SAfrican telescope proving worth its SALT

South Africa’s SALT telescope has helped detect the first white dwarf pulsar, the latest co-discovery that has astronomers eager to use the largest optical telescope in the southern hemisphere to unlock the galaxy’s secrets.


Quick reaction times, as well as being significantly cheaper than similar European or American facilities in producing the science are key competitive advantages, said a senior astronomer at the SALT consortium during a media visit.

“SALT is now living up to expectations, producing high-quality science data that probe the far reaches of the universe,” said Ted Williams, a director at the South African Astronomical Observatory managing the site.

Scientists know of neutron stars, large objects about the size of the Sun that have compacted down at the end of their lives to something about 10km across, the last stop before a black hole.

Williams said these incredibly dense objects have been known for decades to produce pulsars, which emit regular pulses of radio waves and other electromagnetic radiation at rates of up to one thousand pulses per second.

“But there is another class of compact objects called white dwarfs, bigger, the size of the earth. So rather than 10 kilometres in size we are looking at 6000 kilometres and we’ve just discovered the very first white dwarf pulsar,” he said of the previously unknown celestial phenomena.

Situated atop a hill in the desolate Northern Cape around 350km north of Cape Town, the $US43 million ($A56 million) SALT telescope used its powerful spectroscopy light measurement tool to prove the existence of the white dwarf pulsar.

Shared by a consortium of partners from South Africa, India, America and Europe, SALT’s queuing system allows it to interrupt routine observations and within minutes focus its 10-metre optical telescope on new discoveries, said Williams.

In February, SALT was the first major telescope to take a spectrum of a supernova in the nearby Centaurus A galaxy hours after its discovery.

It also helped reveal one of the biggest explosions ever recorded in the universe, 200 times more powerful than a typical supernova and believed to have shone at 570 billion times the brightness of the Sun.

Together with Australia, South Africa is also co-hosting the world’s biggest and most advanced radio telescope, the $US2 billion ($A2.6 billion) “Square Kilometre Array” which will study the origins of the universe and help probe for extraterrestrial life.

Riewoldt keeps shining in AFL

The way Nick Riewoldt is playing, AFL retirement will have to wait at least another year.


Four games after his 300 milestone, the 33-year-old legend led St Kilda to a 39-point win over Melbourne on Saturday at Etihad Stadium.

Riewoldt kicked three goals – it could easily have been five or six – and took 14 marks as the Saints won 20.15 (135) to 15.6 (96).

The Saints captain’s contract runs out at the end of this season but coach Alan Richardson is rapt with the key forward.

“If the season stopped right now, we as a footy club would want Nick to play,” Richardson said.

“As long as he still has the passion to play the game, lead strongly and set a great example – he’s in really good form and he looks like he’s always there.

“So I’d be surprised if we’re not wanting him to play.”

Likewise, even though Riewoldt came out of last week’s loss to GWS with an ankle injury, Richardson always assumed he would be up for Saturday’s match.

“He is such a resilient person that … I just think he’s going to play,” Richardson said.

The win represented an impressive turnaround from last Sunday, when Richardson was scathing after the Giants loss and said they had too many passengers.

While Riewoldt was best afield, plenty of younger Saints also stood up.

Tim Membrey kicked five goals, Tom Hickey rucked well and Blake Acres had a team-high 28 disposals.

St Kilda lost the clearance count by 15 but overall their contested ball work was clearly better.

“It was pleasing, wasn’t it? It was good to see the guys really hunting the opposition and getting in their face, being bold to leave their man and going to support in contests,” he said.

Melbourne led by 17 points in the first quarter but coach Paul Roos saw worrying signs.

“We just couldn’t get our game going today – I felt even when we were in front in the first quarter, we weren’t playing the way we wanted to play,” he said.

The standout on a bad day was key forward Jesse Hogan’s career-best seven goals.

Melbourne were trying to win three in a row for the first time since 2010.

Roos said Melbourne’s effort could not be faulted and also did not think their positive publicity during the week had gone to the players’ heads.

Remarkably, the Saints have a 13-game winning streak over Melbourne.

The Demons also have won just one of their last 24 games at Etihad Stadium.

I won’t be moving out of fullback: Inglis

South Sydney star Greg Inglis has scoffed at suggestions he needs to move out of fullback to prolong his NRL career.


The Rabbitohs skipper had a slow start to the year but has flicked the switch over the past three weeks, averaging 186 metres a game and totalling 18 tackle breaks and six offloads.

And while his feats haven’t translated to a Rabbitohs’ victory, the 29-year-old rejects any proposed positional switch.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Inglis told AAP.

The Queensland and Australian representative said neither he, nor coach Michael Maguire had even discussed a move to the frontline where he spent the first seven seasons of his career.

He made the fulltime move to the No.1 in his second year at Redfern in 2012.

“My place now is fullback and that’s what I’ve got to concentrate on. I’m not looking forward to any other positions in the team at all,” he said.

