Episode 55: A Trip Down Under (Re-run)
with Dr Ivy Wong, Dr Brenda Namumba and Professor Peter Quinn
Today we are re-running Episode 11 from all the way back in Season 1!
Jacinta takes us on a tour of her homeland, into the Australian bush, and chats about pathfinders, precursors and the exciting collaborations between South Africa and Australia!
Precursor telescopes like the South African MeerKAT and HERA (Hydrogen Epoch of Reionisation Array), along with the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) and Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) are providing SKA scientists with invaluable knowledge to assist in the design of the SKA’s main telescopes over the coming decade.
Pathfinder telescopes and systems, such as the now-retired KAT-7 (Karoo Array Telescope) are dotted around the globe and are also engaged in SKA related technology and science studies.
First, we hear from Dr Ivy Wong, a researcher at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) in Perth, about large surveys of neutral hydrogen gas in galaxies and the results shared at the 12th PHISCC (Pathfinders HI Science Coordination Committee) Conference.
Neutral Hydrogen atoms produce radio emission at a wavelength of 21cm or a frequency of 1420 MHz. This emission is commonly referred to as HI and it is the raw fuel of star formation.
We are then joined by newly capped Dr Brenda Namumba from the University of Cape Town. She tells us about her exciting work using the pathfinder to MeerKAT, the KAT-7 telescope.
Finally, Jacinta sits down with Professor Peter Quinn, the Director of ICRAR. They chat about the the incredible growth of radio astronomy in both South Africa and Australia over the recent years, and the enormous collaboration opportunities the SKA is creating between the two countries!
CSIRO’s Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope, located at CSIRO’s Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Western Australia. Credit: CSIRO/Dragonfly Media
This weeks guests:
UCT Astronomy: http://www.ast.uct.ac.za/
By Moloko Makwetja and Justine Crook-Mansour.
[00:00:00] Jacinta: Hi, everyone. Jacinta here. Dan and I, and the rest of The Cosmic Savannah team are having a bit of a week off. We all have a lot of things to catch up on, a lot of projects to work on. I myself am working on a TED talk, which I will be presenting in Western Australia in a few weeks and I’m very excited about that. We’ll hopefully tell you more about that a bit later.
But for now, here is a rerun of episode 11 from all the way back in season one. And in this episode, well we chose this episode to rerun because it’s about Australia. So it’s from the last time that I visited Australia and I got to chat all about the SKA telescope and its precursors, MeerKAT and it’s preceeding KAT7. And also the ones in Australia, ASKAP and MWA.
I was in Australia for a conference on neutral hydrogen gas, which if you’re a regular listener of the show, you know, that’s one of my most favorite topics. So here is an episode playing one of our very first episodes on neutral hydrogen gas also known as HI.
And I thought it was topical because you get to hear about a little bit about my life in Australia, which is where I am still at the moment, still waiting for a visa. And you can hear, we go on a little tour of my backyard here with all the birds and the bushland and my dogs.
And you get a bit of context about where I am at the moment. And in this episode, we chat with Dr. Ivy Wong, Dr. Brenda Namumba and Professor Peter Quinn. Peter Quinn, and Ivy Wong are both around here at the University of Western Australia and associated institutes. They’re still here at the moment.
Although Peter Quinn is just about to retire as the director of the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research after 13 years. So I’d like to wish Peter well in, in whatever he moves on to in the future. And I would like to thank him very much because he himself and another researcher called Lister Staveley-Smith basically changed my life and set me on this career path that I’m on now. So it’s thanks to Peter that you’re hearing me now on The Cosmic Savannah. So thank you very much, Peter, for everything you’ve done and good luck in the future.
And Brenda Namumba, who you’ll also hear from, has gone on to do amazing things. She is a postdoctoral researcher, I believe for the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory, but she is based somewhere in Europe.
I always see amazing photos from her European travels. So wherever you are, Brenda, well done on all of your successes. Yeah. And with that, I will leave you to enjoy this episode and Dan and I will be back, next time with a brand new episode. Bye!
[00:02:51] Dan: Welcome to The Cosmic Savannah with Dr. Daniel Cunnama
[00:02:59] Jacinta: and Dr. Jacinta Delhaize . Each episode, we’ll be giving you a behind the scenes look at world-class astronomy and astroPhysics happening under African skies.
[00:03:07] Dan: Let us introduce you to the people involved, the technology we use, the exciting work we do, and the fascinating discoveries we make.
[00:03:15] Jacinta: Sit back and relax. As we take you on a safari through the skies.
[00:03:28] Dan: Today!
[00:03:29] Jacinta: We’re going to Australia. We’re going on tour. Well, we’re taking the listeners on an audio journey to Australia.
Yes, I’m very excited to, be going, virtually to my home country.
[00:03:47] Dan: Well, you went physically too right and did some recordings. You were there for a conference, and chatted to a couple of people.
[00:03:55] Jacinta: Yep. I chatted to Dr. Ivy Wong and Professor Peter Quinn from the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research. And I also chatted to Dr. Brenda Namumba from the University of Cape Town. And we were all there in Perth, in Western Australia for a conference, as you said, and Perth is actually my hometown.
It’s where I grew up and did all my studies. Actually my hometown is about an hour south of Perth in a town called Mandurah. So I got to go back and do a bit of work and also have a bit of a holiday.
[00:04:26] Dan: Yeah. I mean, I visited ICRAR a few times as you know, during my PhD. I was working with some people there and, I was fortunate enough to spend four to six weeks a year during my PhD there.
It was really, really nice. I enjoyed it. It’s a similar climate to Cape Town. Completely different bird life; as you’ll hear later.
[00:04:50] Jacinta: Yeah. So the conference was at the University of Western Australia, which is one of the two joint partners in ICRAR, the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research, the other partner being Curtin University.
So I did all of my studies at UWA, University of Western Australia and my PhD at ICRAR. And yeah, I guess that’s, well, we met in South Africa first, but then we got to know each other more at ICRAR.
[00:05:13] Dan: I think we met at one of these PHISCC conferences.
[00:05:16] Jacinta: Probably.
[00:05:16] Dan: I think it was yeah.
[00:05:17] Jacinta: Yeah it was actually,
[00:05:18] Dan: We were both working on HI. And what is the PHISCC conference?
[00:05:22] Jacinta: Oh well, we’ll get to that later.
[00:05:25] Dan: You managed to take some time off while you were there too? Go home?
[00:05:28] Jacinta: Yeah. Yeah. I got to go and see my family, see my dogs, Tonka and Caddie. And yes, spend a bit of time in the bushland. What do you call the bushland here in South Africa?
[00:05:39] Dan: The veld.
[00:05:40] Jacinta: The veld. Oh okay.
[00:05:43] Dan: Which basically means bush, or the field, but, you know.
