as marine environments. 


Image source: SPOT 6. Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES)

Sprites in Space Public Lecture

on .

The Community Interaction and Training Division of iThemba LABS in Somerset West cordially invites you to a public lecture by:

Prof Mike Kosch, Chief Scientist at the South Africa Space Agency (SANSA) in Hermanus.

Date: Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Time: 18h00 – 19h00

Venue: iThemba LABS 'Auditorium, Old Faure Road, Somerset West, Western Cape.

Title: Sprites in Space- Nature's own particle accelerator

RSVP: 021 843 1021 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Download this file (May '15 Public Lecture Sprites in Space.pdf)Public Lecture - Sprites in Space [ ]162 kB

SANSA and Eskom Sign a Space Weather Services MoU

on .

On Wednesday 15 April 2015, SANSA and Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) during a ceremony at Eskom National Control in Simmerpan. The MoU was formulated against the background of the collaboration between Eskom and SANSA to manage the potential impact of space weather on the Eskom Interconnected Power System (IPS).

Space weather is associated with conditions on the sun which can result in radiation bursts, geomagnetic field changes, and concomitant induced electric fields on the surface of the earth. The geo-electric field causes a potential difference on the surface of the earth, which may result in low-frequency currents in any conductors such as power lines on the surface of the earth. Such currents are known as Geomagnetically Induced Currents (GICs). When these currents flow in power lines and to the ground via grounded power transformers, they can cause extensive damage to power transformers and create instability of the IPS. Space weather can also impact the communication, control, and time synchronisation systems used in the IPS.

Previous incidents of extreme space weather have highlighted a number of vulnerabilities to energy utilities worldwide in the design, planning, and operation of their electricity infrastructure and pipelines. The Eskom Solar Storm Resilience Project was initiated in August 2011 to assist Eskom to formulate an appropriate response and recovery plan for a low-probability solar event that might have a high impact on the IPS.

The scope of the project includes the management of the impact before and after the disturbance and the establishment of the emergency and crisis communication protocols to protect the continuity of supply and reputation of Eskom during a significant solar event. The MoU expresses the importance of cooperation in the field of space weather with relation to operational aspects of the effect of adverse space weather on the IPS and the need to facilitate cooperation to establish a mutually beneficial relationship.
SANSA and Eskom have committed to negotiate in good faith and enter into separate agreements/contracts for the purpose of implementing specific areas of cooperation envisaged in the MoU, which include data acquisition and data communication, space weather incident management, implementation of space weather tools and research into GICs.

The MoU also covers collaboration on publications, protocols for communicating space weather events, warnings to the public and creating public awareness of the potential impact of space weather events on the IPS. In addition, SANSA has agreed to provide support on the interpretation of space weather events, training of Eskom personnel on space weather and the modelling of GICs as well as conducting joint testing of protocols and procedures with other affected Parties to ensure the viability and effectiveness of mitigation measures.

The SANSA and Eskom team who attended the signing of the MoU.

Dont' miss the latest SANSA updates! FacebookTwitterYoutube