Outreach by StarPeople for SKA-Africa during National Science Week 2017 at the Iziko South African Museum: Thursday 17th August 2017

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.

TOP LEFT: 05:20 and on our way to Cape Town for an early breakfast with Auke at the Rcafe in Long Street. CENTRE LEFT: View from the Gardens with the posters up, telescopes aligned, solar filters taped and waiting for the people. BOTTOM LEFT: View from the Museum with Auke making last minute adjustments. TOP RIGHT: I quite honestly do not know what on Earth I was doing here. Perhaps trying to get an upside down view of our Universe on the poster? BOTTOM RIGHT: This group was from Germany and apparently unable to speak English so the guide worked through a translator. The guide was not wearing a badge and when Lynnette asked him why not, he put his finger to his lips, refused to sign our register and disappeared very quickly with his group.
TOP LEFT: This huge group of highly mobile, extremely vociferous, perpetual motion entities were disguised as pre-school children but I wasn’t fooled. TOP RIGHT: Looking through the telescope seemed to limit them to a single location for a very short period of time before they shot off again at high speed exercising their vocal cords to maximum effect. BOTTOM LEFT: Edward talking to Jay van den Berg, one-time archaeologist and now Karoo Palaeontologist at the Iziko South African Museum, after having been poached by Dr Roger Smith. Nice meeting you Jay. BOTTOM RIGHT: Interspersed among the myriad of short people were teachers and a few parents who seemed to create small islands of order and stability around themselves as they moved around.

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.

TOP LEFT: Auke showing a group the Sun and discussing Solar Physics. TOP RIGHT: An attentive group waiting their turn to look at the Sun with Auke. BOTTOM LEFT: This local couple was far more clued up about things like Space Weather than the average visitor. Always pleasant to talk to people that know enough to ask some testing questions. BOTTOM RIGHT: This visitor conveniently helped himself to a view of the Sun while Edward answered questions in the background.
TOP LEFT: Edward and a group of younger visitors accompanied by a watchful parent. TOP RIGHT: This very well organised primary school visited us with their teachers. It was lovely having such an orderly group. BOTTOM LEFT: A teacher keeping an eye (and ear) on Auke as he talks to a group of learners. BOTTOM RIGHT: Lynnette, with a young person, who was so eager to look at the Sun that he couldn’t wait for the ladder, but stood on the tips of his toes to reach the eyepiece.

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.

TOP: Auke with some members of a group that came through in the morning. BOTTOM: Packing up. It never ceases to amaze me that, despite careful planning, there are always things that don’t seem to fit where they were when one unpacked them.

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.

TOP: The Sun viewed through a 25mm eyepiece on Lorenzo, the 10”Dobsonian. Lorenzo was fitted with a solar filter constructed with Baader AstroSolar™ Safety Film. I think the focus is reasonable for a mobile phone. CENTRE: The same setup as in the first photo but with a Baader Solar Continuum Filter (CWL 540nm) added to the eyepiece and I am clearly struggling more with the focus than in the first photo. BOTTOM: The same setup as in the first photo but with a Meade Series 4000 Filter No 23A added to the eyepiece and here my focus is much better. NOTE: All photos were taken with my Samsung A5 mobile at the eyepiece.
TOP: This is the image of the sunspots for the day as provided by the Solar Dynamics Team with the Earth to give one perspective. I am afraid that between Lorenzo and I we cannot quite manage this. BOTTOM: This is an enlarged view of the sunspots on the bottom image of the previous group of photos. I have flipped the photo so that the layout matches that of the top photo.

 

Stargazing at the Pierhead in the V&A Waterfront: Saturday 05th of November 2016.

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.

TOP: Getting onto the N1 from Brackenfell is a problem nowadays because of the road works between Brackenfell and the Panorama turn-off. Even on a Saturday morning the traffic is slow. The clouds over Table Mountain also did not look too promising. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Passing the Panorama turn-off it looked clear over the sea to the west of Cape Town. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Approaching the Giel Basson turnoff and the clouds seemed poised just east of the Victoria and Albert Waterfront, ready to advance as soon as we have set-up. Go here (http://www.waterfront.co.za/ ) to read more about this premier tourist attraction in Cape Town. BOTTOM: The last lap on Marine Drive with a fluffy cloud peeking out from behind the road sign.
TOP: Getting onto the N1 from Brackenfell is a problem nowadays because of the road works between Brackenfell and the Panorama turn-off. Even on a Saturday morning the traffic is slow. The clouds over Table Mountain also did not look too promising. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Passing the Panorama turn-off it looked clear over the sea to the west of Cape Town. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Approaching the Giel Basson turnoff and the clouds seemed poised just east of the Victoria and Albert Waterfront, ready to advance as soon as we have set-up. Go here to read more about this premier tourist attraction in Cape Town. BOTTOM: The last lap on Marine Drive with a fluffy cloud peeking out from behind the road sign.

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.

TOP: Dirk (in red) setting up while Eddy (in the white hat) and myself (in the blue shirt) talk to some of the first guests. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Auke and his new Celestron with an interested member of the public. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: The poster advertising the ASSA (go here to find out more about ASSA https://assa.saao.ac.za/ ) Sky Guide, published by Struik (find out more about Struik and their excellent publications here http://struik.bookslive.co.za/about/ and their nature publications here http://www.struiknatureclub.co.za/about-us.php ). This is the one book no self-respecting amateur astronomer in South Africa should be without. BOTTOM: Many people did not know one could see the Moon during daytime and were keen to view it through the telescope.
TOP: Dirk (in red) setting up while Eddy (in the white hat) and myself (in the blue shirt) talk to some of the first guests. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Auke and his new Celestron with an interested member of the public. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: The poster advertising the ASSA (go here to find out more about ASSA. Sky Guide, published by Struik (find out more about Struik and their excellent publications here  and their nature publications here). This is the one book no self-respecting amateur astronomer in South Africa should be without. BOTTOM: Many people did not know one could see the Moon during daytime and were keen to view it through the telescope.
TOP: Auke and his new Celestron helping some visitors look at the moon. MIDDLE: I nudge Lorenzo to keep it on the Moon while waiting for the next batch of viewers. BOTTOM: Quite a few people wanted to take photos of the Moon with their mobile phones, but that takes a steady hand and a bit of practice.
TOP: Auke and his new Celestron helping some visitors look at the moon. MIDDLE: I nudge Lorenzo to keep it on the Moon while waiting for the next batch of viewers. BOTTOM: Quite a few people wanted to take photos of the Moon with their mobile phones, but that takes a steady hand and a bit of practice.

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.