[00:05:46] Jacinta: So is that where you have like trees and stuff or is it more like lower shrubs?
[00:05:50] Dan: Yeah. So I mean there are various velds, like there’s the bush veld. As I think of the bush veld, there are sort of low trees, acacias. Whereas if you go a little bit higher in altitude, the veld becomes a lot less treed, a lot more grassland.
[00:06:05] Jacinta: In Australia, the bush has the characteristic eucalyptus trees, gum trees, everywhere, which are also here in Cape Town, in South Africa, everywhere.
[00:06:15] Dan: Thanks for that.
[00:06:16] Jacinta: You’re welcome. I guess here, they’re a bit of a pest, soaking up all of the water and there’s no koalas to keep them under control; but of course they’re native to Australia. And so, yeah, so like walking amongst the eucalypt trees is what I think of when I think of home.
So I thought I would actually record a bit of that for you and, play it for our listeners. You can hear what the Australian bushland sounds like.
Should we take a listen?
[00:06:43] Dan: Yeah!
[00:06:45] Jacinta: Hello from the Australian bushland. I’m here in my hometown in Western Australia. So I’m going for a walk. I’m looking at all of the beautiful gum trees around me.
Maybe you can hear my dogs in the background. Come here girl. You want me to throw the ball for you? Come here. Hello. Here you go, ready? Catch.
Maybe you can hear the wind. The wind rustling the leaves, and the crickets. The birds are a bit quiet at the moment. There’s one! It’s a very blue sky today. Very clear. Let’s go for a bit of a walk. Come on dogs.
[00:07:59] Dan: Yeah, very cool. It’s like the sound of your home.
[00:08:02] Jacinta: It is. Yeah. I feel a little homesick now, but it’s not too bad because actually Cape Town is probably the one place in the world that is the most similar to Perth.
[00:08:11] Dan: Yeah, we have this Mediterranean climate, winter rainfall
[00:08:15] Jacinta: and very similar latitude as well
[00:08:17] Dan: yeah, on the west coast.
similar latitude, very similar temperatures and wind patterns. Good for cuts surfing. And, what was all the eucalypts we have here too? It’s also, it does feel very familiar. Yeah, I felt very familiar in Perth.
[00:08:34] Jacinta: But it wasn’t actually just all fun and games. I did actually do a bit of work, and I did some astronomy,
[00:08:40] Dan: and he did some recording.
I did some recording. Yeah. So I was there for the PHISCC meeting, which I’ll talk a bit more about in a moment. We were talking about HI Neutral Hydrogen gas, which is a very important component of galaxies. And we were talking about the different surveys of the sky you can do in HI. With the pathfinder telescopes.
And precursor telescopes
[00:09:04] Jacinta: Sorry. pathfinder and precursor telescopes.
[00:09:05] Dan: Yeah. There’s a subtle difference there that has become something which we have to clarify.
[00:09:11] Jacinta: Well, I guess we need to start all the way from the SKA to explain what the pathfinders and precursors are. Right?
[00:09:16] Dan: Sure. So, the Square Kilometre Array is this massive radio telescope, which is getting built and will be completed in the next decade, a large portion of it, which will be built here in South Africa. And then other parts will be built in Australia
[00:09:30] Jacinta: in Western Australia.
[00:09:31] Dan: Western Australia. And they lead up to these various pathfinders and precursors were built to test technology to learn, to try things out and see what was going to work, what wasn’t, and basically come up with the best design possible.
[00:09:47] Jacinta: Yeah. So these are kind of Test_Bed Telescopes, which in themselves are the world’s most powerful radio telescopes anyway, but they’re only about one to three percent the size of what the full SKA will be. This is going to be an absolutely enormous endeavor, and there’s pathfinder and precursor telescopes in several different parts of the world. Of course, South Africa has MeerKAT, and it’s precursor which was KAT-7
[00:10:14] Dan: So, definition time. A pathfinder is essentially, a smaller telescope or a Test-Bed, which isn’t incorporated into the larger telescope. So KAT-7 was one of the pathfinders. We had a small seven disarray and that was not incorporated into MeerKAT. It’s now no longer functioning, but we learnt a lot from it, and made a few mistakes and learned from them. MeerKAT on the other hand is a precursor to the SKA because MeerKAT will be directly incorporated into the SKA array. And that is the difference.
[00:10:50] Jacinta: Right. And then I guess the other precursors are… Well ASKAP, the Australian SKA pathfinder in Western Australia.
[00:10:57] Dan: Is that not a pathfinder? Because it’s not incorporated into the high-frequency area.
[00:11:01] Jacinta: That’s true. I’m not sure. Yeah. I guess that’s another aspect of SKA. There’s two main parts as a higher frequency part of SKA, which is going to be.
The telescopes looked like satellite dishes, and then there’s a lower frequency component. That’s the part going in Western Australia, and we still don’t really know what the final design of those telescopes will look like, but one one particular design is like a metal spider or a metal umbrella and the metal spider kind of design. There is a precursor in Western Australia and that’s called the Murchison Widefield Array or the MWA. And there are other pathfinders around the world. There’s Apertif in the Netherlands, as FAST in China. And there’s quite a few.
[00:11:42] Dan: So that was a nice little foray into some definitions,
[00:11:46] Jacinta: which we do occasionally.
[00:11:47] Dan: That’s good.
[00:11:48] Jacinta: Yes. Another definition is the name of the conference PHISCC. P H I S C C.
[00:11:57] Dan: What is that for?
[00:11:58] Jacinta: Okay. So I think we should just go right in ahead into our first interview with Dr. Ivy Wong. She’s a researcher at ICRAR, and she was the chair of the organizing committee of PHISCC. So she’ll give us our definition and tell us a bit more about, what the conference was about .
[00:12:13] Dan: Great!
[00:12:16] Jacinta: I’m here at the 12th PHISCC workshop in, at the University of Western Australia. And with me here is the chair of the local organizing committee and scientific organizing committee. Dr. Ivy Wong. Welcome Ivy.
[00:12:36] Ivy: Thank you Jucinta.
[00:12:37] Jacinta: So Ivy, you’ve done an enormous job getting together this, international conference. Can you tell us what is PHISCC and what is it all about?
[00:12:46] Ivy: Okay. So PHISCC stands for the Pathfinders for HI Science Coordination Committee. So it doesn’t sound like a very good name, but really it’s just the coordination meeting between all the survey heads for all the SKA pathfinder experiments.
It’s been really fun because; within the field, we tend to know everyone. So in terms of organization of an international workshops, such as this one, it’s been a fair bit of work, but given that we do know each other, it’s been a lot easier.
[00:13:19] Jacinta: And this meeting is all about, HI, which is the short name for Neutral Hydrogen gas. Can you tell us a little bit more about what that is, and why it’s important and where we see it in space?
