2021 Forum on Astronomy in Africa and the IAU GA2024

The International Astronomical Union, which has been in existence for over 100 years, is the world’s largest body of professional astronomers. Every three years it holds a General Assembly, bringing together astronomers from around the world. This meeting will take place for the first time on the African continent in 2024. Cape Town has been selected to host the meeting, and the National Research Foundation (NRF) is the official host organisation. In preparation for this event, it is essential to bring together the African astronomical community to discuss how the continent can maximally benefit from this unique opportunity as well as how best to facilitate participation by countries in Africa.

Format: Virtual Forum for African astronomy community via Zoom

Date/Duration: 27 – 29 October 2021 (3 days)

Venue: Online on Zoom and live on Youtube

Contributions: Contributions were in the form of short recorded talks about ideas or initiatives related to the IAU GA 2024, and then real-time (during the Forum) proposals for discussion in the “unconference” session.

Purpose: Engage the African Astronomy community, including astronomers, amateur astronomers, education and outreach community, to obtain commitment on participation and appoint country ambassadors.

Spirit: The October Forum should be based on the principle of shared ownership. Different stakeholder groups (e.g. astronomers, amateurs, science centres, outreach professionals, etc) should drive activities agreed upon at the forum.

Who should attend: Astronomers, amateur astronomers, education and outreach community or anyone with an interest in astronomy research, infrastructures, education, outreach, development; amateur astronomy, astrotourism, astronomy arts & culture, etc. In particular, those interested in proposing an IAU Symposium or Focus meeting at the 2024 GA were encouraged to express their interest during the Science session on Day 3.

Participants list: View the full list of 430 registered participants at this link.

Essential reading: In preparation for participation in the Forum, everyone was asked to please read through the 2024 Vision document which one can find info about at this link or access directly as a Google doc where one could leave comments. This document formed the core of the discussions at the Forum and includes actions needed. Participants of the Forum would ideally take on some of these actions.

Unconference: On Day 2 the discussions were in the form of an “unconference” – this means that the topics of discussion were based on the participants’ interests. If there was a topic that interested someone, they were able to propose it or, if someone else had already proposed it, vote for it. Most popular proposals were given a time slot on Day 2.

Slack channel: A Slack channel was set up for the Forum for participants to engage with each other. Participants could join via this link and start chatting with fellow participants prior to, during and after the Forum.

Gather.town: Participants were welcome to meet and network during the breaks in Gather.town.

Outcome: By the end of the Forum there was an updated vision document with specific actions and people/organisations volunteering to drive those actions. Thanks to the South African Department of Science and Innovation we have funds available to support these actions towards 2024.

Recordings: Each day’s discussions were broadcast live on Youtube, where it remains as a recording of the discussions (see links below)

Summary of links:
1. Latest programme and information about the Forum (this page)
2. Zoom link to connect to the meeting (same for all days – now expired)
3. Live stream on Youtube (see recordings below)
4. Slack channel for chatting with fellow participants
5. Gather.town link for networking during the breaks (same link for all breaks – now expired)
6. List of registered participants (430 in total)
7. The latest 2024 Vision Document on which you can leave comments/suggestions
8. The Unconference document where you could propose/view/vote for Day 2 topics
9. Recording from Day 1
10. Recording from Day 2
11. Recording from Day 3 Science Parallel Session
12. Recording from Day 3 Outreach Parallel Session
11. Recording from Day 3 plenary




Where pre-recorded videos are available, you can click on the title link to view it, then click “back” on your browser to return.

