On Monday the 4th of July at the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) global headquarters in the UK, Prof. Philip Diamond the SKA Director-General announced the addition of a new precursor telescope located in South Africa.
SKA is a large multi radio telescope project primarily being built in South Africa and Australia and is anticipated to be complete by 2025.
Other outstations will be built in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia; all equipped with radio telescopes contributing to the network. Once complete SKA will be the most advanced radio astronomy array, fifty times more sensitive than any other instrument and ten thousand times faster.
The first telescope to ever be turned towards the heavens was made by Galileo Galilei, with it he was the first to see craters in the moon. Galileo also observed that the Earth and all the other planets circle the sun, he made this observation at a time when celestial bodies were thought to orbit the Earth.
There is no telling what SKA will show us but expectations are plenty. Einstein’s theory of general relativity will be tested, billions of galaxies mapped out to the very edge of the observable universe and the processes leading to the birth and evolution of galaxies will be studied.
Most exciting of all; SKA will be able to look closer at Sun-like stars where Earth-like planets or moons are most likely to have environments favourable for the development of life. This combined with an ability to search for complex organic compounds will make the search for life outside the planet Earth a reality.
These functions outlined on the official SKA website are not exhaustive. A greater appreciation of this technology and the implications it brings comes with a greater understanding of space related sciences. With that in mind Botswana is making preparations to train Batswana scientists, so that when the SKA project is implemented in Botswana in 2023 they will be in a position to make use of the advantages offered by hosting radio telescopes.
In a published press release in April this year the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) announced that the institution would host Botswana’s radio-astronomy training facility.
The funding to setup this facility comes from the Newton Fund, an initiative established by the British Council in 2014 to promote economic development and welfare by strengthening science and innovation capacity. Dr. Mhlambululi Mafu in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at BIUST will lead the training facility project.
The new telescope granted precursor status by SKA is the Hydrogen Epoch of Reionisation Array (HERA). Precursors are telescopes located at future SKA sites and serve as a form of prototype for future SKA telescopes.
The scientific goal of HERA is detecting the Epoch of Reionisation signal. Detecting this signal will give insight on many fundamental questions in cosmology, such as properties of the first galaxies, formation of very metal poor stars and many other important research topics in astrophysics which will give a view on what the universe looked like when it was half a billion years old. For now the world continues to watch and to wait, and recall the words of a Roman philosopher named Seneca who lived 2000 years ago.
“The time will come when diligent research over long periods will bring to light things which now lie hidden. A single lifetime, even though entirely devoted to the sky, would not be enough for the investigation of so vast a subject… And so this knowledge will be unfolded only through long successive ages. There will come a time when our descendants will be amazed that we did not know things that are so plain to them… Many discoveries are reserved for ages still to come, when memory of us will have been effaced.”
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.