TOP: Eddy, the Chairperson of ASSA’s Cape Centre, entertains a group of visitors while Jannie (in red) keeps her eye on the telescope. Go here to find out more about ASSA’s Cape Centre (http://www.capecentre.org.za/ ). BOTTOM: Dirk looking pleased with himself. The white vessel visible directly behind Dirk’s telescope is Sikhululekile (Eng. Free or Set Free), the ill fated Robben Island ferry. Go here to read more about this expensive vessel and its equally expensive problems (http://www.iol.co.za/capetimes/rocks-ruin-r26m-robben-island-ferry-1803068 ).
TOP: Eddy, the Chairperson of ASSA’s Cape Centre, entertains a group of visitors while Jannie (in red) keeps her eye on the telescope. Go here to find out more about ASSA’s Cape Centre. BOTTOM: Dirk looking pleased with himself. The white vessel visible directly behind Dirk’s telescope is Sikhululekile (Eng. Free or Set Free), the ill fated Robben Island ferry. Go here to read more about this expensive vessel and its equally expensive problems.
TOP: The Sky Guide advertisements (there were two) were clearly visible to all comers. BOTTOM: Myself and Lorenzo up front while Auke and Dirk consult in the background. In the foreground is our StarPeople poster with the two ASSA Merit Awards. One award was for our general outreach efforts and the other for organizing the Southern Star Party twice a year since 2011. Go here to read more about the awards (http://elfastronomy.com/2016/09/16/astronomical-society-of-southern-africa-merit-awards-2016/ ) and here to read about the the Southern Star Party that was held in February 2016 (http://elfastronomy.com/2016/02/15/the-autumn-2016-southern-star-party-night-sky-caravan-farm-05-to-07-february-2016/ ) or here to read about the Star party held in October 2016 (http://elfastronomy.com/2016/11/13/the-spring-2016-southern-star-party-night-sky-caravan-farm-26-to-30-october-2016/ ).
TOP: The Sky Guide advertisements (there were two) were clearly visible to all comers. BOTTOM: Myself and Lorenzo up front while Auke and Dirk consult in the background. In the foreground is our StarPeople poster with the two ASSA Merit Awards. One award was for our general outreach efforts and the other for organizing the Southern Star Party twice a year since 2011. Go here to read more about the awards and here to read about the Southern Star Party that was held in February 2016 or here to read about the Southern Star Party held in October 2016.

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.

TOP: Lorenzo and I showing the Moon to three eager viewers. MIDDLE: Three presenters in a row! I am in the foreground; Auke is in the middle and, in the background, is Eddy wearing the white hat. BOTTOM: The same sequence but now Jannie (in red) has joined Eddy.
TOP: Lorenzo and I showing the Moon to three eager viewers. MIDDLE: Three presenters in a row! I am in the foreground; Auke is in the middle and, in the background, is Eddy wearing the white hat. BOTTOM: The same sequence but now Jannie (in red) has joined Eddy.
TOP: Now and again one sees one of these huge container vessels coming in – very impressive. BOTTOM: Jannie on the left and Eddy with a International Observe the Moon Night information sheet, talking to two visitors with the red Clock Tower in the background (Go here to read more about this historic landmark in the V&A Waterfront dating back to 1883 http://www.cape-town-heritage.co.za/heritage-site/clock-tower.html ).
TOP: Now and again one sees one of these huge container vessels coming in – very impressive. BOTTOM: Jannie on the left and Eddy with a International Observe the Moon Night information sheet, talking to two visitors with the red Clock Tower in the background (Go here to read more about this historic landmark in the V&A Waterfront dating back to 1883.

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.

TOP: As the light dimmed the view of the Moon got better. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Auke on the left, Dirk in the middle, Jannie and Eddy on the right. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: With the amount of light pollution in the Waterfront it is amazing that one can see anything other than the Moon. BOTTOM: A young visitor eyeballs the six day old waxing Moon.
TOP: As the light dimmed the view of the Moon got better. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Auke on the left, Dirk in the middle, Jannie and Eddy on the right. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: With the amount of light pollution in the Waterfront it is amazing that one can see anything other than the Moon. BOTTOM: A young visitor eyeballs the six day old waxing Moon.
TOP: Auke interacting with a very interested young visitor. BOTTOM: Dirk discussing details of the Moon with some visitors. Jannie’s white top is just visible on the right.
TOP: Auke interacting with a very interested young visitor. BOTTOM: Dirk discussing details of the Moon with some visitors. Jannie’s white top is just visible on the right.

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.

TOP: Jannie on the left looks on while Eddy explains some finer points. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Auke entertains some younger viewers. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Lights, lights and more lights! Very pretty but also a major source of light pollution in Cape Town. BOTTOM: Dirk interacts with visitors and Jannie in the white top can be seen on the right.
TOP: Jannie on the left looks on while Eddy explains some finer points. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Auke entertains some younger viewers. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Lights, lights and more lights! Very pretty but also a major source of light pollution in Cape Town. BOTTOM: Dirk interacts with visitors and Jannie in the white top can be seen on the right.

To top it all you can watch the entire afternoon and evening in one very fast You Tube video if you click here.

We started packing up at 21:00 and when Dirk Lynnette and I headed home Auke, Jannie and Eddy strolled over to Den Anker for a late night cup of coffee or two.

National Science Week at the Iziko South African Museum in Cape Town: Saturday 06th to Saturday 13th of August 2016.

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.

TOP: The boxes of handouts have started to arrive – rather late but at least they have arrived. MIDDLE: Certainly u useful handout but only for teachers. BOTTOM: this was a nice piece to handout but people were quick to spot the fact that it was intended for the 2015 theme.
TOP: The boxes of handouts have started to arrive – rather late but at least they have arrived. MIDDLE: Certainly u useful handout but only for teachers. BOTTOM: this was a nice piece to handout but people were quick to spot the fact that it was intended for the 2015 theme.
TOP: The courier parked in our back yard sorting out our stuff from among the mass of other deliveries. MIDDLE: Very useful handouts and certainly applicable in the South African and indeed Southern African context but the connection with renewable energy was not clear. BOTTOM: Useful information to hand out but difficult to connect to the 2016 theme of renewable energy.
TOP: The courier parked in our back yard sorting out our stuff from among the mass of other deliveries. MIDDLE: Very useful handouts and certainly applicable in the South African and indeed Southern African context but the connection with renewable energy was not clear. BOTTOM: Useful information to hand out but difficult to connect to the 2016 theme of renewable energy.
TOP: Interesting light effects caused by the moisture in the air while on the way to Cape Town. MIDDLE: Getting our setup sorted out against the backdrop of teh very impressive DNA model which formed the basis of the Past All From One Exhibition sponsored by the Standard Bank. It was in the Iziko’s amphitheatre but is on an extended tour of Southern Africa and indeed of Africa. BOTTOM: Banners are going up and telescopes are coming out as we get the show on the road.
TOP: Interesting light effects caused by the moisture in the air while on the way to Cape Town. MIDDLE: Getting our setup sorted out against the backdrop of the very impressive DNA model which formed the basis of the Past All From One Exhibition sponsored by the Standard Bank. It was in the Iziko’s amphitheater but is on an extended tour of Southern Africa and indeed of Africa. BOTTOM: Banners are going up and telescopes are coming out as we get the show on the road.
TOP: Almost ready as a small cloud of mist drifts across the face of Table Mountain. MIDDLE: Johan and Auke sort out the details of the central display table. BOTTOM: The early morning guests start arriving and Alan is ready and waiting at the special Solar Telescope.
TOP: Almost ready as a small cloud of mist drifts across the face of Table Mountain. MIDDLE: Johan and Auke sort out the details of the central display table. BOTTOM: The early morning guests start arriving and Alan is ready and waiting at the special Solar Telescope.

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.