[00:13:33] Ivy: HI is Neutral Hydrogen, but it’s actually also known as Atomic Hydrogen. So when you were in high school, you probably learned that hydrogen as the first element of the periodic table, it’s the most simple element and the building blocks for most things we see around us since the Big Bang; consists of an electron and a proton. And when the electron gets excited, we see it in the form of 21 centimeter radiation, and so we just call it HI for short, and that’s what it’s all about. And the reason it’s interesting is because most galaxies are HI, and this means that when there’s sufficient HI, it can call and form stars. What’s really cool, is also the fact that when we see HI, we get to see it’s kinematics, it’s motion, we could actually measure the total mass of the system, including the matter we can not see. And so this is how we are able to see these galaxies in 3D, through observing atomic, hydrogen. And because it’s also fluffy and wispy, it’s also very, sensitive to interactions with its neighbors or any other physical processes that’s occurring to that galaxy it’s shaping its evolution.
So at the end of the day, HI is a very useful tool for trying to probe the dominant processes, which drive how galaxies form stars and evolve.
[00:14:57] Jacinta: Right. So it’s like the, building block of the galaxy. Isn’t it? It’s the raw fuel from which stars form. So if you have a galaxy without any, HI gas, it’s kind of dead, isn’t it.
[00:15:09] Ivy: Well, it’s not dead. It’s just passively evolving. And so it’ll wait until it gets a fresh supply of gas before it can form more stars.
[00:15:17] Jacinta: What does it mean to passively evolve?
[00:15:19] Ivy: So what this means is that all the stars that are still there continue to age and the galaxy will look redder. and redder
[00:15:27] Jacinta: Okay. And then if it has some of the HI gas, then it will tend to be bluer?
[00:15:32] Ivy: Sometimes.
So the state of the HI gas is very important because while you can form stars out of HI, typically what it requires is for you to condense and call that HI, just that little bit more to gain enough pressure to form a star. And galaxies don’t just form single stars. They form a whole collection of stars in the same burst.
So as you see, if you had fluffy HI, that’s just hanging around doing nothing. It might take quite some time before it form stars.
[00:16:03] Jacinta: So why is it important for us to have a conference about HI at the moment?
[00:16:07] Ivy: So, with the next generation of surveys, we’re going to be able to see HI to a much further distance, in time and space.
And so while we’ve had all these fantastic surveys with optical telescopes and space telescopes, what’s been lacking is surveys and radio astronomy. And because HI is such a cool element in the Universe, we can only see it in the radio. And so as technology advances, we can see further and further into space and see back to a time when most of the Universe was in HI.
[00:16:44] Jacinta: Right, and so we’re in a really exciting time at the moment, because there are all of these telescopes around the world, new, a new generation of telescopes that have just come online and the very first results are coming through. And I guess that’s why we’re here. Isn’t it? To tell each other what’s going.
[00:17:00] Ivy: Yes, we’re here to compare results and our instruments because these are pathfinder instruments. And what happens is that ultimately, when we built our ultimate telescope, which is the Square Kilometer Array, we need the entire world’s cooperation and working together towards the same goal. So this is why we start early and maintain our friendship and connections.
[00:17:22] Jacinta: Right. And I guess it’s so it’s important for all astronomers from all over the world to come together to do this because science is a very international thing. Isn’t it?
[00:17:32] Ivy: Yes exactly. This is why we have these annual coordination committee meetings, because if we didn’t actually get everyone under the same sky, communicating together and coordinating their efforts, this would never happen.
So for example, in this particular meeting, we’ve got a huge contingent from South Africa, from China representing these survey instruments, showing us their latest results. And all of us comparing notes so that we can as one together progress further.
[00:18:02] Jacinta: Yeah. Well, thank you very much for all of your efforts. As I said before in preparing this conference, was it a lot of work?
[00:18:07] Ivy: Yes. Thank you Jucinta for coming and you’re very welcome.
[00:18:12] Jacinta: Thanks very much for talking to us today, Ivy.
[00:18:14] Ivy: You’re very welcome. Cheers.
[00:18:25] Dan: Great. So we heard from Ivy about the organization and the definition of the conference and what it was there for. How was it?
[00:18:32] Jacinta: Yeah, it was really, really good. I really enjoyed it. These conferences happen once a year and I’ve been to several of them, although this was my first in about five years. So it was really great to see everyone again, see the community. The HI community is really friendly and collaborative. So I really enjoyed it. This year there was a huge contingency of attendees from South Africa because this was the first year after MeerKAT was launched since it started running and producing data. So, the very first MeerKAT results were presented, at this PHISCC conference, and that was really exciting to see.
[00:19:05] Dan: Awesome. I want to see them.
[00:19:09] Jacinta: You can! They’re online now. Yeah, and so I spoke to one attendee, Dr. Brenda Namumba, about how she used KAT-7, the MeerKAT precursor, pre pathfinder.
[00:19:24] Dan: Yep.
[00:19:24] Jacinta: Yep. And how she used that to study, HI Neutral Hydrogen gas and in particular, how she tried to find the very small amounts of hydrogen gas in the outskirts of galaxies at the fuzzy edges. And we know it must be there, but it’s really, really hard to see. So she was trying to see if she could find that HI!
[00:19:45] Dan: With KAT-7.
[00:19:46] Jacinta: With KAT-7, and some other telescopes as well,
[00:19:48] Dan: As we know, SKA MeerKAT will be able to do even better.
[00:19:50] Jacinta: That’s right. Yeah. So that’s, I think what she wants to go on to work with in the future.
[00:19:54] Dan: Excellent. Let’s hear from Brenda.
[00:20:05] Jacinta: Hello, I’m sitting here on the shores of Matilda bay in Western Australia with almost Dr. Brenda Namumba. Welcome, Brenda,
[00:20:13] Brenda: Hi Jacinta. Thank you for having me.
[00:20:16] Jacinta: Brenda, can you tell us a little bit more about who you are, and where you’re from?
[00:20:20] Brenda: My name is Brendan Namumba. I’m a Zambian. I came to Cape Town in 2012, to pursue my career in astroPhysics.
[00:20:32] Jacinta: Brenda has just submitted her PhD thesis and it’s going through examination at the moment. So that’s why I say almost Dr.
[00:20:40] Brenda: That’s a good one.
[00:20:42] Jacinta: So congratulations on submitting. It’s a big deal.
[00:20:45] Brenda: Thank you very much.
[00:20:46] Jacinta: It must be quite relieving.
[00:20:48] Brenda: Very, but waiting for the big event,
[00:20:52] Jacinta: the acceptance. Good. So, Brenda, we are sitting here on the shores of, as I said, Matilda bay, which is, next to the University of Western Australia in Perth. We’re here for a conference at the moment. And maybe our listeners can hear the sounds in the background of the birds and maybe a couple of cars and the wind. And can you see that Swan over there, Brenda?
