UKZN set to reach for the stars with its own telescope

2014-07-14 00:00

UNIVERSITY of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science has been awarded a 0,75 m telescope after submitting a motivation to take over the instrument that was being redistributed by the South African Astronomical Observatory.

The telescope, manufactured by Grubb Parsons in the 1970s, is being donated after it was replaced by a modern one-metre aperture telescope.

The telescope, one of two smaller telescopes offered for donation, is due to arrive at UKZN in January 2015.

UKZN spokesperson Indu Moodley said that the telescope would be used by enrolled students and for outreach.

“In its motivation for the telescope, the school said it planned to use the instrument for student research projects at undergraduate, honours and masters levels, as well as for outreach purposes. This will allow the school to increase the capacity and knowledge of its students as well as contribute to increased awareness through the arrangement of evenings when the telescope is open to the public.”

Moodley said the university was still looking for a suitable building to house the telescope. “The school is looking into various options and has the support of the eThekwini Municipality, who may provide a suitable off-campus site for the housing of the telescope. Alternatively it may find a home on the Westville campus. The bid also had the support of the University of Zululand, meaning that the telescope’s eventual placement will be decided after due consideration is given to the convenience of students from both institutions,” she said.

The school’s Dr Matt Hilton said, “Not many universities have access to their own telescope of this size. We plan to introduce a new major in astronomy at the undergraduate level, beginning in 2015. In addition, UKZN will host a node of the National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme from 2016, and will run Honours and Masters courses in Astrophysics and Space Science.”

The telescope will be used to provide hands-on training in observational astronomy in all of these courses.

Use of the telescope will also enable students to learn how to design and execute simple research projects. Some students may also design and build simple instruments that can be used on the telescope, such as imaging cameras or spectrographs.

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