TOP: Lynnette and Lorenzo fitted with a special Solar Filter service an early guest as Auke gathers his material for distribution on Twitter. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Alan explains the finer details of the Sun’s role in supplying clean energy. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Johan demonstrating the use of solar energy. BOTTOM: Johan and Auke in conversation with a group of visitors.
TOP: Lynnette and Lorenzo fitted with a special Solar Filter service an early guest as Auke gathers his material for distribution on Twitter. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Alan explains the finer details of the Sun’s role in supplying clean energy. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Johan demonstrating the use of solar energy. BOTTOM: Johan and Auke in conversation with a group of visitors.
TOP: A constant stream of visitors keeps Alan busy. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Lynnette explains finer points as Lorenzo points skyward during a short cloudy period. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: As the day warmed up more and more children visited us. BOTTOM: Auke recording for twitter and Lynnette managing the handout table.
TOP: A constant stream of visitors keeps Alan busy. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Lynnette explains finer points as Lorenzo points skyward during a short cloudy period. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: As the day warmed up more and more children visited us. BOTTOM: Auke recording for twitter and Lynnette managing the handout table.
TOP: A visitor looking at the sun through Lorenzo with the special protective filter clearly visible on the front cover. MIDDLE: Demonstrating the use of the special solar viewing glasses. BOTTOM: A queue waiting for a turn at either the special Solar Telescope or Lorenzo.
TOP: A visitor looking at the sun through Lorenzo with the special protective filter clearly visible on the front cover. MIDDLE: Demonstrating the use of the special solar viewing glasses. BOTTOM: A queue waiting for a turn at either the special Solar Telescope or Lorenzo.
TOP LEFT: Auke explaining solar energy applications. MIDDLE LEFT: Lynnette shielding a visitor from the sun as he looks at the sun through Lorenzo. BOTTOM LEFT: Lynnette and Lorenzo doing their thing. TOP RIGHT: Alan did a lot of very competent explaining. BOTTOM RIGHT: Lynnette even managed to talk two of the municipal workers into taking a look at the sun.
TOP LEFT: Auke explaining solar energy applications. MIDDLE LEFT: Lynnette shielding a visitor from the sun as he looks at the sun through Lorenzo. BOTTOM LEFT: Lynnette and Lorenzo doing their thing. TOP RIGHT: Alan did a lot of very competent explaining. BOTTOM RIGHT: Lynnette even managed to talk two of the municipal workers into taking a look at the sun.
TOP: Rose lending a hand at the Solar telescope. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Visitors examine the material on the handout table. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Johan discussing renewable energy with two younger visitors. BOTTOM: A view from behind of our setup showing the telescopes and the renewable energy table.
TOP: Rose lending a hand at the Solar telescope. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Visitors examine the material on the handout table. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Johan discussing renewable energy with two younger visitors. BOTTOM: A view from behind of our setup showing the telescopes and the renewable energy table.
TOP: Johan has his audience captivated with his talk in renewable energy. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Lynnette and Lorenzo on the left with Alan on the right. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Alan discussing the role of the sun in supplying renewable energy. BOTTOM: Auke in discussion with some visitors interested in renewable energy.
TOP: Johan has his audience captivated with his talk in renewable energy. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Lynnette and Lorenzo on the left with Alan on the right. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Alan discussing the role of the sun in supplying renewable energy. BOTTOM: Auke in discussion with some visitors interested in renewable energy.

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.

TOP: Alan and Johan in action. The temperature has dropped as you will see by the fact that Johan has put on a jacket. SECOND FROM THE TOP: No sun but Alan still manages to hold his visitor’s attention. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: The slightest break in the clouds and Alan is onto the Sun with the Solar Telescope. BOTTOM: All packed up for the day and one last shot showing the Past All From One DNA-model against the backdrop of the impressive building of the Iziko South African Museum.
TOP: Alan and Johan in action. The temperature has dropped as you will see by the fact that Johan has put on a jacket. SECOND FROM THE TOP: No sun but Alan still manages to hold his visitor’s attention. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: The slightest break in the clouds and Alan is onto the Sun with the Solar Telescope. BOTTOM: All packed up for the day and one last shot showing the Past All From One DNA-model against the backdrop of the impressive building of the Iziko South African Museum.
TOP: The Solar Cooker. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Rose and Alan in action around the Solar Telescope. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: The very impressive model of the eye we used to demonstrate dramatically to children why they should not look directly at the Sun without eye protection. BOTTOM: Lynnette supervising one of the younger visitors at Lorenzo’s eyepiece.
TOP: The Solar Cooker. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Rose and Alan in action around the Solar Telescope. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: The very impressive model of the eye we used to demonstrate dramatically to children why they should not look directly at the Sun without eye protection. BOTTOM: Lynnette supervising one of the younger visitors at Lorenzo’s eyepiece.
TOP: Early on Monday morning the N! was relatively unpopulated. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Auke in discussion with some two early morning visitors on Monday. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Alan deep in explanations while two other visitors find something worth photographing in our display. BOTTOM: Some visitors enjoying Auke’s animated explanation of renewable energy.
TOP: Early on Monday morning the N! was relatively unpopulated. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Auke in discussion with some two early morning visitors on Monday. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Alan deep in explanations while two other visitors find something worth photographing in our display. BOTTOM: Some visitors enjoying Auke’s animated explanation of renewable energy.
TOP: Lynnette and Lorenzo in the background while two other visitors examine some of the handouts. MIDDLE: Hopefully this visitor was phoning friends to come and join in the fun. BOTTOM: A visitor eyeballs the sun through the Solar Telescope under Alan’s watchful eye.
TOP: Lynnette and Lorenzo in the background while two other visitors examine some of the handouts. MIDDLE: Hopefully this visitor was phoning friends to come and join in the fun. BOTTOM: A visitor eyeballs the sun through the Solar Telescope under Alan’s watchful eye.
TOP: Lorenzo is the centre of attraction for this group wanting to see the sun. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Auke explaining the principle of the solar cooker as he waits for the water to boil so he can make coffee. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Alan demonstrating the eye model while Lorenzo is the centre of attraction in the background. BOTTOM: Lynnette, Lorenzo and an elderly visitor.
TOP: Lorenzo is the centre of attraction for this group wanting to see the sun. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Auke explaining the principle of the solar cooker as he waits for the water to boil so he can make coffee. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Alan demonstrating the eye model while Lorenzo is the centre of attraction in the background. BOTTOM: Lynnette, Lorenzo and an elderly visitor.
TOP: Solar coffee thanks to the solar cooker. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Rassie Erasmus on the right, all the way from Germiston takes a break before embarking on an eight month construction contract in Angola. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Lynnette and Lorenzo in the background. BOTTOM: Alan and the Solar Telescope saw non-stop action throughout National Science Week.
TOP: Solar coffee thanks to the solar cooker. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Rassie Erasmus on the right, all the way from Germiston takes a break before embarking on an eight month construction contract in Angola. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Lynnette and Lorenzo in the background. BOTTOM: Alan and the Solar Telescope saw non-stop action throughout National Science Week.

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.