Day 1: 27 October 2021 All times in Central African Time (CAT)  
09:30 Optional Gather.town and Zoom networking  
10:00 Welcome messages from key stakeholders  
  International Astronomical Union José Miguel Rodriguez
  Department of Science and Innovation Takalani Nemaungani
  National Research Foundation Kurt van der Heyden
  African Astronomical Society Jamal Mimouni
10:10 Overview of GA2024, Vision and expected outcomes of workshop Vanessa McBride and Kevin Govender
10:30 Science flagship intro Bradley Frank and Bonita de Swart
10:40 Outreach Flagship intro Carolina Odman and Niruj Mohan
10:50 Possibility of AfAS astronomy hubs to implement flagships Kevin Govender
11:00 Current and proposed astronomy research activities on the continent   
  South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) and MeerKAT Khulu Phasiwe
  Oukaimeden Observatory Benkhaldoun Zouhair
  Hydrogen Intensity and Real-Time Analysis eXperiment (HIRAX) Kavilan Moodley
  Astronomy Development in Egypt: New Facilities and Frontiers  Somaya Saad
  South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) Petri Vaisanen
  The South African Gamma-Ray Astronomy Programme (SA-GAMMA) Markus Böttcher
  Stellar Occultations in Africa in Support of NASA Missions Anne Verbiscer
  Overview of research done at UCT Astronomy Patrick Woudt
  In-field identification of Moroccan meteorites using Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) handheld instrumentation Giorgio Senesi
  Ionised bubbles before the epoch of reionisation José Miguel Rodriguez
  African VLBI Network (AVN) Carla Sharpe
  South African National Space Agency (SANSA) Martin Snow
  Spectroscopy of variables stars at Oukaimeden Observatory BENHIDA Abdelmajid
  Post-forum submission: Kenya Optical Telescope Initiative Nadir Omar Hashim
  Current and proposed astronomy outreach activities on the continent   
  Women in Astronomy and activities at the IAU Mamta Pommier
  Inspiration and Engagement with Astronomy Through Khoi and San Starlore Daniel Cunnama
  The Travelling Telescope Susan Murabana Owen
  African Science Stars (ASSAP) Unathi Kondile
  Astronomy outreach and development in Benin Prudence AYIVI
  The Wits Digital Dome Roger Deane
  CosmoLAb Magazine Thierry Martial Tchangole
  Affordable Radio Telescopes for Education and Outreach Ikechukwu Obi
  Astronomy in developing countries using Virtual Observatories Khadija El Bouchefry
  THE ACTIVITIES OF OUR ASSOCIATIONS (الجمعية الموريتانيه لعلم الفلك Mauritanian Association of Astronomy) ELY CHEIKH Ould Mohamed Navee
  Pan-African School for Emerging Astronomers (PASEA) Chukwujekwu Ofodum
  Astronomy Outreach in Libya Amjed Khurwat
  Astronomy Outreach in Ethiopia Kirubel Menberu
  Astronomy Outreach in Egypt Somaya Saad
  Astronomy Outreach in Botswana Molly Kgobathe
  Current and proposed collaborative initiatives on the continent   
  African Astronomical Society Charles Takalana
  African Planetarium Association Lucia Marchetti
  Arab Astronomical Society Raid Suleiman
  African Initiative for Planetary and Space Science (AFIPS) David Baratoux
  East African Astronomy Research Network Simon Anguma
  South African Institute of Physics Makaiko Chithambo
  IAU Office for Astronomy Outreach Lina Canas
  IAU Office of Astronomy for Education Tshiamiso Makwela
  IAU Office of Astronomy for Development Kevin Govender
  Development in Africa with Radio Astronomy (DARA) Melvin Hoare
  DARA Big Data Anna Scaife
  Development of astronomy in East Africa and focus areas to invest in the region Alemiye Mamo
  National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme (NASSP) Ros Skelton
  IAU Office for Young Astronomers and International School for Young Astronomers (ISYA) David Mota
  ISYA South Africa Moses Mogotsi
  Astrotourism Stelios Tryfon
  African Network for Women in Astronomy (AfNWA) Mirjana Povic
  Creating international support groups to build and sustain local capacity and build local expertise Noorali Jiwaji
  Using Big Data for Scientific (Astronomical) Data Computing and Management Tsegazeab Hailegebriel
  A Platform of collaboration for research and education across Africa Tolu Biressa
  GA2024 – An engineering point of view Yosry Azzam
  Infrastructure and collaboration Solomon Tessema
  African Radio Astronomy Network James Chibueze
