On the 16th of July 2017 Leeuwenboschfontein had a light sprinkling of snow and the staff there were kind enough to send us some photos.
Leeuwenboschfontein is situated in the Western Cape on the very western edge of the Little Karoo at an altitude of just over 1 000m. It is a fantastic place for stargazing and observing and was the venue for the thirteenth Southern Star Party held in February 2017 (more about that event can be found here). We are already planning the 14th Southern Southern Star Party scheduled for October 2017.
Auke got the request and, although it followed hard on the heels of the Helderberg expedition on Saturday we agreed to do the outing, mainly because it was only to be a small group of learners but also because we were curious about the Daniel Academy. Anyway, on Monday evening we set off nice and early from Auke’s place to find the Academy which is situated on Sir Lowry Road between Gordon’s Bay and the N2, but closer to the N2.
We arrived well ahead of the organisers but once they arrived we were directed to a nice open area with no serious obstructions and we set up. Auke did the what’s up and then we set about doing some astronomy by showing the moon and a variety of celestial objects. The site is actually darker than expected so we had more on offer than one normally has in the urbanised Hottentots’ Holland basin.
I had some interesting discussions with a few of the teachers and especially with the “Headmaster”. I won’t go into those discussions here but recommend you the website given earlier in this post to find out more. We left fairly early as the wind turned chilly and not everyone was prepared for the downturn in the temperature.
The first Southern Star party held at Leeuwenboschfontein was a success. So, any suspicions about unlucky 13 were neatly sidestepped or perhaps the jinx only applies to people who suffer from triskaidekaphobia.
Lynnette, Snorre and I arrived on Wednesday the 22nd, downloaded our stuff at Dalzicht and set about getting the shed converted into a lecture area with a display section. Fortunately, their spacious kitchen made organising the coffee area very easy.
Jim Adams (speaker), Jonathan Balladon, Deon Begeman, Ronelle Begeman, Steyn Botha, Samuel Botha, Dominique Brink, Johan Brink, Nellie Brink, Anja Bruton, Alan Cassells, Rose Cassells, Pamela Cooper, Chris de Coning, Micah de Villiers, Pierre de Villiers, Barry Dumas, Miemie Dumas, Clair Engelbrecht, Dwayne Engelbrecht, Arné Esterhuizen, Iain Finlay, Edward Foster, Lynnette Foster, Louis Fourie, Maureen Helman, Cheyenne Kersting, Christine Kersting, Harald Kersting, Jamie Kersting, Evan Knox-Davies, Dianne Nxumalo-Kohler, Robin Kohler, Bennie Kotze, Paul Kruger, Lia Labuschagne, Eddy Nijeboer, Jannie Nijeboer, Lorenzo Raynard (speaker), Kim Reitz, Marius Reitz, John Richards, Rogan Roth, Johan Roux (Jnr), (Johan Jnr’s wife), (Johan Jnr’s eldest son), (Johan Jnr’s 2nd son), Alecia Roux, Henda Scott, Barry Shipman, Auke Slotegraaf, Corne van Dyk, and Chris Vermeulen, Alex Wright.
Some of the keen people pitched on Thursday and among them were Deon and Ronelle Begeman. Deon had, as promised at the previous SSP in Bonnievale, constructed two magnificent binocular viewing tripods for Auke and myself. This is really quite an ingenious device with many improvements over what is currently on the market and it is very reasonably priced too when compared to its competitors. I will do a separate post with pictures about it at a later stage.
On Thursday evening Paul and I went up Swartberg in his 4×4. It was a whole lot easier than walking up but also considerably more taxing on one’s nerves and I am not implying that Paul drove recklessly; quite the contrary. It is just that the vehicle adopts a wide variety of very unusual angles during both the ascent and descent and one has to trust the driver a whole lot more than when driving down a normal road.
TOP LEFT: We had some magnificent thunderclouds on Thursday. TOP RIGHT: Paul snapped his first lightning bolt from the top of Swartberg. BOTTOM LEFT: Paul’s night shot of the Leeuwenbosch complex from the top of Swartberg. BOTTOM RIGHT: Paul’s early morning shot of the hut and his pickup.
Arne and Alex had their vehicle expire on the R318 while on the way to the SSP, but they were picked up by Evan and brought to Leeuwenboschfontein. The two seemed pretty laid back about leaving the car at the side of the road until Monday when they would set about sorting it out from Cape Town.
The beginner’s session at the telescopes was quite successful on Friday as was the beginners talk on Saturday morning.
Jonathan had to leave suddenly on Saturday morning as he was needed to fly a plane somewhere. He promised he would flash his landing lights if his route took him over Leeuwenboschfontein which it apparently didn’t.
During my beginners’ session on Saturday morning, Jim Adams, retired Deputy Chief Technologist at NASA and Anja Bruton Science Engagement Coordinator at the SKA arrived. The problem was that Lorenzo Raynard Communications Manager at the SKA, who was due to give the first talk had not pitched and all efforts to contact him were unsuccessful. Jim, hearing of our predicament, very kindly agreed to give the talk he was scheduled to give that afternoon in Lorenzo’s slot. So we started off with “Spinoff: How investing in astronomy and space science changes life on Earth”. Jim proved to be every bit as good a speaker as Anja had said he was; relaxed, knowledgeable and very good at fielding questions too.