“I haven’t spoken to anyone about it. I don’t know where it’s coming from. People just want to have their opinion on what position’s best. I know the team knows and the coach knows that I’m here as a fullback.”

The former Melbourne player continues to be bothered by a degenerative knee issue but said it wasn’t better or worse than it has been this season.

“The body’s feeling fine. There’s always going to be niggles but there’s people in place here that can manage that,” he said.

“It’s always going to be the same. If it gets a bump, it’s going to hurt.”

Refuting talk of a jumper swap aside, Inglis has been selected by Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga at left centre for next week’s Test against New Zealand.

Online campaign launches to house Manus detainees

As government officials prepare to fly to Papua New Guinea for talks, an online campaign is offering to make room in Australian homes for detainees on Manus Island.


The fate of about 850 men remains unclear three days after PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill announced the detention centre would close.

The federal government has ruled out bringing the asylum seekers and refugees to Australia, including to another detention centre on Christmas Island.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also appears unlikely to take up a New Zealand offer to resettle hundreds of refugees, saying it could be used as a marketing tool by people smugglers.

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The online campaign called Room at my Place calls for the men to be brought to Australia to have their claims assessed.

The group wants Australians to make it “easy” for them to be brought to the country by giving them somewhere to stay.

“Imagine if households around the country offered a bed, good meals and caring support for these blokes asking for our protection,” the website says.

Mr O’Neill confirmed on Friday evening it had been agreed a delegation of Australian officials would visit Port Moresby.

“Australia understands the court decision and the meeting next week will consider options and processes required to move forward in an urgent manner as required by the Supreme Court ruling,” he said.

Mr Turnbull has spoken with his PNG counterpart, reiterating the government’s stance that the men would not be coming to Australia.

He says their options are to return to Iran or other home countries or settle in PNG.

About 400 of the men have been assessed as refugees and could leave the detention centre if they chose to.

The government had also been trying to find a third country to settle them, Mr Turnbull said.

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Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has accused some asylum seekers of frustrating their processing because they believed it would prejudice their chances of getting to Australia.

The ABC reported on Friday PNG authorities were preparing to serve the Australian government with legal papers effectively asking it to find alternative housing for the men.

There’s been confusion at the centre, with reports some internal gates were briefly opened and then shut.

Mad mind of Monis revealed at inquest

Lindt Cafe gunman Man Haron Monis was a dangerous psychopath who attached himself to extremist religion only to further his own selfish, ruthless, callous and anti-social interests, an inquest has heard.


The hostage-taking killer was a danger from the moment he drew a sawn-off shotgun and detained 18 people in the Martin Place cafe on December 14, 2015, psychiatrist Dr Jonathan Phillips said as he was questioned about the mind, attitudes and behaviour of Monis.

“I believe he was prepared to kill … and I believe he was prepared to die as well,” he told the NSW coroner’s inquest into the siege.

Dr Phillips said Monis didn’t have a psychiatric illness, rather a complex personality disorder with paranoid, narcissistic and anti-social tendencies.

“This man was, by any definition, a dangerous psychopath,” he said.

He was also a lone wolf terrorist and had an inflated opinion of his talents and capabilities.

Monis had the ability to mimic normal functions while having no empathy or difficulty inflicting immense harm on others and also played mind games with his captives.

Several hostages have told the inquest Monis acted in an apparently kind manner at moments in between the moments of panic and frustration inside the cafe.

He allowed people time to eat and drink and some ailing hostages were allowed to lie on the cafe’s floor.

But this apparent empathy with hostages was false, a charade to confuse those unlucky enough to have been caught in Monis’ perverse and fatal attention-seeking siege, Dr Phillips said.

“Monis constructed and lived in a world where he took no notice of others,” he said.

“Other people merely became objects in his egocentric psychological world.”

Monis’ personality disorders put him at the “epicentre” of a dangerous personality group, with the chance of him harming or killing someone increasing as the siege continued, Dr Phillips said.

“He was losing … the controls he had in the beginning,” he said.

“Each individual hour increased the risk of mayhem and murder.”

The siege lasted for 16 hours and ended when police stormed the cafe after Monis ordered cafe manager Tori Johnson to his knees and shot him at point blank range.

Monis and barrister Katrina Dawson were left dead following a gun fight.

Had the siege dragged on, more hostages would have been killed, Dr Phillips said.

The inquest also heard Monis adopted violent extremism as a means of self-aggrandisement.

He had also posed as a spiritual healer to manipulate female clients into having sex.

That resulted in police laying a raft of charges, including 22 counts of aggravated sexual assault and 14 counts of aggravated indecent assault.

While finding Monis had suffered from anxiety and depression, Dr Phillips said it was no different to what everyone experiences “from time to time”.

Had Monis survived the siege and been prosecuted he would not have been able to use any mental health defences, Dr Phillips said.

Dr Phillips never met Monis but has spent months reviewing 16 volumes of material and working with two people who had previously treated him.

The long-running inquest continues before NSW Coroner Michael Barnes in Sydney.