Eliab has head in the stars
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.