To South Africa via Chile, always with an eye on the sky

David Trilling in South Africa

Three accepted research proposals and the ongoing study of Sedna, the solar system’s most distant object, comprise David Trilling’s sabbatical output, and that doesn’t count a family adventure halfway around the world.

“I’m busy, and in a year’s time I really might be shoulder deep,” Trilling said from Cape Town, South Africa, where he’s spending his one-year sabbatical from Northern Arizona University.

Trilling and his family moved to Cape Town in July 2014 and will remain until June. He’s being hosted at the South African Astronomical Observatory, from which he coordinates his observations of Sedna via a telescope in Hawaii, as well as University of the Western Cape. A minor planet in the outer Kuiper Belt, Sedna is a candidate for designation as a dwarf planet. Trilling is using several telescopes in South Africa for different research projects.

In the meantime, Trilling’s two children are attending a local public school, and his wife, Leah Mundell, is conducting research on immigration. At NAU, she teaches a first-year seminar course on the topic.

“We’re really fortunate that our professions allow us to move halfway around the world for a year and come back to a job,” Trilling said. “Our experience here has been great.”

Before leaving for South Africa, Trilling participated in yet another project, using the Dark Energy Camera at an observatory in Chile to search for centaurs—objects between Jupiter and Neptune with the characteristics of both asteroids and comets.