SANSA Space Science News


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COSPARThe Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) Scientific Assembly was held in Mysore, India from 14 – 22 July 2012. SANSA was represented at COSPAR 2012 by Dr Lee-Anne McKinnell (MD Space Science), Dr Andrew Collier (SANSA Researcher), Dr Zama Katamzi (SANSA Researcher), Dr John Bosco Habarulema (SANSA Postdoctoral Fellow) and Nicholas Ssessanga (SANSA PhD Student). SANSA delegates gave presentations, presented several posters on space science research and participated in three panels on Space Weather and a Space Agency Round Table meeting.

As the current chair of the International Reference Ionosphere (IRI) working group, Dr McKinnell also took part in various IRI working group related activities. The scientific assembly is a premier forum for presenting important results in space research from all disciplines and is considered a focal point for international space science.

COSPAR encourages student participation and provides opportunities for them to meet and interact with the members of academia, space industries and government bodies from all over the world.

The assembly is probably the largest gathering of space scientists and this year COSPAR attracted over 2000 delegates.

Searching for Life in our Universe

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Curiosity1Dr Jakob van Zyl the associate director of Project Formulation and Strategy at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California gave a public presentation on 16 July 2012. His presentation titled “Are We Alone? The Search for Signs of Life in the Solar System and Beyond”, had the audience captivated from the start by illustrating the vastness of our solar system and the greater universe. Dr van Zyl explained some of the remarkable technology used to try and understand our universe, including satellites, space telescopes, space probes and Mars-Landers.

Despite all this technological wizardry, we are still limited in the resources that we can bring to bear on this vast subject. He wrapped up his presentation with a riveting account on the history of the Mars-Landers including their most recent project, the Mars Curiosity rover.

To follow this amazing project, please see

Image Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

USA State Department visits SANSA Space Science

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US VisitA team from the State Department of the USA visited the facilities of SANSA Space Science on 19 July 2012 and were hosted by SANSA researcher, Dr Pieter Kotze. The five person team from the USA State Department was headed by Mr Rose who serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Space and Defence Policy.

In this position, Mr Rose is responsible for advising the Assistant Secretary and, as required, the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, on key issues related to arms control and defence policy. These issues include missile defence, military space policy, and conventional arms control. His responsibilities also include liaison with the U.S. Intelligence Community on issues related to the verification of arms control treaties and agreements. This was an official visit by the state department delegation, to establish a US-SA space security dialogue.

ScopeX 2012

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ScopeXSANSA Space Science joined the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa (ASSA) at the annual Telescope and Astronomy Expo, ScopeX on the 21 July 2012. The exhibition was held at the Military History Museum in Johannesburg, and was well attended by students from schools all over Gauteng, members of the public and budding astronomers.

Various exhibitors showed of their self-made telescopes, sundials and astro-photos, and a few demonstrated how to make your own telescope mirror.

Kobus Olckers, Space Weather Officer from SANSA Space Science gave a presentation to a full house on solar maxima and was later inundated with questions pertaining to the subject.

A number of students visited the SANSA stand and were very excited to hear all about how SANSA monitors the Earth’s magnetic field, space weather and how satellite imagery of the Earth enables us to monitor and mitigate natural disasters.

The exhibition concluded with a star gazing party where those attending could view the night’s sky through various telescopes

Space Science Goes Underground

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underground The SANSA Space Science Technology group visited Laboratoire Souterrain à Bas Bruit, an underground scientific laboratory in France. The team conducted magnetic surveys of the tunnel structure where a SQUID (superconducting quantum interference device) magnetometer is located.  The SANSA team interacted extensively with French researchers operating the SQUID and gained valuable experience with regards to the analysis of SQUID data.  SANSA Space Science recently completed the construction of a non-magnetic hut that will house a SQUID magnetometer. The visit to the French laboratory will assist the Space Science Technology group to operate the new SQUID magnetometer when it is installed later this year.

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