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C/2015 G2 (MASTER) is first South African Comet discovery in 35 years

The first image of Comet C/2015 G2 MASTER (originally designated M503ujx before it was confirmed as a new discovery) taken by the MASTER-SAAO telescope on 8 April 2015. The image was produced from adding together four exposures taken in different coloured filters to produce a colour image of the field.

In the early hours of the 7th April, an un-manned robotic telescope, MASTER-SAAO, situated near Sutherland in the Karoo, discovered a new comet. This is the first comet to be discovered in South Africa since 1978.  The Russian – South African run telescope has been scanning the southern skies since it began operating in late December 2014, looking for “transients” – new objects which appear in the sky for the first time. Since then, over 60 new  objects have been discovered, most of them being erupting or exploding stars. However, the MASTER-SAAO telescope has just discovered its first comet. 

Comets are often described as “dirty snowballs”  and are composed of a ball of frozen ice with chemical compounds and dust mixed in. As a comet approaches the Sun it begins to melt resulting in a halo of gas and dust surrounding the solid nucleus called the coma. The Solar wind pushes the gas and dust released away from the comet resulting in the beautiful tails that we see associated with comets. There are actually two tails to a comet, one is made of gas (ions) which comes from the frozen compounds melting, the other is a dust tail again caused by the gases from the nucleus evaporating taking the dust with them. Astronomers are interested in studying comets because they represent the oldest and most primitive objects in the solar system and give astronomers an insight as to what conditions were like at the formation of our solar system.

The MASTER-SAAO telescope at Sutherland.

The recently discovered comet has been officially named “Comet C/2015 G2 (MASTER)” and the discovery was confirmed on the 10th April by the Minor Planet Center, based at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in the USA. It is the 20th comet discovered so far in 2015, and is currently heading rapidly south through the southern skies, brightening as it does so. Currently, the comet is about 180 million km from the Earth. It will make its closest approach to the Sun, at 116 million km (just a little further from the Sun than Venus), on the 23rd May when it is expected to be at its brightest. Although the comet is not particularly bright, the image taken by the MASER-SAAO telescope shows a distinct ion (gas) tail, produced by the interaction of the Solar wind and the comet. As it brightens, the comet should be visible in dark skies (i.e. away from city lights) using binoculars. The last comet discovered in South Africa, Comet D/1978 R1 (Haneda-Campos), was co-discovered by Jose da Silva Campos, observing from Durban on 1st September 1978, and an astronomer in Japan, Toshio Haneda.

The MASTER-SAAO facility is one member of a network of telescopes operated by the Lomonosov Moscow State University’s Sternberg Astronomical Institute. Most of the other telescopes in the network are located in Russia but there are two telescopes in the network located in the Southern Hemisphere: the MASTER-SAAO facility just outside Sutherland and a smaller telescope in Argentina. The Sutherland facility is a joint project with the South African Astronomical Observatory, aimed to discover and study southern optical transients – new objects which suddenly appear in the sky. It is the first transient detection system to be situated at Sutherland and will eventually be joined by another similar system, MeerLICHT, later this year. Discoveries from these telescopes will be followed up by more intensive studies using other South African telescopes such as SALT and MeerKAT (once it begins operating) and also the HESS gamma-ray facility in Namibia.   

Are you ready to “Rock The Planet”?

“Circling the Earth in my orbital spaceship I marveled at the beauty of our planet. People of the world, let us safeguard and enhance this beauty — not destroy it!”
— Yuri Gagarin, 1st human in space.

Yuri’s Night is a global celebration of humanity’s past, present, and future in space. Yuri’s Night parties and events are held around the world every April in commemoration of Yuri Gagarin becoming the first human to venture into space on April 12, 1961, and the inaugural launch of the first Space Shuttle on April 12, 1981.

Join the Africa2Moon Team at the Cape Town Yuri’s Night on Safari Party on Saturday evening, April 11 2015

There will be special messages, VIP Guests, Raffles, Giveaways and ticket holders (free tickets via Eventbrite) qualify for Special Offers on Cocktails & Pizzas.

Find out more by clicking this banner

You can also join the event on Facebook:

Join the event on Facebook

Yuri’s Night on Safari Party!

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Yuri's Night Logo
Yuri’s Night Logo

Join tens of thousands of people around the world this April to dream about where we’re going, explore where we are, and celebrate where we’ve been at Yuri’s Night, the World Space Party.

Yuri’s Night is a global celebration of humanity’s past, present, and future in space. Yuri’s Night parties and events are held around the world every April in commemoration of Yuri Gagarin becoming the first human to venture into space on April 12, 1961, and the inaugural launch of the first Space Shuttle on April 12, 1981.

Join us for a Party & Star Gazing to celebrate Yuri’s Night at the Slug & Lettuce, River Club, Observatory Cape Town on Saturday the 11 April 2015 from 7pm until LATE.