[00:21:15] Brenda: Wow. That looks amazing.
[00:21:19] Jacinta: It’s a black swan, with a red bill. Did you know they’re actually indigenous to Western Australia?
[00:21:25] Brenda: Really? I didn’t know that
[00:21:27] Jacinta: Yeah. It’s our, it’s our state symbol.
[00:21:29] Brenda: Wow! I’ve learnt something new. Place is really amazing. I’m really enjoying Australia.
[00:21:34] Jacinta: Are you enjoying?
[00:21:35] Brenda: Yes, it’s a place I would love to visit for science and touring.
[00:21:41] Jacinta: Oh, good!
[00:21:42] Brenda: Yeah.
[00:21:43] Jacinta: Well, maybe we should start talking about science. So as I said, we’re here at the PHISCC conference, which is all about a Neutral Hydrogen gas; and Brenda, you gave a presentation the other day. That was about your PhD work.
[00:21:55] Brenda: Yes,
[00:21:56] Jacinta: so, what was it about?
[00:21:58] Brenda: So, basically for my PhD, I’ve been looking at deaf galaxies; these small, tiny galaxies, that are very nearby to us, in the local group and my aim was to try and study their structure, their shape and their kinematics using the Neutral Hydrogen component, which is the most important component when we are trying to study the evolution of galaxies.
[00:22:32] Jacinta: Okay. So you’re looking at galaxies that are quite close by to us in the Universe. You said the local group, what does the local group mean?
[00:22:39] Brenda: So, basically the local group is a group of galaxies in which, our own galaxy, the Milky way resides in. So in that group, they’re mostly like three galaxies that are similar to our own galaxy. And the rest of the galaxies in that group are very tiny, small galaxies that are called dwarf galaxies. And these galaxies are very unique. In that their characteristics or their properties, are very different from other galaxies. So it’s very important for us to try and understand how they evolve, so that they can help us to understand the overall view of how galaxies evolve and interacts with each other.
[00:23:27] Jacinta: Alright. So, we have the big, galaxies near us. Well, obviously the Milky way that we’re in and then there’s, Andromeda.
[00:23:34] Brenda: There’s Andromeda yes
[00:23:35] Jacinta: Okay. So there’s three big ones, and there’s a lot of small ones that you’re talking about now. So they’re these weird little shaped dwarf galaxies.
[00:23:43] Brenda: Yeah.
[00:23:44] Jacinta: So what do they look like?
[00:23:46] Brenda: So basically they come in different shapes, and have different properties, but I’m mostly interested in what we call the dwarf irregular galaxies, because these galaxies tend to have high gas content. So, they are very rich in Neutral Hydrogen, and because the main focus of my project is to look at Neutral Hydrogen. So I focus on the dwarf irregular galaxies. They have an irregular shape just from then from their name itself. They also have a very simple structure.
You’ll find other galaxies that are very complicated. They have bulges or spiral arms, but these dwarf irregular galaxies are very simple, which makes it easy for us to study the Physics in these galaxies and understand more on how they are born, how they live and until they die. All those processes.
[00:24:40] Jacinta: Okay. So you say it’s important to study them because they might give us some clues about evolution of galaxies. And you say that they’re irregular, so they’re not these nice spiral shapes, like the Milky way or Andromeda.
[00:24:54] Brenda: Yes
[00:24:54] Jacinta: and you’ve said that they’ve got simple Physics. What does that mean?
[00:24:57] Brenda: What I mean is, when we look at, for instance, when we want to study spiral galaxies, we have to take into account their spiral arms; and also their central disc, but for dwarf irregular galaxies. They don’t have those complicated structures that such as the spiral arms. So they just have like one component. They don’t have bulges, like these compact stellar disc in the central region of these galaxies. So they are very simple. Like it’s only one component that you’re going to look at as compared to spiral galaxies, where you have to look at three components in the same galaxy for you to try and understand something about them.
[00:25:35] Jacinta: Right. So the Physics in the spiral arms might be different to the Physics in the bulges, for example
[00:25:40] Brenda: Yes. And that becomes very complicated because the Physics that you are going to use to study the spiral arms, will be different from the Physics that you are going to use to study the bulges. And you have to combine them to try and understand the whole entire galaxy. Yeah.
[00:25:56] Jacinta: Okay. So the irregular galaxies, they don’t have these components. They just are all the same Physics presumably in the entire galaxy. Right. Okay. And you were saying that you look at the Neutral Hydrogen gas inside that, what exactly are you looking for?
[00:26:09] Brenda: So basically when you are observing, when the original telescope is pointing at a galaxy, we observe Neutral Hydrogen, either in emission or in absorption , but for my PhD, my focus was looking at the Neutral Hydrogen emission in these galaxies.
[00:26:30] Jacinta: So Brenda, you are looking at the hydrogen gas in these galaxies, your particular observations that you’ve done them with some radio telescopes is trying to pick up really faint levels of hydrogen gas that we haven’t been able to detect before.
Why is it important to detect this faint gas?
[00:26:48] Brenda: Yeah. So basically it’s very important for us to be able to detect the faint gas around galaxies because we’re able to find the total, each one mass, and also the total size of the galaxies. Like we can be able to determine their total extent from Neutral Hydrogen, because Neutral Hydrogen, as we know is the most extended, observable component as compared to other elements that we observe at other wavelengths.
[00:27:18] Jacinta: Right. So I guess, we want to know two fundamental properties of the galaxy, how heavy it is, essentially. It’s total mass and how big it is. And we can’t figure out how big it is by looking in at the stars or anything, because we think that the hydrogen gas extends much further out than the diameter of the stars isn’t that right?
[00:27:37] Brenda: That’s very correct.
[00:27:38] Jacinta: So, is there anything else special about the hydrogen gas at the edge of the galaxy?
[00:27:44] Brenda: So the Neutral Hydrogen at the outskirts of galaxies is less bound by gravity, and therefore tends to be easily disturbed. And from this, we can learn about different properties such as, if galaxies are interacting with each other or if they are in an isolated environment. So, these two parameters can easily be detected at Neutral Hydrogen wavelength as compared to other wavelengths.
[00:28:13] Jacinta: Right. So if two galaxies are coming close to each other, and then they interact gravitationally that might affect the gas in the outskirts of the galaxy, more than it would affect the other components like the stars or something.
[00:28:23] Brenda: Yes. And you can easily see it when you observe a galaxy at a Neutral Hydrogen wavelength.
[00:28:31] Jacinta: Is this an important thing to know when we’re studying galaxy evolution?
