Star Party – South Peninsula Astronomy Club
There we were, Auke, Lynnette, Martin, Richard and I at Rocklands on the southern border of Simonstown with the South Peninsula Astronomy Club. Lynnette and I were disgustingly late and our only real excuse was that we had badly underestimated the traffic on most of Baden Powell Drive and on the section from Muizenberg through to Simonstown itself. The fact that Lynnette’s Mum’s hot water cylinder sprung a leak shortly before we were due to depart from Brackenfell didn’t help much either and neither did the close on gale force Southeaster en route. Peter and the rest of the group had started proceedings and just shifted us down the program. A really beautiful venue and a very nice group of people from the South Peninsula Astronomy Club. Peter laid on sandwiches and well chilled juice for us, both of which were most welcome.
The program was an ambitious one. Auke talked about observing guides like the Southern Star Wheel and the ConCards, both available for download from his website. Peter gave some very useful observing tips and I gave a short talk on binoculars and the pitfalls of buying and using them. Martin spoke very entertainingly and at considerable length on types of telescopes, collimation, cleaning optical equipment and setting up a German Equatorial Mount. Lynnette gave us some background on the Southern Star Parties and Deep Sky events organised by Elf Astronomy and Star People and also gave some interesting statistics on the number of venues we had visited and the number of people we had reached since 2008 during the course of our outreach activities.
By the end of Lynnette’s talk we had already run into telescope time and everyone dispersed to set up telescopes while Auke, Martin and I packed everything away and moved the gear out to the cars. The wind was quite a problem but I was really pleasantly surprised by the number of stars one could see. Eta Carina was clearly visible and the Coal Sack too, although it needed some help from averted vision and a small dollop of imagination.
I took a set of 20 SQM-readings on the Volley Ball Court at Rocklands and they averaged out at 20.6 magnitudes per square arcsecond (masas) with a standard deviation of 0.00104. This translates to a Naked Eye Limiting Magnitude of 5.88 V mags. In Brackenfell, by comparison, the SQM-readings are around 18.6 masas which translates to 4.459 (V mags) and that is not a difference to be sneezed at. When one turned round and faced North from Rocklands, the full effect of the city’s light pollution was evident. The stars in the northern section of the sky were simply blotted out in the orange glow.
Here are some photographs taken at the event.