Mini Episode: Beyond the zone of avoidance

with Sambatriniaina Rajohnson

Hosted by Tim Roelf

This week’s mini episode features PhD candidate Sambatriniaina Rajohnson, of the University of Cape Town’s Astronomy department. She explains part of her work trying to advance our understanding of the large scale structure of the universe.

Using the radio telescope MeerKAT, she plans on observing these structures in a region known as the Vela supercluster. This all part of her contribution to the Galactic Plane Survey (GPS).

She describes some of the challenges she faces in studying the region of space hidden by the Milky Way – the formidable Zone of Avoidance.

A 3-D render of the 2MASS Galaxy Redshift Catalogue (XSCz) which highlights the zone of avoidance. This is what our local universe would look like if we could view it from the “outside”, with each dot representing an entire galaxy, and the colours giving us a measure of distance. The zone is created from the Milky Way blocking our field of view. Image credit: T. Jarret

This week’s featured guest

Featured Image

2MASS Galaxy Redshift Catalogue (XSCz): The local universe as seen in the near-infrared spectrum, and displayed in an equal-area projection, with the Milky Way at the centre. The colour of the galaxies pictured (of which there are at least 1 million!) gives us an indication of the distance between us and them. Those that are the furthest away are coloured red, while those that are closer are purple. The galactic plane is that thin line of white/tan coloured stars, and space dust, spreading out from the actual centre of the Milky Way – which happens to be a supermassive black hole! It’s the dust, stars, and black hole that obscure our vision; creating the Zone of Avoidance.
Credit: T. Jarret
https://wise2.ipac.caltech.edu/staff/jarrett/2mass/lss/XSCz_all.jpg

Related links

If you liked the XSCz images and want to find out more about them:
https://wise2.ipac.caltech.edu/staff/jarrett/2mass/XSCz/index.html

Sambatra also recently got featured in a Royal Astronomical Society poster contest. The link below takes you to page with a brief summary of the poster, and a download link so you can check out her poster for yourself:
https://ras.ac.uk/poster-contest/sambatriniaina-rajohnson?fbclid=IwAR1jayJqn4z-hgDDsy6geA1GJ2Ib2bk8yuTVmA6nj7CP5VcsNpRmhyB58-g

Mini episode produced and hosted by
Timothy Roelf (University of Cape Town)

Transcript

Transcribed by Tim Roelf

Tim: [00:00:00] Hey everybody. And welcome to this week’s mini episode of the Cosmic Savannah. My name is Tim Roelf, and I’ll be your host for today. As some of you already know Jacinta, and Dan, have gotten in several of us trainees to perform our own little mini episodes for you guys to help us to develop our skills as podcast hosts, editors, and transcribers.

The process has been really awesome, and I hope you guys have been enjoying our work so far. This week, I interviewed Sambatra Rajohnson. She’s a PhD candidate at the University of Cape Town’s Astronomy department. And her work involves in completing a Galactic Plane Survey (GPS), some of the cool bits about Sambatra’s research involes the fact that she will be looking at a region of space known as the Vela supercluster that lies just beyond the zone of avoidance.

So if you guys just scroll around the Cosmic Savannah blog site here, you’ll be able to see one of the images has a picture of what the Zone of Avoidance looks like along with a little bit of a description. Essentially, it’s just the obscuration of dust and other stars that creates this regional space that we can’t actually penetrate.

If you guys are a little bit confused about what I mean by, or what Sambatra means, by the galactic plane, the featured image on this week’s episode is a all-sky survey that was done in the infrared spectrum and shows our local universe. Right at the center of the image you’ll see a thin white band with like tan and white colored stars and dust.

That is the galactic plane. So essentially it’s just this flat line where most of the stellar matter lies, and at the center of which is a supermassive black hole. And that creates this obscuration. And just some last technical terms before we can answer the interview, Sambatra mentions the words: uniformity and isotropy.

Now uniformity, sometimes known also as homogeneity, just means that the universe on a large enough scale has the same spread of matter, or stars, stuff really, to put it simply if you just take two large enough areas of the universe and you compare the two of them, they will have the same spread of matter across them.

