Thursday required an early start to beat the infamous N1-traffic and have breakfast at the Rcafe in Long Street (go here to find out more) before starting our day. We left Brackenfell at 05:17, which was actually later than our original ITD of 05:00. ITD? My shorthand for Intended Time of Departure. We were parked in front of Rcafe by 05:45 which meant that the trip had taken us a mere 28 minutes. As soon as the doors opened at 06:00 Lynnette and I went inside to order two much needed Americano’s to start the day properly. What really amazed us was that the owner and staff recognized us the moment we walked in the door and it was a few days more than a year since we’d last been there! Auke arrived shortly after us and ordered his cappuccino. After breakfast, we headed for the Iziko South African Museum (click here for more information) where Benjamin was waiting to unlock the gates for us and set out the traffic cones to prevent vehicles entering our display and observing space in the amphitheatre. The weather was clear but blustery. The wind was, in fact, such a nuisance that I eventually took down and put away the posters, as the frames were being badly scratched every time they toppled over onto the brick paving. Anyway, by 08:00 we were ready to roll and all we needed was a visitor or two, which we soon got.
Thursday’s are popular school days at Iziko and we had three groups that we managed to convince that they should take a peek at the Sun. There were several other school groups whose teachers waved us away when we invited them to view the Sun. Being a weekday many of our visitors were from outside the country’s borders as most South Africans were hard at work earning an income. Many of the tour guides with the groups declined to let their tourists take a look at the Sun. Their reason was mostly that they had a schedule to keep to and did not have the time. Nevertheless, we had groups from Gabon, Thailand, Hong Kong, France, Netherlands, Israel, and Germany.
It was also nice to have the research staff from the backrooms of Iziko pay us a visit. I was especially pleased to make the acquaintance of Jay van den Berg a palaeontologist on Dr Roger Smith’s staff and Clair Browning the newly appointed Curator of the Karoo Collection.
The problem of getting people to sign our visitor’s book was highlighted for the umpteenth time. Many people who viewed the Sun through our telescopes flatly refused to sign the list and some actually became quite agitated when asked to do so. This problem is exasperated when one is busy and you simply do not have time to chase after people and ask them to sign. So, once again, our signature total (288) and counter tally (597) do not agree. I am more convinced than ever that the answer lies in devising a means to automatically count the number of people who look into each telescope’s eyepiece.
Because the Sun appears as a very bland and uninteresting white ball as a result of of the solar filter fitted to Lorenzo, many viewers say it looks like the Moon. So I decided to do some experimenting with filters to make the image more “exciting”. The images were all taken with my mobile and I am afraid that I do not have the world’s steadiest hand, so the photos are not of the best quality.
I do not know which of the following is applicable to our case “You cannot have your cake and eat it” or “What you gain on the swings you loose on the roundabouts”. On the one hand we had bright sunshine and a six day old waxing moon that was situated very nicely but, on the other hand, we had a brisk and fairly chilly South-Easter that pushed clumps of fluffy clouds across our field of view all afternoon and, to top it all, there were only two minuscule sunspots visible.
Auke was already there and Eddy and Jannie arrived shortly after us with Dirk about 30 minutes after them. Alan and Rose weren’t there because Alan had to work and Wendy could also not make it as her husband was ill and had been hospitalized.
The brisk South-Easter was quite cold and, as we had suspected the wind drove a never ending series of fluffy clouds across the face of the Moon limiting viewing to the intervening gaps between them. I decided not to even try the Sun as the two diminutive sunspots were really not worth the effort and concentrated on the Moon.
There were fewer people around and this seems to be the pattern when there is a bit of wind. I also think that in the wind people tend to bunch up more at the Swing Bridge and are less inclined to look around. There seems to be a greater sense of urgency to get across. Also for the people coming from the other side they seem to move straight on and not fan out as they do on days when there is less wind.
There were fewer clouds as the afternoon wore on and by sunset we had almost uninterrupted views of the moon. I decided to give viewers a special treat and added a 3x Barlow to my 25 mm eyepiece. That never fails to draw Wows, OMG’s, Awesome’s. Nooo’s and even a You Lie or two from the viewers. It takes a bit more nudging and shoving, but the effect on viewers is more than worth the trouble. In addition Lorenzo has the advantage of being more stable and less prone to wind induced vibrations than the smaller telescopes.