In the meantime, Lynnette and Anja were frantically trying to trace Lorenzo.
Martin Lyons and his wife Pat flew in (literally) especially for the social braai in the lapa at the campsite during lunchtime on Saturday. They stayed until after lunch and then flew home again. According to Paul and Louis, the takeoff was actually quite tense but Martin, during subsequent discussions, downplayed any suggestion of problems.
Just before the braai the Vito was attacked by a vicious tree and lost its back window.
By now Lorenzo had been traced and was on his way but would not make it in time for his time slot. We, or at least Anja, talked Jim into giving a second talk in Lorenzo’s slot. This talk “Robots in Space and Space Exploration; Past, Present and Future” went down very well with the audience. Lorenzo finally pitched later on Saturday afternoon. As his talk would cut into observing time we decided to rather have him give his talk on Sunday morning.
After Jim’s talk and the lively question session we took the usual group photograph and, as is usual, some people did not pitch up. People who were absent were Jonathan Balladon, Steyn & Samuel Botha, Dominique & Nellie Brink and Lorenzo Raynard.
The group photograph was followed by the Pub Quiz which, this year, was orchestrated the usual degree of malevolence and cunning by Auke. After several gruelling rounds the overall winner, by a very large margin was Alex. Well done Alex, you left several past winners staggering around in your slipstream’s dust.
The number of beginners at the telescopes on Saturday evening was disappointing but I am hoping it was the sudden drop in temperature that convinced them to stay indoors.
Lorenzo’s talk on Sunday morning. “The public face of SKA in South Africa” was reasonably well attended and, after some discussion, the great dispersal began and the site emptied fairly rapidly. This year, though, more people stayed on to observe the partial solar eclipse on Sunday afternoon.
Dwayne and Claire, who got engaged during the 11th SSP at Night Sky Caravan Farm, missed the 12th SSP because they were getting married. Now, while attending the 13th SSP, Mr and Mrs Engelbrecht announced they were expecting their first child. I suppose it will be too much to expect them to call the baby SSP, but it would be nice if they would.
On Monday morning we packed up and after Calla had very professionally helped close of and dust proof the gaping hole where the Vito’s rear window had been, Lynnette, Snorre and I also left for home.
The spring Southern Star Party at Night Sky Caravan Farm (you can visit their Facebook Page here) was a success despite the fact that the weather did not really play along. All in all, 60 people registered, but due to unforeseen circumstances there were cancellations and the final total was 55.
Since the previous SSP in February we have had enough to keep us busy. We were involved in or presented the following events between the previous SSP and this one.
An outreach event at the Kogelberg Farm Hostel for Elkanah House Private School.
A Deep Sky event at Leeuwenboschfontein where we had Klaas and Wilma van Ditzhuyzen from the Netherlands as guests.
The Museum Night at the Iziko Museum in the Company Gardens.
The Friends of the Helderberg Nature Reserve in the Helderberg Nature Reserve.
The Eco Rangers in the Helderberg Nature Reserve.
The Old Age Home in Porterville.
A public event at the Golf course in Porterville.
Four talks at the Durbanville Public Library.
Five public events at the Pierhead in the V&A Waterfront.
Eight days for National Science Week at the Iziko Museum in the Company Gardens.
An outreach event at the !Khwa ttu San Cultural and Educational Centre.
An outreach event at Labiance Primary School.
On Monday the 24th of October shortly after 07:00 Lynnette, Snorre and I left Brackenfell. This time we did not have to work right through the night to finish everything as I had the able assistance of my son, John-Henry. It was not only his physical assistance that made a difference, but his far better eye for what fits in where was a great help. We started unloading as soon as we arrived and during the course of Monday afternoon Tersius and his crew from Bonnievale Verhurings (go here to see more about their activities) arrived to put up the tent.
Alan and Rose Cassells arrived on Tuesday and immediately started setting up their camp site. On Wednesday Eddy Nijeboer arrived with Auke hard on his heels and Barry and Miemie Dumas not far behind him.
This time round the mobile reception was worse than it had ever been at Night Sky and Lynnette and I had no signal whatsoever. This meant that we had to drive back to the R317, where we had a good signal, to receive and read mail. Everyone seemed to have the same problem to a greater or lesser degree except Rose and Alan.
During the course of Wednesday Pamela Cooper, Marius Reitz, John Richards, Wendy Vermeulen, Louis Fourie, Pierre de Villiers, Bennie Kotze and Peter Harvey arrived. By then Night Sky was starting to look populated and discussions were taking place all over the place as people wandered around renewing old acquaintances and making new friends.
On Friday everyone else pitched. Just before the SSP our speaker from Bangalore in India, Amar Sharma had let us know that he was not going to make it due to visa problems. These problems revolved around the slap-dash attitude of the South African diplomatic staff in Mumbai. Amar runs an astronomy tourism operation in Bangalore, (see here). Our other disappointment was that a second speaker, Dr. Wanda Diaz Merced the blind astrophysicist from Puerto Rico, had fallen ill and was hospitalized just a day or two prior to the SSP. We had especially brought along our material used in astronomy outreach for the visually impaired, so that Wanda could demonstrate it. We settled for an exhibition of this material in the tent and it drew quite a lot of attention.