And isotropy means, that the universe is the same in every direction. So it doesn’t matter if you look forward or backwards, the universe will be the same. Now enough of me talking. Let’s get down to this week’s episode.

[00:03:16] [Intro music plays]

Tim: [00:03:22] What’s up everybody, and today I’m joined by Sambatra Rajohnson. She is a PhD candidate at UCT. Welcome to the show, Sambatra.

Sambatra: [00:03:34] Hi Tim, thank you for welcoming me.

Tim: [00:03:38] Yeah, that’s no problem. I have a few intro questions quickly. So for people who don’t know you, you’re not actually from South Africa. So if you can tell us a little bit about where you’re from, and how you managed to get to UCT.

Sambatra: [00:03:51] Okay. It’s a bit of a long story, but I will try to summarize it. So I am from Madagascar and I did my undergraduate studies and I obtained my master degree from the University of Antananarivo in the capital. And during the same period, I was also participating to the DARA are basic program DARA for Development in Africa with Radio Astronomy.

And it was basically a technical training in radio astronomy observation. And from that one of our lecturer, Professor Claude Carranan, he proposed to me to do a PhD with him at the University of Cape town and I’ve accepted. So that’s why I ended up here in Cape Town.

Tim: [00:04:33] Cool, that’s very cool. And how are you finding it in Cape Town so far? Is it cool?

Sambatra: [00:04:37] Oh, it’s a very beautiful city. It’s also my first time, like really living abroad. So I’m trying to adjust myself with all the changes, but now I see it’s a very good place.

Tim: [00:04:49] Okay. That’s awesome, and so you mentioned that your project is in radio astronomy. Could you tell us a little about that?

Sambatra: [00:04:57] Okay. So I’m working with Professor Renee Kraan-Korteweg now, and Dr. Bradley Frank on the Galactic Plane Survey or GPS. And we are using the radio telescope MeerKAT, which is here in South Africa. And we are trying to find structures of galaxies that are located behind the Milky Way plane by searching for the neutral hydrogen, or H1 emission, which only radio telescope can trace.

Tim: [00:05:28] Okay. So they’re obscured by the galactic plane. How you actually able to tell. That’s something behind the galactic plane.

Sambatra: [00:05:41] Yes. So the zone, which is behind that Milky Way plane that we are trying to look at is called the Zone of Avoidance.

Tim: [00:05:42] That’s a scary name.

Sambatra: [00:05:45] Yes, a little bit. Most of astronomers are trying to avoid it, due to the strong dust obscuration, and strong steller density which hides mostly everything behind it, especially if you’re looking at optical wavelength. But, if we use other telescopes or other wavelengths, such as infrared or radio, so this obscuration is reduced. So we are not really affected so we can see things behind the Milky Way using, for example, radio telescopes.

Tim: [00:06:15] Okay. That’s very cool. Very, very cool.And your work. In that zone of avoidance, what are you looking for? Are you looking for new galaxies?

Sambatra: [00:06:26] So we are trying to to complete the mapping of the large scale structure of the sky. So we are tying to find structures that are hidden behind the Milky Way. So we have, for example, a particular region of interest, which is the Vela supercluster, which is located situated towards the constellation of Vela.

So the GPS survey will allow us to find hidden structures. How filaments are connected.

Tim: [00:06:56] Sorry, just to interrupt you. JPS, what does that stand for?

Sambatra: [00:07:01] Oh, the galactic plane survey.

Tim: [00:07:05] Oh yeah, the GPS you said.

Sambatra: [00:07:06] Yes. So we are trying to find if the hidden structures, how filaments are connected there behind the Milky way. Are there, for example, crossing walls from that Vela supercluster?

Tim: [00:07:20] Yeah. Okay. That’s cool. But I’m not very familiar with the filaments. Could you give us a little bit of an explanation on that please?