Once the Sun was down it became really chilly and one once again had to marvel at the fact that one could actually show people celestial objects from such a heavily light polluted site as the Pierhead. Unfortunately Venus and Saturn were not well placed for viewing from our position and the best position would have been under the coloured fairy lights on the quayside.
August in the Western Cape is known for wet, blustery and cold conditions so we were mentally prepared for the worst during National Science Week 2016. However, the weather was uncharacteristically fine except for the last two days. Fortunately for us the Iziko South African Museum (go here to find out more about this exciting venue) allowed us to move inside and use the large open area adjacent to the now non-existent cafe. Thank you Elsabé and Theo for all your efforts on our behalf.
National Science Week had to be move forward by one week due to the local elections. That also caused some problems because we had already started making arrangements and the change meant changing other things as well. The run-up to National Science Week was a also unsettling because our sponsors had organizational problems, which meant that both the funding and the display material were very, very late. Late funding meant that we had to postpone all purchases and rentals until the very last minute which resulted in a lot of frantic rushing around with panic levels going off the scale every now and again. Scary stuff but we made it in one piece although it was really touch and go with some plans having to be partially shelved due to a lack of time to implement them properly.
Our setup this year shared the amphitheater with the impressive DNA model of the Past All from One Exhibition. Please go here to read more about this interesting exhibition sponsored by Standard Bank.
We had many visitors from overseas and also many visitors from other African countries. Despite the rather nerve racking preparation phase everything actually went off quite well. We definitely had more dubious characters hanging around this year than in 2014. Special thanks to the Iziko security staff who were very efficient and here Benjamin stands out and, quite honestly deserves a medal for his efforts. Despite their surveillance we had items “disappear”, among others Lynnette’s phone and that loss is still having repercussions almost a month later.
But, by and large it was a successful week with lots of sunshine making it easy to demonstrate and discuss renewable energy. The solar cooker, solar oven, and various solar power driven devices were all put to good use and other equipment was used to demonstrate the existence of energy at other wavelengths in the solar spectrum. We also used the telescopes equipped with special filters to good effect so that people could take a look at the sun, the source of all this free energy.
Our poster about solar energy depicted the photo-voltaic plant about 6 km outside the town of De Aar in the Northern Cape Province (go here to read more about this development). The other three projects we mentioned and discussed were Concentrating Solar Plants also situated in the Northern Cape Province. !Ka Xu is located about 40 km from the town of Pofadder (go here to read more about this innovative development). Close-by and just off the R358 Onseepkans road lies a similar development Xina (read more about this by going here).. Equally interesting is the !Khi Solar one project which is being constructed close to the town of Upington (go here to read more about this development).
Many of the South African visitors were totally oblivious of the efforts currently underway in South Africa to harness wind and solar energy. It is indeed a great pity that the handout material was so totally unrelated to the topic of Renewable Energy because people looked for something tangible to take away with them after visiting us and were noticeably disappointed when they discovered that the handouts were not related to the topic.
The late arrival of the handouts and posters also meant that we had to improvise in order to organize our usual displays at the three largest public in our area. Fortunately some of the librarians were very resourceful and able to contribute very good ideas.
It is also a pity that we did not get to see a member of the official inspectorate as we felt that we had a very good setup. As luck would have it an official photographer did turn up on one of the days when rain had forced us indoors. Our indoor display was not nearly as impressive as the outdoor one and, of course, the photographer turned up when we had a very quiet period and only a trickle of visitors.
Our total number of visitors was well over the 4 000 and at the three Libraries we supplied material to, we reached another 12 000 to 15 000. The circulation figure of the newspapers we advertised in was over one and a half million, so the exposure for National Science Week this year, was quite substantial. The NRF/SAASTA should be well satisfied with the number of people reached for the money they spent.
We can only hope that we have very good weather again next year and a smoother, less stressful run-up to the event.
We had bright sunshine and clear skies which was nice but there were no sunspots and also no moon before almost 21:00. So why on earth did we choose Saturday the 20th to set up in the waterfront? Actually we didn’t exactly choose it, it was chosen for us by circumstances. Our scheduled date was Saturday the 13th of August but, let me go right back to the beginning and explain what happened.
