Partial Lunar Eclipse: Monday 07th August 2017

Lynnette and I set up Lorenzo in the rooftop parking area of the Family Pick & Pay on the corner of Old Paarl Road and H.O. De Villiers Street in Brackenfell. The event had been advertised via local social media sites and announcements were also made by the store manager during the course of the evening.

This graphic was borrowed from a Facebook posting by Willie Koorts of the SAAO, who is well known for his participation in the Radio Sonder Grense radio programme “Sterre en Planete”, which is broadcast every Sunday evening.
The photo was taken by Lynnette using her Samsung A5 mobile on the 20mm eyepiece of the 10” Dobsonian.
TOP: The Vito as the backdrop to our StarPeople pull-up banner.  BOTTOM: Edward on the left with Lorenzo just making it into the photo and Esther and Sewes from the local Neighbourhood Watch resplendent in their “Glow-as-much-as-you-can” bibs.
TOP: Edward and Esther discussing some serious astronomy.  MIDDLE: Two guests, all the way from Bellville, signing our attendance register.  Strange that many people just flatly refuse to do this.  BOTTOM: This group stayed for quite a while and showed a great deal of interest.

The turnout was disappointingly low but the few people that did turn up were very enthusiastic, which compensated for the poor attendance.

Stargazing at the Pierhead in the V&A Waterfront: Saturday 14th May 2016.

Lynnette and I left Brackenfell at about 10:00 under completely overcast skies. It thinned in patches at times, but in general the prospects for viewing the Sun or the Moon, which was due to rise at about 14:00, seemed pretty close to zero.

TOP LEFT: On the N1 heading to the V&A Waterfront for a day’s astronomy outreach. CENTRE LEFT: Look, there’s a patch of blue sky! BOTTOM LEFT: More blue sky and Signal Hill too, we just might be in luck. TOP RIGHT: What does one need for a day’s astronomy outreach in the V&A Waterfront? A lot of stuff! BOTTOM RIGHT: But wait, there’s more up front as well!
TOP LEFT: On the N1 heading to the V&A Waterfront for a day’s astronomy outreach. CENTRE LEFT: Look, there’s a patch of blue sky! BOTTOM LEFT: More blue sky and Signal Hill too, we just might be in luck. TOP RIGHT: What does one need for a day’s astronomy outreach in the V&A Waterfront? A lot of stuff! BOTTOM RIGHT: But wait, there’s more up front as well!

At the Waterfront all the access arrangements made by George Moolman (Manager: Events V&A Waterfront) worked very smoothly. Once we had parked the Vito we inspected the site we had chosen on the Pierhead and decided on a tentative layout for the telescopes, poster A-frames and other paraphernalia associated with outreach events. Auke and Wendy arrived after a while, followed by Dirk. As soon as we had agreed on a final layout we unloaded and took the vehicles back to our allocated parking bays.

By shortly after 13:00 we were ready for action, but our targets were hidden by the clouds so what were we going to show the visitors? People, attracted by the telescopes and posters, approached us to find out what it was all about and we had to explain that we could not show them the Sun or the Moon, as advertised, because of the unrelenting cloud cover. Auke and Dirk got their telescopes [“Walter”, a 5-inch refractor and a 5-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain] lined up on the lower cable station and used the image to talk about how telescopes worked but, despite muttered incantations and explicit and generally unprintable expressions of displeasure, the clouds kept the Sun and the Moon well hidden.

TOP LEFT: Grey water and horizon to horizon grey clouds. CENTRE LEFT: We had come to show visitors the Sun (with some sunspots) and the Moon but ended up aiming the telescopes at all sorts of other things. Lorenzo (10-inch Dobsonian) is just visible at the extreme left and Maphefu (8-inch Dobsonian) in the centre. BOTTOM LEFT: At the slightest hint that the Sun was going to peep through the cloud blanket Wendy, Lynnette and I would scurry to try and get it in our sights. Maphefu is on the left Lorenzo just left of the centre, Walther (5-inch refractor) on the tripod just right of centre and Dirk’s 5-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain, also on a tripod on the far right. TOP RIGHT: Wendy watching the clouds as they alternately show and hide the Moon from view. Dirk’s telescope with the moon visible on the small screen and Maphefu on the far right. BOTTOM RIGHT: Walther next to a small group of visitors gathered around Auke, with Maphefu in the foreground and a bit of almost-blue sky in the background.
TOP LEFT: Grey water and horizon to horizon grey clouds. CENTRE LEFT: We had come to show visitors the Sun (with some sunspots) and the Moon but ended up aiming the telescopes at all sorts of other things. Lorenzo (10-inch Dobsonian) is just visible at the extreme left and Maphefu (8-inch Dobsonian) in the centre. BOTTOM LEFT: At the slightest hint that the Sun was going to peep through the cloud blanket Wendy, Lynnette and I would scurry to try and get it in our sights. Maphefu is on the left Lorenzo just left of the centre, Walter (5-inch refractor) on the tripod just right of centre and Dirk’s 5-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain, also on a tripod on the far right. TOP RIGHT: Wendy watching the clouds as they alternately show and hide the Moon from view. Dirk’s telescope with the moon visible on the small screen and Maphefu on the far right. BOTTOM RIGHT: Walter next to a small group of visitors gathered around Auke, with Maphefu in the foreground and a bit of almost-blue sky in the background