The weather on Friday evening cancelled any possible viewing efforts. Barry Dumas kindly presented a very complete and quite technical talk on optical equipment and what to do and not to do when cleaning it. His talk gave lots of information on the construction of various eyepieces and how special protective materials were applied to both protect and also to improve their optical functionality. After the talk we dispersed and in general spent the rest of the evening watching the clouds and socializing.
Chris Forder was kind enough to lend a hand with some of the younger aspirant astronomer’s telescopes during the course of the weekend. The youthful telescope owners and their parents were all left much the wiser after Chris had finished his explanation.
On Saturday morning I kicked off with the beginners. I handed out all the required paperwork and printed information and talked them through the basics of using star charts. After the beginners, we started the main program and kicked off with Prof. Herman Steyn’s talk on satellites and his work with the University of Stellenbosch’s satellite research section. He was intimately involved with the Rosetta mission and shared many of his experiences with us.
Pierre de Villiers presented a very interesting coverage of the Solar System Model designed and constructed by the Hermanus Centre. This project aims to increase the astronomy awareness of the general public and serve as a permanent outreach installation. The model now forms part of the well known scenic cliff pathway in Hermanus. After Pierre’s talk we had the usual lunchtime braai. Lynnette organized the braai drums as well as the laying and lighting of the fires with the very able assistance of Marius Reitz and Barry Dumas as well as other able bodied assistants.
After lunch we handed out the prizes for the Lucky Draws. This year, instead of depending on the traditional drawing of numbers out of a hat, we did something different. The first person to register, the first person to pay, the first couple to register and the first family to register all received prizes. Auke also decided it was Evan’s birthday and that he should also receive a prize. The fact that it was his birthday was as much a surprise for Evan as it was for the rest of us.
Then it was Auke’s turn to talk about the Centre for Astronomical Heritage. He was followed by Martin Lyons who presented a talk on how to look after your telescope optics. Martin could quite easily take his presentation on tour. With the appropriate musical background and some fancy dance steps it would be an instant comedy hit. However, please do not let the fact that it was funny detract from the value of its very sound practical advice on how to care for telescope optics. It was interesting to compare the differences in cleaning regimes between Martin and Barry.
After Martin’s talk we took the group photo. It is a great pity that not everyone pitched up for the group photograph as one likes to have everyone that attended on the photograph. Thanks to Auke’s efforts we also have a You Tube video of the behind the scenes efforts to get everyone setup for the photo. Go here to view the video.
FRONT – SEATED: Auke Slotegraaf, Lynne Court, Kiona van der Merwe, Juanita van Rensburg, Chris Vermeulen, Paul Kruger, Edward & Snorre Foster, Lynnette Foster, Rose Cassells, Alan Cassells, Caycee Cupido, Abigail Cupido, Caitlin Cupido. MIDDLE – STANDING: Deon Begeman, Ronelle Begeman, Pierre de Villiers, Bennie Kotze, Lea Labuschagne, Chris Forder, Lena Smith, Miemie Dumas, Johan Brink, Laura Norris, Pamela Cooper, Wendy Vermeulen, Rachel Norton, Peter Norton. BACK – STANDING: Peter Harvey, Jannie Nijeboer, Eddy Nijeboer, Robert Ketteringham, Ruth Kuys, Arné Esterhuizen, Evan Knox-Davies, Leslie Rose, John Richards, James Smith, Annatjie Kunz, Marius Reitz, Barry Dumas, Corné van Dyk, Louis Fourie, Gavin Cupido, Rogan Roth, Chris de Coning. INSET: Roelof van der Merwe.
ABSENT: André de Villiers, Martin Lyons, Rene Auras, Tyron Auras, Nicholas Kröner, Thomas Kröner, Nellie Brink, Dominique Brink.
The group photo was followed by the infamous Pub Quiz. Lynnette and I divided the attendees into six teams. This is quite a tricky operation. For starters, we know from past experience that separating parents from children or splitting couples are both big no-no’s. Then there is the really difficult task of trying to balance astronomy knowledge in the teams as well. Although the teams might have looked unbalanced numerically they were quite even as far as the knowledge levels were concerned. This is borne out by the fact that the final scores were quite close; team one (16), team two (20), team three (28), team four (22), team five (26) and team six (17). Each team had to choose a leader and Evan, in team two, was by far the most efficient team leader of the evening. After six rounds team three, consisting of Lynne, Juanita, Kiona, James, Lena, Leslie, Martin and Laura, was a clear winner. They had, in fact, maintained their lead since the end of round four.
After the team section we asked each team to nominate one representative to take part in the individual section. A further four rounds of questions followed and then we had a clear and very worthy individual winner in the person of Chris Forder. Congratulations Chris.
Strange how some people, even in a fun exercise like this, cannot resist resorting to looking up answers electronically or in a book. Some even erased answers and corrected them after the correct answer had been given thereby gaining an unfair advantage.
