Lynnette and I had been discussing the possibility of doing an astronomy outreach event for the children of the two primary schools in the small West Coast town of Leipoldtville for some time. Mr Dirkie Eygelaar, stuff proprietor of the Sandveld Winkel in Leipoldtville and his wife Marie, expressed interest in presenting the event on their premises and, after some discussion, the date was set for Saturday the 14th of December. We kept a watchfull eye on the weather in the week before the event, because the weather has not been kind to amateur astronomers so far this summer in the Cape. Dirkie and Marie had kindly offered to put us up for the weekend so we clocked in on Friday the 13th and, already on that evening, the weather was not promising from an astronomy point of view.
Saturday evening rolled around and we watched the weather anxiously hoping that the thin high level clouds would also push off to wherever their bigger, fluffier friends had gone. However, as darkness fell it became clear that the Moon was to be the main, and possibly only attraction for the evening as it would be fairly visible despite the patchy haze. The glaring security lights at Mr J.H. van Zyl’s potato processing plant, were also a huge problem, as they successfully washed out most of the stars that managed to evade the clouds. These lights are all badly designed as are all such lights and, apart from being far too powerful, they are also placed incorrectly. Next time around we will approach Mr. van Zyl and ask him to switch off the lights for the duration of our event and also invite him to attend the show.
The event was a great success despite having to contend with the clouds and the lights and we hosted a total of close on 80 persons, of which between 50 and 60 were children. Quite a few good questions were asked by the children and two of the boys even came back the next evening to ask more questions. A special word of thanks goes to Dirkie for the use of the venue and also for providing the light refreshments during the show. Thank you Sharony for all the trouble you went to getting the children to attend and also for helping to organize them in the viewing area. Thank you also to the neighbours Johan & Lida Botha and Lloyd & Jackie Valentine for attending. Dirkie and Marie, thank you also for the home baked bread and sea-food potjie you served up after all the stargazers had left; it was the perfect end to a very good outreach event.
This nova was at mag 6 when it was discovered 3 days ago and has brightened every day and was about mag 3.6 earlier today ( Dec 5th). Near beta Cen, it is easy to find but you need to go out at about 3:30 am to see it.
On Monday, December 02, John Seach based at Chatsworth Island in NSW (Australia) discovered a nova in Centaurus. Located less than 2° from beta Centauri, the nova has brightened to become a naked-eye target. The Shallow Sky Section of ASSA has a finder chart and more information. At mag 6 when it was discovered it has brightened first to around mag 4 and then appeared to be fading. Recent observations, however, seem to indicate that it may still be brightening and it was at around mag 3.6 on 11/12/13.
On a very overcast afternoon, with a fairly stiff and at times quite chilly breeze that even produced several halfhearted showers, Star People arrived in Sea Point, parked alongside the Sea Point Promenade, opposite the five white horses and waited for the rest to arrive. Slowly everyone else trickled in and Auke and I pitched in to help get the tables and a gazebo set up, spread table cloths and lay out all the goodies. Lynnette was unable to do more than supervise as she had a very painful broken toe which seriously limited her mobility. On several occasions the wind did its best to move everything toward South America, but the nimbler members of the group managed to retrieve all items before they made it over the railing and into the Atlantic.
Eventually it was all set up and everyone was there, so the show could start. There were about 50 people at the event and the event was also covered by a local radio station. There were speeches, as there always are on occasions like this, and, of course, lots of eats. After everyone had eaten Russel and Jacques each presented a magic show and thoroughly bent everyone’s sense of reality. As the sun set the clouds, for the first time, looked as if they might give us an opportunity to show people the moon, so Auke and I fetched Lorenzo from the Vito and set him up. This provided, not only the first close-up view of the moon, but also the first opportunity to look through a telescope for most of those present. Unfortunately the gusty conditions prevented the launching of the fire-balloons but the children still had great fun with the other amusements provided. By this stage the children had received their presents and everyone was packing up and getting ready to go home.
All in all, it was a very interesting evening and a great way for the Bambini Dream Foundation to round off their year’s work. Thanks to all concerned for inviting us, it was a privilege to share the evening with you and contribute in small way to the Dream.