Astro Person of the Week

Astro Persoon van die Week: Die span van Ed en Lynnette Foster (ELF Astronomy)

(An English translation is given below)

Ons was verras, verheug, ietwat verleë en beslis onkant betrap deur die erkenning van OOG (Die Orion Obsevasiegroep) se kant af.  Ons is egter baie bly en besonder dankbaar vir al die aanprysing.  Lees hieronder self wat OOG te sê het en onthou tog dat ‘n knippie sout nie sal kwaad doen nie.

Ten spyte van die koue en soms nat winterweer, wat meeste van ons Wes-Kaapse sterrekykers eerder voor die kaggel laat sit, is Ed en Lynnette altyd aan die wikkel. Skaars is die een sterre byeenkoms of uitreikings aktiwiteit afgehandel of hul begin beplan aan die volgende.

Tesame met Auke Slotegraaf, bied Ed en Lynnette die gewilde “Southern Star Party” byeenkomste aan en die driemanskap is ook elke jaar tydens Nasionale Wetenskapsweek baie bedrywig met allerhande sterrekundige aktiwiteite.

Nasionale Wetenskapsweek is ‘n publieke bewusmakings inisiatief van die Suid-Afrikaanse Departement van Wetenskap en Tegnologie. SAASTA (Suid-Afrikaanse Agentskap vir die Bevordering van Wetenskap en Tegnologie) is aangestel as die uitvoerende agent van hierdie inisiatief en toelae word toegestaan aan verdienstelike persone nadat tenders deeglik oorweeg is.

Benewens al die projekte wat ELF Astronomy aanpak het hul onlangse bedrywighede, waar hul uitreikingswerk by die Athlone skool vir blindes gedoen het, ook OOG se aandag getrek. Hulle het hul uitreiking na siggestremdes nog verder uitgebrei met ‘n besoek aan die Durr familie op Malmesbury. “Astronomy for the Visually Impaired – A visit to the Durr family in Malmesbury 

Ed en Lynnette is nie net met sterre gepla nie, maar het nog vele ysters in die vuur – te veel om hier op te noem. Knyp gerus ‘n tydjie af en loer rond op hulle webblad.

A collage of photos about us put together by OOG

A collage of photos about us put together by OOG

Astro Person of the Week: The team of Ed and Lynnette Foster (ELF Astronomy)

We were surprised, elated, a bit taken aback and definitely caught off-side by this acknowledgement from OOG (Die Orion Obsevasiegroep).  We are, however, very happy and extremely thankfull for all the praise.  Read what OOG said below but please remember that a pinch of salt won’t do any harm.

In spite of the cold, and sometimes wet, winter weather which makes most Western Cape Cape stargazers prefer to sit in front of the hearth, Ed and Lynnette are always on the go. They have hardly finished one stargazing event our outreach activity or they are busy planning the next one.

Along with Auke Slotegraaf, Ed and Lynnette present the popular “Southern Star Party” gatherings and the triumvirate is also very involved in the annual National Science Week with a variety of astronomy activities.

National Science Week is a public awareness initiative of the South African Department of Science and Technology and their business arm, SAASTA (South African Agency for the Advancement of Science and Technology). They are the designated agency that has to carry out this initiative every year. Grants are allocated to deserving applicants after their tenders have been thoroughly evaluated.

Over and above all the projects that ELF Astronomy tackles, their recent outreach activities at the Athlone School for the Blind also drew OOG’s attention. They have extended their outreach activities with the visually impaired further with a visit to the Durr  family in Malmesbury. “Astronomy for the Visually Impaired – A visit to the Durr family in Malmesbury 

Ed and Lynnette not only do astronomy but are also involved in many other projects – too numerous to list here. Take the time to look around their webpage

Feedback on the Autumn Southern Star Party (April 25th to April 28th 2014)

Alan and Rosemary Cassells

Alan and the long overdue observing certificate
Alan and the long overdue observing certificate

Rose and I both had had a rather stressful time at our respective places of internment – I mean employment, cialis leading up to the 23rd deviate from the rigours of the usual routine. We arrived at Night Sky at around 14H00 in the rain. Mother Nature was apparently as excited and gave us a couple of hours to set up our caravan and tent etc. We were installed by 16H00………

I had yet to try out our new 12” Dobsonian in a dark sky situation, viagra as was Rosemary keen to try her hand at our 8” Dobbie. Friday night proved to be challenging in that the dew proved to be – at the very least, rather wet which resulted in some lessons learnt in dealing with this product of the condensation of atmospheric water vapour that falls under gravity. We did however, do some meaningful astronomy with Rosemary proving to be quite adept at using the Dobbie .