After the Pub Quiz there were still clouds around, but we decided to give it a go and Auke got the Constellation Exploration group (ConEx) together while I set up a telescope for the beginners. As luck would have it, just as we started, the clouds covered Venus, Saturn and eventually Mars too. We managed to discuss a few constellations and some objects of interests, but eventually people drifted off, as the clouds alternately advanced and retreated. For the most tenacious beginners there was eventually a fairly clear view of the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) before we all went to bed.
Nobody had done the observing challenge, so there were no certificates to hand out on Sunday morning. Lynnette and I were up at 08:00 to say goodbye to the early leavers and share a cup of coffee with them. By Sunday evening Lynnette and I, Auke, Barry and Miemie, John, Alan and Rose and Snorre were all that was left of the crowd and, as usual, we had a nice braai before setting op the telescopes to do some observing. Yes, you guessed correctly the weather cleared as soon as the SSP was over! On Monday afternoon, only Lynnette, Snorre, myself, Alan and Rose were left. On Tuesday morning we departed leaving the entire camp to Alan and Rose. Tersius and his team took down the tent on Tuesday afternoon and loaded up the tables and chairs, bringing down the final curtain on the 2016 Spring Southern Star Party.
A special word of thanks to our generous sponsors, because, without their help and support there is no way we could present a Southern Star Party.
Night Sky Caravan Farm
Promotional Printing and Signage
Chris de Coning
As is usual, the most important topic during the run-up to the Spring Southern Star Party was the weather. The clouds played silly buggers with us in the run-up to the SSP. First they shifted away from the weekend and then they shifted back again and then partially moved away again, but eventually it looked as if we would probably have one good night on the Friday and at least half a good night on the Saturday. (View more information about the Southern Star Party here) The Southern Star Party is held at Night Sky Caravan Farm (go here to see their Facebook page) (or go here to see their add on Budget Getaways).
Lynnette, Snorre and I left on Tuesday after Lynnette had her hair colour changed to a bright red, which suits her temperament perfectly. First stop was Pitkos Padstal and Francina for a quick chat, wine purchases, olive tasting and some catching up on the local “skindernuus” or local gossip. Then on to Night Sky where either Anneliese or Tertius form Bonnievale Verhurings (go here to visit a webpage with more details about them) were due to come and pitch the big tent at around 14:00. I started unloading as soon as we arrived and Lynnette organized the mountain of stuff as I unloaded, but Bonnievale Verhurings had developed a problem and could only pitch the tent later in the afternoon. Anyway, by Wednesday evening, Alan and Rose had arrived, the banners were in place and the telescope area had been cordoned off.
On Thursday Deon and Ronelle Beugemann arrived and sometime later in the evening Sebastian Guile and Aurelie Lemiere also pitched up. Jopie and Pieternel Coetzee sent a message cancelling their participation because they thought the weather forecast was unfavourable, which proved to be a big mistake for them. Early on Friday morning Alan and I put up the projection screen and completed the final touches to the tent, ready for the rest of the crowd to arrive so we could start the programme. Roelina Losper was also a late cancellation due to illness in her family, but we hope to see her next time.
Spring Southern Star Party Programme – 06 to 08 November 2015
Friday 18:00 Tea & coffee in the Social Tent
19:30 Beginner’s Programme starts, Fight Light Pollution! Starts, Constellation Explorers set up
20:00 All lights out!
20:00 Deep-Sky Challenge starts
20:15 Constellation Exploration starts
Saturday 08:30 Beginner’s Programme, continued
10:30 Tea & coffee in the Social Tent
11:00 Africa in Space – Kechil Kirkham
11:45 Building (a pinch of) SALT – Alan Cassells
12:30 Detecting the Sun in Microwaves [demo] – Evan Knox-Davies
14:30 Modelling MeerKAT – Bani van der Merwe
15:00 A New Glimpse of the Old Cape Observatory – Auke Slotegraaf
15:45 Feedback: Constellation Exploration & Deep-Sky Challenge
16:00 World Famous SSP Pub Quiz
18:00 Group photo
19:30 Beginner’s Programme, continued
20:00 All lights out! Deep-Sky Challenge, continued, Constellation Exploration (repeat)
Sunday 09:00 Tea & coffee in the Social Tent
10:00 Presentation of certificates
Farewell until next time! (2016 Autumn SSP, February 05 – 07)
Tea and coffee available 24/7. Bring your own midnight snacks!
By 18:45 almost all of the 33 prospective SSP attendees were accounted for and we had on site the following:
Deon & Ronelle Beugemann, Alan & Rose Cassells, Martin Coetzee, Evan Knox-Davies, Barry & Miemie Dumas (both new), Iain Finlay, Louis Fourie (new) Sebastian Guile & Aurelie Lemiere, Kechil Kirkham, Annatjie Kunz (new), Eddy & Jannie Nijeboer, Marius & Kim Reitz (new), John Richards, James Smith, Alida Taljard (new), Chris Vermeulen, Gerhard Vermeulen, Wendy Vermeulen (none of the Vermeulen triplets are related) and Willem van Zyl, plus Auke, Lynnette, Snorre and myself.