[00:28:35] Brenda: Yeah, it’s very important because the way a galaxy is going to behave when it’s not interacting will be very different with the way it’s going to behave when it’s interacting. Yeah, because when it interacts, for instance, there is gas that is being stripped off the outskirts of this galaxy and, their behavior changes, as compared to a galaxy that is only isolated. It’s not interacting it’s very in quiescent state and the way the gas moves is quite different.
So you actually learn a lot by studying the environments in which galaxies reside in, when it comes to galaxy evolution.
[00:29:16] Jacinta: So, I guess it’s pretty hard to see this faint gas, even in close by galaxies, isn’t it?
[00:29:21] Brenda: Yeah. It’s very different. When we look at, the current telescopes that, we have, although let me not say currently, because at the moment we have telescopes that are able to actually detect the HI in the outskirts of galaxies.
[00:29:37] Jacinta: So you’re talking about MeerKAT?
[00:29:39] Brenda: Yeah. So currently we have MeerKAT, but for my PhD project, I actually used the KAT-7, which was initially built as an engineering Test-Bed for MeerKAT. But when we look at the properties of a KAT-7, this instrument had compact baselines. So basically when I talk about compact baseline, the telescopes are built very close to each other, and that enables, the telescope to see extended structures as compared to telescopes that are built very far from each other.
[00:30:17] Jacinta: So KAT-7 had antenna that were close together, and that means because of some complicated processes in radio astronomy, that you can detect what we call diffuse emission. So the faint, fuzzy emission that spread out over a larger areas. Is that correct?
[00:30:36] Brenda: Yeah, that’s so correct. Yeah.
[00:30:37] Jacinta: So you used KAT-7 that’s pretty exciting.
[00:30:40] Brenda: Yeah, it was very exciting to work with KAT-7 because I was one of the students who started working with the telescope when it was first built, because I started working with KAT-7 just from my Masters and I continued with my phD. So it’s actually one of the telescope that is very close to my heart now.
[00:31:01] Jacinta: Yeah. Well, you were actually going to, now that you’ve finished your PhD, you’re about to start your first job as an astronomer, as a Post Doctoral researcher with SARAO the South African Radio Astronomical Observatory. Well, congratulations on that position first of all.
[00:31:16] Brenda: Thank you.
[00:31:17] Jacinta: And what will you be working on?
[00:31:19] Brenda: So basically I plan to continue working on draft galaxies as my main project. However, with my Postdoc, I will be using the MeerKAT, which has a very high sensitivity and very high resolution as compared to the KAT-7. So from this, we hope to actually be able to obtain even better results than we had for my PhD, and with this, I hope to also combine my radio observations with multi-wavelength data that will allow me to study different processes that occur in galaxies. So I plan to use optical to study the ongoing star formation in galaxies, combining it with the radio observations so that, we can actually go in details to study how galaxies are form and evolve.
[00:32:15] Jacinta: Yeah. So a lot of the time, a lot of the power and what we can do in astronomy comes from not just looking at one type of lights or just radio, but actually combining it with other types like optical, which is released by stars. And then you’ve got the radio from the gas and the infrared from the dust, and then it’s just by combining all of these data that you can get a clear picture of what’s going on in the galaxy.
[00:32:36] Brenda: Yes, that’s very correct because we get; different wavelengths, give us different information. And when we combine different wavelengths, we actually have a very clear picture on what we really want as a compare. Which is different when we only look at one wavelength. Yeah. It is very important for us to actually be able to combine different wavelengths. If we want to have a full picture on how galaxies form and evolve, and that’s the key thing that we wants to understand as astronomers.
[00:33:09] Jacinta: Fantastic. Well, good luck with all of that.
[00:33:12] Brenda: Thank you.
[00:33:12] Jacinta: We’re getting attacked by birds here. There’s a crow behind you making these terrible sounds. There’s a duck here in front of us.
[00:33:21] Brenda: We are surrounded by nature.
[00:33:22] Jacinta: Yeah. So I guess, that might be time to wrap up this discussion. Thank you very much for talking to us today, Brenda.
[00:33:29] Brenda: Thanks very much Jacinta.
[00:33:40] Jacinta: So I am pleased to report that, Brenda has now finished her PhD, has graduated from that. So she’s full Dr. Brenda Namumba.
[00:33:48] Dan: Yay! Congratulations.
[00:33:49] Jacinta: Yay! And some of the listeners might remember that we actually gave a shout out to her and some other graduates in our previous episode. Oh, and a small correction, the black swan is not native just to us in Australia, but it is native to all of Australia. It’s just quite prolific and present in Western Australia
[00:34:09] Dan: used to be one where I grew up
[00:34:10] Jacinta: really?
[00:34:10] Dan: In Pietermaritzburg.
[00:34:11] Jacinta: That’s; What?
[00:34:12] Dan: I know, it was super weird. It was wild, and it lived on one of the little lakes at a shopping center.
[00:34:18] Jacinta: My gosh. How did it get there?
[00:34:20] Dan: Nobody knows.
[00:34:20] Jacinta: Wow!
[00:34:21] Dan: I mean, maybe he got stuck in a hurricane or something or maybe it was just, I don’t know, somebody’s pet or something that could have got away.
[00:34:28] Jacinta: Wow.
[00:34:29] Dan: It’s kind of cool. It lived with the white swans.
[00:34:33] Jacinta: Okay, really? Oh, wow,
[00:34:35] Dan: they kind of fitted in.
[00:34:38] Jacinta: Well, it’s not just black swans that connect Australia and South Africa, as we mentioned. The SKA is going to be built both in South Africa and Western Australia. And the government and the people of both of these countries are very dedicated to the project.
[00:34:51] Dan: Yeah. It’s been an incredible collaborative effort, as you say, both Australia and South Africa, but then many other countries too. As we’ve mentioned before, the head office for the SKA organization is and Manchester, in the UK, and the declaration or the treaty, the SKA treaty is busy traveling around the world at the moment and getting signatures from all of the governments of the related parties.
I think South Africa signed it in December. So the treaty is busy getting signed by all of these countries. It’s a incredible international project and, a kind of an amazing international collaboration.
[00:35:26] Jacinta: Yeah. And I guess it’s only through international collaboration that it will be possible for something this big and this epic to get built.
[00:35:33] Dan: Yeah, that’s for sure. It’s very exciting.
[00:35:35] Jacinta: Yeah. So I spoke to professor Peter Quinn, who is the director of ICRAR and he chatted about how important these collaborations are and what kind of science they’ll be doing.
Great. Let’s hear from Peter.
I’m here at the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research in Western Australia; and with me today is Professor Peter Quinn. Hello Peter.
[00:36:03] Peter: Hi. How are you?
[00:36:04] Jacinta: Peter, can you tell us a little bit about who you are?
