Ready for a little rocket science?

The year is slowly winding down. While people normally focus narrowly on the loose ends that need to be tied up at this time of year, others are seeing a much bigger picture – big enough to include outer space.


The Eish! article about Prof Thebe Medupe’s astronomical observatory on the campus in Mahikeng touches on the vast universe beyond our planet, solar system and galaxy.


Visiting National Geographic websites, lots of interesting facts come into sharp focus. Here are a few examples.


In our own solar system, neighbouring Mars might soon host Earth’s first "space colony". A few years from now, a group of people who are part of the Mars 1 project will depart on a one-way journey, never to return to Earth. As soon as 2024, they may arrive on the Red Planet to form the first permanent human settlement. Whether this dream is feasible and will become reality, only time will tell.


Mars and the rest of our solar neighbourhood are of course only a tiny spot in our disk-shaped galaxy, the Milky Way. Our home galaxy contains between 100 billion and 400 billion stars and at least 100 billion planets. To dazzle the brain even further, astronomers say that the observable universe alone may contain 100 billion galaxies.


Just as amazing is that when you look into space, either with the naked eye or through a telescope such as the 16 inch Meade LX200 GPS on the campus in Mahikeng, you are looking back into the past.


This is how it works: The star nearest to our solar system, Proxima Centauri, is about four light years away. That means the light travelling from there takes about four years to reach Earth. Therefore, we can say that the light is four years old when we see it.


Talking of time, we’d better get back to the present. We trust that you, our readers, will enjoy the coming holidays with your loved ones. We will soon be back, launching the first edition of Eish! early in 2019.


Watch this space ….


Happy reading.