The SALT-model goes to Scotland.

StarPeople’s SALT-model is off to the SPIE Astronomical Telescopes + Instrumentation Conference to be held at the Edinburg International Conference Centre from the 26th of June to the 01st of July. This conference is advertised as “…. the most prestigious event for developers of ground- and space-based telescopes, the supporting technologies, and the latest instrumentation.

Some images of Alan's magnificent model of the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT)
Some images of the magnificent model of the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), which Alan built for StarPeople.

Dr Dave Buckley (Director: SALT Science) at the SAAO (South African Astronomical Observatory) and a South African team are taking a container full of innovative instruments developed at the SAAO to the conference. Dave approached us as he wanted to take Alan’s excellent model of SALT along to show off at the conference.

TOP LEFT: The base of the packaging being prepared. TOP RIGHT: SALT’s base and the telescope trusses put into place. BOTTOM LEFT: The next layer of packing material goes in. BOTTOM RIGHT: A final layer of packaging material before the rest of the model are packed.
TOP LEFT: The base of the packaging being prepared. TOP RIGHT: SALT’s base and the telescope trusses put into place. BOTTOM LEFT: The next layer of packing material goes in. BOTTOM RIGHT: A final layer of packaging material before the rest of the model are packed.

In preparation for the trip Alan has packed the model with great care. StarPeople are very excited that the model we commissioned Alan to build is going places were no model of SALT has been before.

I apologize, but I couldn’t resist that quip!

TOP LEFT: A view from the top of the mirror and trusses of the telescope. TOP RIGHT: The smaller bits and pieces are put in place. BOTTOM LEFT: Now everything is packed away safely. BOTTOM RIGHT: Final layers of packaging positioned so that nothing can fall out if the packages is accidentally flipped over. (Heaven forbid!)
TOP LEFT: A view from the top of the mirror and trusses of the telescope. TOP RIGHT: The smaller bits and pieces are put in place. BOTTOM LEFT: Now everything is packed away safely. BOTTOM RIGHT: Final layers of packaging positioned so that nothing can fall out if the packages is accidentally flipped over. (Heaven forbid!)

StarPeople are very excited on Alan’s behalf because of the recognition this gives his exceptional model building skills and it is just a pity Dave couldn’t fit him into the container as well.

We hope Dave and his team and the SALT-model have a safe trip and make their mark for South African Astronomy (and Alan) at the conference.

There we have it. SALT in a box, ready to go.
There we have it. SALT in a box, ready to go.

Stargazing at the Pierhead in the V&A Waterfront: Saturday the 11th June 2016.

When Lynnette and I left Brackenfell the conditions were not all that good for viewing the Sun and we hoped that they would improve during the course of the afternoon and evening. The clouds were thin and patchy so there was some hope.

The striking advertisement for the event which Auke put together and placed on the StarPeople Facebook page as well as other social media.
The striking advertisement for the event which Auke put together and placed on the StarPeople Facebook page as well as other social media.

We had hardly stopped at the Pierhead in the Waterfront when Alan and Rose arrived followed very shortly by Auke and Wendy. Dirk had been delayed and only arrived quite a bit after the rest of us. We set up quickly and got Lorenzo and Maphefu onto the Sun. The high level clouds blurred the image and made it difficult to see the two large sunspots but when the Sun got into a fairly clear patch the image was good. The conditions were not all that pleasant and the cold wind probably reduced the numbers of visitors to the Waterfront because there were definitely fewer passersby than on our previous visit.

TOP LEFT: An image of the Sun from the Solar Dynamics Observatory. Through our telescopes the image is white and the two sunspots are black. TOP RIGHT: The Moon image and information Auke had prepared for use on our cell phones but which we never really got the opportunity to use. BOTTOM LEFT: The handouts we gave to the visitors in which details of all our future events at the Pierhead are advertised. BOTTOM RIGHT: Maphefu, the 8-inch Dobsonian, with the cover in place and the shiny solar filter clearly visible.
TOP LEFT: An image of the Sun from the Solar Dynamics Observatory. Through our telescopes the image is white and the two sunspots are black. TOP RIGHT: The Moon image and information Auke had prepared for use on our cell phones but which we never really got the opportunity to use. BOTTOM LEFT: The handouts we gave to the visitors in which details of all our future events at the Pierhead are advertised. BOTTOM RIGHT: Maphefu, the 8-inch Dobsonian, with the cover in place and the shiny solar filter clearly visible.

While Wendy and I kept the visitors busy on Lorenzo and Maphefu, Dirk was setting up and Auke and Alan were measuring out the size of the Sun in comparison to the inflatable Earth globes we had brought along. They also used chalk to draw the relative sizes of the planets around the signpost on the Pierhead.

