My relocation to Cape Town

Less than two months ago I made a big leap and relocated from Zagreb, Croatia to Cape Town, South Africa, stopping home in Perth, Australia along the way. It was a pretty epic tri-continental move! Here’s an update on the experience and also a quick explanation of the astronomy research I’ll be working on while I’m here. There’s also a short video blog to go with this post, which you can find at the end.

I recently moved to Cape Town to start a new job in radio astronomy as a Square Kilometre Array South Africa Postdoctoral Research Fellow (phew, that’s a mouthful)! I’ve been here for 7 weeks now and loving it so far. The big move from Croatia to South Africa (via Australia) involved a lot of complicated admin (which I won’t bore you with the details of, for now) so I’m very happy and relieved that it’s all over. Everything did actually go surprisingly smoothly and I’m all settled in now.

My top tips for moving to South Africa are:

  1. Do not underestimate how long it will take to open a bank account.
  2. Always take a black and a blue pen with you whenever dealing with admin. Just trust me.

I’ve now got a car and an apartment here in Cape Town and my shipment of household stuff arrived a few days ago. Woot! I’m epically excited to be reunited with all my favourite things. Shout out to AGS Movers for getting even my crystal glasses here in one piece!

My shipment of stuff arrives. So many boxes! The title of my blog might be ‘travelling light’, but I clearly don’t live by that life philosophy 😛

I’m finding Cape Town a truly incredible place to live. It’s full of life and it’s just so darn beautiful. The drive to work every day has some stunning views of Table Mountain and the ocean.

View of the city and ocean from half way up Table Mountain. Obviously didn’t take this picture while driving!

I’m working at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Here’s some pictures. They look a bit dreary as it’s the end of winter (usually it’s bright and sunny with gorgeous views over the city)…but YAY FOR RAIN! The infamous Cape Town drought is all but over.

The University of Cape Town on a rainy day. There’s actually a huge mountain in the background but it’s covered by cloud.
The UCT Physics Department

During my Fellowship here I’ll be working mainly with the MeerKAT telescope. It’s a huge new radio telescope in the Karoo region. It’s one of the best and most powerful of its kind in the world and was launched only a few months ago. So it’s a really exciting time to be a radio astronomer here in South Africa.

The MeerKAT telescope in the Karoo region of South Africa. Image credit: SKA South Africa

There’s a few major observing projects planned with MeerKAT. I’m going to be working with two of them: MIGHTEE and LADUMA. (Acronyms which mean something. I forget what, exactly.) The goal of these two surveys is to detect large numbers of distant galaxies. With this data we want to try and piece together the extremely complicated puzzle of how galaxies formed and evolved over cosmic time.

In particular, I’ll be looking at changes in the number of stars forming in galaxies, and changes in the amount of neutral hydrogen gas inside galaxies. Hydrogen gas is the raw fuel of star formation, so it’s what essentially keeps a galaxy ‘alive’.

MeerKAT stares at the stars and galaxies. Image credit: SKA South Africa.

We’re right at the beginning of these projects and the observations have either just begun or will commence shortly. So there’s a huge amount of work to be done but it should be incredibly exciting. I’ll keep you posted!

One more pretty MeerKAT picture for good luck. Image credit: SKA South Africa.

And here’s the matching video blog!

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