Mahikeng Astronomical Observatory hosts NASSP Winter School

Issued by North West University
North-West, Jul 1, 2019

Mahikeng Astronomical Observatory (MAO) of the North-West University (NWU) is hosting the annual Winter School of the National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme (NASSP) from 28 June to 6 July 2019.

The event brings together young South African final-year physics students from previously disadvantaged universities to experience and enjoy astronomy.

The lectures will be presented by astronomy and space science experts from the NWU's campuses in Mahikeng and Potchefstroom, as well as experts from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and the South African Astronomical Observatory in Cape Town.

"Students will perform observations of celestial objects using the Mahikeng Astronomical Telescope (MAT) that was launched by former Minister of Science and Technology, Mmamoloko-Kubayi," says Prof Thebe Medupe.

In 2018, the MAT was also used as a teaching tool during the NASSP Winter School in Cape Town.

More about the telescope

The MAT is located on the NWU's campus in Mahikeng, and the best period for observations is from April to early September, although dust can sometimes be a challenge.

This modern 40cm telescope is computer controlled and is capable of accurately pointing out bright stars that can easily be studied photometrically.

The 16-inch Meade LX200 GPS is the main telescope of MAO. Attached to the telescope is an SBIG ST 8300M CCD camera with Johnson UBVRI filters in a filter wheel. Smaller telescopes include the eight-inch Celestron and an 80mm Williams Optics refractor.

Sixty percent of the time, the MAO is used for research on bright pulsating stars, especially since it can detect milli-magnitude changes in the brightness of stars. The MAT is also used for under-graduate and post-graduate teaching in physics.

About 40% of the time, the telescope is used for outreach programmes, where schools are invited to visit the observatory. The telescope can also be operated in remote mode via the Internet.

If you are interested in accessing the MAT remotely, please contact the NWU to register and obtain the necessary permission.