UNAM management visits H.E.S.S telescopes

By Staff Reporter

LAST week a strong delegation from the University of Namibia (UNAM) main campus and a number of its support staff visited the state of the art High Energy Stereoscopic System (H.E.S.S) about 120km south-west of Windhoek.

The delegation consisted of Vice Chancellor Prof. Kenneth Matengu, Pro-vice chancellor for academic affairs, Prof. Frednard Gideon, Pro-vice Chancellor for research, innovation and development: Prof. Anicia Peters, director for external and international relations: Dr Romanus Shivoro, dean Ndeyapo Nickanor and deputy dean, Veikko Uahengo.

H.E.S.S is the world’s leading observatory utilised for detecting gamma rays that carry more than a billion times the energy of visible light.

It thereby probes the most violent places in the universe, including black holes, neutron stars and supernova remnants.

The delegation was familiarised with the current state of the H.E.S.S project  and its future prospects with a particular view towards enhancing the local involvement by the head of the Namibian H.E.S.S, Dr Michael Backes, who also outlined the academic advantages and benefits of UNAM’s involvement in this internationally highly reputed project.

The delegation was intrigued as they marvelled at the 600 ton steal structure and the 600 square meter mirror configuration of the largest mirror telescope in the world.

UNAM students and staff are already actively involved in developing the science with the telescopes and enhancing human capital development in astronomy and related technologies like ultra-feast electronics and computing in fields like machine learning and big data.

For enhancing the big data and local high-performance computing (HPC) capacities, UNAM received storage servers of several TB capacity from other H.E.S.S member institutes, which were transferred from the H.E.S.S site to UNAM on the same day.

These will be integrated in the HPC cluster at UNAM that is admired by the virtual institute for scientific computing and artificial intelligence.

“Successful endeavours like the H.E.S.S telescopes help to attract other large scale collaborative projects to Namibia. Also economically, these are a win to the country as plenty of services are rendered locally. Recent examples of other large scale astronomical projects that have considered Namibia as host country include the Cherenkov Telescope Array, the Square Kilometre Array, and the Africa Millimeter Telescope, of which latter two have chosen Namibia as their future host. The expenses of maintaining the H.E.S.S projects are more than justified by the scientific productivity of this collaboration, currently consisting of over 40 institutions from over 13 countries,” said Backes