[00:36:07] Peter: Sure. So Peter Quinn, I’m an Australian by birth, but like most astronomers, I spent most of my life around the world doing research in America, North America, South America and Europe. So it’s a very international career for all astronomers. And I’ve done that. I’m primarily a computational astrophysicist, I guess, by training like galaxy dynamics, like computers like galaxy formation and dark matter. But over the course of time, I became very interested in data and data intensive astronomy and how you acquire data and move it and use it to do astronomy with it.
So I’ve been involved with that as well, and that career has brought me back here to Western Australia to be part of the SKA.
[00:36:45] Jacinta: Great. Can you tell us a little bit more about your role that you’re currently in.
[00:36:48] Peter: So I came back to Australia in 2006, because Western Australia was at that time being considered as one of the places where the SKA and the Western Australian government were very keen to start developing capacity, places, institutes people’s skills in Australia because of that SKA opportunity.
So I came back in 2006 and my job was to basically start a new research center here in Western Australia to create a landing pad, sort of a critical mass of young people to obviously use eventually the SKA but most importantly, to sort of think about how to build it and how to design it and how to make sure it does what it’s supposed to do.
So we’ve put together this thing called the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research here in Perth. It’s a joint venture of Curtin University and University of Western Australia. We have money from those universities, from the state government and from the federal government. Currently we’re about 120 staff and about 80 graduate students and growing very strongly.
We are doing very well as a research organization, ranked pretty highly in the world. And. I guess over the course of one of the things I like to admire about ICRAR the most is over the course of that 10 years. Basically, we went from no astronomers on the west coast to now about one third of all the astronomers in Australia live on the west coast.
So it’s, a shift in the demographic from the east coast or somewhere in the middle of Nullarbor, I guess. But, yeah, it’s a big change.
[00:38:05] Jacinta: Yeah, I actually did my PhD here at ICRAR with you and a few other researchers here and it’s grown really quickly. Hasn’t?
[00:38:12] Peter: It has. It’s, it’s amazing to see the growth. As I said, from basically a handful of people and literally a handful of people to now over 120 staff and 90 plus graduate students and we’re comparable to about the fifth largest institute of the radio astronomy institutes in the world. And that’s all happened because of the excitement, I guess, of the SKA. We’ve people want to be involved in something this large and this important, but also the funding that’s come from the universities from the Australian government, federal government, they’re all keen to support science, to support the growth of this as a remarkable piece of science that can be done in Australia.
But also, they love what might come with the science. So the technology and the advances and the innovation, all the things, all the problems we have to solve to make the SKA work. There are things that are interesting, obviously for astronomers, but also for other companies and industries and people around the world.
[00:39:04] Jacinta: Yeah. When I started my PhD here, I think I was one of the only students. I had an entire floor of a building to myself, and now we’re all crammed in fighting for space. There’s so many of us. Can you tell us a little bit more about how ICRAR and the SKA are tied to South Africa and south Africa’s role in the SKA.
[00:39:24] Peter: So SKA of course, is a multi-wavelength telescope. In some sense, it has low frequency and it has high frequency. And we’re lucky to have two sites in the world, which presents probably the best opportunities to do that. So the south African side and Australian site together cover that wavelength range very well; in different technologies and different approaches, but there are broad wavelength range. So it’s the sites. The quality of the two sites is obviously fantastic and the isolation and the commitment of both governments to protect those sites, to make sure that they are great sites forever.
Again, both governments should be proud of that heritage, if you like world heritage kind of approach to doing science. So indeed. Yes. So the two governments and the two projects in the two sites are very, very important. Clearly, internationally, of course, we’re all astronomers and astronomers need to work together to be able to study the Universe.
We all see the same sky. It all goes by our heads, but we don’t all see it at the same time. So we have to work together. Be able to map parts of the sky, combine those maps together to solve science problems. And so that’s why there are meetings, like the meetings here at the moment of where it’s astronomers and various parts of the world get together and able to combine their ideas because they can’t all do it individually.
They have to do it collectively because there’s a big sky out there and it’s all one big sky. So that’s an important element of the SKA at both Australia and South Africa obviously need to share in, and I think both Australia and South Africa see the SKA as an opportunity to grow in various ways. So our South Africa to grow a community of scientists, a community of young people wanting to do science in Australia, because it has a heritage in astronomy, but it also sees opportunities for itself in the future in astronomy, and also wants it to be a good global partner in research.
And that’s what I think South Africa wants as well, that these days, the kinds of projects that science are doing are so big that if you don’t have global collaboration, you won’t do them. Right. The SKA is a billion euros worth of telescope. No one country has enough money to do that. So you have to combine your resources to be able to do that.
And that’s what global science, it’s not just about astronomy. It’s about all sorts of global science and global technology. They won’t happen unless you get lots of people to work together. And so working together as an important skill.
[00:41:34] Jacinta: Yeah. I guess it’s. I’d say it’s one of the big bonuses of astronomy is that we’re all under one sky. And so we can all work together, on huge projects like this, and it is only through the working together that we can facilitate such enormous, endeavors. Isn’t it?
[00:41:49] Peter: Absolutely. It’s not possible for one person to see the whole sky, at any one time. So it’s very important. We have to work together.
I think the other thing is to set a project of the scale of SKA. The money is huge, but also the task is huge. So if you look at the SKA to build it, we have to design probably 10 or 20 or 30 different things. There are different skills all over the world. So, and we have to bring our skills together to solve those problems.
No one country has all the skills you need to, to build a telescope like this. And so in South Africa, through its engagement in KAT and MeerKATs through its radio astronomy heritage, Australia through its radio astronomy heritage bring different skills. But complimentary skills to the SKA problem.
[00:42:30] Jacinta: Can you tell us a little bit more about the two different aspects of the SKA, the mid frequency and the low frequency and what kind of antennas are going to be on each side.
[00:42:39] Peter: So, as I said before, it’s a multi-wavelength telescope. It wants to solve different science problems. Some of the science problems have information in arriving in Earth in the low frequency part of the spectrum. So the same sort of frequency as FM radio stations. So in Australia, the outside is a good side for that FM sort of band signal, about a hundred Megahertz or so.
And so we are building the low frequency telescope for SKA Australia, that operates around about at hundred Megahertz. It doesn’t have dishes, it doesn’t look like a radio telescope. People might think about it. Doesn’t have a big, as I said, satellite dish kind of a structure. It has little tiny antennae that sit on the ground and they don’t move. They sit there and they look at the whole sky all the time.
[00:43:18] Jacinta: Yeah, they kind of look like a metals, but
[00:43:19] Peter: They look like little spiders or Christmas trees or whatever, but they, but you need vast amounts of computer power to plug on the back of those simple metal objects to be able to make them act like a telescope to have them look at a particular part of the sky and collect data from it.