Sambatra: [00:07:27] Yes. So from the cosmological principle, it states that the universe is uniform and isotropic. However, when we are looking into details, so we are like zooming into the universe. We can see that actually the universe is highly structured. So for examples, galaxies are connected each other to form elongated filaments, or walls. And there are also small, a large concentration of galaxies, which form clusters of galaxy groups and superclusters. And between them, they are also just large empty voids. Yeah. So are forming what you are calling the cosmic web. So like web like structure in your universe. Yeah.

Tim: [00:08:09] So that’s the large scale structure. So everything is connected in what approximates a web essentially, but not like a 2-D web it’s in 3-D.

Sambatra: [00:08:23] Yes

Tim: [00:08:24] Which is really, really cool. That’s fascinating. That’s awesome. I was wondering your work, you said that by working in the radio, you’re actually able to penetrate past the galactic plane and into the zone of avoidance, which you wouldn’t be able to do in optical.

How does your work then work with the optical astronomers? So how are you guys able to back each other up essentially and provide more information into your work? For instance, if an optical astronomer would also like to, then would they be, would it be possible to look into the zone of avoidance and help you add or…

Sambatra: [00:09:06] So for optical astronomers, they cannot really look entirely at the zone of avoidance. Maybe, there will be some part where they will be able to look into, but very small part of it. And they have already tried to like make the mapping of the entire sky, but then they miss out the zone of avoidance. So maybe they have obtain some images of galaxies that are next to the sort of avoidance, but not exactly in the middle of the packed zone. There have been also infrared astronomers who try to look into it. So they have found more galaxies, so the galaxies in the zone of avoidance have been extended, but it’s not yet fully locked mapped. So that’s why you have to add with radio bands so that you can find more.

Tim: [00:09:51] Okay, that’s very, very cool. One final question, I’m just interested, So why would you use, you know, just getting into astronomy, what would you say to them, to interest them, in coming say to a presentation on your work. I suppose.

Sambatra: [00:10:06] Oh, I think my work is like quite a challenge because most of the astronomers are trying to avoid that zone. But we are looking directly into it. So it’s a challenge to be able to discover a galaxies that are being never observed in optical before, or even never found before. So yeah,

Tim: [00:10:25] So you’re kind of a pioneer. That’s awesome.

Sambatra: [00:10:32] Yes it’s challenging.

Tim: [00:10:35] Do you get to name any galaxies or stars that you find in the zone of avoidance?

Sambatra: [00:10:42] From now on, I’m just starting my project. So I don’t know yet about that. Like how are we going to name them? Maybe according to the telescope because you will be using MeerKAT. So maybe the name of the stars will be linked to the MeerKAT telescope, but I’ve not yet thought about it.

Tim: [00:11:00] Oh, I think you missed my question. Its like, would you name it, you as Sambatra, would you be able to name it because you found it, would you be able to name anything?

Sambatra: [00:11:11] From now I don’t know yet whether I’ll be able to, or not.

Tim: [00:11:14] Ok, we can look forward to a few galaxies or stars being named after Sambatra. That would be very cool.

Sambatra: [00:11:19] I hope to.

Tim: [00:11:22] Thank you very much for your time today. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this conversation and I hope to see you again. Next time.

Sambatra: [00:11:29] Okay. See you.

[00:11:30] [Outro music plays]

Tim: [00:11:37] And that’s it for this week’s episode. If you guys had fun and want to know more about this topic, I’ve left the link in the description of the blog post above to a series of posters that Sambatra submitted for the Royal astronomical society. I highly recommend you guys go check it out. They’re really informative posts and they’ve got some really, really cool graphics as well that I think everybody can appreciate and until next time, cheers.

Mini Episode: The Universe evolves too

with Liantsoa Finaritra Randrianjanahary

Hosted by Robbie Lees

In this week’s mini-episode, we chat with Liantsoa Finaritra Randrianjanahary who is a PhD candidate at the University of the Western Cape (UWC).

Liantsoa works in the field of cosmology which means he is researching the whole universe as one entity rather than focusing on the individual contents of the universe such as stars and galaxies.

We discuss his specific interest in the evolution of the universe and how he can determine some of the hidden secrets of the universe. Liantsoa’s work also involves the use of hydrogen measurements and even the density of the mysterious quantity known as dark matter.

