Astronomy Symposium: Abstracts for the presentations of the German speakers
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On 16 and 17 April, an astronomy symposium entitled "Innovating the future; reaching for the stars" was held in Cape Town. The symposium, which took place in the city's International Convention Centre as part of the German-South African Year of Science 2012/2013, devoted itself to celebrating past achievements in German-South African collaborations in astronomy, and in defining new areas for cooperation for the future.
Prof. Dr. Thomas Auf der Hyde, of the Department of Science and Technology, extended a warm welcome to those present. The keynote talks were given by Prof. Dr. Matthias Steinmetz, of the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics, Potsdam, and Prof. Patricia Whitelock, of the South African Astronomical Observatory. They were followed by further talks from research leaders from both countries representing renowned institutions such as the Max-Planck Institute for Astronomy, the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory and the University of Cape Town. In addition to the achievements of, and the challenges facing, the two partner countries in the field of astronomy, a major topic of discussion was the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT). The telescope, which was co-financed by Germany, among 12 consortium members, was completed in 2005, and fully commissioned in 2011. Current instrumentation upgrades are ensuring that scientists are fully exploiting SALT’s potential as Africa's eye on the universe.
In numerous discussions, a glance was cast over the past and the future. Those present were in agreement about the positive overall outcome of the countries' bilateral cooperation in astronomy over the past 16 years. Both countries paid tribute to the many success stories achieved to date by the excellent and productive German-South African research collaborations. These, they stressed, constituted the basis for a continuation of their cooperation into the future. New areas in which cooperation could be beneficial in the future had already been specified during the symposium. These included, for example, the support for more German-South African research collaborations in the use of H.E.S.S. (High Energy Stereoscopic System) and a more intensive interlinking of universities' graduate programmes.
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