Dwayne Engelbrecht & Clair Ingram (new) as well as Leslie Rose were still on the road while Bani van der Merwe (new) would only arrive on Saturday.
The evening was clear, except for a few small clouds very low down to the southeast so, after welcoming everyone, we got started. The serious observers and astrophotographers did their own thing, as usual, and the constellation hunters gathered round Auke while the total newcomers and I sat down next to Lorenzo, the 10” Dobby.
My system for the beginners (Alida Taljaard and Annatjie Kunz) was to show them how to use the Discover! Charts (go here to download them for free) and ConCards (they are available for free here). Once they understand how to use them, they will be able to find their way around the sky in the future. I emphasized that Rome was not built in one day and neither does one become a clued up amateur astronomer in the course of one evening or one weekend. I used Lorenzo to show them interesting objects and pointed out the various symbols representing these objects on the charts. I explained the movements of the stars in the sky and pointed out the South Celestial Pole. Unfortunately Crux was just below the horizon so I had to employ an alternative to finding south for the group. We systematically worked our way from Pavo, and Triangulum Australe, Ara, Sagittarius and Scutum round to Pegasus and later included Taurus. By 23:30 the dew had become a problem for Lorenzo, so we decided to pack up and go to bed.
During the discussions I emphasized that astronomy was a hobby that they should practice solely for their own enjoyment. Each person should determine their own rate of progress and also the level of expertise they personally wished to attain. There was absolutely no external pressure to perform to any predefined level or meet any externally imposed criteria.
The inevitable question about which telescope they should buy came up and my answer was none, at least not until they had achieved some proficiency with the naked eye and binoculars. When they did eventually buy a telescope, they should only do so after consultation with some knowledgeable people and not just buy one off the shelf from the local outdoor goods store.
At 11:00 Kechil presented her informative talk on Africa in Space dressed in her space suite for dramatic effect. Kechil gave an interesting overview which highlighted the role of South Africa and, in particular, the South African Space Agency.
At 11:45 Alan demonstrated his magnificent model of SALT in a talk titled Building (a pinch of) SALT, giving details of the problems he had experienced during the building process and highlighting the importance of his visit to SALT in perfecting the model.
Just before the lunch time braai, at 12:30, Evan explained his ingenious radio telescope, which he had built using a discarded television dish aerial, in his talk Detecting the Sun in Microwaves and demonstrated it afterwards.
I had laid and made the fires, with the able assistance of Marius and supervision by Kim and Miemie, so by 13:00 the coals were just right and everyone could get going and prepare lunch. The braai was, as always, a very relaxed opportunity to socialize and everyone made good use of it. Bani arrived during lunch so we were all set for the afternoon’s entertainment.
At 14:30 Bani entertained us with the trials and tribulations of building models of the radio telescope dishes in his talk Modelling MeerKAT. Over and above the technical differences he has also had to cope with a burglary which relocated his tools and a subsequent holdup at gunpoint.
Auke’s talk at 15:00, A New Glimpse of the Old Cape Observatory, took us back to the roots of scientific astronomy in Southern Africa and in fact in Africa. The talk left one very concerned about the preservation of this heritage.
We were running a bit late, so we skipped the feedback session and went straight on the World Famous SSP Pub Quiz. Lynnette and I had selected the teams and we hoped we had come up with reasonably balanced ones. The final teams were:
Team A – Barry & Miemie, Evan, Marius & Kim and Leslie. Team B – Deon & Ronelle, Aurelie and Sebastian, Kechil, Eddy & Jannie Team C – Paul, John, James, Alida, Chris and Wendy Team D – Alan & Rose, Martin, Iain, Willem, Annatjie, Louis and Bani
The teams ended up numerically unequal because of late withdrawals mostly by novices, but we decided not to move people around because it would have meant splitting up couples, which is a very unpopular move. The first round was a team event in which we would have five rounds of five questions each. Each member of a team that dropped out received a chocolate as a consolation prize. The winning team was Team D and they each received a 250 ml bottle of Nuy Red Muscadel and a chocolate.
After the group rounds, each team selected two members to represent them in the individual competition. The final group consisted of Alan, Evan, Bani, Chris, Deon, James, Leslie and Sebastian. The individual rounds took longer than expected because we had to have repeat rounds when two people tied on the lowest score to determine who had to fall out. These delays meant we had to interrupt the competition so that we could take the group photo while the light was good. After this unscheduled break we resumed and eventually James Smith was the winner with Leslie Rose in second place and Evan Knox-Davies, winner on two previous occasions, in third place. James received the coveted SSP floating Rosette, donated by SCOPEX, as well as a bottle of red wine and a bottle of Nuy Red Muscadel.
After the Pub Quiz we had delicious cup cakes which Gesina had baked for our “10th birthday” and, as is often the case with things like this, everybody was going to photograph them but eventually nobody did! They were, however, delicious.
We made several mistakes with this Pub Quiz and if we present it in this format again, these will be rectified. The first mistake was to have eliminated teams in the group stage. We should have allowed all the teams to stay in the competition for all five or six rounds and then determined a winner based on the highest total score. The second mistake was again the elimination process in the individual section. Next time we will do six rounds and determine the winner based on the combined highest score. If there are two people with the same score, an elimination round or rounds will decide the winner.