We had to decide whether to cancel our Waterfront date on the 13th or to move it one week on. We opted for the latter choice, knowing that the moon would only be out later but still hoping for some sunspots. We didn’t have sunspots, but the change of date wasn’t all negative because the weather was overcast and rainy on the 13th so we would not have been able to set up in the Waterfront in any case.
So, there we were with no sunspots and a late moon but beautiful weather and lots of enthusiastic people (680 visited us) all eager to get to know more about astronomy. Auke also had a table set up with some of the material and demonstrations on renewable energy that we had used during National Science Week. This also attracted quite a lot of attention.
The lack of sunspots gave us the opportunity to talk about other aspects of astronomy and space exploration, after allowing people to view the sun through our specially protected telescopes. Our display about space junk attracted a lot of attention as well. The fact that outer space was a mere 100 km away compared to all the other places on the Pierhead signpost left many of our visitors a bit shell shocked too.
Dirk was not quite his normal chirpy self and still had a cough and sore ribs after his recent indisposition, so he left pretty sharply at 21:00 to get out of the cold night air. Alan and Rose also opted to get home and get some well earned rest while Auke, Lynnette and I decided to have coffee at Den Anker (click here to find out more about this delightful restaurant), where Patrick was delighted to see Lynnette and I again.
Also on the positive side I should mention that we had very little dew, so our equipment and other material was put away dry. This meant Lynnette and I could pack everything away without first unpacking all the stuff and laying it out in the sun to dry. What a joy and also a huge saving in time and effort for the two of us.
“Third time lucky” is an expression one often hears and it certainly applied to or stargazing efforts at the Pierhead in the V&A Waterfront. After poor weather in May and worse weather in June we had fantastic open skies this time. Unfortunately the Sun wasn’t as well endowed with sunspots as we would have like it to be, which immediately brings to mind the hackneyed expression “What you lose on the swings, you gain on the roundabouts”.
Lynnette and I made had to first drop John-Henry off in Mowbray but we were still first on the scene followed by Alan and Rose, then Dirk and lastly Auke and the birthday girl, Wendy. It soon became clear that the fine weather had lured the visitors out in force and there were many more people in the Waterfront than on either of our previous visits. We were soon very busy.
Alan and Rosemary had their eight-inch Dobsonian set up close to the water’s edge. I suppose you can take a man out of the Navy but you can’t really take the sea out of a naval man, Alan? Dirk set up his Celestron close to the two red poodles, probably because he missed his Yorkies, while Auke and Wendy set up Maphefu, Auke’s eight-inch Dobsonian, an outreach veteran, next to the signpost.
Auke had his very nifty demonstration of how to use a simple pinhole to calculate the size of the Sun set up there as well. Lynnette and I set up Lorenzo our workhorse 10-inch Dobsonian, also a veteran of many outreach events, a short distance away from Auke and Wendy.
I was surprised by the large number of foreigners but should not really have been, because the V&A is known to be a magnet for foreign tourists. One Spanish family, on seeing the name Lorenzo on our telescope, came up with the following interesting piece of information.
It was a warm sunny day with very few sunspots but lots of interested and interesting people. The 30% illuminated waxing moon had risen shortly after 11:00, so it was well positioned for Alan and Dirk who do not have solar filters for their telescopes. My, soon to be patented, (Bob) Marley 40 mm Solar-finder worked very well and the erudite Mr Cassells even complimented me by saying it looked “very professional”.
Once the Sun went down it quickly became chilly but the sky was clear and we were able to show the Moon in high definition as well as Jupiter, Mars and Saturn to a host of visitors. I used a 9 mm eyepiece on Lorenzo, which gave visitors a quite spectacular view of the Moon and the other objects but also meant that I was kept busy making corrections to keep the objects in the field of vision.
We packed up at 21:00 just as the dew was beginning to become problematic. At that stage there were still quite a few people around but with a tally of 1622 visitors on our counters we felt that enough was enough. After packing up we handed over Wendy’s birthday present and went our various ways homeward.
