SA astronomer unveils the stars

first_imgThe cover of the new coffee-table book by Professors David Block and Ken Freeman, titled Shrouds of the Night. (Image: David Block) From left: Stephen Hawking, Neil Turok, Nelson Mandela, Pik Botha and David Block, photographed during Hawking’s visit to SA in May 2008. (Image: David Block) Eminent astronomer David Block.Janine ErasmusA new book published by distinguished South African astronomer David Block and his Australian colleague Ken Freeman will sweep aside the clouds of cosmic dust that have obscured our view of our galaxy and those around us.To coincide with the International Year of Astronomy, the two academics have published a 436-page treatise titled Shrouds of the Night: Masks of the Milky Way and Our Awesome New View of Galaxies. Launched in South Africa in January 2009, the lyrically-written book is the result of an eight-year collaboration and promises to reveal fascinating new glimpses into the structure of the universe.Because they have now discovered that the universe is much more symmetrical than was first thought, the pair has also been able to develop a new system of galaxy classification. Their system is based on symmetrical patterns rather than existing criteria such as magnitude, resolvability, brightness and roundness of galaxies.Such a system was previously unattainable because of the obscuring effect of vast clouds of galactic dust – the shrouds of the night mentioned in the book’s title.Block and Freeman used the technique of near-infrared photography to capture their groundbreaking starry images. With the help of an infrared camera mounted on Nasa’s Spitzer space telescope, they were able to pierce the galactic dust that for centuries had prevented astronomers from accurately seeing what the universe really looks like.Minute chemical factoriesFor many years astronomers believed that the dark patches between stars were devoid of matter. Now it is a known fact that these are no vacant holes, but rather are filled with cosmic dust.These dust grains are so cold, say Block and Freeman in their book, that any chemical matter they encounter will stick to them. At temperatures of up to -253°C, grains accumulate frozen shells of water, ammonia, methane, carbon dioxide, and other molecules. Simple molecules are converted into more complex compounds under the influence of ultraviolet radiation, turning the dust grains into veritable chemical factories – albeit very tiny ones. Thus evolves the universe.The book also delves into the mystery of the dark matter that surrounds galaxies. Freeman, an expert on the subject, wrote extensively on dark matter in his book The Hunt for Dark Matter in Galaxies. He said that most galaxies are enveloped in huge dark halos that contain up to 20 times as much mass as the luminous stars and cold gas in the galaxies themselves, but that emit no light at all.Pioneering astrophotographers    Shrouds of the Night features background information on general photography, and highlights work from astrophotography pioneers such as Isaac Roberts, who in 1887 took the first permanent image of M31, the spiral galaxy in the Andromeda constellation, and Edward Barnard, who specialised in taking pictures of the Milky Way and also discovered Amalthea, the fifth moon of Jupiter.Once the reader has absorbed the importance of this early work, the authors then present their new view of the cosmos, obtained using some of the most advanced ground and space-based telescopes.One of these is the Spitzer space telescope, which was launched into space from Cape Canaveral, Florida in 2003. Spitzer is the largest infrared telescope ever launched, and with its highly sensitive instruments has peered into regions that have always been blocked to optical telescopes by dense clouds of gas and dust. Infrared light penetrates the dust to reveal what lies behind – star formations, the centres of galaxies, and newly forming planetary systems.A stellar careerDavid Block, Director of the Anglo American Cosmic Dust Laboratory and Professor of Computational and Applied Mathematics at Wits University, is held in the highest esteem by the international astronomical fraternity.“I wanted to pursue studies in astronomy and my father was my biggest supporter,” said Block in an interview some years ago. “Leon Block always encouraged me to question things, to look beyond the ordinary and to make up my own mind. After all, we were Jews and that was part of our tradition as well.”Block holds a masters degree in Relativistic Astrophysics and a Ph.D. in Astronomy, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society of London at the tender age of 19. Since then his career has soared and he has been a visiting astronomer at the European Southern Observatory, the Institute of Astronomy in Hawaii, and Harvard’s Centre for Astrophysics.Block is the only South African researcher whose work has twice made the cover of Nature, the respected international journal of science. In 2006 he received Wits University’s highest research accolade, the Vice-Chancellor’s Research Award. A popular motivational speaker, he is also the resident astronomer on Talk Radio 702 and CapeTalk Radio.American astronomer John Kormendy has this to say about Block: “David Block is to South Africa what Carl Sagan was to American astronomy – his pioneering discoveries are reshaping astronomical paradigms, and his imprint on human culture is a legacy to all South Africans as you build your future in the technological 21st century.”Ken Freeman is Duffield Professor of Astronomy at the Australian National University in Canberra. Considered to be one of the fathers of the dark matter field of study, Freeman was a fellow of Cambridge’s Trinity College and has taught at institutions such as Leiden University, the University of Groningen and the University of Texas. He is one of Australia’s most frequently cited scientists.Do you have queries or comments about this article? Email Janine Erasmus at [email protected] articlesPredicting storms in spaceSouth Africa takes to spaceAfrican eyes on the universeUseful linksProfessor David BlockWitwatersrand UniversityNatureSpitzer space telescopeJohannesburg planetariumInternational Year of AstronomyCool Cosmos – infrared astronomylast_img read more

