South African astronomers, together with collaborators from Moscow have discovered Luminous Blue Variable star. A very rare sighting as the star is very old and may soon blow apart causing a supernova explosion, one of the most powerful explosions in the Universe.
Astronomer Dr A. Kniazev from the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), together with collaborators from the Lomonosov Moscow State University Dr V. Gvaramadze and Dr L. Berdnikov, has recently discovered a new example of an incredibly rare kind of star known as a Luminous Blue Variable star (LBV). Out of the billions of stars mapped in our skies, only sixteen confirmed Luminous Blue Variable stars are known to date. The star, named WS1, is the latest addition to this rare group of stars. LBV stars are of interest to astronomers because they are extremely old stars which may soon die and blow apart in a supernova explosion, one of the most powerful explosions in the Universe.
Just like humans, stars do not live forever. Once their fuel has run out they stop shining and die. Stars that are much more massive than the Sun end their lives in powerful supernova explosions which can outshine all the other billions of stars in their galaxy put together. We never know when or where one of these explosions will take place but we can keep an eye on those stars most likely to go supernova in the near future: Luminous Blue Variable stars. Luminous Blue Variables (LBVs) represent a stage in the evolution of very massive stars towards the end of their life. For stars with initial masses of between 20-25 times that of our Sun the LBV stage occurs just before the star dies in a spectacular supernova explosion. For even more massive stars, they pass through the LBV phase slightly earlier in their lifetimes, but those stars too will eventually die in a supernova explosion.
LBV stars are much hotter and therefore more luminous than our Sun. They are some of the most luminous stars known, with brightnesses ranging from 250,000 to 1 million times brighter than our Sun. As a consequence of their high mass they evolve very quickly and have – astronomically speaking – short lifetimes. LBV type stars have a total lifetime of around a few million years and spend much less than one million years in the LBV phase of their evolution. The LBV phase can be thought of as a “stellar retirement” for the most massive stars. The Sun for comparison has a total lifetime of around 9 billion years. Because the LBV phase is so short-lived you have to be incredibly lucky to catch a star at the LBV stage of its life. This explains why they are so rare compared with other types of star.
LBV stars are losing vast amounts of mass as their upper atmosphere streams off into space in a so-called “stellar wind”. These stars undergo random outbursts at their surfaces, spewing their outer atmosphere into space. These outbursts cause variations in their brightness which is one of the key observational signatures of such a star. Another consequence of their immense mass loss is the formation of a bipolar or circular nebula, or cloud, around the star composed of material that has been lost from the star’s atmosphere. These nebulae are found enveloping approximately 70% of confirmed LBV stars. Eta Carinae is a famous and well studied example of a LBV star with a beautiful bipolar nebula.
As most LBVs are enshrouded in a nebula, astronomers often look for possible LBV candidates by searching for such nebulae. In the case of WS1, Kniazev and collaborators were alerted to the possibility that the star could be a LBV because they found in 2011 that it is surrounded by a circular shell of material that emits light at infra-red wavelengths. This prompted them to make follow up optical observations of the central star to confirm whether or not the star was a LBV. In 2011, using the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) they obtained a spectrum of the star (akin to a fingerprint) and found features in the spectrum typically associated with LBV type stars. However, this information was not sufficient to confirm whether WS1 was indeed a LBV. To do this, astronomers needed to observe the star over a long time period to confirm whether its variability in brightness and in its spectral features matched that expected from a LBV type star. Kniazev and collaborators continued to observe WS1 between 2013 and 2014 using the SALT telescope to look for changes in the star’s spectrum. They also monitored the star’s brightness between 2011 and 2014 using the South African Astronomical Observatory’s 1.9 m telescope and combined their observations with publicly available data spanning over forty years.
By combining the information from all their observations they found that WS1 did indeed exhibit all the observational characteristics of a LBV type star and concluded that WS1 is an incredibly rare Luminous Blue Variable star.
“We were very lucky to discover major spectral and brightness changes in WS1 without having to wait for too long”, says Kniazev. “With this discovery, we unambiguously proved the LBV status of this star. We expect that subsequent spectral analysis will allow us to determine fundamental parameters of WS1, for example its temperature and luminosity. We also hope to find more bona fide LBVs using SALT, which will help us to understand better the evolution of LBV type stars and their relation to other types of massive, old stars.”
This discovery, published as a Letter to Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society brings the total number of LBV stars known to date to sixteen.
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SA Start-up reinvents PABX
For any South African business, the idea of setting up or changing a telephonic switchboard system is the stuff of nightmares. Dealing with expensive hardware and hearing things like QSIG and VOIP is not what you’d call exciting.But now there is an app.
Enter BuzzBox (www.buzzboxcloud.co.za), a web-based telephone switchboard that is aimed at small and medium sized businesses wanting to take the hassle and cost out of the company switchboard. Whether you are a small one-man operation or a larger organisation with staff working remotely, BuzzBox is the best switchboard solution.
What sets BuzzBox apart from anything else on the market is its easy-to-use dashboard. It puts you in control of everything from picking your phone number to setting up voice prompts and managing your business-hours schedule.
BuzzBox was developed when the startup behind it, Jini-Guru, needed such a service for its own use across multiple continents. “When we started Jini-Guru we could not find a seamless online process that would allow us to set up a full web-based switchboard, so we decided to build one for ourselves,” says Mike Smits, Director at Jini-Guru.
He says a lot of startups today are tech savvy and know how to use apps and the services that go with it. “It’s the uberisation of services and its driving demand for instant service activation.”