As the afternoon wore on the clouds began to thin and we were allowed fleeting glimpses of the Sun. Every time this happened there was a flurry of activity as Lynnette, Wendy and I attempted to get “Maphefu” (8-inch Dobsonian) and “Lorenzo” (10-inch Dobsonian) aligned on the Sun only to have the clouds maliciously close in just as we almost had it in our sights. Then, finally, at about 16:30, the clouds parted and we could actually see both the Sun and the Moon. Maphefu and Lorenzo were equipped with solar filters, so Wendy and I could show visitors the Sun and some very nice sun spots, while Auke and Dirk concentrated on the Moon. When the Sun set behind the Ferris-Wheel I switched Lorenzo to the Moon and, as soon as it became dark enough to see Jupiter, I switched targets again.

TOP LEFT: Lynnette and I with Lorenzo, with cover on, is pointing straight up at the grey cloud cover. TOP RIGHT: Were Dirk and I swopping fishing or astronomy stories? BOTTOM LEFT: The Moon became visible and Dirk’s telescope (image on the small screen) and Wendy (with Maphefu) were quick to show it to visitors. BOTTOM CENTRE: Auke reading the cards and looking for some weather inspiration. BOTTOM RIGHT: All gone again so the lid goes back on Lorenzo and Auke uses his cards to amuse a young visitor while Walter stands idle on his tripod.
TOP LEFT: Lynnette and I with Lorenzo, with cover on, is pointing straight up at the grey cloud cover. TOP RIGHT: Were Dirk and I swapping fishing or astronomy stories? BOTTOM LEFT: The Moon became visible and Dirk’s telescope (image on the small screen) and Wendy (with Maphefu) were quick to show it to visitors. BOTTOM CENTRE: Auke reading the cards and looking for some weather inspiration. BOTTOM RIGHT: All gone again so the lid goes back on Lorenzo and Auke uses his cards to amuse a young visitor while Walter stands idle on his tripod.

For most of the rest of the evening I kept Lorenzo on Jupiter while Wendy, Auke and Dirk focused on the Moon. By 20:00 dew was becoming a problem and it became evident that we would have to consider packing up. Mars was very bright and eventually Saturn and Antares also became visible as they climbed high enough to escape the effects of the light pollution glare over the harbour. Crux and the Pointers were visible all evening as were Sirius and Canopus. By about 21:00 the dew definitely had the upper hand so we had to pack away and load all the wet telescopes and other stuff into the vehicles and head for home.

TOP LEFT: Dirk and I looking quite pleased about the fact that the clouds were considering clearing. TOP RIGHT: The sky had cleared by nightfall and we could show visitors Jupiter, the Moon, Mars, Saturn, Antares, Crux and the Ferris-Wheel. BOTTOM LEFT: The brightly lit Swing Bridge. BOTTOM RIGHT: Packing everything, back into the Vito and complaining about the very heavy dew.
TOP LEFT: Dirk and I looking quite pleased about the fact that the clouds were considering clearing. TOP RIGHT: The sky had cleared by nightfall and we could show visitors Jupiter, the Moon, Mars, Saturn, Antares, Crux and the Ferris-Wheel. BOTTOM LEFT: The brightly lit Swing Bridge. BOTTOM RIGHT: Packing everything, back into the Vito and complaining about the very heavy dew.

Obtaining an accurate count of the number of visitors was, as is usual, quite tricky because one has to be careful not to count the same people at each of the four telescopes. Lynnette and I both had counters and we counted just over 400 visitors, but our count is usually a bit low and the actual figure could be closer to five hundred. We also asked visitors to sign our visitors list and collected 282 names, which is definitely less than the number of visitors we had. It is surprisingly tricky to get people to sign the lists. Some people just flatly refuse and the telescope operators find it difficult to work a telescope, explain things to people and collect names and signatures at the same time.

All in all the afternoon and evening were quite successful despite the clouds. Many of the visitors also showed considerable interest in our poster display and quite a few promised to return in June when we will be set up again on the Pierhead, hopefully without clouds. Our dates for astronomy on the Pierhead at the V&A Waterfront, weather permitting, are;

Saturday, June 11th. / Saturday, July 9th. / Saturday, August 20th. / Saturday, September 10th. / Saturday, October 8th. / Saturday, November 5th. / Saturday, December 10th.

The next day all the wet things we had loaded into the Vito at the Waterfront had to be dried before we could pack them away. Banners had to be unrolled, chairs and tables taken out of their bags, A-frames unfolded and eyepieces and finder scopes inspected for signs of moisture. Even our folders with the laminated A3-posters had to be taken out of the sleeves and individually dried.