TOP: A very quiet N1 early on Tuesday morning because it was a public holiday. SECOND FROM THE TOP: The participants in the National Woman’s Day fun run/walk in central Cape Town make their way through the Company Gardens. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: The gent in the grey top and black headgear in the centre might not have been an official entry but he was very excited about his participation. BOTTOM: Some just took the whole thing in their (casual) stride while others were clearly more determined.
TOP: A very quiet N1 early on Tuesday morning because it was a public holiday. SECOND FROM THE TOP: The participants in the National Woman’s Day fun run/walk in central Cape Town make their way through the Company Gardens. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: The gent in the grey top and black headgear in the centre might not have been an official entry but he was very excited about his participation. BOTTOM: Some just took the whole thing in their (casual) stride while others were clearly more determined.
TOP: Rose and Lorenzo attending to early visitors. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Alan hard at work while Rose gets it all down in pictures. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Auke’s first group of visitors interested in renewable energy. BOTTOM: Lynnette helping a budding astronomer take her first look at the sun through Lorenzo.
TOP: Rose and Lorenzo attending to early visitors. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Alan hard at work while Rose gets it all down in pictures. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Auke’s first group of visitors interested in renewable energy. BOTTOM: Lynnette helping a budding astronomer take her first look at the sun through Lorenzo.
TOP: Auke explains renewable energy while Alan and Lynnette show visitors’ the sun in the background. MIDDLE: The amphitheatre is in front of the Iziko South African Museum is, without doubt a very attractive spot to present National Science Week. BOTTOM: Rose backing up Alan as the visitors queue to look at the sun.
TOP: Auke explains renewable energy while Alan and Lynnette show visitors’ the sun in the background. MIDDLE: The amphitheater is in front of the Iziko South African Museum is, without doubt a very attractive spot to present National Science Week. BOTTOM: Rose backing up Alan as the visitors queue to look at the sun.
TOP: There was a lot of interest in renewable energy and Auke was always on hand to discuss and explain. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Lorenzo, Lynnette and a group of younger visitors. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Alan, the Solar Telescope and one of our striking display posters. BOTTOM: Alan always concerned that visitors should get the best view of the sun.
TOP: There was a lot of interest in renewable energy and Auke was always on hand to discuss and explain. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Lorenzo, Lynnette and a group of younger visitors. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Alan, the Solar Telescope and one of our striking display posters. BOTTOM: Alan always concerned that visitors should get the best view of the sun.

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.

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TOP: Auke showing some younger visitors how solar energy can be put to use. SECOND FROM THE TOP: I am in the background with Lorenzo and Auke is up front with some enthusiastic younger visitors. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Alan on the left with the solar telescope and me in the background on the right with Lorenzo. BOTTOM: Myself, Lorenzo and a group of younger learners with one of their teachers.
TOP: Auke showing some younger visitors how solar energy can be put to use. SECOND FROM THE TOP: I am in the background with Lorenzo and Auke is up front with some enthusiastic younger visitors. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Alan on the left with the solar telescope and me in the background on the right with Lorenzo. BOTTOM: Myself, Lorenzo and a group of younger learners with one of their teachers.
TOP: Adderly Street on the way home. SECOND FROM THE TOP: F.W. de Klerk Boulevard as we queue to get onto the N1 and head home to Brackenfell. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: The Tygerberg Hills in the background with the first signs of the Earth’ s shadow and pink colour of Venus’s girdle just above them. BOTTOM: Last lap home with the outline of the Simonsberg, the Bottleray Hills and right in the background the Banhoek mountains.
TOP: Adderly Street on the way home. SECOND FROM THE TOP: F.W. de Klerk Boulevard as we queue to get onto the N1 and head home to Brackenfell. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: The Tygerberg Hills in the background with the first signs of the Earth’ s shadow and pink colour of Venus’s girdle just above them. BOTTOM: Last lap home with the outline of the Simonsberg, the Bottleray Hills and right in the background the Banhoek mountains.

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).

TOP: N1 not to bad considering it was a normal working day. SECOND FROM THE TOP: I get Lorenzo ready and in the background the rest of the team is already in action. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: This enthusiastic group from the Eastern Cape were all ears (and eyes) as Auke explained about renewable energy. BOTTOM: The group waiting for Alan to give them a look through the solar telescope.
TOP: N1 not to bad considering it was a normal working day. SECOND FROM THE TOP: I get Lorenzo ready and in the background the rest of the team is already in action. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: This enthusiastic group from the Eastern Cape were all ears (and eyes) as Auke explained about renewable energy. BOTTOM: The group waiting for Alan to give them a look through the solar telescope.
TOP: Auke’s renewable energy demonstrations drew a lot of attention. MIDDLE: The groups actually became too large to handle comfortably at one stage. BOTTOM: Getting Lorenzo properly aligned so that the visitors could take a peek at the sun.
TOP: Auke’s renewable energy demonstrations drew a lot of attention. MIDDLE: The groups actually became too large to handle comfortably at one stage. BOTTOM: Getting Lorenzo properly aligned so that the visitors could take a peek at the sun.
TOP: Auke’s hat just visible in the background and the lady in the Stetson in the foreground was not from Texas but from Austria. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Auke is somewhere in the middle of that crowd doing his renewable energy thing. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Lorenzo and I working away the waiting queue of visitors. BOTTOM: A group photo of a section of the much larger group before they departed.
TOP: Auke’s hat just visible in the background and the lady in the Stetson in the foreground was not from Texas but from Austria. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Auke is somewhere in the middle of that crowd doing his renewable energy thing. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Lorenzo and I working away the waiting queue of visitors. BOTTOM: A group photo of a section of the much larger group before they departed.
TOP: The renewable energy table with Auke in attendance drew lots of attention. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Another (very orderly) group of learners and their teachers. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: A group photo around the National Science Week advertisement. BOTTOM: Alan and the solar telescope in action with some of the younger learners.
TOP: The renewable energy table with Auke in attendance drew lots of attention. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Another (very orderly) group of learners and their teachers. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: A group photo around the National Science Week advertisement. BOTTOM: Alan and the solar telescope in action with some of the younger learners.

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.

TOP: A cold, wet and blustery trip in on the N1. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Alan’s corner inside the Iziko South African Museum where we took shelter from the rain and wind. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: The solar oven and the solar cooker on display. BOTTOM: Alan, Auke and Elsabé who was always there to advise and help.
TOP: A cold, wet and blustery trip in on the N1. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Alan’s corner inside the Iziko South African Museum where we took shelter from the rain and wind. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: The solar oven and the solar cooker on display. BOTTOM: Alan, Auke and Elsabé who was always there to advise and help.
TOP: Even indoors renewable energy and Auke’s explanations proved very popular. MIDDLE: A lack of sun did not put Alan off in the least. BOTTOM: Auke demonstrating to a small crowd.
TOP: Even indoors renewable energy and Auke’s explanations proved very popular. MIDDLE: A lack of sun did not put Alan off in the least. BOTTOM: Auke demonstrating to a small crowd.
TOP: I had a hard time with this lady who wanted to blow up all nuclear power stations because they were dangerous. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Auke running through renewable energy for the umpteenth time. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: I explain to this group how a telescope works. BOTTOM: Alan deep in discussion with a visitor whose cloak’s colour rivalled that of the sun in the poster.
TOP: I had a hard time with this lady who wanted to blow up all nuclear power stations because they were dangerous. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Auke running through renewable energy for the umpteenth time. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: I explain to this group how a telescope works. BOTTOM: Alan deep in discussion with a visitor whose cloak’s colour rivaled that of the sun in the poster.
TOP: The younger visitors showed a great deal of interest in Auke’s explanation of renewable energy. SECOND FROM THE TOP: This delightful young lady was not only charming but also very interested and soon had Alan in all sorts of knots around her little finger. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: This group came all the way from Oudtshoorn to visit the Museum and got us and renewable energy as a bonus. BOTTOM: Auke explaining the intricacies of renewable energy.
TOP: The younger visitors showed a great deal of interest in Auke’s explanation of renewable energy. SECOND FROM THE TOP: This delightful young lady was not only charming but also very interested and soon had Alan in all sorts of knots around her little finger. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: This group came all the way from Oudtshoorn to visit the Museum and got us and renewable energy as a bonus. BOTTOM: Auke explaining the intricacies of renewable energy.