Smash hit

first_img16 April 2014War Horse, the award-winning UK stage production that features groundbreaking puppetry work by Cape Town’s Handspring Puppet Company, will make its South African premiere later this year, the Artscape Theatre said in a statement on Tuesday.The production, which has been seen by more than 5-million people since it opened at the National Theatre in London in 2007, is based on a novel by Michael Morpurgo. It tells the story of a young boy and his horse, taken into service by the British Army during the First World War.It will be staged at Montecasino in Johannesburg in October, before moving to the Artscape Opera House in Cape Town in December.‘Theatrical magic’The production received five Tony Awards in 2011, including best play and a special award for Handspring Puppet Company. It has been hailed by the New York Times as “theatrical magic”.“The design, artistry and craftsmanship of Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler and everyone at Handspring Puppet Company has delighted War Horse audiences around the world,” said Chris Harper, the producer of War Horse.“Every single puppet used in the show was hand-crafted in Cape Town at Handspring’s puppet factory, and it is only fitting that they are returning to the country where they were created, to be enjoyed by South African audiences.”On tourWar Horse is in its sixth successful year in London’s West End. It is also on a major tour of North America, is running in Berlin (in German, called Gefahrten), and is on a sell-out tour of the UK and Ireland.A new production will open in Amsterdam in June as part of the Holland Festival and then tour to five Cities in the Netherlands in September.War Horse will be presented in South Africa by Pieter Toerien, Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) and The National Theatre of Great Britain, in association with Handspring Puppet Company.Read more about the Handspring Puppet Company: Tony Award for SA puppet companyWar Horse opens at The Teatro at Montecasino in Fourways, Johannesburg, on 22 October, where it will run until 30 November. The season at the Artscape Opera House in Cape Town is from 5 December until 4 January 2015. Tickets cost R100 to R450 via Computicket or 0861 915 8000.SAinfo reporterlast_img read more

a month agoSturridge pulled out of Trabzonspor clash at last minute

first_imgAbout the authorPaul VegasShare the loveHave your say Sturridge pulled out of Trabzonspor clash at last minuteby Paul Vegasa month agoSend to a friendShare the loveDaniel Sturridge was pulled out of Trabzonspor’s clash with Sivasspor at the last minute.Fanatik says he was expected to start the Sivas match. However, he was withdrawn after complaining of achilles pain.After tests, it was found the former Liverpool striker had edema in the right achilles tendon. Sturridge immediately started treatment after being removed from the squad for the Sivas game.The setback isn’t serious, however, and there’s confidence he’ll be fit for their clash with Besiktas. last_img

a month agoLazio boss Simone Inzaghi: We controlled Inter Milan

first_imgAbout the authorCarlos VolcanoShare the loveHave your say Lazio boss Simone Inzaghi: We controlled Inter Milanby Carlos Volcanoa month agoSend to a friendShare the loveLazio boss Simone Inzaghi insists they didn’t deserve defeat to Inter Milan on Wednesday night.Danilo D’Ambrosio’s header proved the winner, with Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic outstanding.“We did well in the first half and the only thing we really got wrong was not scoring one of our many chances,” Inzaghi told Sky Sport Italia.“I don’t remember Thomas Strakosha making any saves in the first half and we had three or four big scoring opportunities. There are regrets, because not everyone comes to San Siro and controls the play like this.“Naturally, in the final 20 minutes we got a bit stretched out and allowed some Inter counter-attacks. We should’ve been more determined in front of goal, but I cannot complain about the overall approach.“We are on the right path and emerge with heads held high, albeit with zero points. We’re talking about Inter, they are top of the table and won every game so far, but in terms of performance and quality of football, Lazio did better this evening.” last_img read more

DFDS Freight Volumes Up in North Sea

first_imgzoom Despite reduced passenger volumes due to late Easter, Danish-based shipping and logistics company DFDS reported strong performance in the North Sea in the first quarter of 2017, where freight volumes were up by 10% compared to 2016.The growth was highest on the Netherlands-UK and Sweden-Belgium corridors where capacity was increased, the company said.Cargo volumes in the Baltic Sea were 19.2% above 2016 during 1Q 2017 and flat after adjustment for the addition of a new route between Hanko, Finland, and Paldiski, Estonia. Last year, DFDS acquired the route from Estonian company Navirail OÜ.Additionally, freight volumes in the Channel rose by 3.3% while passenger volumes decreased by 14.4% in 1Q.In France and the Mediterranean, freight volumes in 1Q were 2.8% above 2016 while passenger volumes declined by 17.3% primarily driven by the Eastern timing difference.Overall passenger volumes were 10% lower than last year mainly due to Easter falling in 2Q in 2017 vs 1Q in 2016.What is more, the company’s financial results show that DFDS recorded a 4.3 percent increase in its revenue during 1Q 2017 which rose to DKK 3.2 million from DKK 3.1 million posted in the same period last year.The group’s revenue increased by 4.3% in 1Q and stood at DKK 3.2 million (around USD 0.5 million), against 3.1 million posted in the same quarter a year earlier.“We achieved a 1Q-result ahead of last year. Combined with a continued positive outlook for growth in Europe, we are on track in 2017 to further improve on the all-time high results of last year,” Niels Smedegaard, DFDS’ CEO, commented.In its outlook for 2017, the company said it expects the revenue to increase by around 4% excluding bunker surcharges.In addition, investments are expected to amount to around DKK 1.7 billion in 2017. This includes the purchase of two Channel ferries in June 2017 which were delivered in February 2016.last_img read more