TOP LEFT: Tables & chairs, taken out of their covers to dry. CENTRE LEFT: Banners unrolled to dry out. BOTTOM LEFT: A-frame poster boards unfolded to dry before packing away. TOP RIGHT: This lot under the car port is dry and ready to be packed away, till next time. BOTTOM RIGHT: All the A3-laminated material had to be removed from the sleeves and individually dried before packing away.
TOP LEFT: Tables & chairs, taken out of their covers to dry. CENTRE LEFT: Banners unrolled to dry out. BOTTOM LEFT: A-frame poster boards unfolded to dry before packing away. TOP RIGHT: This lot under the car port is dry and ready to be packed away, till next time. BOTTOM RIGHT: All the A3-laminated material had to be removed from the sleeves and individually dried before packing away.

Visit to Leeuwenboschfontein: Friday 08th to Sunday 10th April 2016.

We left in good time on Friday morning and our first stop was at the Veldskoen Padstal a few kilometers north of De Doorns for breakfast en grapes. Go here to read more about this excellent venue or click her to visit their FaceBook page. The Veldskoen has never disappointed us and their breakfast was, as always, first class. After breakfast and loading our grapes we set off on the second leg of the journey to Leeuwenboschfontein. Visit Leeuwenboschfontein’s website by clicking here to find out more about this lovely venue. We arrived there to find Iain and Willem already on site as well as a crowd of trainee drone pilots and their trainers.

Iain who was manning the admin-desk for Joan informed us that we would not be able to use the astro-enclosure that weekend because the drone trainees were doing the night-flying part of the course. So it was not just a case of not being able to drive on the runway while they were training, which I fully understood, we would also not be allowed in the astro enclosure. Apparently our presence there was disallowed by a regulation which specified that people were not allowed to be within a certain distance of an area in which drones were operating. I felt that the farm workers cottages were closer to the flying area than the astro-enclosure but my objections were met with a repetition of the statement that we would not be allowed to use the astro-enclosure as long as drone training was in progress.

This is a matter which will have to be discussed with Johan because the drone training is normally conducted during the working week so we don’t clash, but the night flying training was taking place over a weekend and a new moon weekend too. If the night flying training has to take place over a weekend than we can surely come to an agreement where they us one of the 40 weekends that are not on or close to one of the 12 new moon weekends, which is when we would like to have access to the astro-enclosure.

Anyway, there did not seem to be any wiggle room so we had to set up in the camp where there were only two other sets of non-stargazing campers and one set up on the hill at the camping site adjacent to the original fountain in the name Leeuwenboschfontein. There was still a bush up there but (un)fortunately no lion anymore.

Lynnette and I set up on the embankment next to the caravan where. Later in the evening we switched of the external lights at the ablution blocks but there was nothing we could do about the lights on the entrance road to the reception office and the guest houses. To top it all, the conventional incandescent globes had been replaced with new energy saving globes which were unfortunately much brighter than their incandescent predecessors.

The seeing was good and Lynnette and I spent most of the early part of the evening brushing up on our constellations and later switched to hunting for some deep-sky objects. Later on I decided to look for and photograph Comet 252P/Linear. Easier said than done because I had left my nice finder chart at home in Brackenfell. Lynnette, wanted to know where it was and I pointed in a general easterly direction and said, “Somewhere over there”. Her comment was, “Well why don’t you look over there then?” So I looked “over there” and, much to my surprise a very faint, vaguely greenish patch appeared in the finder scope. A quick look in the 25mm eyepiece to confirm and then switched to a 10mm eyepiece and, yes there it was. I let Lynnette look to confirm and then set up the camera on its tripod and took some photos. Mission accomplished and off to bed we went.

Somewhere in the course of the night we also had a visit from one of the drone trainees. It turned out that they had to do this course to qualify as drone pilots because they were going to use their drones for commercial gain. He personally had several drones, one of which set him back R80 000. The course set him back R40 000, but all this expenditure was worth it in view of the amount of money a qualified drone pilot could make.

TOP LEFT: Dragonfly, Anax imperator (Blue Emperor). TOP RIGHT: A view from De Wilge at the Western edge of the campsite, across the lawn, past the play area toward the spanking new pool and then on to the hills beyond the airfield and the astro-enclosure. CENTER: The illusive Comet 252P/Linear (Camera: Nikon D5100, Lens: AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1,8G Settings: 50mm, ISO 1000, 13s – f/1.8). BOTTOM LEFT: The drone training area. BOTTOM RIGHT: A closer look at the drone training area; the astro-enclosure is at least 200m to the left outside the frame of the photo.
TOP LEFT: Dragonfly, Anax imperator (Blue Emperor). TOP RIGHT: A view from De Wilge at the Western edge of the campsite, across the lawn, past the play area toward the spanking new pool and then on to the hills beyond the airfield and the astro-enclosure. CENTER: The illusive Comet 252P/Linear (Camera: Nikon D5100, Lens: AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1,8G Settings: 50mm, ISO 1000, 13s – f/1.8). BOTTOM LEFT: The drone training area. BOTTOM RIGHT: A closer look at the drone training area; the astro-enclosure is at least 200m to the left outside the frame of the photo.