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.

TOP: Because the Museum only opened later we could also leave home a bit later and clearly Saturday morning traffic was also less hectic on the N1. MIDDLE: This young lady absolutely insisted on signing her own name on our visitor’s register. BOTTOM: Auke explaining the solar oven and the solar cooker to a visitor.
TOP: Because the Museum only opened later we could also leave home a bit later and clearly Saturday morning traffic was also less hectic on the N1. MIDDLE: This young lady absolutely insisted on signing her own name on our visitor’s register. BOTTOM: Auke explaining the solar oven and the solar cooker to a visitor.
TOP: I get to explain how a telescope works with the able assistance of Lorenzo. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Alan in action and the fact that we could not see the sun did not affect his enthusiasm at all. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Saturday was very quiet and I only hope the SAASTA/NRF photographer didn’t take photographs during one of these very quiet spells. BOTTOM: Johan at left brought to his knees by renewable energy, Alan in the background hard at work and two visitors actually showing an interest in the handouts.
TOP: I get to explain how a telescope works with the able assistance of Lorenzo. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Alan in action and the fact that we could not see the sun did not affect his enthusiasm at all. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Saturday was very quiet and I only hope the SAASTA/NRF photographer didn’t take photographs during one of these very quiet spells. BOTTOM: Johan at left brought to his knees by renewable energy, Alan in the background hard at work and two visitors actually showing an interest in the handouts.
TOP: Auke and Johan in the foreground and Alan working away in the far corner. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Alan enthusiastically explaining the workings of the sun. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Johan busy with an infra-red demonstration. BOTTOM: Johan discusses renewable energy with an interested group.
TOP: Auke and Johan in the foreground and Alan working away in the far corner. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Alan enthusiastically explaining the workings of the sun. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Johan busy with an infra-red demonstration. BOTTOM: Johan discusses renewable energy with an interested group.
TOP: The last visitors came past in small groups late on Saturday afternoon. MIDDLE: This charming lady and her husband were very interested in how a telescope works and it is a pity we could not demonstrate it to them outside. BOTTOM: There we all are at the end of a long, tiring but quiet satisfying week.
TOP: The last visitors came past in small groups late on Saturday afternoon. MIDDLE: This charming lady and her husband were very interested in how a telescope works and it is a pity we could not demonstrate it to them outside. BOTTOM: There we all are at the end of a long, tiring but quiet satisfying week.

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.

Stargazing at the Pierhead in the V&A Waterfront: Saturday 20th of August 2016.

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.

National Science Week (click here to find out more about the activities presented during National Science Week) was to have taken place from the 30th of July to the 06th of August. StarPeople had been fortunate enough to receive a grant to promote the 2016 theme “Renewable Energy” (Go here or go here) to find out more about renewable energy in South Africa)in the amphitheater in front of the Iziko South African Museum in Cape Town (go here to find out more about this exciting venue). However, the State President announced that the Local Government Elections would be held on the 3rd of August and the NRF/SAASTA promptly moved National Science Week forward to run from the 06th to the 13th of August.

TOP LEFT: The Vito all packed up and ready to go to the Waterfront. TOP CENTER: Heading down the N1 past the Durbanville turnoff. TOP RIGHT: Being Saturday there was no actual work in progress but the lane and speed restrictions remained. MIDDLE: Constantiaberg on the far left and Signal Hill on the far right with a spot of cloud just to the left of Devil’s Peak. BOTTOM LEFT: Down the hill past the Panorama turn-off with Table Bay in the distance. BOTTOM CENTER: The turn-off to Cape Town International Airport coming up and that cloud is still hanging around. BOTTOM RIGHT: Optimistic evaluation of the cloud said it was shrinking and not growing.
TOP LEFT: The Vito all packed up and ready to go to the Waterfront. TOP CENTER: Heading down the N1 past the Durbanville turnoff. TOP RIGHT: Being Saturday there was no actual work in progress but the lane and speed restrictions remained. MIDDLE: Constantiaberg on the far left and Signal Hill on the far right with a spot of cloud just to the left of Devil’s Peak. BOTTOM LEFT: Down the hill past the Panorama turn-off with Table Bay in the distance. BOTTOM CENTER: The turn-off to Cape Town International Airport coming up and that cloud is still hanging around. BOTTOM RIGHT: Optimistic evaluation of the cloud said it was shrinking and not growing.
LEFT: No not a weapon of mass destruction but the Solarscope very generously donated by Mr Jurg Wagener owner of the well known Sterland and Kambrokind in Sutherland. TOP RIGHT: Side view of the Solarscope with useful information on the inner solar system. BOTTOM RIGHT: The other side of the Solarscope with a convenient tool for measuring the altitude of the sun when viewing.
LEFT: No not a weapon of mass destruction but the Solarscope very generously donated by Mr Jurg Wagener owner of the well known Sterland and Kambrokind in Sutherland. TOP RIGHT: Side view of the Solarscope with useful information on the inner solar system. BOTTOM RIGHT: The other side of the Solarscope with a convenient tool for measuring the altitude of the sun when viewing.

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.

TOP LEFT: The moment the telescopes appear people start lining up to take look. TOP RIGHT: Auke checking Lorenzo’s sun filter while I explain something to visitors from Stellenbosch. MIDDLE LEFT: Alan and Auke with Brett’s sun telescope and group from the UK. BOTTOM LEFT: Alan sporting his new astronomy hat explaining some astronomy to visitors. I sort of liked his Newlands Cricket headgear more. BOTTOM RIGHT: Dirk looks on looking slightly perplexed at my antics. I also have selective amnesia about exactly what I was up to.
TOP LEFT: The moment the telescopes appear people start lining up to take look. TOP RIGHT: Auke checking Lorenzo’s sun filter while I explain something to visitors from Stellenbosch. MIDDLE LEFT: Alan and Auke with Brett’s sun telescope and group from the UK. BOTTOM LEFT: Alan sporting his new astronomy hat explaining some astronomy to visitors. I sort of liked his Newlands Cricket headgear more. BOTTOM RIGHT: Dirk looks on looking slightly perplexed at my antics. I also have selective amnesia about exactly what I was up to.

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.

TOP LEFT: A closer look at Alan and his new hat. TOP RIGHT: Auke taking a break while contemplating the benefits (if any) of astronomy outreach. BOTTOM LEFT: Dirk and I comparing notes or is Dirk telling another fishy tale. BOTTOM RIGHT: The lady at Alan’s telescope told us that her late father used to haul them out of bed in the dead of night and have them lie on their backs on the lawn to look at the stars. Give that man a Bells!
TOP LEFT: A closer look at Alan and his new hat. TOP RIGHT: Auke taking a break while contemplating the benefits (if any) of astronomy outreach. BOTTOM LEFT: Dirk and I comparing notes or is Dirk telling another fishy tale. BOTTOM RIGHT: The lady at Alan’s telescope told us that her late father used to haul them out of bed in the dead of night and have them lie on their backs on the lawn to look at the stars. Give that man a Bells!

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.