Dwayne and his crew had made a mutton “potjie” which they were kind enough to share with Auke, Lynnette and I before the evening’s proceedings started. After supper we started the evening’s proceedings under clear skies, except for a few wisps of cloud to the north and northwest. I put the beginner through their paces with the star charts and the constellations as well as individual stars and deep sky objects to see if they had grasped the basics from the previous night and the morning session. In the process we covered the sky from Pavo all the way to Taurus again. After that we moved on to Orion, Canis Major, Lepus, Monceros, Puppis and Carina. I think the beginners have a reasonable grasp of how to use the star charts to find constellations and orientate themselves for finding specific objects; provided they do not wait too long and forget everything. I am confident that they have the basics to get their astronomy going if they practice. By midnight we had patchy high clouds moving in from the northwest and the dew was quite heavy so we decided to call it a night. Lynnette and I went to bed, but there were discussions elsewhere that went on until much, much later.
Most people left early on Sunday, because nobody had participated in the Deep Sky Challenge, so there were no certificates to be handed out. On Sunday evening it was fairly cloudy, so everyone that was left (Auke, Lynnette and I, Alan & Rose, Barry & Miemie, Chris, Iain & Willem, John and Louis) got together for a braai.
Monday was departure time for Auke, Barry & Miemie, Chris, John and Louis. Monday night was partially cloudy all night so no astronomy for us. On Tuesday Tertius and his crew came to take the tent down and on Tuesday night it was partially cloudy so again no astronomy. On Wednesday Alan & Rose, Lynnette, Snorre and I packed up and headed for home leaving Iain & Willem to enjoy the peace and quiet at Night Sky. On the way home we stopped off at Pitkos to buy wine, green fig and other fruit preserves, and some baby beetroot for Lynnette to pickle.
That wraps up the Spring Southern Star party and now we start organizing the summer event from the 5th to the 7th of February, 2016.
Some comments we received from people who attended the event.
“We are back from a fantastic weekend of stargazing at Nightsky Caravan park where the Spring Southern Star party was held. Thank you to Edward, Lynette and Auke for all the hard work to make this a wonderful learning experience! We re-kindled friendships, made lots of new ones and are already looking forward to February 2016! A big thank you to all the guest speakers for once again broadening our general knowledge. We managed to spot the following constellations and deep sky objects: • Orion Constellation and Nebula • Triangulum Constellation and galaxy • Aries Constellation • Andromeda galaxy • Pegasus Constellation • Sagittarius • Corona Australis • Tucana Constellation and TUC 47 globular cluster • Musca Constellation • The Chamaeleon • Messier M7 NGC 6475 • Messier M6 NGC 6405 Butterfly cluster • Scorpius Constellation • Triangulum Australe • Pleiades in Taurus • Large Magellanic cloud • Small Magellanic cloud • Tarantula Nebula • Messier 55 NGC 6809 in Sagittarius • Messier 77 NGC 1608 in Cetus • Eridanus constellation • Teapot asterism in Sagittarius • Circinus Constellation • Planetary alignment of Jupiter, Mars, Venus and the Moon. • Satellite iridium flare”
“Sjoe die tyd vlieg verby. Dis amper al weer ‘n week gelede wat ons mekaar ontmoet het. Ek wil net weereens baie, baie dankie sê vir die geleentheid wat ek
gehad het om die naweek se SSP by te woon. Ek het geweldig baie geleer. Vir my was dit ‘n belewenis en ek sal baie graag nog meer wil leer. Dankie vir ‘n stunning event en al jul moeite en reëlings was baie goed.” (Heavens but time flies. It is almost a week since we met each other. I would like to, once more, say thenk you very, very much for the opportunity that I had over the weekend to attend the SSP. I learnt an enormous amount. I found it an exceptional experience and would very much like to learn more. Thank you for the stunning event and all your efforts; the organization was very good.)
“Ons moet eintlik vir julle dankie sê. Alles het vlot verloop danksy julle tyd en opoffering.” (We should actually thank you. Everything went very smoothly thanks to to the time and effort you put in.)
At each Southern Star Party (SSP) we need notebooks, paper, pencils, clips and a host of other stationery items. Over the past three years, Waltons in Stellenbosch has been a major supporter of the SSP because they have supplied us with these items at a very respectable discount. The November 2015 SSP has been no exception with Nicardo Basson and his team of very capable assistants at the Stellenbosch branch of Waltons once again supporting us. This SSP, the tenth one since March 2011, will once again be a resounding success thanks to their generous support.
Soos gewoonlik, was die admin van die SSP sonder veel moeite gedoen. Baie dankie aan Ed en Auke vir hul hulp en bystand. Sonder hulle sou dit ook nie vir my moontlik gewees het nie. Dit is mos so dat as mens iets geniet, dan is dit maklik! Soos wat die tyd aanstap en ons nou al by die 9de SSP verby is, probeer ons elke jaar om “iets anders” te doen. Dit word nou egter al hoe moeiliker om elke keer “iets anders” te doen, want mens wil ook nie te veel van die gewone patroon afwyk nie. Maar ons gaan ons bes doen om die 10de SSP ‘n ware fees te maak!