I have to say I was seriously chuffed at receiving my certificate and then the 12” telescope owners uniform in the form the form of the “been there, done that, got the T-shirt” T-shirt. Thank you so much………..

It was great having Kos visit us, a man with a unique sense of humour (my wife’s name is Rosemary Kos….), his talk on amateur astronomy in South Africa was inspirational –

Kerry’s talk on the Planetary models of the HU Aquarii system on Sunday left me astounded at what she had achieved for her honours degree. I can’t wait to hear what she will do for her master’s – keep going Kerry!

Sunday night was spectacular from an observing point of view during which time Rosemary found ten DSO’s that we had selected, on her own and had the nerve to find the sombrero galaxy before I did with the 8” noggal!

Lesley loaned me his 33mmx72deg lens which sort of turned the page to another chapter on astronomic observations which of course means I now have to spend more money…..

It was great to be able to show our new potentials what is visible in the “out there”.

There were great talks this time – Auke always has something spectacular with which to educate us – this time photometry and the DSLR camera and not to mention other resident geniuses like Brett and the collimation of one’s Newtonian.

Edward and Lynnette never fail to produce a superb star party despite a few challenges this time with the weather and a bit of juggling here and there. Thank you both for all your hard work and another really successful Southern Star Party! – Long may it Live!

Astronomy for the Visually Impaired

Visit to the Durr Family in Malmesbury, viagra 10 May 2014

In Die Burger of 21 April 2014 an article by Blanche de Vries titled “Seun met swak sig maak deurbraak” (Eng. Boy with poor sight makes a breakthrough) caught Lynnette’s eye and she filed it with the intention that we would try and include Pieter-Jans Durr in our outreach plans for 2014. Lady Luck was on our side because in the meantime, cialis Dr Wanda Diaz-Merced, the blind astrophysicist from Puerto Rico, paid South Africa a visit, and was based at the International Astronomical Union’s Office for Development on the premises of the Southern African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) in Observatory, Cape Town.

We mentioned Pieter-Jans to Wanda on Friday during discussions following her farewell lunch at the SAAO, and she expressed interest in meeting Pieter-Jans.  So when we arrived home, Lynnette set about contacting the Durr Family. There were five numbers listed for the surname Durr, but the very first number she tried turned out to be the jackpot: it was Pieter-Jans’s grandmother.  Wanda was due to address a combined parents and teachers meeting on Saturday morning at the Athlone School for the Blind in Bellville South but she would be finished by 10:30 or shortly afterwards.  We picked her up shortly after 11:00 and headed for Malmesbury. It rained intermittently on the way to Malmesbury, but we arrived on time at the Durr residence where we were warmly welcomed by Mrs Marie Durr, Pieter-Jans’s mother.

While we waited for Pieter-Jans, Marie filled us in on the family background. Pieter-Jans is the youngest of four children and he and his two older sisters all suffer from retinitis pigmentosa, generally abbreviated to RP.  His eldest sister attended the Pioneer School in Worcester before transferring back to a mainstream school in Malmesbury to complete her high schooling.  She then went on to complete a BA (Law) degree at the University of Stellenbosch. The second daughter matriculated at the Pioneer School in Worcester earning a place amongst the top ten in the Western Province. She is currently working on a master’s degree in Psychology at the University of Stellenbosch.  Pieter-Jans’s brother has no visual impediment.  He is a very capable Rugby player and is currently completing a degree in Physiotherapy at the University of Stellenbosch. Pieter-Jans himself was until recently a pupil at the Pioneer School in Worcester, but in 2014 he had expressed the wish transfer to the Swartland High School in his home town, Malmesbury.  By the time Wanda had related her background to Marie and we had finished the coffee and melktert, Pieter-Jans arrived.