TOP LEFT: The traffic at the telescopes is governed by the Swing Bridge. When it is shut the people waiting at the western end have time to look around and they use that to come over and look through the telescopes. TOP RIGHT: Dirk explain optics to two visitors. MIDDLE LEFT: Two of Dirk’s visitors seem perplexed about something. MIDDLE RIGHT: Alan in full swing, or is it song?. BOTTOM LEFT: Auke explaining renewable energy to two young visitors. BOTTOM RIGHT: Alan and Auke explaining why there were no sunspots.
TOP LEFT: The traffic at the telescopes is governed by the Swing Bridge. When it is shut the people waiting at the western end have time to look around and they use that to come over and look through the telescopes. TOP RIGHT: Dirk explain optics to two visitors. MIDDLE LEFT: Two of Dirk’s visitors seem perplexed about something. MIDDLE RIGHT: Alan in full swing, or is it song?. BOTTOM LEFT: Auke explaining renewable energy to two young visitors. BOTTOM RIGHT: Alan and Auke explaining why there were no sunspots.

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.

TOP: Just before 21:00 the moon rose over the distant Tygerberg Hills and the much closer harbour cranes. MIDDLE: Auke explaining some finer points to visitors from the safety of his chair. BOTTOM: Looking over to the West one can clearly see the huge amount of light pollution generated by the Waterfront.
TOP: Just before 21:00 the moon rose over the distant Tygerberg Hills and the much closer harbour cranes. MIDDLE: Auke explaining some finer points to visitors from the safety of his chair. BOTTOM: Looking over to the West one can clearly see the huge amount of light pollution generated by the Waterfront.

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.

Our future dates at the Waterfront can all be found by visiting here.

Stargazing at the Pierhead in the V&A Waterfront: Saturday the 09th of July 2016.

“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”.

TOP LEFT: Lion’s Head and Signal Hill against a clear blue sky as we head for Cape Town on the N1. BOTTOM LEFT: Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak from the N1. TOP RIGHT: Devil’s Peak from the N2. MIDDLE RIGHT: Lion’s Head and Signal Hill as we pass Paarden Island on the N1. BOTTOM RIGHT: The final approach to the Victoria and Albert Waterfront.
TOP LEFT: Lion’s Head and Signal Hill against a clear blue sky as we head for Cape Town on the N1. BOTTOM LEFT: Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak from the N1. TOP RIGHT: Devil’s Peak from the N2. MIDDLE RIGHT: Lion’s Head and Signal Hill as we pass Paarden Island on the N1. BOTTOM RIGHT: The final approach to the Victoria and Albert Waterfront.
TOP LEFT: The harbour entrance from the Pierhead. TOP RIGHT: View from the Pierhead toward the main shopping centre at the Waterfront. MIDDLE LEFT: A pirate ship full of sightseers coming home. MIDDLE RIGHT: The container ship “Yellowstone” being brought into the harbour. BOTTOM LEFT: “Southern Cross” taking its umpteenth load of sightseers out to sea. BOTTOM RIGHT: The pirate ship returning to its moorings after the last trip of the day.
TOP LEFT: The harbour entrance from the Pierhead. TOP RIGHT: View from the Pierhead toward the main shopping centre at the Waterfront. MIDDLE LEFT: A pirate ship full of sightseers coming home. MIDDLE RIGHT: The container ship “Yellowstone” being brought into the harbour. BOTTOM LEFT:Southern Cross” taking its umpteenth load of sightseers out to sea. BOTTOM RIGHT: The pirate ship returning to its moorings after the last trip of the day.

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.

The seagulls were really out in force on Saturday.
The seagulls were really out in force on Saturday.
TOP LEFT: Maphefu (an eight-inch Dobsonian), partially hidden on the left with Auke and Wendy in attendance. BOTTOM LEFT: Auke shielding a visitor at the eyepiece from the sun. TOP RIGHT: Getting Lorenzo (a 10-inch Dobsonian) set up while three visitors wait patiently. MIDDLE RIGHT: Maphefu and Auke on the left and Lorenzo and I partially obscured behind the poster A-frame. BOTTOM RIGHT: Lorenzo and I with interested visitors.
TOP LEFT: Maphefu (an eight-inch Dobsonian), partially hidden on the left with Auke and Wendy in attendance. BOTTOM LEFT: Auke shielding a visitor at the eyepiece from the sun. TOP RIGHT: Getting Lorenzo (a 10-inch Dobsonian) set up while three visitors wait patiently. MIDDLE RIGHT: Maphefu and Auke on the left and Lorenzo and I partially obscured behind the poster A-frame. BOTTOM RIGHT: Lorenzo and I with interested visitors.

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.

TOP LEFT: Lorenzo and I discussing laser interferometry with a visitor. The tube mounted on Lorenzo is the (Bob) Marley 40 mm Solar-finder. BOTTOM LEFT: Alan and a group of visitors viewing the Moon through his eight-inch Dobsonian. TOP RIGHT: Auke, Maphefu and Wendy discussing the Sun with a younger group of visitors. MIDDLE RIGHT: Wendy and Maphefu on the left and Lorenzo and I on the right. BOTTOM RIGHT: Dirk and his Celestron entertain two visitors.
TOP LEFT: Lorenzo and I discussing laser interferometry with a visitor. The tube mounted on Lorenzo is the (Bob) Marley 40 mm Solar-finder. BOTTOM LEFT: Alan and a group of visitors viewing the Moon through his eight-inch Dobsonian. TOP RIGHT: Auke, Maphefu and Wendy discussing the Sun with a younger group of visitors. MIDDLE RIGHT: Wendy and Maphefu on the left and Lorenzo and I on the right. BOTTOM RIGHT: Dirk and his Celestron entertain two visitors.

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.

TOP: While Lynnette gets Lorenzo on target just watch the two ladies behind her. What is so terrible or astounding that the lady on the right has to hide behind her hand? Sunglasses apparently provide sufficient protection to the lady on the left. MIDDLE: Peeking over her hand with a raised index finger the lady on the right now comments to her friend on the left, who is still watching whatever interests them intently. BOTTOM: The lady on the left is clearly amused while the lady on the right once again shuts her eyes and takes refuge behind her hand.
TOP: While Lynnette gets Lorenzo on target just watch the two ladies behind her. What is so terrible or astounding that the lady on the right has to hide behind her hand? Sunglasses apparently provide sufficient protection to the lady on the left. MIDDLE: Peeking over her hand with a raised index finger the lady on the right now comments to her friend on the left, who is still watching whatever interests them intently. BOTTOM: The lady on the left is clearly amused while the lady on the right once again shuts her eyes and takes refuge behind her hand.
TOP LEFT: Lynnette and Lorenzo with a family of Spanish visitors. TOP RIGHT: Wendy and Maphefu with a visitor at the eyepiece eying the Sun. BOTTOM LEFT: A lull in the stream of visitors gave us the opportunity to sit down for a short while. BOTTOM RIGHT: Alan making sure his telescope is on the Moon for two visitors.
TOP LEFT: Lynnette and Lorenzo with a family of Spanish visitors. TOP RIGHT: Wendy and Maphefu with a visitor at the eyepiece eyeing the Sun. BOTTOM LEFT: A lull in the stream of visitors gave us the opportunity to sit down for a short while. BOTTOM RIGHT: Alan making sure his telescope is on the Moon for two visitors.

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.

A Spaniard, they said, doesn’t say “the weather is very hot.” He says, “Como pega Lorenzo” (Wow, Lorenzo is hitting) which we verified at this site here. So they sometimes also call the sun “Lorenzo” and you can check that out here.