TOP LEFT: Alan running out the tape to determine exactly where the edge of the Sun would be on the scale of our inflatable Earth globes. TOP RIGHT: Alan hard at work preparing the comparison of the plants’ sizes. BOTTOM LEFT: All done so now everyone could see the differences in the sizes. By the shadows one can see that we still had some sun at this stage. BOTTOM RIGHT: Me holding a sign indicating that space is just 100 km straight up compared to the thousands of km for the other destinations depicted on the signpost.
TOP LEFT: Alan running out the tape to determine exactly where the edge of the Sun would be on the scale of our inflatable Earth globes. TOP RIGHT: Alan hard at work preparing the comparison of the plants’ sizes. BOTTOM LEFT: All done so now everyone could see the differences in the sizes. By the shadows one can see that we still had some sun at this stage. BOTTOM RIGHT: Me holding a sign indicating that space is just 100 km straight up compared to the thousands of km for the other destinations depicted on the signpost.
TOP LEFT: Maphefu on the left and Lorenzo (a 10-inch Dobsonian) on the right with me still battling to get the faint Sun in the eyepiece. TOP RIGHT: Visitors viewing the rather fuzzy image of the Sun through Lorenzo. BOTTOM LEFT: Maphefu and Lorenzo in action, but note the hazy sky in the background. These were really not good viewing conditions. BOTTOM RIGHT: Wendy explaining something to a visitor while another visitor looks at the Sun through Maphefu.
TOP LEFT: Maphefu on the left and Lorenzo (a 10-inch Dobsonian) on the right with me still battling to get the faint Sun in the eyepiece. TOP RIGHT: Visitors viewing the rather fuzzy image of the Sun through Lorenzo. BOTTOM LEFT: Maphefu and Lorenzo in action, but note the hazy sky in the background. These were really not good viewing conditions. BOTTOM RIGHT: Wendy explaining something to a visitor while another visitor looks at the Sun through Maphefu.

Lynnette had packed some delicious sandwiches for the two of us, which went down really well. She had also bought a variety of very nice muffins which she shared out to the rest of the crew to have with their coffee. Lynnette also did her usual with the visitors lists when the telescope operators were tied up and operated Lorenzo when I had to do something else. Her skill at finding the Sun with the Dobsonians also came in very handy when Auke, Wendy or I struggled to find it.

The gusty conditions blew the cover off Lorenzo and sent it spinning over the edge of the pier. Fortunately it lodged in a position where Alan could retrieve it. We had two disasters with our inflatable Earth globes. In one case a boy decided to practice his soccer kick on one and broke the tag to which the string for holding it is attached. To the boy’s mother I would like to say that grabbing his hand and hustling him away as if nothing had happened, sets a very bad example to him and shows a regrettable lack of responsibility on your behalf. The same comment applies to the three youths who forcibly dislodged the other Earth globe and then had the temerity to chirp Alan when he went chasing after it to prevent it being blown into the water.

The Moon and Jupiter were visible for brief periods in broad daylight when the clouds parted sufficiently.
The Moon and Jupiter were visible for brief periods in broad daylight when the clouds parted sufficiently.

As time passed the clouds became thicker until we could no longer see the Sun at all and George also lost sight of the Moon. By 17:00 it looked as if we were fighting a losing battle and I had Lorenzo fixed on Lion’s Head giving visitors a clear view of the people sitting and walking around up there. Shortly after 17:30 we decided the weather was not going to clear so we packed up and headed for home.

TOP LEFT: The cloud cover has increased and it has turned very chilly. I am on the left and Auke is on the right and both have put on woollen caps and warm tops. TOP RIGHT: Myself and Lynnette with our backs to the camera and clearly dressed warmly. BOTTOM LEFT: Wendy wearing a coat, scarf and woollen cap speaks to visitors. BOTTOM RIGHT: Lynnette against the background of a grey sea and sky.
TOP LEFT: The cloud cover has increased and it has turned very chilly. I am on the left and Auke is on the right and both have put on woolen caps and warm tops. TOP RIGHT: Myself and Lynnette with our backs to the camera and clearly dressed warmly. BOTTOM LEFT: Wendy wearing a coat, scarf and woolen cap speaks to visitors. BOTTOM RIGHT: Lynnette against the background of a grey sea and sky.
TOP LEFT: Auke and some visitors. Even the visitors are wearing warm tops. TOP RIGHT: Lynnette, Rose, Alan and I all contemplating packing up. BOTTOM LEFT: Dirk decided that if he cannot see anything he might as well watch the Rugby. The result, for South Africa, was as dismal as the weather.
TOP LEFT: Auke and some visitors. Even the visitors are wearing warm tops. TOP RIGHT: Lynnette, Rose, Alan and I all contemplating packing up. BOTTOM LEFT: Dirk decided that if he cannot see anything he might as well watch the Rugby. The result, for South Africa, was as dismal as the weather.

The only consolation was that there had been no dew so Lynnette and I did not have to unpack and dry everything before packing it all away. However, despite the unfavourable conditions we managed to service just under 300 visitors during the course of the afternoon.

We can only hope that the 09th of July, which is when we are scheduled to set up on the Pierhead again, provides us with better viewing conditions.