Letters of Intent received in 2018

LoI 2020-2031
Non-GA Symposium: The History of Astronomy in Africa

Date: 12 October 2020 to 16 October 2020
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
Contact: Daniel Cunnama (daniel@saao.ac.za)
Coordinating division: Division C Education, Outreach and Heritage
Co-Chairs of SOC: Daniel Cunnama (South African Astronomical Observatory)
Ian Glass (South African Astronomical Observatory)
Wayne Orchiston (University of Southern Queensland)
Christiaan Sterken (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)
Boonrucksar Soonthornthum (National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand)
Co-Chairs of LOC: Daniel Cunnama (South African Astronomical Observatory)
Ian Glass (South African Astronomical Observatory)
Ros Skelton (South African Astronomical Observatory)

 

Topics

African ethnoastronomy and indigenous knowledge
The development of calibrated photometry at SAAO
Contributions to global astronomy
Developments in African Research Astronomy in recent decades(SALT, MeerKAT, HESS, SKA, AVN)
Recent developments in Astronomy Education in Africa

 

Rationale

Africa has a long and rich relationship with astronomy, dating back millennia. The world recognized the unique geographical importance of Africa in global astronomy almost two centuries ago with the establishment of the Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope in 1820. Since then Africa’s contributions to global human knowledge have both independently and collaboratively grown from strength to strength.

The beginning of the 21st century has seen a renewal of Africa’s strong heritage of astronomical excellence. Today South Africa is home to the largest optical telescope in the southern hemisphere (SALT), the largest and most powerful radio telescope in the southern hemisphere (MeerKAT) and will play host to a large part of the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Project which will see early science operations in 2020.

In addition to South Africa, eight other countries around the African continent will host radio telescopes contributing to the SKA network, providing their scientists with access to the world’s most advanced radio astronomy array. These countries are Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia.

Africa is also host to the world-renowned HESS telescope in Namibia. The continent is developing the very exciting African Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network (AVN), and a number of countries are rapidly developing their own astronomy programmes and instruments, such as the Entoto Observatory and Research Centre in Ethiopia, the refurbished Kottamia Astronomical Observatory in Egypt, the 32m radio telescope observatory in Ghana, Oukaimeden Observatory in Morocco, a 1m optical telescope in Burkina Faso, a Masters programme in Astronomy in Uganda, several radio astronomy initiatives in Nigeria, and much more.

The afore-mentioned developments and others have led to an explosion of astronomical education in Africa, with increasing numbers of universities now offering undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in astronomy. Astronomy is entering the curricula in schools across the continent, and increasingly astronomy is reaching the African public through the outreach activities of universities, observatories, museums, science centres and astronomical societies, often inspired by the IAU’s Office of Astronomy for Development in Cape Town.

Cape Town was recently selected to host the IAU General Assembly in 2024, a recognition by the global astronomical community of the investments and efforts that Africa has been making in growing the discipline of astronomy in Africa. Awareness of these efforts and Africa’s contributions is still low and the proposed symposium will highlight the role of Africa in astronomy and enable us to look forward to an exciting future.