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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As a result of the infamous Cape Weather we had to move the event indoors. This meant that there was no solar viewing during the day and eventually also no viewing of the Moon either.
Shortly after 08:00 we were all on site. As Lynnette and I disembarked the first thing we saw was Auke, coffee and pipe in hand outside Pannarotti’s. We fetched shopping trolleys and and as I unloaded, Lynnette, Alan and Rose moved the gear indoors out of the drizzle. After sorting out a territorial dispute with ADT about the prime spot we set up the tables, spread the table clothes, unpacked brochures, models and other paraphernalia and also got all the posters put up.
By 10:00 we were operational. Lynnette and I manned the table, Alan took up position as solar system adviser and Rose and Auke took of in opposite directions to hand out flyers to all the shops in the Mall.
The Solar System model drew a lot of attention and Alan barely had time to grab a bit to eat. The model of the Saturn 5 rocket was also quit a popular item and focus for interaction which Auke handled with his usual flair. At the table Lynnette was kept busy making sure that visitors did not make off with multiple copies of the more interesting brochures and also that as many visitors to the stand as possible signed our visitor’s book. The brochures kindly supplied by Catherine Webster of SANSA (South African National Space Agency) were especially popular. Strange how signing the visitor’s book seems to be a problem for so many people. Quite a few refuse point blank to sign while others are clearly suspicious and many have to be begged to take up the pen.
During the course of the afternoon it became apparent that the predicted clearing of the weather forecast for later in the afternoon was not going to materialize. We packed up at 17:00, loaded everything into the vehicles and went off to have supper in the Spur. During the course of supper we received word that the Orion Observation Group had cancelled their Moon viewing event at the Afrikaans Language Monument in Paarl. By the time we had finished supper at around 18:30 the clouds were still there and, although the Moon was visible from time to time, these periods were far too short to be of any use to us, so we called of our event as well.
Up in Limpopo Kos Coronaios and his team had perfect weather and they were able to do InOMN proud so it was Limpopo 1 Western Cape 0!