Saturday was beautiful day despite some high level clouds that could not make up their minds if they were coming or going. We paid Iain, Willem and their two cats, Tiger and Aimee a visit. The cats had come along for the first time instead of going to the kennels. We did not take Snorre with us and it was just as well because poor Tiger was so nervous he hid under blankets and cushions. We had the opportunity to get a closer look at some of the drones. After the visit I set off down to the astro-enclosure by a very roundabout route so as not to be seen by either the drone trainees or their trainers. On the way there I came across a solitary male baboon, which is something we will have to reckon with if we leave equipment down there during the daytime. After taking my photos I sneaked back to the camp unobserved.

TOP LEFT: The astro-enclosure from the outside. This is the western end so one is looking east. TOP RIGHT: The astro-enclosure from the outside. This is the southern end so one is looking north. The toilet is visible on the extreme right and as it has no roof, one can does not have to interrupt one’s stargazing to go to the loo. BOTTOM LEFT: The astro-enclosure from the outside. This is the eastern end so one is looking west. BOTTOM RIGHT: The astro-enclosure from the outside. This is the northern end so one is looking south, with the entrance gate visible on the right.
TOP LEFT: The astro-enclosure from the outside. This is the western end so one is looking east. TOP RIGHT: The astro-enclosure from the outside. This is the southern end so one is looking north. The toilet is visible on the extreme right and, as it has no roof, one can does not have to interrupt one’s stargazing when visiting the loo. BOTTOM LEFT: The astro-enclosure from the outside. This is the eastern end so one is looking west. BOTTOM RIGHT: The astro-enclosure from the outside. This is the northern end so one is looking south, with the entrance gate visible on the right.
TOP LEFT: The astro-enclosure from the inside. This is the western end so one is also looking west. The entrance is to the right. TOP RIGHT: The astro-enclosure from the inside. This is the northern end so one is also looking north. The entrance is to the left. BOTTOM LEFT: The astro-enclosure from the inside. This is the eastern end so one is also looking east. The loo is to the right. BOTTOM RIGHT: The astro-enclosure from the inside. This is the southern end so one is also looking south. The loo is to the left.
TOP LEFT: The astro-enclosure from the inside. This is the western end so one is also looking west. The entrance is to the right. TOP RIGHT: The astro-enclosure from the inside. This is the northern end so one is also looking north. The entrance is to the left. BOTTOM LEFT: The astro-enclosure from the inside. This is the eastern end so one is also looking east. The loo is to the right. BOTTOM RIGHT: The astro-enclosure from the inside. This is the southern end so one is also looking south. The loo is to the left.

Late on Saturday afternoon Robert Bark with his wife, daughter and 8” Dobby moved into the caravan next to ours and shortly after that Louis Fourie arrived. Louis was not particularly pleased with the prospect of not being able to set up in the astro-enclosure, but decided to make the best of it and setup on the very last site at the western end of the campsite. Lynnette and I set up at the same spot as the previous evening and Robert set himself up right in the middle of the campsite, as we had once again switched off all the outside lights at the ablution blocks. Thanks to Lynnette I was able to take some good shots of the 3-day old moon setting behind the lapa on top of one of the peaks of the Nougat hills.

Camera: Nikon D5100, Lens: AF-S NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VRII, Settings: 200mm, ISO 400, 1/1.3s – f/5.6). TOP LEFT: Going. TOP RIGHT: Going. BOTTOM LEFT: Going. BOTTOM RIGHT: Almost gone.
Camera: Nikon D5100, Lens: AF-S NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VRII, Settings: 200mm, ISO 400, 1/1.3s – f/5.6).
TOP LEFT: Going. TOP RIGHT: Going. BOTTOM LEFT: Going. BOTTOM RIGHT: Almost gone.

The seeing was not as good as the previous evening but improved steadily during the course of the night and by 03:00 it was very good again. Our drone trainee came back again and brought one of his fellow trainees along as well. They spent quite a while with us before heading off to bed as they had to do the final part of their flying test before six the next morning. After they departed Lynnette and I did some more constellation work and a little bit of observing before packing up and going to bed.

The next day, Sunday, we packed up at a leisurely pace and eventually left for home well after lunchtime and enjoyed an uneventful trip home.

I am always sorry to leave Leeuwenboschfontein but then there is also the pleasure of knowing that we will be back there at the next new moon.

Elkanah House at Kogelberg Farm Hostel near Grabouw: 17 February 2016.

Auke Lynnette and I set out on Wednesday afternoon for the appointment with Carl Fourie (Head of Department: Mathematics at Elkanah House) and his group of senior learners from the school (you can visit their webpage here), who were spending a few days at the Kogelberg Farm Hostel (visit this site to find out more about this venue) on the farm Casey’s Ridge near Grabouw (see here for more about Grabouw) in the heart of one of South Africa’s principle apple and wine producing areas. Casey’s Ridge farm is owned by Vrede en Lust vineyards in Franschhoek (go here to read more about them) and its vineyards produce some of Vrede en Lust’s award winning white wines. the Kogelberg Farm Hostel is situated just a few kilometers west of ESKOM’s Palmiet Pumped Storage power generation facility (go here for more information) or read the article about our visit to the site here. Casey’s Ridge also borders the Kogelberg Nature Reserve (go here to read more about the Reserve)

