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Astrophysicist headed to South Africa to share expertise on space

Scifest Africa to feature CASSIOPE project as part of Canadian showcase
March 12, 2014
Professor Andrew Yau from the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the Faculty of Science is attending Scifest Africa from March 12-18. He is seen here with a rendering of the CASSIOPE satellite for which he is mission scientist and project lead.

Prof. Andrew Yau from the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the Faculty of Science is attending Scifest Africa from March 12-18. He is seen here with a rendering of the CASSIOPE satellite. for which he is mission scientist and project lead. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Professor Andrew Yau from the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the Faculty of Science is joining the High Commission of Canada and the Canadian Space Agency for a trip to Africa to talk space. The Canadian delegation will be participating in Scifest Africa held from March 12-18 in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape in South Africa.

Yau, mission scientist and project leader for the CASSIOPE space mission, will be on site to share his expertise on space research and foster new linkages with international partners.

“Attending this event is a fantastic opportunity for me to showcase the breakthrough work we’re doing in Canada and potentially identify new strategic partners,” says Yau, who last traveled to Africa in 2007 for a space weather science and education workshop in Ethiopia.

Themed Into the Space!, the 2014 Scifest Africa Festival will feature 500 events exploring topics such as astronomy, the atmosphere, architecture, biotechnology, geographical regions, nanotechnology, psychology, underground and underwater exploration, space sciences, the SKA and the universe. More than 65,000 visitors are expected.

With a new theme every year, the festival's main goal is to change popular misconceptions and create a new mindset about science, technology, engineering and mathematics by demonstrating that these disciplines underpin our everyday activities. 

The Canadian delegation will be on site to celebrate Canada’s 50 years of achievements in space and highlight collaborations with international space partners.

“As part of my participation in the event, I’ll be giving a lecture on CASSIOPE, showing the launch of the satellite into space and sharing with the attendees how our highly sophisticated instruments are helping to expand our understanding of auroras and other space weather effects in the upper atmosphere,” Yau says.

CASSIOPE, the CAscade SmallSat and IOnospheric Polar Explorer, is a multi-purpose mission to conduct space environment research and advanced telecommunications technology demonstration. The project is led by the University of Calgary and MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA), and is sponsored by the Canadian Space Agency.

The satellite was launched on September 29, 2013 – exactly 51 years following the launch of Canada’s first ever satellite  - Alouette 1 - which took flight on September 29, 1962.

As part of the CASSIOPE mission, scientists have begun to use the satellite to collect new data and details on space storms in the upper atmosphere and their potentially devastating impacts on radio communications, GPS navigation and other space-based technologies. The data from the fast aurora imager - one of the University of Calgary instruments on CASSIOPE led by Professor Leroy Cogger - has especially captured the imagination of the space science community.

“From a research standpoint, CASSIOPE certainly stands out as a highlight of Canada’s current space program,” says Yau. “Since the launch, we’ve been able to capture novel infrared images of the auroras, which will allow us to construct their fascinating 3D structures and variations.”

According to Yau, South Africa is also a space research force to be reckoned with, especially in the realm of atmospheric studies.

“South Africa has one of the best -- if not the best -- space and atmospheric research program in all of Africa and their reputation is very solid," Yau says. “This trip will be very enriching as it will allow me to meet the local leaders in this field while inspiring the next generation of South African space scientists.”