Come in your favourite SciFi mask and you could win a prize! Bring along your telescope if you would like to help us introduce others to the wonder of star-gazing!

YN-tshirt
Pre-order your T-Shirt when you register or buy it on the night. Other Yuri’s Night items will be available at our pop-up shop!

There will be a pop-up shop selling Yuri’s Night T-Shirts, Stickers, Lapel Pins and other goodies all in support of the Foundation for Space Development & the Africa2Moon Mission.

Cash bar and an awesome menu is available for the hungry including their stunning wood-fired pizzas!

There will be live entertainment and we will Party on Safari from 7pm until late!

Entrance is free but please claim your free ticket early so we can prepare. (You can also win 2 free Yuri’s Night T-Shirts if you have a ticket!)

Click the button below to Register and if you also make a donation you will be given the exclusive opportunity to pre-order the very limited quantity t-shirt from the pop-up store!

Eventbrite - Yuri's Night on Safari Party

View this event on the Yuri's Night Website

Back to the Moon For Good

The Africa2Moon Mission came along too late to enter the Google Lunar X-Prize but that is not to say that both the spirit and ingenuity of this unique competition has not inspired us.

In fact we are in regular communication with X-Prize contenders like Astrobotic! Just like these bleeding edge pioneers, we are also reliant on non-government funding & Donations.

The X-Prize team have produced an excellent feature & FULLDOME PLANETARIUM SHOW called:

Back To The Moon For Good – The New Space Race

OVERVIEW

In case you haven’t heard, the Moon is trending again… and in a big way. Like in the glory days of the 1960s and 1970s, our big white space neighbor is enjoying the attention of lunar explorers. Only this time, they’re going back to the moon for good. The award-winning 24-minute Google Lunar XPRIZE fulldome planetarium show, Back To The Moon For Good, chronicles teams around the world competing for the largest international incentivized prize in history, by landing a robotic spacecraft on the Moon. To win the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, a team must land a robotic spacecraft on the Moon, navigate 500 meters over the lunar surface, and send video, images and data back to Earth. This global competition is designed to spark imagination and inspire a renewed commitment to space exploration, not by governments or countries – but by the citizens of the world.

Call for Scientific Proposals Announcement

The call for Scientific Proposals for the Africa2Moon Mission will be announced at a press conference on Friday 13 March 2015 at 2;30pm South African Standard Time.

An open invitation has been issued to attend the announcement & Q&A session in person at the Cape Town Science Centre or via a Google Hangout.

After the announcement online submission will be available on this website.

Screenshot - click to view
Screenshot – click to view

LISTEN: The first person on MARS could be South African!

The Mars One project aims to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars by 2024. With over 200 000 initial applications, the Dutch-based venture has whittled down the most recent shortlist to 100. Nick Hamman on 5fm caught up with Adriana Marais, one of four South Africans left on the list.

Visit the MARS ONE website

View Nick’s Podcast’s

South African National Space Agency (SANSA) joins the Africa2Moon official supporters

“We hope that this programme garners enough support to accomplish the mission objectives and get our citizens excited about opportunities in space.”
Dr. Sandile Malinga, CEO, South African National Space Agency

The South African National Space Agency (SANSA) has become an official supporter of Phase I of the Africa2Moon Mission Program.

SANSA MOBILE EXHIBIT
SANSA MOBILE EXHIBIT

During this phase the Africa2Moon Mission team will be preparing a feasibility study based on scientific objectives chosen from those submitted in a forthcoming call for scientific proposals.

In addition the Mission team is placing a large amount of emphasis, during phase I, on inspiring the future engineers & scientists of the continent through a series of outreach activities and “Space Missions” like the Global Space Balloon Challenge that Africa2Moon will be participating in, in April of this year.

Mr. Jonathan Weltman, Project Administrator of the Africa2Moon Programme, said he was delighted to have SANSA aboard. “SANSA & Africa2Moon share the same ideals of promoting Space Awareness, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Mathematics) Education and Africa’s existing capabilities in the Aerospace sector.”

Dr Sandile Malinga, CEO of SANSA said that the Space Agency felt encouraged to see such ambitious and inspiring projects directed at the youth and public to create aspirations of space exploration and awareness. “We hope that this programme garners enough support to accomplish the mission objectives and get our citizens excited about opportunities in space.”

The Africa2Moon Mission is a multi-year public participation Space Programme designed to showcase existing Space capabilities on the continent; provide opportunities for researchers & Aerospace professionals to work on a world-class project; to retain and attract essential Space science & engineering skills in and to Africa; to inspire the next generation of space scientists & engineers from Africa; and to make a meaningful, first lunar exploration, research contribution from the continent to the global community currently working on lunar projects and/or research. In support of Space Exploration to Mars and beyond for the benefit of all humankind.

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