TOP LEFT: Visitors get a look at the Moon through Alan’s telescope. TOP RIGHT: Dirk and the Celestron entertain a visitor while one of his poodles looks on. MIDDLE LEFT: Lorenzo and I give visitors a look at the Sun which was, by now, quite low in the West. MIDDLE RIGHT: Our banners really did not make a good showing at all. BOTTOM LEFT: Auke and Wendy with visitors around Maphefu. BOTTOM RIGHT: With the Sun so low it was now much easier for the shorter visitors to get to the eyepiece. I had forgotten my ladder – again!
TOP LEFT: Visitors get a look at the Moon through Alan’s telescope. TOP RIGHT: Dirk and the Celestron entertain a visitor while one of his poodles looks on. MIDDLE LEFT: Lorenzo and I give visitors a look at the Sun which was, by now, quite low in the West. MIDDLE RIGHT: Our banners really did not make a good showing at all. BOTTOM LEFT: Auke and Wendy with visitors around Maphefu. BOTTOM RIGHT: With the Sun so low it was now much easier for the shorter visitors to get to the eyepiece. I had forgotten my ladder – again!
TOP: We had quite a few people on site most of the time. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Lorenzo and I hard at work while our poster displays generate some interest as well. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Dirk explaining some technicality. I wonder if he doesn’t sometimes tell fish stories when he waves his hands around like that? BOTTOM: Alan just left of centre, Wendy right of centre and Dirk on the right.
TOP: We had quite a few people on site most of the time. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Lorenzo and I hard at work while our poster displays generate some interest as well. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: Dirk explaining some technicality. I wonder if he doesn’t sometimes tell fish stories when he waves his hands around like that? BOTTOM: Alan just left of centre, Wendy right of centre and Dirk on the right.
TOP LEFT: A group of chuffed visitors have just successfully completed Auke’s Sun-diameter task. TOP RIGHT: The shadows are getting very long as Dirk waits for his next group of visitors. BOTTOM LEFT: Auke showing two visitors how to make things disappear. BOTTOM RIGHT: Auke answering questions for two younger visitors.
TOP LEFT: A group of chuffed visitors have just successfully completed Auke’s Sun-diameter task. TOP RIGHT: The shadows are getting very long as Dirk waits for his next group of visitors. BOTTOM LEFT: Auke showing two visitors how to make things disappear. BOTTOM RIGHT: Auke answering questions for two younger visitors.

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”.

TOP LEFT: A Dirk and his Celestron wait patiently. TOP RIGHT: The visitors start arriving and Dirk goes into action. MIDDLE LEFT: The back is the best part of a donkey I have always been told. MIDDLE RIGHT: Dirk and the Celestron in action. BOTTOM LEFT: Wow! That is a big globe. BOTTOM RIGHT: The sun is awkwardly low in the West by now and the crowds are definitely thinning.
TOP LEFT: A Dirk and his Celestron wait patiently. TOP RIGHT: The visitors start arriving and Dirk goes into action. MIDDLE LEFT: The back is the best part of a donkey I have always been told. MIDDLE RIGHT: Dirk and the Celestron in action. BOTTOM LEFT: Wow! That is a big globe. BOTTOM RIGHT: The sun is awkwardly low in the West by now and the crowds are definitely thinning.
TOP LEFT: Dirk, the Celestron and his other poodle. MIDDLE LEFT: Our Space Junk poster drew quite a lot of attention. BOTTOM LEFT: After dark we could show visitors Jupiter, Mars and Saturn. TOP RIGHT: By now the Sun was so low that visitors had to get down on their knees so I switched Lorenzo to the Moon. BOTTOM RIGHT: Two very interested visitors who also wanted to receive information on the Southern Star Party.
TOP LEFT: Dirk, the Celestron and his other poodle. MIDDLE LEFT: Our Space Junk poster drew quite a lot of attention. BOTTOM LEFT: After dark we could show visitors Jupiter, Mars and Saturn. TOP RIGHT: By now the Sun was so low that visitors had to get down on their knees so I switched Lorenzo to the Moon. BOTTOM RIGHT: Two very interested visitors who also wanted to receive information on the Southern Star Party.

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.

TOP LEFT: As the temperature dropped out came the jackets and coats. Dirk on the left has already got his coat out and Wendy would shortly follow suit. TOP RIGHT: Even after dark our posters still made a good showing. BOTTOM LEFT: The Waterfront is brightly lit at night but the Pierhead is one of the darker areas, which is why we chose it for these outings. BOTTOM RIGHT: Star People and Star Friends. We are minus Dirk, who managed to pack up faster than the rest of us and had already left, and Auke, who took the photo. Alan is handing Wendy her birthday card. She had just turned 21 and a bit!
TOP LEFT: As the temperature dropped out came the jackets and coats. Dirk on the left has already got his coat out and Wendy would shortly follow suit. TOP RIGHT: Even after dark our posters still made a good showing. BOTTOM LEFT: The Waterfront is brightly lit at night but the Pierhead is one of the darker areas, which is why we chose it for these outings. BOTTOM RIGHT: Star People and Star Friends. We are minus Dirk, who managed to pack up faster than the rest of us and had already left, and Auke, who took the photo. Alan is handing Wendy her birthday card. She had just turned 21 and a bit!

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.

For more about this outing please also visit this site here.

Our future dates at the Waterfront can all be found by visiting this site here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Porterville: Friday 15th April 2016.

The original appointment was somewhere in March but that had to be cancelled due to inclement weather. The event was to have consisted of a talk at the retirement home, recipe Huis Nerina, viagra sale 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 of 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 information about 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.

TOP LEFT: Entrance gate to Huis Nerina the retirement home in Porterville, run by the ACVV. TOP RIGHT: The assembled Golden Oldies. Please note the makeshift laptop and projector stand at centre right. BOTTOM LEFT: Different view with me in the picture. BOTTOM RIGHT: Almost the same as the top right one but from a slightly different angle and zoomed in a little bit.
TOP LEFT: Entrance gate to Huis Nerina the retirement home in Porterville, run by the ACVV. TOP RIGHT: The assembled Golden Oldies. Please note the makeshift laptop and projector stand at centre right. BOTTOM LEFT: Different view with me in the picture. BOTTOM RIGHT: Almost the same as the top right one but from a slightly different angle and zoomed in a little bit.

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.

TOP LEFT: The guest used chairs from the Golf Club and many brought blankets for their children. TOP RIGHT: The guests listening to me. The white objects most of them appear to be holding are the supper parcels Nathalie organized. CENTER: StarPeople’s banners displayed in the well lit area in front of the door leading to the bar and the loo. BOTTOM LEFT: A different angel on the guests with me in the picture just to prove that I was there. BOTTOM RIGHT: Shot from behind you can see that it was pretty dark there despite several really irritating street lights.
TOP LEFT: The guest used chairs from the Golf Club and many brought blankets for their children. TOP RIGHT: The guests listening to me. The white objects most of them appear to be holding are the supper parcels Nathalie organized. CENTER: StarPeople’s banners displayed in the well lit area in front of the door leading to the bar and the loo. BOTTOM LEFT: A different angel on the guests with me in the picture just to prove that I was there. BOTTOM RIGHT: Shot from behind you can see that it was pretty dark there despite several really irritating street lights.

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.