Ohio State baseball swept at home by Illinois

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Travis Lakins (1) delivers a pitch against Illinois on May 2, 2015. OSU lost, 6-5.Credit: Elliot Gilfix / For The LanternWhile the No. 25 Ohio State baseball team is enjoying its best season in several years, a weekend visit from the No. 7 Illinois Fighting Illini stood as a harsh reminder of who the class of the Big Ten is.Illinois (40-6-1, 16-1) won its 19th, 20th and 21st consecutive games with a weekend sweep of the Buckeyes (31-13, 12-6) at Bill Davis Stadium.OSU, looking to salvage the series with a win on Sunday, knocked in a run in each of the first two innings to grab an early 2-0 lead. However, that would be all they would muster off of one of the nation’s top pitching staffs.The Buckeyes were shut out by the Illini the rest of the way, and Illinois scored one in the third and two in the fourth to grab a 3-2 lead. It would remain that way until the top of the sixth, when Illinois blew it open with a three-run inning.A throwing error by OSU senior left-hander Ryan Riga put Illinois up by two runs, and a two-run single made it 6-2, which stood as the final score.Riga, who came into the game second on OSU’s staff in earned-run average, was hit hard to the tune of six runs, nine hits and three walks in six innings. He dropped to 5-3 on the year with the loss.Saturday’s contest was a back-and-forth affair in which the Buckeyes came up just a little short.OSU, just as they would the following afternoon, jumped out to a 2-0 lead after two innings, scoring a run in each of the first two frames. The score remained that way until the fifth inning, when Illinois took advantage of two OSU errors to grab a 3-2 lead.The Buckeyes would answer immediately, as just two batters into the bottom of the frame, the game was tied.Sophomore outfielder Troy Montgomery scored freshman outfielder Tre’ Gantt from first with a double. Montgomery then came in on a two-out RBI single by sophomore outfielder Ronnie Dawson to put the Buckeyes back ahead.Just like the Illini lead, however, that would prove to be short-lived.A three-run top of the sixth put Illinois up 6-4 and chased OSU sophomore right-handed pitcher Travis Lakins from the game.While the Buckeyes would add a run in the bottom of the seventh to make it a one-run game, they ran into the nearly impenetrable force that is Illinois preseason second-team All-American, junior left-hander Tyler Jay.Jay, who is second in the nation with a 0.73 ERA, worked 2.1 innings, allowing just one hit for his ninth save of the season to preserve the 6-5 victory.Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, the man who is just a tick behind Jay at third in the nation in ERA also resides in Champaign.Junior left-hander Kevin Duchene actually raised his 0.74 season ERA with an eight-inning, three-hit, one-run domination of OSU in Friday night’s series opener.The Buckeyes fell behind 4-0 after two innings, as OSU sophomore left-hander Tanner Tully was ineffective against the Illinois bats.Tully, the 2014 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, surrendered eight earned runs in five innings.The Illini outhit OSU 13-4 and featured four hitters with multi-hit performances.OSU’s bullpen was a highlight of the weekend for the home team, as five Buckeye relievers combined for 10.2 shutout innings in the three games, allowing just six hits.Over 2,000 fans were in attendance at Bill Davis Stadium for each of the three weekend contests, OSU’s three largest home crowds of the season.The Buckeyes will look to get back on the winning side with a pair of nonconference in-state matchups. They are set to travel to Oxford, Ohio, to take on Miami (Ohio) on Tuesday before heading south to Cincinnati to take on the Bearcats the following night. Both games are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. read more

Cyclist grievously injured in road accident

first_imgA cyclist has suffered from grevious injuries after being hit by a minivan in Gudja on Sunday.The road accident happened at around 6.30am in Triq l-Avjazzjoni Civili.A Police spokesperson told that the mini-van driver is a 51-year-old from Attard who hit the cyclist whilst turning around the roundabout near the Malta International Airport.The cyclist was taken to Mater Dei Hospital by ambulance where he was later certified as suffering from grievous injuries. WhatsApp <a href=’;cb={random}’ target=’_blank’><img src=’;cb={random}&amp;n=ab2c8853&amp;ct0={clickurl_enc}’ border=’0′ alt=” /></a>center_img SharePrintlast_img read more