BuzzBox works as an app on both iOS and Android but users wanting a desk phone option can choose from a variety of devices on offer or use their existing VOIP phones.
Setting up a BuzzBox account takes 5 minutes. During registration your FICA documents are uploaded [ID and proof or residence] and you get to pick your phone number before the account is created. Companies that want to keep an existing number can do so too.
The real magic happens when you log on to the BuzzBox Dashboard. The main screen displays a summary of statistics for your account while the left-hand menu provides you quick access to various configuration settings and reports.
Setting up new extensions or external numbers is done with a few clicks and you can even set up various departments which is a great way to route a call to various people in a department, like sales or support.
The intuitive user interface also makes it easy to set up hold-music and voice prompts. You can add voice prompts by recording them straight to your phone, just make sure you use a clear voice with quiet surroundings for the best customer experience.
One of the main features of BuzzBox is its call recording feature that allows an organisation to record calls for legislative purposes, such as a lawyer, or for customer service purposes such as support. Recordings are stored securely online, and you have the ability to download recordings for playback. Companies can opt-in for this service and it’s free to use. Recordings are stored online and are fully encrypted so only you can listen to, or download them. Storage costs R1 for every 1000 minutes of stored recordings.
Other features include call forwarding and scheduling. The latter allows you to set office hours for your organisation which will divert calls to an after-hours messaging service. You also have the option to enable routing to an employee who is on call after hours.
BuzzBox also has a reseller program for companies wanting to offer this as a switchboard solution to their existing customers.
The costs for this service is R89 p/m for the first phone number which includes your first extension for free. Thereafter you’ll pay R89p/m per extension. Calls between extensions are free but you pay per second for all outgoing phone calls. More info on pricing can be found here: https://buzzboxcloud.co.za/pricing/
BuzzBox is offering a Launch promotion where they are offering the first line and extension free for 12 months. Only pay for calls. Use promo code “feoifyaa” during sign-up to apply your discount.
Trust or bust for brands
Trading data is the new value exchange. Consumers are getting smarter at engaging in the interconnected world and where their data is shared. Yet, the rapid rise in cybercrime is fuelled by cybercriminals trying to exploit this data to sell for profit on the black market, writes MARTIN WALSHAW, SE Team Lead, Sub-Saharan Africa, at F5.
Apps are the gateway to vital information, so maintaining user identity is more important than ever. With changing attitudes towards cybersecurity and brand reputations at stake, many business leaders need to ask themselves an important question: Do customers today trust you to protect their data and will that brand loyalty remain in the future?
Data is the new value asset
A single hack can set reputations back as the magnitude of a cyber breach can result in severe losses to revenues. In recent times, large scale cyber-attacks have affected companies of all sizes across retail, banking, manufacturing, media and many other industries. Firms can no longer rely on traditional IT infrastructure because technological innovation and malicious hackers are exposing weaknesses in the system through sophisticated techniques, including malware and encryption. Companies need to rethink their security strategy and plan longer-term to safeguard customer loyalty.
Although innovative technology, such as the internet of things (IoT), has delivered tremendous progress, data breaches to inadequately protected devices and networks can quickly erode consumer confidence, which could take extensive resources to regain. A recent European report conducted by Opinium interviewed six thousand consumers covering the UK, Germany and France. The report revealed interesting findings, including two out of five people in the UK would not purchase smart technology for their home over hacking fears. The survey interviewed British citizens who expressed growing concerns over apps collecting their data and the platforms hackers are targeting today. In addition, almost half were most wary about leading social media sites collecting their data, whilst 58% believe it is the app that hackers will exploit to target them as consumers.
Attitudes towards being cyber-safe are changing rapidly. The Opinium survey also revealed that 74% of Brits now check their security measures when downloading apps, 88% check the security of banking apps and 90% with shopping apps, especially with concerns related to credit card fraud. As consumers become more discerning and vigilant about protecting their credentials, the demands on businesses will increase to prove that their service is robust, compliant and safe. It is quite conceivable that consumers will soon in the future differentiate brands based on their ability to protect data and whether they have the necessary security controls in place. The Opinium survey highlighted that over four fifths (82%) of German adults say they would be concerned about their financial data being hacked with half (51%) worried about their passport being hacked. In comparison, over four fifths (83%) of French adults say they would be concerned about their financial data being hacked with half (52%) worried about their National Insurance Number being hacked.
A company’s reputation will only survive and thrive if it understands consumer behaviour and implements a comprehensive security architecture to meet demands and safeguard sensitive information. Understanding risk, accessing, storing, processing, analysing, protecting and appropriately deleting customer data are mandatory for data compliance and demonstrating a strong security posture. It is essential for businesses to have the flexibility to quickly adapt to evolving trends, support new apps, accommodate a growing mobile community and maximise operational efficiency. In fact, studies have shown that the emotional state of users to network delays and data breaches for even very minor hiccups can cause stress and dissatisfaction. Looking ahead, consumers will know their data has intrinsic value and, as responsible cyber citizens, become more discerning about selecting services.
In the future, data protection and identity preservation will be at the heart of people’s choices when purchasing goods on-line, selecting a banking investment and even sharing credentials with local authorities. The digital economy is driving increased reliance on application services and forward thinking companies are implementing integrated security ecosystems to mitigate cyberattacks and fraud. A failure to scale the security architecture, safeguard and successfully manage customer credentials will be detrimental to a brand’s reputation.
Now ask yourself another question considering digital economic trends: Does my business have the right applications security solutions, which can keep customers happy? Remember, the way organisations deal with data will be a commercial differentiator for consumers. Now is the time to secure the trust.