On outings like this one always encounters people with odd requests and non-mainstream views and Saturday was no exception. There was one small group that insisted I show them the planet Nibiru and all my diplomatic attempts to convince them of its non-existence came to naught. I eventually resorted to verbal force majeure to get rid of them when they became abusive about my inability to show it to them. This by the way was all in broad daylight! Another gentleman insisted that the telescope was an instrument of the anti-Christ and that Saturn was, in fact, Satan’s seat of power. He eventually wandered of proclaiming to all and sundry that science was actually the anti-Christ not just poor Lorenzo. Lorenzo was relieved.
On Sunday it was all about unpacking and putting all the stuff out to dry before packing everything away again.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The original appointment was somewhere in March but that had to be canceled due to inclement weather. The event was to have consisted of a talk at the retirement home, Huis Nerina, in the afternoon followed by a stargazing event at the Golf Course in the evening. The bad weather would not have affected the talk at Huis Nerina but would certainly have prevented the stargazing. So the event was rescheduled for Friday the 15th, which unfortunately clashed with an appointment we had with the EcoRangers in the Helderberg Nature Reserve (click here to visit their webpage and find out more about this magnificent corner of South Africa) . Rather than cancel one of the events we decided to split up. Auke would do the presentation for the EcoRangers (click here to find out more about the EcoRangers) while Lynnette, Snorre and I would go to Porterville and do Huis Nerina and the Golf Course stargazing. Nathalie, from Porterville Tourism, (click here to visit their webpage) (you can also visit their FaceBook page by clicking here) contacted us shortly after these arrangements had been made and told us that the Porterville event would have to be shifted to Thursday the 14th because there was a dance on in the town and people wanted to attend that and our stargazing event. This actually suited us because we would not have to split up and could all three do both events. This was not to be because, a few days later, an embarrassed Nathalie contacted us and asked if we would please be prepared to switch back to Friday the 15th as some other administrative glitch had popped up! So, because we try and please most of the people most of the time, we switched back to splitting StarPeople up.
On Friday morning Lynnette, Snorre and I set off to Porterville where we arrived around 11:00 and reported to Nathalie at the Tourism Office. From there we went to the Rendezvous B&B, Restaurant (visit a webpage with more informationabout this very friendly establishment) where we were welcomed by Riana van der Merwe and shown to our room. One of the staff, appropriately named Angel, quickly converted the two twin beds to a double bed. Shortly after 14:00 we headed for Huis Nerina and Old Age Home run by the ACVV, leaving Snorre in our room. The ACVV is the oldest welfare organization in South Africa, having been established in 1904 to render a comprehensive social welfare service to families in need (click here for more information on the ACVV) At Huis Nerina we discovered that there was no convenient white wall to project against, as we had been assured there would be. The staff quickly found a bed sheet and in no time it was fixed to a wall with sellotape and funny putty.
My talk was on astronomy in South Africa with some extra slides thrown in of pretty astronomical objects and a bit of Stellarium. I also asked the folks to encourage all grandchildren and great-grandchildren who had any interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics to stick with it and qualify themselves to participate in South Africa’s blooming astronomy endeavors. After fielding some questions we packed and said goodbye up after promising to come back with a telescope and do some real astronomy with them somewhere in the future.
A special note on the photographs in this post: Lynnette was the photographer but using my camera and somehow most of the photographs are just ever so slightly out of focus. Neither of us knows why because my photographs later on of the flowers are fine. Lynnette is not happy about the quality of her photographs but next time we will check the camera out first.
After a trip back to the Rendezvous for refreshments, we pitched at the golf course at around 18: to start setting up. Snorre was unfortunately confined to barracks because we were worried that some of the visitors might bring dogs, as they had on our previous visit. We were right because there was a particularly industrious Dachshund who felt duty bound to bark loudly at everything and everyone. Not Snorre’s cup of tea I am afraid.
By 19:15 the guests started trickling in and shortly after 19:30 I kicked off with a short talk before starting the telescope viewing. Orion was on its way down and already fairly low in the west so we started with M45, the Orion Nebula) and then worked our way eastward covering Jupiter and the Moon before switching to the Crux, the Diamond Cross and various objects of interest in the Milky Way itself.
