- Yesterday marked the end of a two-day summit hosted at the University of Pretoria to discuss the future of the SKA South Africa site. Astronomers and government officials discussed the benefits that would arise from the project, with human capital development named as the priority.
- This week Morocco hosts the Global Hands On Universe conference, which brings together teachers, scientists and educators from high schools, universities, research centers, and science centers from around the world to discuss various topics in science education. Global astronomy projects and the connections between astronomy and culture will be key points of discussion for this week’s conference.
- Last Thursday, a giant asteroid passed about 3 miles (5 kilometers) away from Earth. A telescope called the Slooh Space Cameria captured the above image of the near asteroid from an observatory on the Canary Islands off of the west coast of Africa. The asteroid, named Asteroid 2012 LZ1, was approximately 1,650 feet (500 meters) wide.
- Farmers on the Northern Cape of South Africa are continuing to voice their concerns about their extent of access to telecommunications, an issue that will grow more complicated once SKA begins groundwork. In 2007, the South African government passed the Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act to preserve the radio quiet in the area.
The major news of the week is the final decision on the SKA site, which will include both the African and Australian continents, the two regions competing for the bid. In making the decision, South Africa was chosen as the “preferred” site, hosting a greater proportion of the dishes. Design and pre-construction will begin in 2013, with the first phase of SKA being available for research in 2020. SKA South Africa’s Justin Jones has responded to the news by answering questions on the significance of the decision and the impact it will bear on South Africa and the African continent at large.
- Hakeem Oluseyi—astrophysicist, inventor and science educator whose research focuses on measuring the structure and evolution of the Milky Way galaxy and characterizing new planetary systems—has been selected to be a 2012 TED Global Fellow. Oluseyi has served as president of the African Astronomical Society and has worked extensively with students in various African nations. He will return to South Africa to work with University of Cape Town students and to lead observational research projects at the South African Astronomical Observatories in Sutherland.
- South Africa’s science minister Naledi Pandor has announced plans to invest $26 million in astronomy training over the next five years. The funding will largely sponsor undergraduate and postgraduate students in related fields, and will continue regardless of the final decision on SKA. The decision is expected to be finalized in the next 2-3 weeks in April.