TOP LEFT: The Vito parked in a nice shady spot at the Kogelberg Farm Hostel adjacent to the Southern section of the accommodation. TOP RIGHT: The Northern section of the accommodation. BOTTOM LEFT: View along the front of the Southern section back toward the parking area. Charl (blue shirt) is standing in the doorway of the “lecture venue”. BOTTOM RIGHT: The learners begin to arrive for Auke’s talk.
TOP LEFT: The Vito parked in a nice shady spot at the Kogelberg Farm Hostel adjacent to the Southern section of the accommodation. TOP RIGHT: The Northern section of the accommodation. BOTTOM LEFT: View along the front of the Southern section back toward the parking area. Charl (blue shirt) is standing in the doorway of the “lecture venue”. BOTTOM RIGHT: The learners begin to arrive for Auke’s talk.
TOP: Auke and Lynnette in a nice shady corner. BOTTOM: Auke advising two learners on the finer details of constructing the Southern Star Wheel.
TOP: Auke and Lynnette in a nice shady corner. BOTTOM: Auke advising two learners on the finer details of constructing the Southern Star Wheel.
TOP: Carl Fourie doing the introductions prior to Auke’s talk. BOTTOM: The assembled learners at Auke’s talk.
TOP: Carl Fourie doing the introductions prior to Auke’s talk. BOTTOM: The assembled learners at Auke’s talk.

We started the visit with a very informative, short presentation by Auke on the Universe. Unfortunately he was hampered by projector problems which were the result of either overheating or an unstable power supply. After the talk the group set about building Southern Star Wheels in preparation for the evening’s viewing.

The building of the Star Wheel turned into a very social occasion with more watchers than builders.
The building of the Star Wheel turned into a very social occasion with more watchers than builders.
The building session drawing to a close as suppertime approaches at 19:00.
The building session drawing to a close as suppertime approaches at 19:00.
The Rugby/Soccer field seen from outside the Hostel, is in a lovely setting. The netball court is just outside the photograph to the right.
The Rugby/Soccer field, seen here from outside the Hostel, is in a lovely setting. The netball court is just outside the photograph to the right.

While the group went off to supper, we drove down to the viewing site on a netball court and also had our supper, courtesy of Lynnette. After supper we set up and waited. The group arrived but, for some unknown reason, the message about bringing the Star Wheels did not seem to have registered because, apart from two that I saw, there were none there. Auke did an extensive what’s-up-tonight, pointing out a wide range of interesting objects and constellations and, after that Lynnette operated Maphefu and Lorenzo while I set the Celestron on the Moon.

The first stars are out and the first clouds have also started rolling in as well. Note the glow just behind Lorenzo on the right. That is probably a farm with well intentioned security lighting that is badly positioned or mounted. The result is that it now wastes electricity by sending a load of photons into the sky where they serve no security purpose whatsoever.
The first stars are out and the first clouds have also started rolling in as well. Note the glow just behind Lorenzo on the right. That is probably a farm with well intentioned security lighting that is badly positioned or mounted. The result is that it now wastes electricity by sending a load of photons into the sky where they serve no security purpose whatsoever.

Not having heeded Martin’s instruction to write down the settings for various types of objects, but rather trusting my memory, I could find everything but not produce the sort of imagery the system was really capable off. Mrs Foster’s little boy really seems to have a persistent learning disability.

TOP: Auke doing the what’s-up-tonight with the learners seated in the centre of the image. SECOND FROM TOP: Those interested enough to forgo the attractions of the cuddle-zone are gathered around Lorenzo and Maphefu at the right of the image. SECOND FROM BOTTOM: As the evening progresses the learners slowly leaked back to the Hostel on the hill to the left of the image. BOTTOM: Some remained interested in what Auke had to say and what they could see through Lorenzo and Maphefu while others remained in the cuddle-zone.
TOP: Auke doing the what’s-up-tonight with the learners seated in the centre of the image. SECOND FROM TOP: Those interested enough to forgo the attractions of the cuddle-zone are gathered around Lorenzo and Maphefu at the right of the image. SECOND FROM BOTTOM: As the evening progresses the learners slowly leaked back to the Hostel on the hill to the left of the image. BOTTOM: Some remained interested in what Auke had to say and what they could see through Lorenzo and Maphefu while others remained in the cuddle-zone.

As for the learner who snubbed Lynnette, when she told somebody that the darker areas on the moon were lava plains, by remarking to bystanders, “Just ignore her, there is no lava on the Moon”; I would like to suggest that said person should do some reading. It might then be possible to convert a Smart-ass to a Bright-ass. Lynnette was just too polite to take you down a peg or two.

TOP: Carl discussing some astronomy with me before he also headed for the comfort of his bed. SECOND FROM TOP: The telescope group had by now reached zero although the cuddle-zone was still occupied. SECOND FROM BOTTOM: Lights on as I start packing up . BOTTOM: The last stragglers say goodnight to a ghostly Auke.
TOP: Carl discussing some astronomy with me before he also headed for the comfort of his bed. SECOND FROM TOP: The telescope group had by now reached zero although the cuddle-zone was still occupied. SECOND FROM BOTTOM: Lights on as I start packing up . BOTTOM: The last stragglers say goodnight to a ghostly Auke.