Pieter-Jans admitted to knowing very little about astronomy, an omission which Wanda soon set about correcting with the aid of the posters from the “Touch the Invisible Sky” and “From the Earth to the Sky” series.  She also presented him with material she had brought along specifically to give to him.  Wanda soon had Pieter-Jans completely at his ease, and before long they were engaged in a lively discussion about the posters which Pieter-Jans eagerly examined.  Marie showed a keen interest in the posters and the discussion too, especially when Wanda pointed out the fact that only a small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum was visible to sighted people. By far the greater part had to be interpreted using instruments in any case, which is why she promotes converting signals to sound as a means for visually impaired people to participate in astronomy, because of their more acute hearing.

Peter-Jans with one of the posters Wande gave him
Peter-Jans with one of the posters Wande gave him
Wanda and Pieter-Jans warming to the topic of solar weather.
Wanda and Pieter-Jans warming to the topic of solar weather
Wanda and Marie exchange views while Pieter-Jans studies one of the TOuch the Invisible Universe posters
Wanda and Marie exchange views while Pieter-Jans studies one of the “Touch the Invisible Sky” posters
Marie and Pieter-Jans paying close attention while Wanda explains some finer points
Marie and Pieter-Jans paying close attention while Wanda explains some finer points

By the time Pieter-Jans’s father, John, arrived we were ready for a second round of coffee, melktert and rusks. John slipped effortlessly into the discussions and in-between talking, and sipping his coffee also took time to look at the posters.  After coffee John excused himself as he had promised to attend a rugby match in which his other son was playing.  Before he left though we did take a photograph of the family.

Wanda, Marie, Pieter-Jans, myself and John on the extreme right.  I am holding one of the "Touch the Invisible Universe" posters while John sips his coffee and looks at one of the "From the Earth to the Sky" posters
Wanda, Marie, Pieter-Jans, myself and John on the extreme right. I am holding one of the “Touch the Invisible Sky” posters while John sips his coffee and looks at one of the “From the Earth to the Sky” posters
John attending to the fire Wanda, Marie and Pieter-Jans with one of teh "Touch the Invisible Sky" posters
John attending to the fire Wanda, Marie and Pieter-Jans with one of teh “Touch the Invisible Sky” posters

Lynnette and I would like to thank Marie and John for welcoming us, total strangers, into their home and on such short notice too. We intend going back as soon as possible to visit Pieter-Jans and to expand his astronomy knowledge.  On subsequent visits we also hope to discuss astronomy with his classmates and his science teacher.

Wanda and Pieter-Jans holding one of the "From the Earth to the Sky" posters
Wanda and Pieter-Jans holding one of the “From the Earth to the Sky” posters
The Durr family with Wanda: John on the left, Wanda, Pieter-Jans and Marie on the right
Wanda with the The Durr family of Malmesbury: John on the left, Wanda, Pieter-Jans and Marie on the right

Athlone School for the Blind

 06 May 2014 at the school

Lynnette and I joined forces with Dr Wanda Diaz-Merced from the IAU’s outreach office in Observatory as well as Cedric Jacobs and Buzani Khumalo from the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), sales on a visit to the Athlone School for the Blind in Bellville South. Lynnette and I had already had contact with them on a previous memorable occasion, so we were looking forward to seeing them again. After being welcomed by Mr Fletcher Fisher, the Principal, we went to the hall and, while chairs and tables were being organized, Buzani, Cedric, Wanda and I fetched the material in the SAAO’s vehicle.  Cedric, Wanda and I set up the radio telescope that Wanda had constructed, while Lynnette and Buzani looked through the very interesting, low-cost demonstration material Buzani had brought along.

