NRF-SAAO Participates in AfAS Conference at Cadi Ayyad University in Morocco

NRF-SAAO Participates in AfAS Conference at Cadi Ayyad University in Morocco

The African Astronomical Society (AfAS) held its 4th annual conference at Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech, Morocco, from 15 to 20 April 2024. This was the first time that the AfAS event was held outside of the host country of the Secretariat, South Africa, since its relaunch at the Astronomy in Africa meeting in March 2019 at NRF-SAAO in Cape Town.

The conference gathered African astronomers, researchers, astronomy students, educators and amateur astronomers. It was an occasion to exchange ideas on cutting-edge astronomy research and to collaborate given the increase in astronomy activities and the development of astronomy infrastructures within the continent. Interestingly, this year’s conference was also a celebration of the fifth anniversary of the African Astronomical Society since its 2019 relaunch.

Each year, the requests for conference talks improve, which signifies a maturing society whose members are involved in impactful research. As such, the AfAS-2024 program was dynamic and very enriching with over 130 talks and over 110 posters which covered a diverse range of topics in science as well as Education, Development, and Outreach (EDO). Other highlights included planned outreach activities to schools, community and street stargazing. Many of the NRF-SAAO staff attended the conference and made presentations on a range of topics in science engagement, astronomy and science communication.

As part of the conference, the last day was dedicated to the business of reporting on the progress thus far from the different committees that make up AfAS. Additionally, to up-skill the next cohort of astronomers, there was a two-day data science hackathon hosted at the Oukaïmeden Observatory. The hackathon is part of the Hack4Dev project, a partnership that includes AfAS, the Inter-University Institute for Data Intensive Astronomy (IDIA), the Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD), and BRICS Intelligent Telescope and Data Network. Collaboratively the partners view these hackathons as a skills transfer program aimed at enhancing the capabilities of future astronomers. These skills are also key in demonstrating their scalability from astronomy to address development challenges.

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