It was totally awesome in all astronomical proportions and yes you can pre-book me for November 2015 as I will be there.
Thanks so much for that wonderful weekend. It was our first Star Party, but definitely not the last one. Unfortunately we are not able to come in spring but we are coming to the next summer party.
Thank you for organising such a lovely experience with all you bright stars last weekend.
Thank you very much – was an awesome weekend. See you again. Ons wil net BAIE dankie sê vir n ongelooflike naweek. Die organisasie was puik en ons het oneindig baie geleer. Hou ons asb op julle databasis vir alle toekomstige uitstappies.
What a great weekend! Far away from civilisation, under the stars with some of the most intelligent people in SA! Update on SKA, learning of the sun, history of the Cederberg Observatory and Astrophotography! Thank you Auke for the deep sky talks and the Big 5 of the African Sky. Thank you Lynnette and Edward Foster for arranging the weekend!
A big thanks from me for the weekend – I found it extremely well organised and very informative. I spent Saturday night / Sunday morning until 2am with Auke and a few other beginners having a never ending list of “let’s just look at one more thing”, all of it amazing and incredible!
All in all brilliant!
Well done on arranging another successful SSP!
SSP Pub Quiz is fun – could include a varied range of questions from different categories. Auke is a wealth of knowledge – thanks for a great ConEx!
Ek is ‘n totale leek wanneer dit by sterrekunde kom, maar ek het dit so geniet en het inderwaarheid reeds ‘n early bird bespreking vir Novemer 2015 gemaak!
Net weer ‘n dankie van ons gesin af vir julle 3 (beslis ‘n wenspan!). Ons het die afgelope naweek ongelooflik baie geleer & geniet. Glo ons sal in die toekoms weer saam kamp. Dankie vir jul puik organisasie en passie waarmee jul die kamp aangebied het.
We would like to thank you once more for your great generosity in inviting us to this informative SSP Meeting. We admire your talent and idealistic engagement in organizing and hosting such an event.
Some people took a bit longer to say what they felt
Chris Forder writes:
“I have just returned from a wonderful week-end in the company of top stars, making new friends and renewing old acquaintances. No. I’m not talking about the Oscars, I’m talking about the 2015 Southern Star Party. What a wonderful collection of people, lectures, stories and telescopes.
“The organisation was great, thanks to Ed, Lynette and Auke. You guys did a great job and even though the weather on Friday night was overcast, there were a few of us who stayed up watching the growing number of gaps in the clouds and counting the ever increasing number of stars until, at just after midnight, we could start looking through telescopes.
“Saturday was a day of lectures and there was a wide variety of subjects covered. The evening cleared up and from 20:00 we had beautiful, dark starry skies. It was a lovely evening of viewing, talking and listening to Auke’s commentary of what was above us. It was also good to see an area specifically set up for astrophotography where a few astrophotographers stayed up till dawn on Sunday imaging.
“It was a really worthwhile week-end in a first class location, enjoyed by a collection of enthusiasts of all ages. I can’t wait for the next one (as long as it does not clash with my Cederberg duties)!”
Volker and Aka Kühn (all the way from Germany) write:
“We would like to thank you once more for your great generosity in inviting us to this informative SSP Meeting. We admire your talent and idealistic engagement in organizing and hosting such an event. It was absolute perfection, except for the chilly weather, which none of us could influence.
“As you know, the success of a meeting or a conference also depends on the participants and the material they present. It was a good mixture of papers, covering the interests of beginners and the more advanced among the group. This meeting inspires me to go through my pile of National Geographicmagazines back home, to review all these interesting articles about astronomy and the universe, they published in the past.
“Unfortunately, we cannot contribute much about the Northern Sky. The light pollution in our densely populated country, besides the miserable weather most of the time, limited our interests in sky watching there. However, we’ll contact our excellent WDR-TV science journalist and moderator Rangar Yogeshwar to get in touch with you. He has his own observatory near Cologn and he is travelling the world, also quite often to Southern Africa.
“The Southern Sky in contrary has always fascinated me more while travelling through the outback of Australia in 1961. I looked all night at the brilliant sky, watching orbiting Sputniks. We were in our sleeping bags under the sky without a tent and dead tired the next day.
“At this point we would like to thank all the speakers for their passionate work. We enjoyed in particular Auke’s sense of humour and admire his passion for astronomy. We were also fascinated by reading his book about the “Pearls of the Southern Sky”. Since you Lynnette, are the administrator of the SSP, the smooth run of the event was also your merit. You Ed, with all your great knowledge and life experience, you are an excellent entertainer. We learned so much from you. I am sure, all your knowledge would fill a book.
“We are looking forward to see you under the Southern Sky next year again. By then we’ll have warmer clothes and binoculars with us.”
Chris Vermeulen writes:
“If some one were to ask me about the highlights of my summer this year, my response would without a doubt be Summer SSP 2015. Now I know some people would not get it and would stand confused as to what summer SSP 2015. I would then tell them this: ‘My dear friends SSP is the life-blood that brings friends and families together. They gather in the quiet of nature and share their passion for Astronomy.’