Generally all went well and I thought that the group of learners, who were more interested in catching up on cuddle-time than in astronomy, was significantly smaller than on the previous encounter. In all fairness though, it was lot warmer on the netball court than on the grass at Dassenberg Broilers, where we saw them last (go here to read about that occasion) and also a whole lot less windy. Thank you very much for the opportunity to do the presentation Carl, the learners and Elkanah House.

Lunar eclipse observed from the mountainside above Gordon’s Bay

Monday the 28th of September 2015

The first question was where to go to get the best view if the weather was going to allow us any kind of view at all. Auke quickly determined that the best spot would be the parking area in front of the entrance to the Steenbras Water Filtration Plant on the mountainside above Gordon’s Bay.  The position at 290 m above sea level and 34° 10’29.17”S, 18° 50’51.96”E would give us a clear view across the waters of False Bay to where the Moon would set behind the mountains of the Southern section of the Cape Peninsula. So we had the place and now we began watching the weather anxiously. As we drew closer to the weekend the weather forecast became more and more favourable for that crucial period between Monday 02:00 and 07:00. Eventually it was almost certain that we would get a clear view of most of the eclipse so.

The most direct route for Lynnette and I would be the R300 and N2. Although the traffic reports said all was quiet along this route we were still concerned in view of the many incidents of stone throwing and other acts of violence, robbery and traffic disruption that had taken place on these two roads over the past months. We decided not to risk it and took a longer but safer route, arriving at the parking area shortly after 02:00. The weather was almost windless and beautifully clear but quite nippy. Next to arrive was Paul Kruger and shortly after him Wendy Vermeulen. Auke Slotegraaf and Johan Brink eventually arrived and, as we started setting were dismayed to see that there were clouds rolling in. They were ragged lot and we managed to get the start of the eclipse through the gaps and then, to our great relief the clouds dissipated leaving us with an unimpeded view of the eclipse.

Lynnette and I with Lorenzo. as you can see by our clothing it was pretty nippy up there. I had the Nikon D5100 attached to Lorenzo at prime focus.
Lynnette and I with Lorenzo. as you can see by our clothing it was pretty nippy up there. I had the Nikon D5100 attached to Lorenzo at prime focus.

I had the Nikon D5100 attached directly to Lorenzo the 10′ inch Dobby. so it was a question of push and shove all the way through the eclipse.  Lynnette operated the timer so that the photographs would be more or less evenly spaced, A couple of times during the course of the eclipse the wind freshened and then died down again and shortly after totality a bank of clouds and haze began to build up to the west over the Peninsula. It soon became clear that the last stages of the eclipse and the setting of the Moon were going to be lost in those clouds and the haze that was slowly climbing higher.

The centre photograph was take at maximum, well more or less. The others from the top left going around clockwise follow the eclipse till the clouds messed theings up and the photos became so hazy that they were not worth posting.
The centre photograph was take at maximum, well, more or less. The others from the top left going around clockwise follow the eclipse till the clouds messed things up and the photos became so hazy that they were not worth posting.

Despite the loss of the last bit of the eclipse and the actual setting of the Moon it was a very successful outing. We all got good photographs and shortly after sunrise we packed up and headed home. Getting home was not a quick drive, because we had to contend with the very heavy, Monday morning, peak hour traffic but eventually we made it and then it we could go to bed for some well earned rest.

The Moon one night after InOMN

Taken from our home in Brackenfell on day after our disastrous International Observe the Moon Night expedition.

Nikon D5100 attached to a 2xBarlow at prime focus on a 10″ Skywatcher Dobsonian.

ISO 400 and shutter speed 0.01 seconds.

15 photographs stitched with Image Composite Editor.

DSC_2094_Maan_stitch

Porterville Stargazing: March 2015

StarPeople and Snorre venture out into the countryside without Auke.

Nathalie from Porterville Tourism had been corresponding with us since late in 2014 after she heard about our activities during National Science Week from Clanwilliam Tourism. Go here to read about our activities during National Science Week 2014.  After a lot of juggling a date was fixed and we started getting ourselves all fired up but then, at the last moment, Auke had to pull out. Despite this setback Lynnette, Snorre and I packed the Vito and set off for Porterville shortly after nine in the morning.

The Vito, Loaded and ready to go.
The Vito, loaded and ready to go.
Top left: Intersection of Brackenfell Boulevard and Frans Conradie Drive. Top right: Turn right for the N1 and Paarl. Bottom left: Straight ahead for Wellington. Bottom right: Our destination appears for the first time, turn left for Porterville.
Top left: Intersection of Brackenfell Boulevard and Frans Conradie Drive.
Top right: Turn right for the N1 and Paarl.
Bottom left: Straight ahead for Wellington.
Bottom right: Our destination appears for the first time, turn left for Porterville.

