Month: March 2015

SA astronomers shed light on star births

CAPE TOWN – South African science is going to infinity and beyond.

Astronomers have discovered the first known stars in the ‘flared disk’ of the Milky Way. The discovery will allow them to test ideas about the formation of the galaxy.

The five stars, known as Cepheid variables, were situated on the far side of the galaxy, 80,000 light years from the Earth and beyond the galactic centre, said SA Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) spokeswoman, Thembela Mantungwa.

They changed their brightness every few days and had characteristics that allowed their distance to be measured accurately.

“The discovery is important because stars like these will allow astronomers to test theoretical ideas about how galaxies, like the Milky Way in which we live, formed,” she said.

“In particular these stars… will help astronomers trace the distribution of the very mysterious dark matter.”

Dark matter was known to be an important component of all galaxies but its nature and distribution remained elusive.

Mantungwa said most of the stars in Earth’s galaxy, including the sun, were distributed in a flat disk.

Radio astronomers in the 21st century discovered that hydrogen gas flared away from the disk at large distances from the centre of the galaxy. Until now, no one knew that stars did the same thing.

The stars were discovered by Prof Michael Feast, Dr John Menzies, and Prof Patricia Whitelock from South Africa, and Dr Noriyuki Matsunaga from Japan.

Observations were made with the Southern African Large Telescope and the Infrared Survey Facility, both at the SAAO site at Sutherland in the Northern Cape.

* Watch eNCA reporter, Bibi-Aisha Wadvalla’s video report in the gallery above.

MeerKAT – a proudly South African achievement

KAROO – It’s a proudly South African achievement.

The launch of the first MeerKAT antenna, forming part of the country’s contribution to the Square Kilometre Array project — an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope.

Work on the MeerKAT radio telescope began two and half years ago.

Now, the first antenna has officially been launched.

By the end of 2016, the remaining 63 will be constructed — and then, South Africa will be ready to make great strides in science.

How has the universe changed over its lifetime? How are galaxies distributed?

These are the questions the MeerKAT radio telescope will answer.

“We want to look as far out as we can,” says Dr Bernie Fanaroff, SKA SA project director.

“[We want to ] find lots of galaxies with hydrogen gas in them, and use that to understand a lot of things, but mainly, how the structure of the universe has changed over its lifetime, by looking how the galaxies are distributed in space, in the universe, and how they change over time.”

Each MeerKAT antenna will transmit data along underground fibre-optic cables to the facility’s computers.

These will be further processed to turn them into pictures.  The information will then be sent down through a fibre optic cable network to Cape Town.

The processed data will be available to scientists around the world.

Astronomy teams globally have signed up to start using MeerKAT as soon as 16 antenna have been commissioned.
* Watch eNCA reporter, Bibi-Aisha Wadvalla’s video report, in the gallery above.

‘Banting’ movement gains momentum in SA

CAPE TOWN – A food revolution is sweeping South Africa, with the anti-carbohydrate movement gaining momentum.
The ‘Banting’ diet, advocated by Tim Noakes, has changed the way meals are offered at some restaurants too.
And although a study found low-carb diets aren’t better, Banting fans say it’s here to stay.
Noakes’s high fat, low-carbohydrate eating plan promises weight loss, and improved health.
eNCA’s Bibi-Aisha Wadvalla has more on this story. Watch in the gallery above

Cape flowers blooming after devastating fires

CAPE TOWN – The Cape Floristic Region is coming back to life after the devastating fires earlier this month.

Scientists say the blazes are actually good for the fynbos and we may see new plant species whose seeds have been dormant for years.

And which species survive is a gamble, as with all life, there will be winners and losers.

* eNCA reporter Bibi-Aisha Wadvalla has more on this story. Watch the video in the gallery above.

The President’s harshest critique

CAPE TOWN – President Jacob Zuma has possibly received his harshest critique yet in the National Assembly.

During the State of the Nation debate on Tuesday, opposition parties tore into not only his speech, but also his character.

The DA’s Mmusi Maimane called him a broken man, presiding over a broken society.

Then it was Julius Malema’s turn, with the EFF leader accusing Zuma and his Cabinet of betraying the Freedom Charter.

Malema said Zuma will leave behind a shameful legacy, a sentiment which was echoed by the IFP.

* Watch the video report by eNCA’s Bibi-Aisha Wadvalla in the gallery above.

Cape wildfires described as the worst in seven years

CAPE TOWN – The current fire season in the Western Cape has been described as the worst in seven years.

Since October, there have been more than 90 wildfires across the province – more than a third of them in Table Mountain National Park.

An unseasonal summer wind has fanned the flames, but experts say human negligence is the biggest problem.

Bibi-Aisha Wadvalla reports futher in the video above.

Negligence suspected in teen rape case

CAPE TOWN – A Cape Town father has been shunted from pillar to post before he could open a rape case involving his teenage daughter.

The family says the man is known to the community and if the police don’t act, the community will.

It took several trips to four police stations and numerous phone calls over the next five days before a case was finally opened, and counselling provided.

The family says the suspect is a known Mitchell’s Plain gangster who has moved from his home.

His whereabouts are still known to the police and community.

Police spokesman Andre Traut says the SAPS will only respond once a preliminary investigation into the matter has been conducted.

* eNCA reporter Bibi-Aisha Wadvalla has more on this story. Watch the video in the gallery above.

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