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New telescope at Boyden Observatory to push boundaries in Gamma-ray research

The Astrophysics Research Group in the UFS Department of Physics recently collaborated with the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia (IAA) in Spain and the University College of Dublin (UCD) in Ireland, to install a robotic telescope at the Boyden Observatory. Pictured here, are from the left, Teboho Rakotsoana and Simon Rakotsoana from the UFS, Emilio J Garcia from the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia, Prof Pieter Meintjes and Prof Antonio M Carrillo from UCD.

The Astrophysics Research Group in the UFS Department of Physics recently collaborated with the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia (IAA) in Spain and the University College of Dublin (UCD) in Ireland, to install a robotic telescope at the Boyden Observatory. Pictured here, are from the left, Teboho Rakotsoana and Simon Rakotsoana from the UFS, Emilio J Garcia from the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia, Prof Pieter Meintjes and Prof Antonio M Carrillo from UCD.

Published Jun 8, 2022

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Durban - A new telescope that has been installed at the Boyden Observatory in the Free State is likely to help South African astrophysicists and their counterparts from around the globe push the boundaries when it comes to Gamma-ray research.

The Burst Observer and Optical Transient Exploring System or BOOTES 6, was installed to form part of a robotic telescope network.

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There are seven BOOTES telescopes around the world. Two in Spain, one in New Zealand, China, Mexico, South Africa and Chile.

The main aim of the telescope is to measure the brightness of transient sources in the galaxy. The BOOTES telescope offers real time analytical data of the gamma-ray bursts (GRB) that occur.

The project is a collaboration between UFS’ department of Physics and the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia in Spain.

The telescope project experienced many delays due to the outbreak of the pandemic and was installed at the Boyden facility outside Bloemfontein in May.

An image showing the network of BOOTES telescopes around the world. Image: Screenshot of a presentation by Youdong HU (IAA-CSIC, UGR) and Alberto. J. Castro-Tirado (IAA-CSIC,ISA-UMA).

Knowledge gained from studying the bursts of cosmic X-ray sources could help lead to a better understanding of the Universe, according to Professor Pieter Meintjes - Professor of Physics and head of the Astrophysics Programme in the Department of Physics at University of Free State.

Besides having an uber cool telescope that can offer a glimpse into the darkest parts of the universe, the BOOTES in Bloemfontein establishes the region as a place where research of international standards is conducted, Meintjes explained.

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The BOOTES 6 telescope at the Boyden Observatory. Picture: Supplied.

“By observing the optical afterglow of the gamma-ray bursts, we can establish its point of origin in space. Furthermore, the shape of the optical afterglow light curve gives insight into the type of mechanism behind the gamma-ray burst, i.e., whether the burst is produced by a collision between two neutron stars or by the explosion of a hypernova event.

“Since BOOTES has an enormously fast slew rate, it can start observations of erupting sources within a few seconds, which allows the Astrophysics Research Group to get data very quickly. This will certainly give us an edge over other international astronomy groups that are also involved in the same type of research,” said Meintjes.

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