Some sharp-eyed star gazers spotted Arcturus rising and mistook that for Mars which kindly put in an appearance a little while later, followed even later by Saturn. Once again one had proof positive that trying to view objects that had just risen above the horizon might have artistic merit but was an astronomical waste of time. By 22:30 we had packed up and not too long after 23:00 we could shower and hit the bed with a vengeance. Snorre was glad to see us but clearly perplexed at not being able to accompany us.
After a leisurely breakfast the next morning we packed up and headed home. We only stopped to photograph some Brunsvigia Orientalis (Afrikaans: Koningskandelaar) and Crassyn guttata (Afrikaans: Sambreelblom) in a field adjacent to the road near Halmanshof. Once home it was the usual schlep of unloading and packing everything away before being able to relax.
We will try and organize a special trip for the residents of Huis Nerina around the First Quarter Moon to give them the opportunity of looking through a telescope. Maybe Nathalie can pull a few strings for us.
Auke, Lynnette and I arrived on time and set up under cloudless skies in the Helderberg Nature Reserve (go here to learn more about this jewel in Somerset West) and it looked as if, for once, yr.no had got it completely wrong. People started arriving and setting up their picnics and it looked increasingly as if it was going to be clear all evening but then at 19:00 the wind shifted to the south and the temperature dropped a few degrees. Shortly after this change the first wisps of cloud appeared from the direction of False Bay and pretty soon the wisps had become large chunks and shortly thereafter it was completely overcast. The conclusion is that the Norwegian weather forecasters might be late sometimes, but they are only very, very seldom wrong.
Clearly there was going to be no stargazing but what was there going to be? After a hurried council of war between Margie and Auke it was decided that Auke would present his normal What’s Up in a different format to substitute for the lack of moon and stars.
Auke pitched in and first up explained the difference between refractors and reflecting telescopes using Daniel Snyman’s refractor and his Dobby, Maphefu. He then launched into a brilliant coverage of astronomy, astronomy history, cosmology and indigenous astronomy that entertained the Friends for more than an hour. Well done Auke!
We will be back at a later date to do the stargazing.
Lynnette and I arrived first outside the Iziko Museum (go here to visit their website) and Planetarium (go here to see their webpage) and, after some vehicular gymnastics, managed to park the Vito. Auke and Wendy arrived shortly after us in Wendy’s new vehicle. After Elsabé Uys had assured us we were parked in the correct places we started setting up. The windy conditions soon made it clear that banners were not going to be put up at all. The wind was to become a major factor in the rest of the evening’s proceedings. However we set up Lorenzo, Wendy’s 8” Dobby and Walter, Auke’s refractor, and settled down to wait. The sun was already behind the trees and buildings on the western edge of the amphitheater so we couldn’t show people that and there was no moon, so we had no choice but to wait for it to get dark before we would (hopefully) have something to show people.
Shortly after sunset the queue started forming at the entrance to the museum and quickly extended itself down the steps of the amphitheater past our telescopes. I must say we certainly got some pretty odd looks sitting behind our telescopes twiddling our thumbs and gazing up into the sky. In the meantime the wind was steadily becoming stronger and the wispy clouds around Devil’s Peak and the eastern buttress of Table Mountain were becoming more and more substantial by the minute. Even before it was properly dark these clouds had started sweeping down the front of the mountain and then breaking up and floating across the city. They looked like giant tufts of candyfloss tinted pink and yellow by Cape Town’s poorly designed lighting.
When we finally got started the area around Orion, Canis Major and the surrounding constellations were only visible for brief moments in the breaks between the scurrying clouds and our best (in fact only bet) was Jupiter, low down on the eastern horizon. It seemed as if the clouds avoided that area. By now the wind was blowing a mini-gale, and when it gusted it overturned our tables and chairs, rocked the telescopes and blew dust and leaves into people’s eyes. Most certainly not the most pleasant evening for astronomy outreach we had experienced. As Jupiter rose higher it entered the cloudy zone and we had to wait patiently for it to reappear in the gaps before people could view it through the telescopes.
By the time 21:40 rolled around all three of us were more than eager to pack up and go home. We bundled everything into the cars and made our respective ways home. It was fun, I think, but not the sort of fun I would like to repeat in a hurry. We are uncertain if it was just the very windy conditions or if there were other factors, but we definitely had far fewer people at the telescopes than last year and there were also fewer people in the queues.