University of South Africa
The University of South Africa, or Unisa as it is more commonly known, is the leading open distance learning institute in Africa. The university offers internationally accredited qualifications from certificates to degrees in a broad range of subjects to more than 400,000 international students, most of whom are from Africa.
Modules in Astronomy are offered through the Department of Mathematical Sciences in the College of Science, Engineering & Technology. Members of the astronomy section make use of the only operational radio telescope in Africa – the 26m dish of the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) – and the optical/IR telescopes of the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) at Sutherland in the Northern Cape. The 10m class Southern African Large Telescope, SALT, is also in Sutherland. SA astronomers have access to about 100 nights per year on SALT. The MeerKAT radio telescope array is currently under construction and will be followed by the SKA.
With a large section of the SKA due to be built in Africa over the next few years, it is important to train more astronomers and technicians in SA and other countries in Africa, particularly in countries where SKA stations will be established.
Unisa’s role is to inform physics communities, particularly those in astronomy, about the Virtual Atomic and Molecular Data Centre, and what it offers. Talks advertising VAMDC and workshops showing how it can be used are presented at meetings of physicists or any other interested groups in Africa.
Scientific Interest of VAMDC Members-
DP Smits is the VAMDC member at Unisa. He studies contact binary stars, models atomic processes in nebular gases, and uses radio telescopes to observe masers.
Partner/Node contact: Derk Smits (Smitsdp[at]unisa.ac.za)