Science is wickedly addictive. It is a window to wonders the imagination never knew existed. Godfrey Mosotho knows this more than most and he is not keeping the secret to himself.
Mosotho runs an experiment in which he launches meteorological balloons to measure ionising radiation in the atmosphere up to several kilometres. What makes this approach unique – beyond the research implications – is that the project also serves as an outreach programme. His most recent launch had learners from Saints Christian (primary) School in Potchefstroom participating in the scientific fun.
“We started with these types of launches in 2018, so we have done three launches now. During these launches, we take measurements of atmospheric parameters like temperature, pressure and so many other things. But the most important measurements we take are the radiation measurements. The idea was to do one launch every year, but we had to stop due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Now we are back in business,” explains Mosotho.
“We want to demonstrate to the public how radiation levels change according to altitude or geographic location. The quality and composition of radiation we are exposed to at ground level is completely different from the amount just a little higher up. The higher you go, the more radiation exposure there is.”
It is not only the knowledge attained through these experiments that he wants to share.
“Any school that is interested in the project can participate. After a successful launch, the learners help in recovering the payload after it has come back down to earth. We also give feedback to the school afterwards to show them what we have measured.”
Mosotho, who was born and raised in Daveyton township on the East Rand, completed his doctorate at the North-West University (NWU), where he focused on radiation dosimetry at aviation altitudes. Currently, he is a postdoctoral researcher at the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences physics department under the supervision of Professor Strauss du Toit.
It is a research of undeniable value: “We need to know how much radiation we are exposed to so that we can make informed decisions.”