This is a particularly hot field of research to be in during the modern era of astronomy with massive datasets being produced by the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), MeerKAT, and the Hydrogen Intensity and Real-time Analysis eXperiment (HIRAX) radio telescopes.

This week’s guest

Featured Image

This simulation of the underlying large-scale structure of the universe displays the dark matter web in blue and hotspots of galaxy formation in yellow. Image credit: Zarija Lukic/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Related Links

HIRAX: https://hirax.ukzn.ac.za/
Cosmology: https://www.britannica.com/science/cosmology-astronomy

This mini episode was produced and hosted by Robbie Lees, an MSc student at the University of Cape Town.

Transcript

Transcribed by Robbie Lees

Robbie: [00:00:00] Good day and welcome to this mini episode of The Cosmic Savannah. My name is Robbie and I will be your host for this mini episode. Firstly, a little bit about myself. So I’m a Masters student at the University of Cape town studying stellar astrophysics with my focus being on ultra compact binary objects.

Now ultra compact binary objects are just some of the most rare binary stars that we know of. And yet we haven’t detected that many of them in the Southern hemisphere. My project is to try and detect more of them in the Southern hemisphere. Today I will be interviewing Liantsoa, a PhD candidate at the University of the Western Cape.

Now Liantsoa sort of studies cosmology, which basically means that he’s studying the universe as one whole entity and not just individual parts of the universe. His aim is to unlock the secrets, at least some of them, of the evolution of the entire universe. That’s a pretty daunting task if you ask me. As you can imagine, this is all rather complex and so I’m going to explain some of the jargon and the terms that he uses just before we get into the interview.

Firstly, he talks about a nonlinear correction to the neutral hydrogen power spectrum. Now that all sounds very daunting. However, all I want you to take away from that is that basically Liantsoa is using hydrogen as a way to measure different parts of the universe and therefore study the evolution as a whole of the universe.

And via the corrections that he makes to his detections, he can infer certain information about the universe. Another thing that he mentions is dark matter. Now, dark matter is something we hear about a lot in sci-fi, but it’s actually a real thing. And all we know about dark matter is we can observe what effect it has on things like rotational curves.

Unfortunately, we don’t actually know yet what it is, which is why it’s still known as dark matter. So dark matter has effect on something called rotational curves, which Liantsoa mentioned, but I thought I’d just touch on it here as well. Rotational curves of something like a galaxy is simply a measure of the velocity of what’s rotating around the center of a galaxy at different distances from that center. To put it simply, matter is moving a lot faster than you would expect at the ages of galaxy due to the the contribution of dark matter.

Now baryonic matter is another term that Liantsoa mentions, which is just simply visible matter. Matter that we know what it is like atoms, different particles. We know what those are, those are baryons. Finally Linatsoa would just like me to mention that he has a speech impediment. However, this does not prevent him from giving us a great explanation of his fantastic work. Let’s enjoy the interview.

[00:02:28] [Intro music]

Robbie: [00:02:48] With us today we have Liantsoa, a PhD student from UWC who is working on cosmology. Hi Linatsoa.

Liantsoa: [00:02:45] Hi, Robbie,

Robbie: [00:02:48] So Liantsoa, tell me a little bit about what you work on.

Liantsoa: [00:02:52] I’m working on a cosmology. So I do nonlinear correction to the neutral hydrogen power spectrum. And from that I can infer the cosmological parameters and study the dark matter and dark energy and can tell how the universe is expanding and how it’s evolved.

Robbie: [00:03:23] That sounds all really interesting. When you talk about these cosmological parameters, could you explain what some of those are?

Liantsoa: [00:03:31] When we talk about cosmological parameters first, we have to know that we are working on the standard model of cosmology and for us cosmological parameters are like the density of the baryon in the universe, the density of the dark matter, the Hubble parameters which tell you how fast is the universe expanding, and the spectral index, which tells you about the shape of your power spectrum, and the Sigma eight, which is a fluctuation of the masses in the universe.

Basically, those are the main cosmological parameters, but there are more, but I’m focusing on these several that I just mentioned.