So, it’s a very digital telescope in that respect as well. In the case of South Africa, they’ve got the mid-frequency problem, which they’re optimally suited for in terms of their site. So that’s about 10 times higher frequency than the low frequency. It’s about a thousand Megahertz or Gigahertz, and that’s where dishes are really important.
That’s where dishes are optimal for reading that sort of signals. The sort of dishes, as I said, we see on house roofs and things like that, but much bigger, of course. So there’s additions, which pointed a particular part of the sky and received the signal from that part of the sky and look, and combine that data together to form a map.
So it’s more of an analog telescope in the sense that the dishes do a lot of the work. Whereas in the SKA though, the computers do a lot of the work, but both are necessary to solve the problem. As I say, collecting the data. Once you collect the data, whether it’s through a digital telescope or analog telescope, you got a vast amount of data to, to solve.
And so, both the South African telescope and the Australian telescope, as part of the SKA produce enormous amounts of data, and that data challenge is common for the whole SKA family.
[00:44:30] Jacinta: Can you tell us a little bit more about the different kinds of science you can do with each of these two antennas and whether you can do the same science on both as well?
[00:44:39] Peter: So, the SKA-Low in Australia is optimized for that low frequency signal and about a hundred Megahertz or so it turns out that that’s the frequency band at which the signal from the very distant Universe arrives at the Earth. So, we believe when the Universe was first made, before it was formed, and there was a lot of hot hydrogen gas floating around the place.
It was, most of the Universe was made of it and that gas, when it cools down and gives off a radio signal and that radio signal reaches to the Earth at about the frequency of a hundred Megahertz or so. So the a hundred Megahertz sky is kind of a picture of that very early first, a hundred thousand years or so of the Universe.
So, if you want to study that period in the Universe, low-frequency is the place to go. If you come a bit closer to us and now galaxies and stars are formed, and galaxies grow black holes, and black holes spit out vast amounts of energy, and change galaxies. That’s sort of frequency is about 10 times higher to a Gigahertz or a few Gigahertz.
And that’s when you need the dishes of MeerKAT. So, dishes of MeerKAT are fantastic for looking at the gas in the high energetic particles that are inside galaxies. So there’s the things, all the energetic processes that are going on that shape and form and change galaxies. I must study the black holes. I studied with MeerKAT, spinning stars, pulsars, neutron stars. Giving out bursts of radiation they studied with MeerKAT, and also just the hydrogen gas after it cools off and collects around galaxies is also studied by MeerKAT. So most of the things in the Universe in local to us in the Universe that we see with our telescopes, optical telescopes, MeerKAT is going to give us a radio insides in time.
[00:46:07] Jacinta: MeerKAT and also the SKA
[00:46:09] Peter: MeerKAT. And eventually it calls MeerKAT and it’s evolution into the mid-frequency part of the SKA. So, SKA-Mid, which is the growth of MeerKAT, if you want to call it that. And SKA-Low, which is again something is going to grow from some of the small telescopes we have on SKA side here in Australia, but also be a new telescope as well.
[00:46:28] Jacinta: And, is there any particular benefit of having different aspects of the telescope, in different parts of the world to see the sky at different times?
[00:46:36] Peter: So there’s a couple of benefits. One is of course, if you’re mapping of a particular part of the sky, big chunk of the sky, that part of the sky moves over Australia then moves of the South Africa. So if you’re exposing on both sides, you get twice as much information. So you’ve got two opportunities to look at it, which is fantastic. Also some things are time variable. So some star explodes. It might be seen in Australia, but by the time we, we want to follow its evolution, it sets in the West, and it’s then picked up by our friends in South Africa.
So things had change on the sky, where you’ve got two chances to see it and map it and evolve it. Also combining the data directly. If you want to combine data from telescopes in South Africa and telescopes in Australia, at the same time, you can actually make pictures of the sky, which are much higher resolution than pictures you can just make from either one side. So lots of opportunities from working together.
[00:47:24] Jacinta: So this second aspect that you talked about is this what we call VLBI, Very-long-baseline interferometry?
[00:47:30] Peter: Yeah, that’s what VLBI, Very-long-baseline interferometry, it means that basically each one of these telescopes, both the SKA-Low, and SKA-Mid are interferometers. So we have lots and lots of dishes or antennae. Combined single together and you produce a map of the sky, which has got a resolution, which is high because you’ve put them all those signals together in a special way called interferometry. You can do the same thing, even if the two dishes of our continents are apart. Right? And so they move further out they are apart, the better the pictures you can make.
It just becomes harder. Of course, the further they are a part, you have to be very careful about combining them in that special way to produce the high resolution. But interferometry is possible across the whole Earth.
[00:48:09] Jacinta: So in preparation for the SKA, there’s been several what we call Pathfinder telescopes being built around the world hasn’t there.
So, one of them in South Africa is of course MeerKAT. Can you tell us a little bit more about the Australian once?
[00:48:25] Peter: In Australia, we’ve been lucky to have two Pathfinder projects. So-called precursors. They are the Murchison Widefield Array , which is, a low frequency telescope. So it has these little spider kind of fixed things that runs about two or 3000 of those, distributed around on the desert.
Tha’s a low frequency telescope and it’s very similar Physics and very similar science and research and science questions that it’s addressing that the SKA-Low will address. It’s only about sort of 1% desires of the SKA-Low, but it’s still a fantastic little telescope on its own right to producing amazing pictures of the sky and the low frequency part of the spectrum.
So it’s an operational telescopes at training ground for students. It’s a great science tool, but it’s also a great precursor and teaching tool for learning how to build the SKA. MeerKAT, of course it is a higher frequency. It’s the mid-frequency, about 10 times higher frequency. It’s going to go, that telescope, MeerKAT will directly grow into the SKA, melding the SKA mid telescope.
And again, the technologies, the dishes, the science we’re doing with MeerKAT is again, very much a small scale example, a small scale starting point for the SKA science. So yeah, both are very directly relevant to the science. Both are directly relevant to the technology problems. They’re going to be addressed by SKA-Low and their teaching tool. They teach us how to solve those problems, hopefully in the future.
[00:49:43] Jacinta: Yeah. And these telescopes are only about one to 3% size of the SKA. yet, they’re still the world’s most powerful radio telescopes at the moment. So imagine what the SKA will do
[00:49:52] Peter: makes sure. Put into perspective.
[00:49:54] Jacinta: That’s all right. What do you envisage as the future of collaboration between Australia and South Africa? As we move forward towards SKA Phase 1?
[00:50:03] Peter: I think it’s on several fronts. Obviously we’re all part of the big SKA project. And then because of that, we share a common, rewards of the project in terms of access to the great telescope. We have opportunities to do science together, scientific projects together. Opportunities to train students together and have students work on it, both sides from Africa, coming to Australia, and Australia, going to Africa. Postdoctoral people like your good self, going from one country to another.
