Talk in Cape Town on Exploring the outer Solar System

Sep 22, 2015 No Comments by

Dr Amanda Sickafoose of the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), will present a talk entitled ‘Our astronomical backyard: exploring the outer Solar System’ on Wednesday 21st October at the venue below

Abstract: The icy objects that exist in the distant reaches of our Solar System are not easy to study: there is a significant amount of space and the objects are relatively small. The most well-known of these bodies is Pluto, having been discovered in 1930 and visited in 2015 by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. It was not until the 1990s, after significant advancement of astronomical observing techniques and equipment, that thousands of other Kuiper Belt objects were detected. More recently, there have been observations of objects whose orbits reach nearly 100 astronomical units from the Sun. This talk will present how discoveries have been made in the outer Solar System, the current state of knowledge, and intriguing hints as to what we might find in the future.

About the Speaker: Amanda Sickafoose received her MSc and PhD in Astrophysical, Planetary, and Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Colorado (Boulder, USA).  She was postdoctoral associate, and then a research scientist, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT; Cambridge, USA), where she currently maintains a visiting scientist position.  In 2008, she moved to South Africa to become an astronomer for the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), hosted by the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO).  At the beginning of 2014, she became the Head of Instrumentation at the SAAO.

Dr Sickafoose’s early career was focused on the electrostatic charging properties of dust near planetary surfaces on airless bodies, such as the Moon and asteroids. For more than the last decade, she has been studying small bodies in the outer Solar System with the goal of increasing understanding of the formation and evolution of planetary systems. This work has included discovery of trans-Neptunian objects, characterization of their dynamics, analysing stellar occultations by Pluto and other bodies, observing on telescopes worldwide, and developing high-speed, accurately-timed, imaging instruments.

Date:     Wednesday 21 October 2015
Time:    17h00 (Tea will be served from 16h30)
Place:    South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) Auditorium, Observatory Road, Observatory*

*Directions to SAAO Auditorium : From the N2, turn off to the M57 – Liesbeek Parkway; turning in the direction of Cape Town and continue until the traffic lights with Hartleyvale (hockey and football) on your left. Turn right at traffic lights into Observatory Road, pass the River Club; the S A Astronomical Observatory is next on the left. Once through the security gates bear left following the SALT signs to the auditorium i.e. last building on the left (white with stoep & ramp). 



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