Robbie: [00:04:37] So it sounds to me like you’re studying what the basic contents of the universe are like dark matter, for instance. Um, could you expand a little bit perhaps on what dark matter is and how we have come about detecting it?

Liantsoa: [00:04:50] Dark matter is missing mass that does not interact, which is not interacting electromagnetically with the EM window, but it does, uh, interact gravitationally. So we can see the effect of dark matter by looking at the rotational curve. [It is] about 25 percent of the missing mass in the universe.

Robbie: [00:05:29] That’s great. Thank you for expanding on that. Um, it sounds all very interesting. Just, could you tell me why you came into this sort of topic? What sort of made you find this as your project for your PhD?

Liantsoa: [00:05:43] Oh, with the upcoming data sets and technology with MeerKAT and SKA and HIRAX, we want to do better forecast with more precision of how our universe is evolving and how it’s expanding. So I want to, to answer that question. And, I’m also interested in neutral hydrogen cosmology, which is one of the hot, the hot subject in cosmology and with that I do an intensity mapping technique in order to probe more volume and to have a better understanding of our current universe.

Robbie: [00:06:49] That does sound like an incredibly interesting topic, but I’m afraid that’s all we have time for today. Thank you so much for joining us today Liantsoa.

Liantsoa: [00:06:55] Thank you so much, Robbie.

[00:06:57] [Outro music]

Robbie: [00:07:06] That was Liantsoa talking to us about one of the most interesting fields I think there is at the moment: cosmology. I say that because I don’t think there’s a single field, which could be grander than the study of the entire universe, because that encompasses everything.

Some of the main points that Liantsoa brought up, were talking about cosmological parameters and how he can use those to infer certain things about how the universe evolves and expands.

He’s trying to study the basic contents of the universe as a way to unlock and uncover many of the hidden mysteries and secrets of the universe’s expansion and evolution. I myself, I’ve been to a few seminars and lectures on cosmology and it was quite astounding to me how much we actually don’t yet know about the universe, but how much we’ve been able to learn just in the last few years, just in recent times.

I think one of the most interesting points Liantsoa made there in that chat was how with the current and upcoming technology, there’s never been a better time, nor more interesting time to do cosmology. As with the vast amounts of data sets that new telescopes like MeerKAT and HIRAX are producing, we’re actually inundated with data, which can help us study the nature of the universe.

With people like Liantsoa working in this field, I’m sure we were able to uncover and learn lots more about the universe’s evolution, its expansion and its overall nature. Thank you again for a wonderful chat Liantsoa.

Thank you all for listening. And I hope that you have an absolutely fantastic day further.

Mini Episode: “From Hospitality to aspiring Astronomer”

with Bret Yotti

Hosted by Brandon Engelbrecht

In this week’s mini-episode of The Cosmic Savannah, we speak to Bret Yotti. Bret is a student and a lab assistant at the University of Cape Town (UCT) as well as a presenter at the Iziko Planetarium in Cape Town.

In our interview with Bret, we ask a common question known and feared by many: the “why” question. Why did he choose astronomy and what drove him towards this field of science?

We take a dive into Bret’s life before astronomy and find out how the journey has been since returning to the lecture halls.

We look at the work that Bret is currently doing at UCT, being a teaching assistant whilst being a student himself. Bret also talks about the work he is doing at the Iziko Planetarium and how he is helping to show visitors the mysteries of the Universe.

This weeks guest:

Featured image:
The Iziko Planetarium and Digital Dome is the most advanced digital planetarium on the African continent. This world class, multi-functional facility brings digital technology to Cape Town – creating a space of innovation and discovery – where art, science and entertainment meet.
The Iziko Planetarium and Digital Dome not only provides an immersive multi-sensory edutainment platform for artistic production – it is also used for cutting-edge scientific research to optimise South Africa’s eResearch and data visualisation capacity.
The Iziko Planetarium and Digital Dome makes virtual voyages of the universe possible, providing an unparalleled experience of animation and 360◦ cinema.  Explore the inner workings of the human body, or the intricacies of an atomic structure Visit the most advanced digital planetarium on the African continent. Credit: Iziko Planetarium: https://www.iziko.org.za/museums/planetarium