Lynnette and Buzani discussing the very interesting demonstration material
Lynnette and Buzani discussing the very interesting demonstration material

By the time we had the radio telescope set up the group of about 50 learners from grades four to six and their teachers had taken their places in the hall. Murphy, however, had sneaked in with a bunch of his Gremlin buddies and taken up residence in the loudspeaker of Wanda’s radio telescope. Everything in the system worked but the loudspeaker obstinately refused to produce even the faintest hiss of static, let alone an audible radio signal from the Sun. So at the end of the first round the score was Murphy 1, Wanda 0 but, like a true professional, Wanda ignored Murphy and launched straight into her presentation. She talked about a variety of astronomical topics and made reference to her own work and the fact that she could not see. The learners were then brought up to the tables in small groups. On the first table was a model of the Sun which Wanda had prepared and on the second table the electronics of the radio telescope and the stubbornly, non-functional loudspeaker. Wanda was on hand all the time to answer questions and guide the eager learners as they worked their way around both tables. They were all very interested in her Sun-model and many of them were also very interested in the components of the radio telescope.

The group of grades four to six learners and teachers at the Athlone School for the Blind in Bellville South, South Africa
The group of grades four to six learners and teachers at the Athlone School for the Blind in Bellville South, South Africa
I listen to the Universe!
Dr Diaze-Merced giving the learners a very lively and animated astronomy talk
Buzani Khumalo speaking to the learners
Buzani Khumalo speaking to the learners
Dr Diaz-Merced, watched by Cedric, fights a losing battle against Murphy and the unwilling loudspeaker
Dr Diaz-Merced, watched by Cedric, fights a losing battle against Murphy and the unwilling loudspeaker
Dr Diaz-Merced guiding at the Sun model
Dr Diaz-Merced guiding at the Sun model
Dr Diaz-Merced explains the intricacies of electronic circuitry to the learners
Dr Diaz-Merced explains the intricacies of electronic circuitry to the learners

The next exercise involved allowing everyone to handle a Moon globe while Wanda spoke about the Moon. Thereafter we handed round two sets of braille posters and as they circulated Wanda and I answered questions that examining the posters generated. The one set of posters were the beautiful reproductions from the book “Touch the Invisible Sky” published by Ozone Publishing Group and kindly supplied by Kimberly Kowal-Arcand at Harvard University. The other posters and the Moon Globe were from the Chandra “From the Earth to the Sky” series obtained from Dr Amelia Ortez-Gill via the “A Touch of the Universe” program. After everyone had handled the posters we ended the session and packed up.

The Moon Globe was a lot of fun
The Moon Globe was a lot of fun

 

Non-astronomical activities with the Moon Globe
Non-astronomical antics with the Moon Globe
Lunar eclipse poster from the "From the Earth to the Sky" series
Lunar Eclipse poster from the “From the Earth to the Sky” series
The Solar flares poster from the "From the Earth to the Sky" series
The Solar Flares poster from the “From the Earth to the Sky” series
The Earth From Space poster from the "From the Earth to the Sky" series
The Earth From Space poster from the “From the Earth to the Sky” series
The Sunspots poster from the "Touch the Invisible Sky" series
The Sunspots poster from the “Touch the Invisible Sky” series
The Galaxies poster from the "Touch the Invisible Sky" series
The Galaxies poster from the “Touch the Invisible Sky” series
The Sunspots poster from the "Touch the Invisible Sky" series
The Sunspots poster from the “Touch the Invisible Sky” series
A very serious examination of the Solar Flares poster from the "From the Earth to the Sky" series
A very serious examination of the Solar Flares poster from the “From the Earth to the Sky” series
The Eta Carina poster from the "Touch the Invisible Sky" series
The Eta Carina poster from the “Touch the Invisible Sky” series

I found the session extremely valuable. Just watching and listening to the ease with which Wanda transferred knowledge and information into the dark world of the visually impaired children was an education in itself. It is very obvious that having had to cope with losing her own sight has given her the special tools to introduce a visual subject like astronomy into their sphere of comprehension, I am afraid my own skills at doing this are woefully inadequate and need lots of practice.

 

Dr Diaz-Merced, listening to the universe
Dr Diaz-Merced, listening to the universe

I salute a very dynamic and talented person who has overcome enormous obstacles to achieve her goals. Wanda, you are an inspirational force second to none!

Centaurus-A

This photograph of Centaurus-A was taken by Leslie Rose at the recent Autumn Southern Star Party.  For information on the photograph and his equipment or permission to use the photograph, viagra please contact him directly at leslie@signz.co.za.

Centaurus-A by Leslie Rose.  Please contact him directly for information about the equipment use or permission to use the photograph.
Centaurus-A by Leslie Rose. Please contact him directly for information about the equipment use or permission to use the photograph.

Autumn Southern Star Party from April 25th to April 28th 2014

Night Sky Caravan Park, Oudekraal, Bonnievale (-33.012486, 19.994881& 207m)

To start with, a special word of thanks to the sponsors, speakers, newcomers, day visitors and of course the regulars who helped to make the event possible. If you want to read some feedback from people who attended the Star Party please go here.

Sponsors:
Andrie van der Linde, Eridanus Optics,
http://www.eridanusoptics.com/store

Anneliese Carstens, Bonnievale Verhurings, Gelukshoop,
marankis@lando.co.za

Gesina de Wet, Oudekraal, Bonnievale,
nightsky@breede.co.za

SAASTA, South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement,
http://www.saasta.ac.za

Waltons – Stellenbosch,
http://www.waltons.co.za

Donors
Alan & Rose Cassells – the two lights for the interior of the marquee.

Speakers (in order of appearance)
Martin Lyons – “Live Video Astronomy Demo”
Kos Coroniaos – “Amateur Astronomy in South Africa”
Martin Lyons – “Basic Spectroscopic Astronomy”
Lia Labuschagne – “Brown Dwarfs”
Alan Cassels – “Comfortable observing – Moving the Beast”
Auke Slotegraaf – “Photometry with a DSLR Camera”
Kechil Kirkham – “The SKA – The story so far”
Kerry Patterson – “Planetary Models of Hu Aquarii”
Brett du Preez – “Collimating a Newtonian Reflector Telescope”

Newcomers
Dwayne Engelbrecht, Lia Labuschagne, Charmaine Pretorius, Anneke Steyn, Bernie, Michelle & Keagan Swanepoel, Gerhard Vermeulen and Wendy Vermeulen

Day visitors
Anneliese & Tertius Carstens, Willie Lombard & Elise, Inus & Elsophie van Staden

The “old hands”
Alan & Rose Cassells, Charl and Yolandi Cater, Kos Coronaios, Brett du Preez, Wim Filmalter, Iain Finlay, Kechil Kirkham, Martin Lyons, Kerry Paterson, John Richards, Leslie Rose, Auke Slotegraaf, Willem van Zyl, and of course Lynnette and myself.

The 2014 Autumn Southern Star Parties Group Photo
The 2014 Autumn Southern Star Parties Group Photo

Lynnette, Snorre the cat and I got off to a very early start in Brackenfell and arrived at Night Sky by about 09:30 on Thursday.  Alan and Rose were already settled in and shortly after 10:00 Anneliese Carstens of Bonnievale Verhuurings and her two assistants were on site to pitch the marquee tent.  The whole process took just over 70 minute.  As soon as that was done,  we started putting up the banners and posters and doing all the other essentials to get the inside organized.  Alan and Rose pitched in to help with this and without their very able assistance, the job would have taken a great deal longer.  Thanks guys, as usual your convivial company made an otherwise boring task seem quite fun. Lynnette got the Admin table sorted out, as well as the chairs in the main tent and the coffee bar at the back of the tent.

The banner displayed at the entrance to Night Sky Caravan Park dates back to a 2004 astronomy outreach programme
The banner we displayed at the entrance to Night Sky Caravan Park dates back to a 2004 astronomy outreach programme
The side of the marquee tent facing the main camp area
The side of the marquee tent facing the main camp area
The left side of the tent's interior with the Admin Table on the left.
The left side of the tent’s interior with the Admin Table on the left.
The right side of the tent's interior.  The Sale Table is hidden by the chairs on the right.  All banners, inside and outside the tent, were designed by Auke.
The right side of the tent’s interior. The Sale Table is hidden by the chairs on the right. All banners, inside and outside the tent, were designed by Auke.
The Coffee Table was open all day and all night
The Coffee Table was open all day and all night
The Sale Table later sported binoculars and eyepieces put up for sale by various attendees.
The Sale Table later sported binoculars and eyepieces put up for sale by various attendees.

 

Lynnette at the Admin Table
Lynnette at the Admin Table

Thursday evening didn’t offer much by way of stargazing as it was one of those evenings where the clouds opened up and, just as one thought it was telescope time, they closed in again. Somewhere between 02:00 and 03:00 I got up to have a peek and it was totally clear, but I was too lazy to take the telescopes outside.

During the course of Friday most of the others trickled in, but by sunset there were still people on the list who had not turned up so we decided to move the Pub Quiz forward to the Saturday.

The weather looked indecisive about being cloudy or not, so we socialized and had an uncharacteristically late braai while Martin Lyons started setting up for his live video astronomy demonstration. Unfortunately the electronic gremlins were out in force and even with the able assistance of Kos Coraniaos the system obstinately refused to perform to expectations. As the clouds had cleared up we all dispersed to the telescopes and spent the rest of the evening observing or introducing the newcomers to the wonders of the night sky.

John, Alan & Leslie around the braai fires
John, Alan & Leslie around the braai fires
Paul, Alan, part of the camp and the marquee looking almost due South
Paul, Alan, part of the camp and the marquee looking almost due south
Evening reflection looking south-east
Evening reflection looking south-east
Alan point out a UFO to Paul, or maybe an early star?
Alan pointing out a UFO to Paul, or maybe an early star?

On Saturday Kos kicked off the programme followed by Lia in Martin’s vacant slot. The planned braai turned into a bit of a fiasco, because it started raining quite heavily just as the fires got going nicely. Kos and Wim’s attempts to rescue one of the fires by putting the braai drum on Brett and Leslie’s stoep, had unexpected consequences. Despite the fact that they closed the doors and windows the smoke from the fire still got into the house and tainted everything with a distinct “wood smoke” odour.

I am going to get myself a camera with a CCD this wide
I am going to get myself a camera with a CCD this wide
Leslie, Brett & Wenday at Kos's talk
Leslie, Brett, Wendy, Charmain & Gerhard at Kos’s talk
Lia concentrating on Brown Dwarfs
Lia concentrating on Brown Dwarfs
Reflections on the dam of the rain that was to follow shortly afterwards
Reflections on the dam of the rain that was to follow shortly afterwards

Even though Martin’s talk had been cancelled as a result of his equipment failure, leaving an open slot for an extended lunch, the braai was so late that Alan had to wait for people to finish eating before he could start his talk.  After Alan’s talk, Auke presented Alan with his long-awaited observing certificate and a special t-shirt commemorating his acquisition of a 12-inch telescope.  After that ceremony we took the group photo and set ourselves up for the Pub Quiz after supper.

Alan maneuvering The Beast into position
Alan maneuvering The Beast into position
Alan's ingenious drawing table
Alan’s ingenious drawing table
Auke handing over Alan's observing certificate
Auke handing over Alan’s observing certificate
Alan and the long overdue observing certificate
Alan and the long overdue observing certificate
Alan receiving his 12-inch t-shirt
Alan receiving his 12-inch t-shirt
Leslie & Auke enjoying the sunshine after the rain while the braai fires got going again
Leslie & Auke enjoying the sunshine after the rain while the braai fires got going again
Gesina after delivering the SSP-cake
Gesina, after delivering the Southern Star Party cake
Auke and Gesina in a congenial mood
Auke and Gesina in a congenial mood

The Pub Quiz was contended between six teams. After the first three rounds, three teams were eliminated leaving three to contest the next four rounds before Lia and John’s team made it through to the finals. It was a tight race between these two teams until John’s team took the lead. By that time the weather had cleared completely leaving everyone itching to get to the telescopes, so this year’s Quiz, like the Spring SSP in 2013, was not taken to the individual level. Probably a good thing because John has already won the Quiz twice before on an individual basis!

A rainbow at night is a shepherd's delight or something to that effect
A rainbow at night is a shepherd’s delight or something to that effect
With the clouds looking as if they were clearing people hastily started setting up so that they could start observing after the Pub Quiz
With the clouds looking as if they were clearing people hastily started setting up so that they could start observing after the Pub Quiz
Richard, Charl and Yolandi have spotted something interesting in the evening sky
Richard, Charl and Yolandi have spotted something interesting in the evening sky
Wim is also looking but Yolandi seems to be be worrying about the photographer
Wim is also looking but Yolandi seems to be be worrying about the photographer
Al set up and ready to fire off the first salvo in the Autumn 2014 Pub Quiz
All set up and ready to fire off the first salvo in the Autumn 2014 Southern Star Pub Quiz
The final rounds and on my left gaining steadily, John's team
The final rounds and on my left gaining steadily, John’s team
The final rounds and on my right, putting up a brave fight to stay in the lead, Lia's team team
The final rounds and on my right, putting up a brave fight to stay in the lead, Lia’s team
The winners of the Autumn 2014 Southern Star Pub Quiz. Bernie Swanepoel, Muchelle Swanepoel, Iain Finlay, John Richards and Keagan Swanepole.  Keagan is wearing the coveted Southern Star Party Pub Quiz Floating Rosette
The winners of the Autumn 2014 Southern Star Pub Quiz. Bernie Swanepoel, Michelle Swanepoel, Iain Finlay, John Richards and Keagan Swanepoel. Keagan is wearing the coveted Southern Star Party Pub Quiz Floating Rosette

For the evening and late-night coffee we had a very nice cake baked by Gesina to commemorate the seventh Southern Star Party.  The cake was iced in blue and decorated with silver stars.  The cake also served to celebrate John Richard’s 70th birthday and we wish him well on his next 100 years.  A very nice gesture indeed, thanks Lynnette.

The Southern Star Parties Cake commemorating seven Star parties (and John's birthday)
The Southern Star Parties Cake commemorating seven Southern Star Parties (and John’s birthday this time too)

Sunday’s day-programme went off without a hitch. Auke had to leave just after his talk to get Kos back to Somerset West and then he unfortunately encountered a problem and was unable to return as planned. By evening the sky was clouded over, much to everyone’s disappointment, so we also cancelled the scheduled “Ethno-What’s up Tonight”. Anneliese and Tertius had come over specially for the stars, so it was a great disappointment for them.  However, just as we were sitting down having coffee with them, Leslie knocked on the door and announced that the clouds were clearing so we could set up a telescope and take them on a tour. Before midnight Lynnette and I gave up the unequal battle with the dew and went to bed.

Auke seated, left back talking about photometry with a DSLR camera
Auke seated, left back talking about photometry with a DSLR camera
Kechil talking about the SKA after having shown us how to dance the SKA!
Kechil talking about the SKA after having shown us how to dance the SKA!
Kerry explaining the intricacies of HU Aquarii
Kerry explaining the intricacies of HU Aquarii
Brett explaining exactly why most of us avoid collimating our telescopes
Brett explaining exactly why most of us avoid collimating our telescopes
The sunset was absolutely magnificent
The sunset was absolutely magnificent
Much later we could actually do some stargazing on an absolutely windless night as evidenced by the reflections in the dam
Much later we could actually do some stargazing on an absolutely windless night as evidenced by the reflections in the dam
Over on the far side of the dam a moving red light is reflected in the water
Over on the far side of the dam a moving red light is reflected in the water
The Magellanic Clouds, 47 Tuc, the Tarantula very faintly and a tiny corner of the Milky Way
The Magellanic Clouds, 47 Tuc, the Tarantula very faintly and a tiny corner of the Milky Way

On Monday morning everyone was packing up and saying goodbyes. In-between all the farewells, we took down the posters and banners in the tent, folded up tables, stacked chairs and loaded the trailer. By that evening it was only Lynnette, Snorre, myself and Iain and Willem left.

On Tuesday morning with the clouds building up, Anneliese and her crew arrived to take down the marquee.  Iain and Willem were also packing up and when Anneliese and her crew had finished one of her crew remarked, “Look at those two still struggling with that little tent and we’ve already finished with the big one.”  Iain and Willem did eventually finish and left shortly after midday.  Lynnette and Snorre and I stayed till Wednesday before we left for home via the Pitkos Farm Stall.  Regrettably they had no more roosterkoek by the time we got there so we just had coffee and bought a box of Nuy Muscadel for the next SSP in October 2014 before heading home!

This table gives the sky brightness readings obtained during the Autumn 2014 Southern Star Party.

Place Night Sky Caravan Park Night Sky Caravan Park Night Sky Caravan Park Night Sky Caravan Park Night Sky Caravan Park Night Sky Caravan Park
Locality & GPS -33°00’44.95″, 19°59’41.57″, 207m -33°00’44.95″, 19°59’41.57″, 207m -33°00’44.95″, 19°59’41.57″, 207m -33°00’44.95″, 19°59’41.57″, 207m -33°00’44.95″, 19°59’41.57″, 207m -33°00’44.95″, 19°59’41.57″, 207m
Date 24/03/2014 25/03/2014 26/03/2014 27/03/2014 28/03/2014 29/03/2014
Time (SAST) 22:30 23:30 22:00 22:00 22:00 22:00
Temp (°C) 18.00 17.00 16.00 16.00 16.00 17.00
SQM1 21.68 21.58 21.61 21.67 21.59 21.65
SQM2 21.65 21.57 21.62 21.67 21.60 21.64
SQM3 21.66 21.56 21.62 21.66 21.61 21.65
SQM4 21.64 21.59 21.63 21.66 21.60 21.64
SQM5 21.65 21.58 21.60 21.67 21.61 21.64
SQM6 21.63 21.56 21.61 21.68 21.60 21.64
SQM7 21.65 21.58 21.61 21.67 21.59 21.61
SQM8 21.66 21.56 21.62 21.67 21.59 21.64
SQM9 21.65 21.55 21.61 21.66 21.60 21.63
SQM10 21.66 21.58 21.61 21.66 21.60 21.65
Average (MSAS) 21.65 21.57 21.61 21.67 21.60 21.64
StdDev (MSAS) 0.012689 0.012207 0.008000 0.006403 0.007000 0.011358
Med.(MSAS) 21.65 21.58 21.61 21.67 21.60 21.64
NELM (V mags) 6.4610 6.4203 6.4418 6.4679 6.4343 6.4541

Constellation Cards (ConCards)

A set of very useful star charts compiled in 2009 by the ever industrious Auke Slotegraaf. One per constellation visible from the southern hemisphere, identifying the best deep sky objects. Ideal for binocular users and star party presentations.

What you have here is a set of star charts, one per constellation. All the constellations that are at least partially visible from the southern hemisphere are illustrated but Camelopardalis, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Draco and Ursa Minor have been omitted as these are too far north.

Each constellation has the official boundaries of the constellation in a bold dashed-line. These boundaries can be used to help you orient the card correctly when you’re still learning to find the constellations using the finder charts on pp 2-6.

Each ConCard also shows the positions of the best deep-sky objects and other interesting objects within that constellation. Special charts for objects of particular interest – the Horse Head Nebula, 3C 273 (the brightest quasar) and Proxima Centauri (nearest star to the Sun) – are also presented. Several deep-sky catalogues and observing aides make up the remaining pages.

The ConCards are presented as A4-sized pages for those who prefer a larger print. You could also have them printed A5-sized, double-sided and then spiral-bound to create a smallish, handy and comprehensive guide to the southern sky.  Go to this link if you wish to access a free copy of the ConCards.  If you wish to read more about the ConCards and other useful aides go here.

Southern Star Wheel

A planisphere is a very usefull tool for learning your way around the night sky. It shows the rising and setting of the stars, and how the constellations relate to one another.

The Southern Star Wheel  is a revolutionary new planisphere developed by Auke Slotegraaf in 2009, that is a substantial improvement on previous planispheres because it is customisable.

If you live in the big city and can only see the brightest stars (or are still learning your way around the night sky), you can select a simplified “star disk” that shows only the major stars. If you want to learn the shapes of the constellations, use the star disk that delineates their stick figures.

More experienced users can use an advanced star disk that shows many more (fainter) stars. And if you’re interested in the ethnoastronomy of southern Africa, there is a special star disk that shows some of the most famous indigenous stars and patterns.  Go here to download your copy of this brilliant addition to your astronomy arsenal.

Please note that the Southern Star Wheel is designed very specifically for the Southern Hemisphere.  You can also visit Auke’s site to find out more about the Southern Star Wheel.