 

Top left: On the R44 and ESKOM is fixing a pylon at the Hermon turnoff. Top right: I've always found it difficult to comprehend that at this point Ceres and Porterville are the same distance away. Bottom left: Must be a special fix-it-day because Spoornet is working on the railway line too. Bottom right: The R44 stretches out ahead of us toward the morning mist hanging over the Tulbagh valley.
Top left: On the R44 and ESKOM is fixing a pylon at the Hermon turnoff.
Top right: I’ve always found it difficult to comprehend that at this point Ceres and Porterville are the same distance away.
Bottom left: Must be a special fix-it-day because Spoornet is working on the railway line too.
Bottom right: The R44 stretches out ahead of us toward the morning mist hanging over the Tulbagh valley.

 

Top left: Approaching the turnoff where the R44 goes left to our destination and the R46 carries on through Nuwekloof. Top right: Right, here we are, left for Porterville. Bottom left: The grain silos at Gouda coming up on our left. Bottom right: Gouda station to the left and Gouda bids us welcome but we will give it a miss this time round.
Top left: Approaching the turnoff where the R44 goes left to our destination and the R46 carries on through Nuwekloof.
Top right: Right, here we are, left for Porterville.
Bottom left: The grain silos at Gouda coming up on our left.
Bottom right: Gouda station to the left and Gouda bids us welcome but we will give it a miss this time round.
Top left: A troup of babboons was spread out on either side of the road foraging for breakfast. Top right: This chap stopped for a morning scratch. Bottom left: Signpost to Saron the erstwhile Mission Station. Bottom right: 20 km to go and this hopeful chap thought we might be able to give him a lift.
Top left: A troup of babboons was spread out on either side of the road foraging for breakfast.
Top right: This chap stopped for a morning scratch.
Bottom left: Signpost to Saron the erstwhile Mission Station.
Bottom right: 20 km to go and this hopeful fellow thought we might be able to give him a lift.
Top left: Nathalie on teh phone organizing Porterville's tourism and Lynnette collecting brochures Background: The cheerful mural on the front wall of the Tourism Office and an unintentional "selfie", Bottom right: A notice announcing that Porterville has a twin in Belgium.
Top left: Nathalie on the phone organizing Porterville’s tourism and Lynnette collecting brochures
Background: The cheerful mural on the front wall of the Tourism Office and an unintentional “selfie”,
Bottom right: A notice announcing that Porterville has a twin in Belgium.

Once there Nathalie got us organized and sent us off to our guest house, the Rendezvous where we had a light lunch and, as the show was only due to start at 19:00, we figured that an after lunch nap would be just what the doctor ordered.

We pitched at the Golf Club just after 16:00 and were met by Chanelle who lent a very able hand with the unloading and setting up. She even produced a cup of coffee when I needed it most.

 

Background: The eye catching poster used to advertise the stargazing event. Top right: Lynnette, Chanelle and Lorenzo and the row of trees that got tangled with the setting moon a little later on.  Bottom left: The Vito, Chanelle, Lynnette and Lorenzo. Bottom right: The very useful open area with our A-frame display frames that really worked very well.
Background: The eye catching poster used to advertise the stargazing event.
Top right: Lynnette, Chanelle and Lorenzo and the row of trees that got tangled with the setting moon a little later on.
Bottom left: The Vito, Chanelle, Lynnette and Lorenzo.
Bottom right: The very useful open area with our A-frame display frames that really worked very well.
Background: the orange glow of a Porterville sunset. Top right: Lynnette giving Chanelle and two youngsters a preview of the Moon. Bottom left: These two were of to join their father who was hard at work polishing his golf shots. Bottom right:  Lynnette chatting with Ronel and Sybe Bakker.
Background: the orange glow of a Porterville sunset.
Top right: Lynnette giving Chanelle and two youngsters a preview of the Moon.
Bottom left: These two were of to join their father who was hard at work polishing his golf shots.
Bottom right: Lynnette chatting with Ronel and Sybe Bakker.
Top left: A Porterville sunset. Top right: The birthday table. Bottom left and right: Guests tucking in to their suppers.
Top left: A Porterville sunset.
Top right: The birthday table.
Bottom left and right: Guests tucking in to their suppers.
Top left: This shot shows the venue at the Golf-club which is really very nice except for the fact that there is a just a tad too much light for stargazing. The other three photos: various photographs of the guests listening to the welcome and introduction.
Top left: This shot shows the venue at the Golf-club which is really very nice except for the fact that there is a just a tad too much light for stargazing.
The other three: Various photographs of the guests listening to the welcome and introduction.

The rest of the guests trickled in and we tried to give as many as possible a glimpse of the crescent moon, that was going to dip behind the trees long before it actually set. Shortly after 19:00 the food parcels were handed out and the 50-odd people tucked into their suppers. When they were finished eating I gave a short introductory talk and after that people fetched chairs from somewhere inside the Club and positioned themselves around the telescopes, where I gave them a fairly comprehensive coverage of the visible night sky.  Although the sky was not absolutely dark I was pleasantly surprised by how dark it actually was. The Coal Sack was only just visible but with some concentration one could actually make out omega Centauri and the LMC. I think that if we had put of all the lights inside the clubhouse and put out the two street lights just behind the building, we might actually have had a really dark sky.

