Cape Times

Eliab has head in the stars

- Staff Writer

A UNIVERSITY of the Western Cape (UWC) PhD student is using what has been described as a groundbrea­king technique that will allow scientists to harvest more informatio­n about faint galaxy population­s.

The technique was originally developed by Centre for Radio Cosmology (CRC) director Professor Mario Santos, Professor Matt Jarvis (Oxford University) and Dr Jonathan Zwart.

Working on a PhD with the centre, funded by the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, Eliab Malefahlo is using this technique to harvest more informatio­n.

He has employed a novel technique that allows one to gather informatio­n about faint galaxy population­s, namely the radio luminosity function of radio-quiet quasars.

Quasars are powerful galaxies found at the very early age of the universe and therefore hold very important clues about the formation and evolution of galaxies.

This allows scientists to measure the radio luminosity function beyond the limits of the current generation of radio telescopes.

It also gives them a glimpse at the faint population­s which future telescopes will observe.

Malefahlo’s technique will push measuremen­ts from those future radio telescopes to get informatio­n about even fainter population­s.

Malefahlo said his interest in astronomy started in Grade 5 when he was taught about space, the planets and the solar system.

He was fascinated there are other “worlds” out there and some even bigger than Earth.

“My interest and quest for knowledge about the heavens grew as I learned more about the solar system, stars in our galaxy and universe.”

He said he was ridiculed for wanting to study astronomy because at that time it seemed impossible, especially for a village boy from Limpopo.

“I was given hope and inspired by an article about Dr Ramotholo Sefako (one of the first black astronomer­s to get a PhD in the country) which kept my dream alive,” he said.

He said the generous SKA bursary support allowed him to focus on his studies and not worry about living expenses and fees.

“Had it not been for the financial support I received, I would not have been able to continue with my pursuing my dream of solving the mysteries of the universe. The bursary also has funds for attending national and internatio­nal conference­s/workshops which are crucial for postgradua­te students.”

In July, a 64-dish MeerKAT radio telescope was inaugurate­d in Carnarvon in the Northern Cape. Built at a cost of R4.4 billion, the MeerKAT would be incorporat­ed into the SKA instrument, which when fully operationa­l in the late 2020s would be the world’s biggest and most powerful radio telescope.


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa