Moon evening with the Helderberg Eco Rangers at the Helderberg Nature Reserve – 08 November 2014

Hi Ho Hi Ho , It’s Off To Show the Moon We Go!!

Yes, I know that is not exactly what the Seven Dwarfs sang in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and neither did we really sing either, but that is more or less what it amounted to as Auke, Lynnette and I set off for the Helderberg Nature Reserve in Somerset West. Auke had arranged with Claudia Shuster and Andreas Groenewald that the three of us would come along and give the Eco Rangers and their parents an opportunity to look at the Moon through a telescope. We brought our two Dobbies, Lorenzo and Maphefo and the Eco Rangers would supply a third Dobby.  This whole outing was to have been part of the National Space Week project which SAASTA seems to have allowed to fizzle out.

Claudia was at the gate of the Reserve to meet us and, after parking the Vito, Andreas and others were on hand to help us get the telescopes to the viewing site.  The chosen site was a bit unusual as it was situated on the boardwalk at the Northern edge of the dam adjacent to the restaurant in the Reserve. There might be some discussion as to whether this is the “greenest” site we’ve ever observed from but it was definitely the wobbliest. Anyone not treading very lightly on the boardwalk, promptly set the moon yo-yo-ing wildly in and out of the field of view.

The three Dobbies on the boardwalk against the magnificent backdrop of Helderberg Mountain with Haelkop Peak on the far right
The three Dobbies on the boardwalk against the magnificent backdrop of Helderberg Mountain with Haelkop Peak on the far right
Even Auke, who's seen it all, had to admit that this was the most "different" site he'd ever set up in
Even Auke, who’s seen it all, had to admit that this was the most “different” site he’d ever set up in
Lorenzo at attention and ready for action, of which there was to be plenty later in the evening
Lorenzo at attention and ready for action, of which there was to be plenty later in the evening
Auke getting ready to go and have supper.  In the background the dam and in the far distance Kogelberg peak
Auke getting ready to go and have supper. In the background the dam and in the far distance Kogelberg peak

After setting up the telescopes we went back to the Vito for the picnic supper Lynnette had packed for us and Andreas explained that he would first take the Eco Rangers on a short moonlight walk through the reserve after which they would arrive at the telescopes in small groups. The three of us finished supper and made our way back to the telescopes in the gathering dusk to await the rising of the moon over the Hottentots Holland Mountains and the Eco Rangers. In the meantime we were entertained by an at times cacophonous chorus of frog and bird calls.  Go’here to listen to a recording I made on the cell phone

Suppertime!  Delicious potato salad, cocktail tomatoes, lettuce and sliced cucumber prepared by Lynnette.  The trusty Vito, resplendent with door magnets and in the background Hans se Kop
Suppertime! Delicious potato salad, cocktail tomatoes, lettuce, sliced cucumber and Gypsy ham prepared by Lynnette. The trusty Vito, resplendent with door magnets in the background and in the distance Hans se Kop

When the Eco Rangers and the accompanying adults pitched up it was not in the planned small groups at all. Instead, we were inundated by waves of eager moon-gazers from both directions on the boardwalk. Most moved quite sedately but, as is usual with children, there were groups that insisted on running resulting in an extreme case of telescope shakes. At one stage the 1957 Elvis Presler hit “I’m All Shook Up” on Capitol Records did cross my mind as an accurate title for this outing. Eventually the flood dwindled to a stream and finally to a trickle and when the last few drips and drabs had passed we started to pack up.

We were so busy that none of us had time to take photographs of the hordes of guests. With the bouncing boardwalk taking photographs as a bit dodgy in any case, as can be seen by the blur in this ons
We were so busy that none of us had time to take photographs of the hordes of guests. With the bouncing boardwalk taking photographs is a bit dodgy in any case, as can be seen by the blur in this one

I carried Lorenzo back to the Vito and installed him firmly in place and then went back for the rocker box only to discover that I had lost the keys to the Vito.

Disaster!

First I double checked all my pockets then checked the Vito, which I had fortunately not locked, but they were gone. Everyone pitched in combing the boardwalk and the vegetation on either side with torches. Eventually we realized that it was very unlikely that we were going to find them so Lynnette phoned her sister Petro who got the spare keys from our house and she and her fiancé drove through to Auke’s place with them. Claudia went home to get some well-earned rest and Andreas took Auke home so that he could bring us the keys when they arrived, courtesy of Petro. In the meantime Lynnette and I spent some quiet time in the moonlight under the watchful eye of the Mother Goose weather vane.

When Auke arrived we could eventually start the long overdue journey home.  The next day Auke kindly agreed to accompany us back to the Reserve to search for the keys in broad daylight.  The search was, however, fruitless.

The entrance to the actual Reserve with the Mother Goose Weather vane prominently displayed on top, in the middle.  The Helderberg Mountain forming a nice backdrop for the gateway
The entrance to the actual Reserve with the Mother Goose Weather vane prominently displayed on top, in the middle. The Helderberg Mountain forming a nice backdrop for the gateway
A close-up of Peggy, the Mother Goose weather vane
A close-up of Peggy, the Mother Goose weather vane
The Mother Goose plaque on a rock just inside the main entrance
The Mother Goose plaque on a rock just inside the main entrance
The boardwalk in broad daylight and somewhere along here are the Vito's keys
The boardwalk in broad daylight and somewhere along here are the Vito’s keys
The dam under cloudy skies with two Egyptian Geese having it all to themselves
The dam under cloudy skies with two Egyptian Geese having it all to themselves
Lynnette and Auke searching meticulously but in vain
Lynnette and Auke searching meticulously but in vain
The restaurant in the Helderberg Nature Reserve
The restaurant in the Helderberg Nature Reserve
Auke very uncharacteristically out in bright sunshine, among the birds and the bees (and plants).  Thanks for your efforts Auke.
Auke very uncharacteristically out in bright sunshine, among the birds and the bees (and plants). Thanks for your efforts Auke.
This Leopard tortoise is a resident  of the Nature Reserve and was not a member of the search party
This Leopard tortoise is a resident of the Nature Reserve and was not a member of the search party

 

Bonnies Bed & Breakfast

Bonnies Bed and Breakfast in Bonnievale, November 2014

Auke. Lynnette, Snorre and I set out for Bonnievale on Thursday 30th October where Star People was due to set up at the annual Bonnievale Bonanza. The general idea was to provide an opportunity for the general public to view the Sun during the day and the Moon and, hopefully, some stars in the evening.  According to the weather forecast we would also not be almost washed away as in 2013.

Pools of water on the banners after one of many downpours in 2013
Pools of water on the banners after one of many downpours in 2013

This was a special occasion because the Bonanza was in its 20th year and Huipie Schreuder, the dynamic organizer of the Bonanza for eight years running, had vowed to lay down the reins and retire.  We were booked into Bonnies Bed & Breakfast where we had also stayed in 2013. Bonnies is situated in Van Zyl Street, and is run by Div and Wilna de Villiers. The establishment has five comfortable en suite rooms and Lynnette, Snorre and I were housed in the same room we occupied in 2013. Our room had a private entrance to a secluded patio and the beautiful garden. There is a swimming pool in another section of the garden for the hotter weather too.

The garden is well planned, well tended and creates an air of tranquility
The garden is well planned, well tended and creates an air of tranquility
A second view of the garden toward the secluded swimming pool
A second view of the garden toward the secluded swimming pool

All rooms offer tea and coffee making facilities and are equipped with ceiling fans and heaters. TV, M-Net, DSTV. Telephone, Cell phone, Internet & email and Fax Facilities are also centrally available.

Wilna speaks fluent German and so they regularly host German tourists. This particular skill was not called into service for our visit. Div, a native of Namaqualand, is very clued up on local tourist activities and has a well-stocked depository of brochures and pamphlets on all the local tourist attractions as well as many much further away. Div, as on our previous visit, very kindly evacuated his one garage so that we could store our trailer there. Trailers are currently prime targets for theft in the Brackenfell area and we did not want to tempt fate in Bonnievale by leaving it nicely accessible in the driveway.

On the Thursday evening we had a braai in our section of the garden. For this Div not only supplied the wood but also packed and lit the fire. The garden is a bird lover’s delight with feeding stations and water points all over the place and plants chosen to attract various bird species. There was even a pair of Barn Owls nesting in the tree next to our patio.

Lynnette and Auke relaxing at the braai.  The tree with the Barn Owls is just visible behind them and to the right
Lynnette and Auke relaxing at the braai. The tree with the Barn Owls is just visible behind them and to the right
A variety of birds visit the feeding station in the morning
A variety of birds visit the feeding station in the morning
The weavers also like the sugar water provided for the sugar birds and humming birds but their beaks are not the right shape to quite get to the liquid
The weavers also like the sugar water provided for the sugar birds and humming birds but their beaks are not the right shape to quite get to the liquid
This weaver was loudly voicing its discontent at not being able to really have a go at the sugar solution
This weaver was loudly voicing its discontent at not being able to really have a go at the sugar solution

The full country breakfasts were more than adequate with Wilna preparing the food and Div serving and talking. The dining room also offers a view of the garden and two of the bird feeding stations. All in all, Bonnies is a comfortable and affordable place to stay with attentive and pleasant hosts. Their proximity to the main street (one block away), shops, library, post office, museum, antique stores and Tourist Information Centre are other reasons to consider Bonnie’s next time you need to stay over in Bonnievale.

Cat lovers the world over will enjoy this notice
Cat lovers the world over will enjoy this notice
This is in Afrikaans and clearly aimed at the male guests that insist on practicing their long distance accuracy
This is in Afrikaans and clearly aimed at the male guests that insist on practicing their long distance accuracy

Physical Address; 15 Van Zyl Street in Bonnievale
Telephone: 023 616 2251
E-mail: div@bonniesb-b.co.za

Bonnievale Bonanza 2014

Bonnievale Bonanza, November 2014

Auke. Lynnette, Snorre and I set out for Bonnievale on Thursday 30th October where Star People was due to set up at the annual Bonnievale Bonanza. The general idea was to provide an opportunity for the general public to view the Sun during the day and the Moon and, hopefully, some stars in the evening.  We would of course also answer questions and dispense astronomical pearls of wisdom to all and sundry during the course of the day and the evening. This year was a special occasion because the Bonanza was in its 20th year and Huipie Schreuder, the dynamic organizer of the Bonanza for eight years running, had vowed to finally lay down the reins and retire.

Roadside breakfast on the way to Bonnievale
Roadside breakfast on the way to Bonnievale

Annaliese and her two assistants from Bonnievale Verhurings arrived exactly on time to pitch the marquee tent. After they left Auke Lynnette and I put up the bunting and some of the banners while we waited for our official armbands and an identification disc for the Vito. Once we had received them we went back to our guest house, Bonnies Bed & Breakfast where we had a nice relaxing braai before going to bed.

Auke taking a pipe-break in the garden at Bonnies
Auke taking a pipe-break in the garden at Bonnies

On Friday morning we had an early breakfast end then set off for the High School sport fields where the Bonanza was to be held. The rest of the morning was spent setting up the rest of the banners, putting up our poster display, putting together the Solar System and organizing the hand-outs. Although Lorenzo was set up for solar viewing the partially cloudy weather did not make it easy as one no sooner had the sun in the eyepiece when it nipped in behind a cloud. When it reappeared one had to go through the whole rigmarole of getting it in the field of view all over again. This was very frustrating for the operator and boring for the potential viewers waiting in the queue. When the clouds became too numerous in the west we switched to the 2nd quarter moon that was handily positioned to the east and quite clearly visible. No sooner had we done this than a contingent of high level clouds appeared, backed up by a squad of lower level fluffy ones and preceded to play hide and seek with the Moon. The wind had also picked up and was causing us some concern as the tent started lifting alarmingly in the stronger gusts. We phoned Annaliese and she dispatched her husband Tertius to attend to the problem. He tightened all the guy ropes and assured us the tent had survived much stronger winds in the past.

Inside the tent and out of the wind
Inside the tent and out of the wind
General view of the tent as passers bye would see it
General view of the tent as passers bye would see it
From the inside looking out at the Earth, Mars and the Moon
From the inside looking out at the Earth, Mars and the Moon
The two main banners outside the tent
The two main banners outside the tent
Lorenzo keeping Mars and the Earth company
Lorenzo keeping Mars and the Earth company
ELF Astronomy and Star People's posters on my home made poster stands
ELF Astronomy and Star People’s posters on my home made poster stands
Lynnette, Lorenzo and two solar viewers
Lynnette, Lorenzo and two solar viewers

Come evening the Moon was fairly clearly visible for a while, much to the delight of the many eager viewers. The badly placed spotlights were, as in 2013, a serious problem for viewing anything fainter than the Moon. By 21:00 the clouds were gaining the upper hand and the Moon was only visible for short periods so we decided to pack up and get some sleep.

The first of the evenings Moon viewers
The first of the evenings Moon viewers
At times we had a lot of people who wanted to look at the Moon
At times we had a lot of people who wanted to look at the Moon

On Saturday morning the weather looked a bit better and the wind had died down so we set Lorenzo up for solar viewing. As the day progressed the clouds cleared more and more and it also became hotter and hotter. By around 16:30 the clouds were building up again in the west making solar viewing very difficult so I switched to the Moon. By around 18:00 the clouds were really becoming a serious problem but the Moon was still visible for reasonable periods until by 21:30 it became clear that the clouds were winning so we packed up and went home.

Saturday morning solar viewing in full swing
Saturday morning solar viewing in full swing
This tall gentleman was a great hit with the children
This tall gentleman was a great hit with the children
Anneliese and Tertius waiting in line to take a look at the Sun
Anneliese and Tertius waiting in line to take a look at the Sun
Moon viewing fighting a losing battle against the gathering clouds
Moon viewing fighting a losing battle against the gathering clouds
Despite the clouds there were lots of potential viewers
Despite the clouds there were lots of potential viewers
Officially due to none of our doing, we were billed as the "Observatory" on the programme
Officially due to none of our doing, we were billed as the “Observatory” on the programme

Bonnievale Bonanza 2014 was over and done with.

MNASSA October 2014

The October 2014 edition of MNASSA (Monthly Notes of the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa) is available on line.  Below is the title page and list of contents.  You may, however, go here, to download the full edition.

 

MNASSA DOWNLOAD PAGE

Monthly Notes of the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa

(ISSN 0024-8266)


Published by the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa

 

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