Related Links:
University of Cape Town Astronomy Department: http://www.ast.uct.ac.za/

Iziko Planetarium: https://www.iziko.org.za/museums/planetarium

Featured image: https://www.iziko.org.za/museums/planetarium

This mini-episode is produced and hosted by Brandon Engelbrecht (Centre for Radio Cosmology, University of the Western Cape)

Mini episode transcript

(By Brandon Engelbrecht)

Brandon: [00:00:00] Hello there and welcome to a mini-episode of The Cosmic Savannah, with me Brandon Engelbrecht. I know this is a little strange to hear my voice, but I would first like to thank our returning listeners for coming back, as well as welcome our new listeners to the show and secondly, I’d like to introduce myself.

So, as I said, my name is Brandon. I am a first-year PhD student at the University of the Western Cape currently trying to understand the mysteries of the Universe. But for now, I’m also a podcast host trainee. And the reason behind this is actually a new passion that I’ve developed over the years in science and that is science communication.

I’m very big on the idea of outreach and being able to give back to the community in terms of either explaining scientific phenomena and encouraging students to actually take STEM at the university level, which is the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics programs.

However, the question I usually get is why did you do physics or why do you do astrophysics? And today on our show, we’ll actually have Mr Bret Yotti, currently, a teaching assistant at the University of Cape Town (UCT) explain to us his journey, as to why he did astrophysics at the University of Cape Town and what currently does his job entail? Also, we’ll ask him about his transition from being a student at the University of Cape Town to being a teaching assistant. As well as his job at the Iziko Planetarium where he does visual night tours of the night sky.

So sit back, relax and enjoy a mini episode of The Cosmic Savannah.

So hi, I’m with Bret Yotti and today we’ll be discussing a little bit about himself, what he does and why he’s chosen this path. Firstly, I would like to know from you Bret what do you do?

Bret: [00:01:52] So currently I’m finishing up an undergraduate degree at UCT. But my main job is working at UCT; with the teaching telescopes and the undergraduate students and I handle all of the undergraduate practicals involving the telescopes there and I maintain the teaching telescopes which I helped to install them. And then in my free time, I also work as an evening and weekend presenter at the Iziko Planetarium in Cape Town.

Brandon: [00:02:22] Oh, okay. That’s quite a bit. So you’re at the University of Cape Town and you’re a student, but you also, a technical assistant?

Bret: [00:02:33] Yeah, that’s right, I have several different ways of describing myself I guess. My payslips say a research assistant, I’m also called a head tutor for the observational techniques course, but yes, that’s right, I’m actually a student as well. I finished my astronomy undergraduate material last year. This year, I just have a few other credits to get before I graduate and because I’m working full time I decided to just do those on the side.

Brandon: [00:03:02] Oh okay so your studies have now taken a backseat to your paycheck?

Bret: [00:03:08] Exactly.

Brandon: [00:03:12] That’s what you said and of the two which one do you most prefer, being a student or being more of a research assistant slash head tutor?

Bret: [00:03:20] I definitely do not like being a student. I prefer the research assistants and the tutoring side of her time.

I enjoy teaching students. I enjoy working with them and seeing them discover new things. I love observing. Helping students to appreciate that the same way that I do makes me happy.

Brandon: [00:03:40] So in that sense, we share a similar trait there. I do like to see students, you know, when they smile, when they grasp some new knowledge and the light bulbs in their brain just start flickering and you know that you’ve got them.

Okay, I’ll come back to that. I’m also interested… you said you do some presentations at the Iziko Planetarium.

Bret: [00:04:01]. Yeah, that’s right. So the Planetarium was upgraded about four years ago where they made it into a digital Planetarium and shortly after that, I started working there as a presenter.

So that involves public groups coming in for entertainment and they see a short show 20 or 30 minutes and then I give them a tour of the night sky and I teach them some different things using the Planetarium software. They learn about galaxies, they learn about the Milky Way, they learn about constellations and the night sky from Cape Town.