  West African Regional Office of Astronomy for Development (WAROAD) Nnaemeka Dom Onyeuwaoma
  Portuguese Language Centre of the OAD (PLOAD) Gustavo Rojas
  Lessons learned from “The Future of Meetings” Vanessa Moss
13:30 Break (Optional Gather.town and Zoom networking)  
14:00 Working session: achieving the vision (walk through vision doc, identify gaps, assign actions)  
  Unconference instructions and determination of programme for Day 2  
15:00 Optional Gather.town and Zoom networking  
Day 2: 28 October 2021 All times in Central African Time (CAT)  
09:30 Optional Gather.town and Zoom networking  
10:00 Reflections on Day 1  
10:15 Vision discussion/unconference #1 (see topics, propose, and vote at this link)  
  The AfAS survey Charles Takalana
  Amateur community in Africa Paul Ludick
  Benefits for African school children from GA2024; Astronomy education in Africa Ruth Taju; Zakaria Belhaj
  Data archiving from telescopes on the continent Vanessa McBride; David Buckley
  Recording, preserving, and sharing astronomy heritage data (perhaps via a digital repository) Auke; Somaya
  Possibility for any African countries to join large projects such as SKA Ange Cynthia Umuhire
  Astronomy at universities for undergraduates Michele Gerbaldi
  Why should every physicist (and chemist) and even citizens be astronomy literate! Making a case for it. Jamal Mimouni
  Using Virtual Observatories for Astronomical Research and for Education and Outreach Khadija El-Bouchefry
  A brief introduction to Gather. town (and the future of meetings); barriers and challenges for online Vanessa Moss
12:30 Break (Optional Gather.town and Zoom networking)  
13:00 Vision discussion/unconference #2 (see topics, propose, and vote at this link)  
  Possible Programs for Women in Astronomy WG Priya Hasan
  Planetary (Solar system, Asteroids, Fireball, meteoroids, comets, … ) Jean-Baptiste Kikwaya
  Globalization of Astronomy terminologies and descriptions Noorali Jiwaji
  Initiating departments for “Astronomy Engineering” at the colleges of engineering in the continent Yosry Azzam
  Dark sky conservation and Astro-tourism initiatives in Africa Alemiye Mamo Yacob
  Making the IAU GA multilingual Thierry Martial Tchangole
  Facilitate the exchange of African students and researchers Abdelmajid
Benhida, NooraliJiwaji
14:00 Determination of additional parallel sessions for Day 3 (no additional parallel sessions – only Science and Outreach)  
14:30 Optional Gather.town and Zoom networking  
Day 3: 29 October 2021 All times in Central African Time (CAT)  
09:30 Optional Gather.town and Zoom networking  
09:45 Reflections on Day 2  
10:00 Parallel sessions:  
  Parallel Session 1: Science  
10:00 Intro to Session Brad/Bonita
10:10 Flagship Projects David
10:20 I-How Meetings Brad
10:30 IAU Symposia & Focus Meetings: Previous Meetings in Africa Mirjana
10:50 IAU Symposia & Focus Meetings: The proposal evaluation process Renee
11:00 Discussion With Mirjana/Renee, Chaired by Brad & Bonita
11:15 Short break, depending on length of discussion  
11:20 Intro & Disclaimer to session on Symposia Brad/Bonita
11:25 Symposium: Inclusive AGN Sarah & Sthabile
11:35 Symposium: Pulsars and Radio Transients Marisa
11:45 Symposium: Gravitational Waves Paul
11:55 Symposium: Galactic Plane James
12:05 Symposium: Radio Astronomy Patrick
12:15 Symposium: X-Ray Binaries Itumeleng
12:25 Discussion  
12:40 Focus Meeting: High Energy Michael
12:50 Focus Meeting: Gas in Galaxies Sarah & DJ
13:00 Discussion & Closing Remarks SSC
  Parallel Session 2: Communications, Education and Outreach  
10:00 Welcome & Introduction to the programme Carolina and Niruj
10:10 Flagship project discussion Led by Niruj
10:40 Planetaria discussion Led by Lucia
10:55 Science Centers discussion Led by MJ
11:10 Education and African NAEC network discussion Led by Sally
11:25 Schools discussion Led by Sivuyile
11:40 Amateur Astronomers discussion Led by Daniel
11:55 Astrotourism discussion Led by Anthony
12:10 Industry discussion Led by Anton
12:25 Wild ideas discussion Carolina
12:40 Pan-African coordination Niruj
12:55 Consolidation Carolina
13:00 Close  
13:00 Break (Optional Gather.town and Zoom networking)  
13:30 Plenary (Report back from parallel sessions and discussion)  
14:00 Action items, summary and way forward  
15:00 Close  


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