Again, this is an exchange of people and ideas between the two countries to solve scientific problems. I think that’s fantastic. Australia and South Africa recovered collaborating, and obviously building and designing the SKA. And so we have technology spin-offs and technology opportunities that come into both countries as part of the SKA family as well.
So these, both scientifically and technically we have these opportunities that go together, but I think it also teaches both countries about what these is it doing to global science. I mean, both Australia and Africa are not big countries in the world stage. They’re in the Southern hemisphere that all the actions in the north, in some sense.
So in the southern hemisphere we have to be good collaborators. We have to learn how to collaborate. All over the world. It’s not like we were in the middle of Europe where it’s somewhat easier. So in learning to be part of big projects in line to be good, collaborators is important to Australia and just South Africa, both to the people and the scientists and also the governments.
[00:51:22] Jacinta: Yeah. I guess I’ve had the pleasure of living and working in both of these places, which were traditionally kind of underdogs in the world of astronomy and radio astronomy, and, are suddenly international hubs in this field and it’s pretty extraordinary.
[00:51:35] Peter: It is transformational and it is in all the right kind of ways.
It’s transformational it’s. It brings things to South Africa in terms of its ability to offer new and different kinds of careers for its people, for education, for the young people, for scholarship, for training, diversification of the economy, getting into areas where they haven’t really been before in terms of, I said big astronomy was not something that South Africa was ever involved with nor was Australia.
And for that matter. But they’re both, countries are finding opportunities to grow and develop through the SKA project, both politically, economically, socially, academically. And that’s what these projects are all about. They’re not in the end of the day, perhaps just about building something, but learning from building something.
[00:52:18] Jacinta: Yeah. And you mentioned that there’s often a lot of spinoffs and, benefits to society as a large, whenever we build one of these large sort of scientific machines. Can you speak a little bit more about that?
[00:52:29] Peter: Yeah. Telescopes are funny when you can have all these sort of all the deep thought and good intention about why you build them and and you want to build it to solve this problem and files all that from her. But in the end of the day, telescopes tend to be famous for things they weren’t built for. They discover things that they didn’t think they were going to find. And it’s those new discoveries, which are the really exciting ones. So I think, I think we expect to see lots of interesting scientific discoveries when these telescopes, which weren’t really something. Yeah, there’ll be things which we hadn’t even dreamed of perhaps.
I think also solving some of the problems we have to solve for SKA will be beneficial in many ways. We know, already have many examples where science has produced things which are revolutionary in terms of, as for society. The Large Hadron Collider, the big Adam Smasher, in Geneva, the scientists who built that needed to build something to move data around and they invented the web.
And so the web has changed our lives, the Wi-Fi, which was direct consequence of radio stormy research here in Australia, is something that’s changed our lives.
[00:53:27] Jacinta: Here we use everyday.
[00:53:28] Peter: Every single day. So these are the sort of things that, and those things were invented. Not because people thought they were a great idea, but because they were fulfilling a need and that need came from a scientific need.
[00:53:37] Jacinta: So, SKA has lots of needs, particularly around big data. I mean how do we make it cheap and easy and possible to shift exabytes of data around the planet, that could have implications for all sorts of things. Remote medicine, all sorts of communications problems that the SKA will solve because it wants to do astronomy, but other people can use the same ideas.
Well, it’s been wonderful to have an opportunity to come back and visit and, hopefully you’ll come and visit us again soon. Have you ever been to South Africa?
[00:54:06] Peter: I have been once or twice and enjoyed it enormously and looking forward to coming back.
[00:54:10] Jacinta: Good. We’ll be happy to have you.
[00:54:11] Peter: Thank you.
[00:54:11] Jacinta: Thanks very much for speaking to us today, Peter.
[00:54:13] Peter: Pleasure.
[00:54:14] Dan: Thank you. Great to hear from Peter and the incredible work that’s been done. I mean, we’re very proud of what has been achieved in South Africa in the last 20 years. And in particular, in the last 10 years with the SKA coming along, MeerKAT getting built, there’s been an incredible growth in the number of students and post-docs and, and then also technically expertise.
But in Australia it’s been the same. ICRAR has come up out of nowhere to be a world-leading radio astronomy research Institute. And it’s quite an achievement.
[00:54:53] Jacinta: Yeah. And as I said in the, in the interview, it’s really been such a privilege to be involved in both Western Australia and South Africa’s growth from the beginning. And really, it’s incredible to see just in my short career, so far the differences in both places and, and how far they’ve come in building radio astronomy communities.
[00:55:12] Dan: Yeah. And I think it’s going to only get bigger from here.
[00:55:15] Jacinta: Exactly. I think it will accelerate even more.
[00:55:18] Dan: Yeah. It’s very exciting.
[00:55:19] Jacinta: Very exciting times.
And the next episode is going to be part two of our tour of Australia. We’re going to be hearing from a Sudanese researcher. Who’s currently doing his PhD at ICRAR, and we’ll also get an update from a representative from SKA headquarters about the latest status of the SKA.
[00:55:37] Dan: Cool. Exciting.
[00:55:39] Jacinta: But that’s it for today. You’ll have to wait until next time. Thanks very much for listening and we hope you’ll join us again for the next episode of The Cosmic Savannah.
[00:55:48] Dan: As always, you can visit our website, The Cosmic Savannah.com. We will have links related to today’s episode. You can follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
We will post extra pictures, videos, and behind the scenes footage; where at Cosmic Savannah. That’s Savannah is spelled S A V A N N A H.
[00:56:07] Jacinta: Special. Thanks today to Dr. Ivy Wong, Dr. Brenda Namumba and Professor Peter Quinn for speaking with us.
[00:56:13] Dan: Thanks to Mark Allnut for the music production, Janus Brink for the astrophotography, Lana Ceraj for graphic design, Michal Lyzcek for photography and assistance, Sebastian Tolinski Obrocki for help in post-production and to Thabisa Fikilepi for help with the social media.
[00:56:31] Jacinta: We gratefully acknowledge support from the South African National Research Foundation, and the South African Astronomical Observatory to help keep the podcast running.
[00:56:40] Dan: You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.
[00:56:44] Jacinta: We’ll speak to you next time on The Cosmic Savannah.
[00:56:56] Dan: So it’s kind of cool. It lived with the white swans. Yeah.
[00:57:00] Jacinta: Okay. Really?
[00:57:01] Dan: Yeah.
[00:57:02] Jacinta: Oh wow!
[00:57:02] Dan: They kind of fit it in, I mean, there’s an ostrich too, like living in like a game park in Maritzburg and it looks just the impala; because it doesn’t no, it’s not an impala because it’s never seen another ostrich.
[00:57:20] Jacinta: Okay. So I’m going to change the tone.
[00:57:26] Dan: We should cut all of that.
[00:57:27] Jacinta: We will cut all of that.