National Research Foundation

Comment on New Bill: Astronomy Geographic Advantage Bill [B17-2007]
I want to make comments particularly with regard to geomagnetic
observations, that are covered by the following paragraph:
"astronomy and related scientific endeavours"
(b) observations that assist in understanding the sun and the
I feel that this sentence should also include the word 'geomagnetic
In terms of section 24 (2) relating to "Identified activities in
coordinated astronomy advantage area", the following conditions should
be added:
(d) other activities capable of causing ULF (Ultra‑Low Frequency)
interference, and
(e) activities that can cause unacceptable background noise in
geomagnetic field observations, like electric railway lines at distances
closer than 50 km.
In particular this bill can related to not only Astronomy but also the
broad area of Space Physics, therefore it is particular pleasing to see
that the sun and magnetosphere are included with Astronomy. 
However, it would also be advantageous to include the ionosphere as an
item in the definition "astronomy and related scientific endeavours". 
South Africa currently has 3 (soon to be 4) ionosondes, which are the
equipment used for measuring the ionosphere, extending from 90 km to 350
km. Our knowledge of the ionosphere directly impacts on our ability to
communicate using radio. Similarities exist between this technique and
that of a radio telescope, with the most profound difference being the
frequency range. Therefore, we would like to request that the ionosphere
be included in the advantage bill in the following way.
Page 5, line 5, item (b) of the definition for "Astronomy and related
scientific endeavours"
(b) observations that assist in understanding the sun, the magnetosphere
and the ionosphere;
I fully support the attempt to get aircraft to move their flight paths
east of the observatory to avoid contrail‑related atmospheric
Not only can it potentially cause cloud seeding and consequent lack of
transparency, but it may also negatively impact the seeing by creating
turbulent wakes in the jet stream.
In addition, with the distinct possibility of employing Adaptive Optics
(AO) at SALT in the future, this will require the use of artificial
laser guide stars (LGS). These are generated by firing powerful laser
beams into the atmosphere, to altitudes between ~20 km (Rayleigh laser)
and ~90 km (sodium laser). While it will always be the case that such
lasers will be subject to aircraft avoidance measures (as per civil
aviation regulations), it would obviously be to the benefit of the
airlines to remove this potential risk altogether by modifying their
flight paths.
A SALT LGS system is likely to involve a Rayleigh beacon sent up at an
angle of <43 degrees to the zenith. For typical aircraft altitudes of
10km, avoidance of laser beams hitting the aircraft (where pilot glare
is the major threat) could be achieved by ensuring aircraft keep ~10 km
  distant for the observatory.
I have looked at the Astronomy Geographic Advantage Bill and have in
essence only two comments:
The Bill is essential in the light of the KAT, SKA and other
developments in Astronomy. What is not very clear from the Bill is the
difference between core, central and coordinated astronomy advantage
areas. There are some differences under the respective headings in terms
of regulating unwanted interference, but it would clarify matters
considerably if these three different types of areas were defined more
clearly up front under the heading "Definitions".
Objective 2(b) refers particularly "TO DEVELOP SKILLS, CAPABILITIES AND
EXPERTISE of those engaged in astronomy and related scientific
endeavours in
Southern Africa", yet this is only dealt with very vaguely
under the heading Powers and Functions of the NRF under section 47(1)(b)
where it is stated that the NRF "may develop strategies....."
In the light of the wording of objective 2(b) I strongly suggest that
47(1)(b) be rephrased as follows "must develop strategies, alone
............ for the enhancement of skills, capabilities and expertise
in astronomy and related sciences to enable the Republic (alternatively
the astronomical sciences) to benefit fully from the astronomy advantage
areas created by this Act, and in doing so encourage and facilitate the
participation of the previously disadvantaged groups."
The primary impact for us that I see is that we will be responsible for
the monitoring and reporting of potential astronomical polluting
around such a declared zone. This will naturally require a degree of
capacity to do so and we will have to secure funding to do so.
In addition I see a potential collaboration with National Parks in terms
of the overall management of the region as our objectives should be

Magdal Pienaar‑Marais
Manager: Corporate Governance Unit