Episode 5 (Special Edition): Event Horizon Telescope – First Results

with Dr Roger Deane and Dr Rhodri Evans

On 10 April 2019 six simultaneous press conferences around the world broadcast the first results from the Event Horizon Telescope – a project that was designed to take the first-ever image of a black hole.

We were fortunate to speak with two scientists involved with the project Dr Rhodri Evans a senior lecturer in physics & astrophysics at the University of Namibia, and Dr Roger Deane, Associate Professor of Physics at the University of Pretoria.

Roger spoke to us via Skype from Brussels where he was for the announcement and explained the exciting result and Africa’s involvement in the project.

Rhodri spoke with us before the announcement at recent the Astronomy in Africa conference about plans to build a telescope in Namibia to join the EHT Network.

The EHT Array
This artist’s impression depicts a rapidly spinning supermassive black hole surrounded by an accretion disc. This thin disc of rotating material consists of the leftovers of a Sun-like star which was ripped apart by the tidal forces of the black hole. Shocks in the colliding debris as well as heat generated in accretion led to a burst of light, resembling a supernova explosion.
Simulated Image from INTERSTELLAR, from Paramount Pictures and Warner Brothers Pictures, in association with Legendary Pictures.

Episode Links:
Press Release:
https://www.up.ac.za/news/post_2802251-astronomers-capture-first-image-of-a-black-hole
https://www.up.ac.za/news/post_2802266-university-of-pretoria-astrophysicist-part-of-team-involved-in-capturing-first-black-hole-image-
EHT: https://eventhorizontelescope.org

This weeks guests:

Episode 4: Black holes and Radio Jets

with Dr Imogen Whittam and Lerato Sebokolodi

Episode 4 features Dr Imogen Whittam, a SARAO Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of the Western Cape and Lerato Sebokolodi a PhD student, based at SARAO and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in the USA.

Imogen talks about her work on Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN), stemming from the super-massive black holes that reside at the centre of most galaxies and how we learn how these massive beasts work.

Lerato chats about one AGN in particular, the famous Cygnus A and her work on the magnetic fields that drive the formation of the beautiful jets pictured below.

An image taken at radio wavelengths of the dramatic jets of charged particles being ejected from the nucleus of the galaxy Cygnus A. Image credit: NRAO/AU.

Episode Links:
SARAO: https://www.ska.ac.za/about/sarao/
UWC: http://astro.uwc.ac.za/
NRAO: https://public.nrao.edu/
MeerKAT: https://www.ska.ac.za/science-engineering/meerkat/about-meerkat/
JVLA: https://science.nrao.edu/facilities/vla

This week’s guests:



Episode 3: SETI with MeerKAT

with Dr Griffin Foster

In this episode Dr Griffin Foster describes the planned hunt for extraterrestrial intelligence with South Africa’s MeerKAT telescope!

Griffin is from the University of Oxford and is the project scientist for Breakthrough Listen – a program to hunt for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence using radio telescopes.

Griffin explains, in a surprisingly down-to-earth and practical way, why we might expect intelligent extraterrestrial lifeforms to exist elsewhere in the Universe, how they might be trying to communicate and how we might search for these signals.

Griffin and the Breakthrough Listen team plan to conduct part of their search with the new MeerKAT radio telescope. MeerKAT is one of the world’s most advanced radio telescopes and is located in the Karoo in South Africa.

Episode Links:

BL@MeerKAT announcement: https://breakthroughinitiatives.org/news/23

Berkeley SETI Research Center: http://seti.berkeley.edu/

This week’s guest:

Episode 2: Instruments and Singing Asteroids

with Dr Amanda Sickafoose and Vanessa Lorenzo

In Episode 2, we hear from Dr Amanda Sickafoose who tells us about the complicated instrumentation her team are building for South African telescopes and some of her fascinating work on our Solar System.

Vanessa Lorenzo also talks to us about her time as artist-in-residence at the SAAO and her installation giving a voice to rocks and asteroids.

Vanessa demonstrating her prototype exhibition at the SAAO. 
The performer Mélanie Martinoli explores the augmented rocks in the VR version of 
‘Always Calling Home’, by Vanessa Lorenzo, 2018-ongoing. Photo by the artist CC BY 4.0. 

Episode Links:

https://www.hybridoa.org/

This week’s guests:

Episode 1: SALT and Near-Earth Asteroids

with Dr Moses Mogotsi and Dr Nicolas Erasmus

Welcome to the very first episode of The Cosmic Savannah!

In this episode, we introduce ourselves and our vision for the podcast, SALT Astronomer Dr Moses Mogotsi describes what it’s like to use the biggest optical telescope in the Southern Hemisphere and Dr Nicolas Erasmus tells us about the hunt for near-earth asteroids.

The Sutherland Plateau, SAAO.
SAAO Researcher Dr Nicolas Erasmus and his MSc student Petro Janse Van Rensburg observed a large (1-2 km) asteroid passing Earth at about 75 times the distance to the moon. But in the background, a distant spiral galaxy!

The Cosmic Savannah is created and hosted by Dr Jacinta Delhaize and Dr Daniel Cunnama.

Jacinta is a radio astronomer based at the University of Cape Town. She is a South African Radio Astronomical Observatory (SARAO) Postdoctoral Research Fellow. Dan is the Science Engagement Astronomer at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO).

Episode Links:
SAAO: http://www.saao.ac.za
ATLAS: http://atlas.fallingstar.com
SALT: http://www.salt.ac.za
Minor Planet Center: https://minorplanetcenter.net/

SARAO: https://www.ska.ac.za/about/sarao/
UCT Astronomy: http://www.ast.uct.ac.za/
African VLBI Network: https://www.ska.ac.za/science-engineering/avn/

This week’s guests:

Episode 0: The Cosmic Savannah teaser

Welcome to The Cosmic Savannah!

The Cosmic Savannah is a new podcast giving you a behind-the-scenes peek into the realm of world-class astronomy and astrophysics happening in Africa.

Each episode, hosts Dr Jacinta Delhaize and Dr Daniel Cunnama will chat to different guests and introduce you to the people, the technology, the science, the research and the fascinating discoveries emerging from African astronomy.

No matter who you are or where you’re from, we welcome you to join us on a safari through the skies!

The Cosmic Savannah is coming soon. Subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, or where ever you get your podcasts!