Background: guests during the introduction and one of our posters.  Top right: Myself and the guests out on the  lawn during the what's-up. Note the amount of light. Bottom left:  Some guests came well prepared to sit  back and enjoy the stargazing.
Background: guests during the introduction and one of our posters.
Top right: Myself and the guests out on the
lawn during the what’s-up. Note the amount of light.
Bottom left: Some guests came well prepared to sit back and enjoy the stargazing.

Most of the people were very enthusiastic and appreciative of the fact that we had come all the way from Brackenfell to entertain them astronomically. Jupiter and its moons got a very warm reception from everyone.  Some people were less impressed with the Orion Nebula but somehow the Tarantula tickled their fancy as did eta Carina. Omega Centauri and 47 Tuc weren’t as popular as I thought they would be but the Jewel Box was exciting for most people. The Southern Pleiades didn’t cause much of a stir though. Between Lynette and I we scored a lovely bunch of flowers and two bottles of Porterville’s grapes in liquid form; thank you Porterville. We started packing up around 22:00 and were very thankful for the assistance of Nathalie and her friends and also off Chanelle. Without all that help we would not have made it out of there before midnight.

Left: The guesthouse cat sniffing around as she tries to figure out where the "stranger"  is. Right: The "stranger" aka Snorre.
Left: The guesthouse cat sniffing around as she tries to figure out where the “stranger” is.
Right: The “stranger” aka Snorre.
Top: The guesthouse's front garden and the welcoming stoep at the entrance. Bottom left: Lynnette in a pensive mood at breakfast. Bottom right: Our bedroom at the guesthouse. Background: The guesthouse's eye-catching notice board.
Top: The guesthouse’s front garden and the welcoming stoep at the entrance.
Bottom left: Lynnette in a pensive mood at breakfast.
Bottom right: Our bedroom at the guesthouse.
Background: The guesthouse’s eye-catching notice board.

The next day, after breakfast, we popped round to the Tourism Office to say goodbye to Nathalie and then went off to Houdconstant to buy figs before heading home to Brackenfell. Lynnette and I think the presentation was successful and will certainly take Porterville Tourism up on their invitation to do it again.  Next time Auke must come along or Ronel Bakker will boycott us.

Top left: On our way home and to the left the latest addition to the growing number of wind farms in the Western Cape. Top right: The pothole warning is best heeded as some of them were quite serious. Bottom left: At the intersection where the R46 joins the R44.  Bottom right: Coming up to the Hermon turnoff where the R46 and the R44 part company again.
Top left: On our way home and to the left the latest addition to the growing number of wind farms in the Western Cape.
Top right: The pothole warning is best heeded as some of them were quite serious.
Bottom left: At the intersection where the R46 joins the R44.
Bottom right: Coming up to the Hermon turnoff where the R46 and the R44 part company again.
Top left: Sonkwasdrif  turnoff coming up. Top right: Signpost to Voëlvlei dam, one of Cape Town's water sources that also supplies towns on the West Coast and also serves as a major water sport, recreation centre Bottom left: The treatment plant is just visible low down against the backdrop of a section of the Limietberg mountain range. Bottom right: The photos clearly show that this is wheat country with the yellow stubble of last years crop stretching for miles.
Top left: Sonkwasdrif turnoff coming up.
Top right: Signpost to Voëlvlei dam, one of Cape Town’s water sources that also supplies towns on the West Coast and also serves as a major water sport, recreation centre
Bottom left: The treatment plant is just visible low down against the backdrop of a section of the Limietberg mountain range.
Bottom right: The photos clearly show that this is wheat country with the yellow stubble of last years crop stretching for miles.
Top left: Hermon turnoff and now we are well on our way home. Top right: I am not sure what the point of the large green refuse drum is next to the road sign. Bottom left: The yellow wheat stubble makes abice contrast against the blue backdrop of the mountains. Bottom right: A spot of Rugga anybody?  Actually the signpost directs you to the Stormers stalwart's father's farm
Top left: Hermon turnoff and now we are well on our way home.
Top right: I am not sure what the point of the large green refuse drum is next to the road sign.
Bottom left: The yellow wheat stubble makes abice contrast against the blue backdrop of the mountains.
Bottom right: A spot of Rugga anybody? Actually the signpost directs you to the Stormers stalwart’s father’s farm.
The turnoff to the Anglo Boer War (Anglo South African war/South African War) blockhouse as one enters Wellington.
The turnoff to the Anglo Boer War (Anglo South African war/South African War) blockhouse as one enters Wellington.
We made it through Wellington despite the potholes and the extensive roadworks and were well on our way home by now.
We made it through Wellington despite the potholes and the extensive roadworks and were well on our way home by now.
At last a sign that says Cape Town and directs us onto the N1.
At last a sign that says Cape Town and directs us onto the N1.
A busy N1 and we are getting really close now as we pass the Stellenbosch/Klipheuwel flyover.
A busy N1 and we are getting really close now as we pass the Stellenbosch/Klipheuwel flyover.
At last we get of the N1 and as we join up with Brackenfell Boulevard we will turn right and then we are almost home and dry.
At last we get of the N1 and as we join up with Brackenfell Boulevard we will turn right and then we are almost home and dry.

 

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.