And I’ve been doing that about three years.

Brandon: [00:04:37] That’s really cool. So you not only just like teach university students, you also try and take astro to a more broader audience. Cause I’m guessing, it’s not just students that go to the Planetarium. It’s also youngsters to the elderly folk as well.

Bret: [00:04:52] That’s right.

And there are different groups. So even with teaching first-year students astronomy, they at least have an interest in astronomy. So they know a lot of things already, what a star is, what a planet is. But at the Planetarium, you get all kinds of people and that’s one of the things I like about the Planetarium, is the questions they ask really gives you an insight to what the common person thinks about astronomy.

So they ask very interesting questions at the Planetarium.

Brandon: [00:05:22] I can imagine, okay so I got what you do, the why, so Bret why astros?

Bret: [00:05:28] Oh, well, I’ve done quite a bit in my life. So after high school, I worked in tourism and hospitality for three years, and then I worked in banking for six years and this is in the United States.

And then I went to Germany where I taught English as a foreign language for eight years and while I was there, I started not liking my job very much and wanted to do more.

So I started studying part-time remotely in Germany and got married while I was in Germany. My wife is from Cape Town, so we decided to move back and I transferred my credits to the University of Cape Town and started studying astronomy at UCT.

And when I looked at my life and tried to figure out what do I want to do? I looked at what interests me, what I do in my free time. And one of those things was reading about the Universe and stars and astronomy on the internet. So I wanted to pursue that further and now I’ve had the opportunity to do that.

Brandon: [00:06:23] Oh, you went very far hey, from tourism to a banker, to a teacher and then boom, you went into your passion. That’s cool and now you’re making your passion your literal job.

Bret: [00:06:32] Yeah, it’s nice to finally be able to get paid for doing something I enjoy, it’s an experience that I haven’t had until somewhat recently. That work could be something that you look forward to instead of something you do until the weekend comes.

Brandon: [00:06:48] And how was the transition from being, on one side? So as a teacher, you on one side of the classroom, and then as a student, you now on the completely other side of the classroom, how was that transition for you?

Bret: [00:07:02] That transition was a bit challenging but more challenging was the age difference, so going back and studying with 18-year-olds just coming out of matric to where I’m a peer with them, but I’m the same age as my lecturers.

So that was a big challenge to try and treat younger people as my peers and people of the same age as my superiors if that makes sense.

Brandon: [00:07:28] That makes sense. When I first met you too, I had to like take back. Cause it was like, oh, not a lecturer, a student.

Bret: [00:07:33] Yeah. And I think I was in my first year then, and I believe you were in honours or maybe third year at that time.

Brandon: [00:07:40] Yeah I was in honours for that one yeah.

Bret: [00:07:42] Yeah.

Brandon: [00:07:43] Alright, well, that is actually all the questions that I have at the moment. So thank you, Bret.

Bret: [00:07:48] Yeah. Thank you, Brandon, it’s been fun.

Brandon: [00:07:57] Well, that’s our interview with Bret from the University of Cape Town and the Iziko Planetarium. And hopefully, now we’ve explained why we do astronomy and astrophysics. And as Bret showed us in his journey, you’re never too late to start a new career or a new calling if you’re passionate about that.

And during the interview, something that really resonated with me was his passion for teaching and not just teaching to the classroom, but also teaching to the general audience. With his job at the Iziko Planetarium, Bret is able to explain the astrophysical phenomena and maybe even get people interested in doing astros or physics in the future.

So to me, that was really nice. I really enjoyed that and as you heard from Bret, it’s never too late to pursue your passion. So it is never too late to come into astros and on that note, I’d really like to thank Bret again for doing the interview and also would like to encourage our listeners for those in Cape Town and those planning on visiting Cape Town, post-Corona that is, to visit Bret at the Iziko Planetarium to watch one of the shows or to even meet Bret and ask him any questions you might have. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind answering them.

But on that note, I’d like to thank our listeners again for tuning in to this mini-episode of The Cosmic Savannah.

Goodbye for now.