TOP LEFT: Some guests did some naked eye stargazing while standing in line for a look through the telescopes. TOP RIGHT: We were very happy to see quite a few children among the guests. CENTER: Myself, Lorenzo and the ever cheerful Nathalie Wagenstroom the Tourism Officer at Porterville Tourism. BOTTOM LEFT: I must say the guests were not only very interested but many of them were also quite clued up. BOTTOM RIGHT: There were one or two guests who appeared to be a little apprehensive about looking through the telescope.
TOP LEFT: Some guests did some naked eye stargazing while standing in line for a look through the telescopes. TOP RIGHT: We were very happy to see quite a few children among the guests. CENTER: Myself, Lorenzo and the ever cheerful Nathalie Wagenstroom the Tourism Officer at Porterville Tourism. BOTTOM LEFT: I must say the guests were not only very interested but many of them were also quite clued up. BOTTOM RIGHT: There were one or two guests who appeared to be a little apprehensive about looking through the telescope.

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.

TOP LEFT: Some guests did some naked eye stargazing while standing in line for a look through the telescopes. TOP RIGHT: We were very happy to see quite a few children among the guests. CENTER: Myself, Lorenzo and the ever cheerful Nathalie Wagenstroom the Tourism Officer at Porterville Tourism. BOTTOM LEFT: I must say the guests were not only very interested but many of them were also quite clued up. BOTTOM RIGHT: There were one or two guests who appeared to be a little apprehensive about looking through the telescope.
TOP LEFT: Some guests did some naked eye stargazing while standing in line for a look through the telescopes. TOP RIGHT: We were very happy to see quite a few children among the guests. CENTER: Myself, Lorenzo and the ever cheerful Nathalie Wagenstroom the Tourism Officer at Porterville Tourism. BOTTOM LEFT: I must say the guests were not only very interested but many of them were also quite clued up. BOTTOM RIGHT: There were one or two guests who appeared to be a little apprehensive about looking through the telescope.

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.

TOP LEFT: Crassyn guttata (Afrikaans: Sambreelblom). TOP RIGHT: The inflorescence of Brunsvigia orientalis (Koningskandelaar) shortly after pushing its way into the open. CENTER: A whole field of these flowers and you can sort through to identify them. BOTTOM LEFT: Brunsvigia orientalis on the left and Crassyn guttata on the right. BOTTOM RIGHT: A cluster of Crassyn guttata.
TOP LEFT: Crassyn guttata (Afrikaans: Sambreelblom). TOP RIGHT: The inflorescence of Brunsvigia orientalis (Koningskandelaar) shortly after pushing its way into the open. CENTER: A whole field of these flowers and you can sort through to identify them. BOTTOM LEFT: Brunsvigia orientalis on the left and Crassyn guttata on the right. BOTTOM RIGHT: A cluster of Crassyn guttata.

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.

 

Friends of the Helderberg Nature Reserve: Saturday 12th March 2016.

On Saturday morning Auke sent Margie a message asking what plan B was because the weather forecast at yr.no (the Norwegian weather site which you can see here) said it was going to become cloudy from 17:00 onward with the possibility of rain. The Friends (go here for more about the Friends of the Helderberg Nature Reserve – FHNR) and Margie looked out of their windows and decided it was fine weather and was going to stay that way. The FHNR also have a Facebook page which you can visit here.

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.

TOP: The assembled Friends of the Helderberg Nature Reserve. BOTTOM LEFT: Daniel Snyman setting up his refractor. BOTTOM RIGHT: Daniel and his very cute daughter getting the moon in their sights while it was still visible and in the background Auke chats to Yolandri, the nature conservationist.
TOP: The assembled Friends of the Helderberg Nature Reserve. BOTTOM LEFT: Daniel Snyman setting up his refractor. BOTTOM RIGHT: Daniel and his very cute daughter getting the moon in their sights while it was still visible and in the background Auke chats to Yolandri, the nature conservationist.

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.

TOP: The Friends all in the dark but all listening attentively as Auke takes them through Astronomy 101 the Slotegraaf version. BOTTOM LEFT: Auke demonstrating the differences between refractors and reflectors. BOTTOM RIGHT: Maphefu and the Friends in the background captivated by Auke’s presentation.
TOP: The Friends all in the dark but all listening attentively as Auke takes them through Astronomy 101 the Slotegraaf version. BOTTOM LEFT: Auke demonstrating the differences between refractors and reflectors. BOTTOM RIGHT: Maphefu and the Friends in the background captivated by Auke’s presentation.

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.

Museum Open Night: Thursday 10th March 2016.

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.

TOP: The queue starts forming. BOTTOM LEFT: Checking the weather forecast. BOTTOM CENTRE: Theo Ferreira (The Planetarium Boss) Auke and Walter. BOTTOM RIGHT: Lynnette in discussion with a gentleman who disputed the fact that our Sun was a star.
TOP: The queue starts forming. BOTTOM LEFT: Checking the weather forecast. BOTTOM CENTRE: Theo Ferreira (The Planetarium Boss) Auke and Walter. BOTTOM RIGHT: Lynnette in discussion with a gentleman who disputed the fact that our Sun was a star.
TOP LEFT: Auke explaining matters astronomical while a lone viewer tries to see what Walter will show her. TOP RIGHT: I point out Jupiter in the sky as viewers wait to look through Lorenzo. BOTTOM LEFT: More Jupiter viewers and Wendy’s scope is visible in the background. BOTTOM RIGHT: Auke with viewers and Walter. The bright light in the background is not Auke’s halo it is a reflective yellow strip on the side of a taxi in the background.
TOP LEFT: Auke explaining matters astronomical while a lone viewer tries to see what Walter will show her. TOP RIGHT: I point out Jupiter in the sky as viewers wait to look through Lorenzo. BOTTOM LEFT: More Jupiter viewers and Wendy’s scope is visible in the background. BOTTOM RIGHT: Auke with viewers and Walter. The bright light in the background is not Auke’s halo it is a reflective yellow strip on the side of a taxi in the background.

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.

TOP LEFT: The back is the best part of a donkey. TOP RIGHT: Walter’s angle exactly suites this shorter viewer. BOTTOM LEFT: With all that light around one needs t have a really bright object to look at with a telescope if one is to see anything at all. BOTTOM RIGHT: Wendy with her queue of viewers and that reflective strip on the taxi in the background again.
TOP LEFT: The back is the best part of a donkey. TOP RIGHT: Walter’s angle exactly suites this shorter viewer. BOTTOM LEFT: With all that light around one needs t have a really bright object to look at with a telescope if one is to see anything at all. BOTTOM RIGHT: Wendy with her queue of viewers and that reflective strip on the taxi in the background again.
TOP LEFT: I forgot our ladder which we use to assist the shorter viewers so I had to depend on “Parent Power”. TOP RIGHT: Auke, Wendy myself and the three scopes all in one picture. BOTTOM LEFT: Auke and Walter and I do not know what caused the shaft of light across the picture. BOTTOM RIGHT: Walter waits while Auke explains in the background.
TOP LEFT: I forgot our ladder which we use to assist the shorter viewers so I had to depend on “Parent Power”. TOP RIGHT: Auke, Wendy myself and the three scopes all in one picture. BOTTOM LEFT: Auke and Walter and I do not know what caused the shaft of light across the picture. BOTTOM RIGHT: Walter waits while Auke explains in the background.

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.