“From the moment I arrived on Friday 20 February I was met with such warmth and enthusiasm and was immediately made to feel right at home. Not only did I meet up again with old friends (Auke who invited me – THANKS A 1’000’000), but I also got to meet wonderful people whom I have been chatting with on facebook and via email (that would be Ed and Lynnette Foster) and also Chris Forder). Over and above that I got to meet some other wonderful folks who all shared the same passion.
“Despite the clouds on Friday and a veld-fire polluting the sky with amber smoke, a couple of us were not deterred by it and even long after others have gone to bed we stood outside doing a bit of “star-spotting” through the clouds and eventually it cleared!!!! How glorious was that and before you could say “Ghost of Jupiter” telescopes were out and we explored the night sky.
“Saturday was equally exciting with many interesting talks and presentations – my personal favourite was Chris Forder on the history and existence of Cederberg Observatory – Oh my such passion!!! The evening was somewhat cloudy but yet again the winds of change cleared the skies and the skies were our canvas. From constellation exploration to astrophotography to general observations and just enjoying the beauty of our universe, it was awesome in just about every conceivable proportion.
“Although I seemed to have missed the llama rides and pole dancing (hahahaha). Come Sunday it was time to part ways and with a wealth of new friendships and a new ‘family’. Never shall I forget this special summer because that’s what Star People do – Sharing the Universe!!!
“To our Star People, Auke, Ed and Lynnette, hats off to the three of you for the fervour and dedication for putting together and arranging such an amazing event. You guys are super and thank you for a memorable time. I would most certainly not miss the next one.”
It will rain, no it won’t, it will be overcast, no it won’t, the long term weather forecast is always wrong, no it isn’t, yr.no is always right, no they aren’t etc.
When I was much, much younger the girls used to take a flower, usually, a daisy if I remember correctly and then pluck the petals off reciting “he loves me, he loves me not, he loves me” etc. Depending on what the last petal “said”, one was then either elated or despondent. That is pretty much the way Auke, Lynnette and I spent the week leading up to the Summer Southern Star Party (SSP) held in February at the Night Sky Caravan Farm on the Farm Oudekraal between Bonnievale and McGregor. This was to be the ninth SSP and we had a larger than usual contingent of attendees, who included a fair number of newcomers, so it was quite important that the event should not be clouded over or, worse still, rained out.
Lynnette, as usual, handled all the bookings, answered all the queries and made sure all the financial I’s were dotted and T’s crossed. Auke looked after the website, organized speakers and performed his usual magic with designing any forms we needed. I just hung around in the background, ran errands and eventually did the loading and unloading. As the SSP approached the excitement levels rose because the bookings just kept coming and we eventually ended up with a record 61 final registrations. This figure could have been much higher, had 28 people not canceled toward the end. We watched the weather reports anxiously as they changed from sunny, to rainy, to cloudy and then back to rainy and finally settled on partially cloudy before we left for Night Sky. Apart from the weather, we thought that we might also have to contend with load shedding, but Gesina solved that problem for us by offering the use of a generator should the power go out on Saturday, during the talks. Eventually, all the preparation was done and it was time to pack up and go. As usual, all my good intentions of starting to pack in time to avoid the last minute rush and packing marathon that lasts into the wee small hours of the morning did not materialize. I also had one catastrophe when Lorenzo’s rocker box fell of the trailer while I was loading and smashed. That still has to be repaired too.
On the way to Night Sky we stopped off at Pitkos Farm Stall to purchase wine and fresh, ripe figs and have coffee, accompanied by Frances’s delicious roosterkoek with biltong and melted cheese. Once at Night Sky we unloaded the essentials and after lunch took a well-earned nap. Monday evening was a perfect evening for observing and taking photographs so we only got to bed around 03:00. On Tuesday we relaxed, recuperating from the hectic run-up to the SSP. Tuesday night was again a fine night although the seeing was not quite as good as on Monday.
On Wednesday Anneliese and Tersius of Bonnievale Verhurings arrived with an assistant to pitch the marquee tent and shortly afterward Alan and Rose arrived followed later by Iain and Willem. After Alan and Rose had pitched camp they got stuck in lending a hand to get the tent organized. Wednesday evening was not a good observing night at all. On Thursday we finished off the tent with the help of Alan and Rose. Marie Eygelaar arrived in the course of the morning and Auke arrived late that afternoon. Thursday evening things started out looking good from an observing point of view, but later deteriorated and we had to pack it in. Lynnette started to worry about Wendy, who was supposed to have arrived earlier in the evening, so she attempted to phone her around midnight. By sheer luck, the call actually went through and we discovered that Wendy was in Bonnievale, hopelessly lost, having spent a fair portion of the night driving around in circles in the dark. Lynnette told her to stay put and we went off to fetch her and guide her back to Night Sky. Mission accomplished and we all went to bed.
On Friday the Sale Table was set up and the urn on the Coffee Table was hot and ready for the guests. We also put up the very large and impressive clock the SSP had purchased to make sure everyone knew what time it was and to keep time during the Pub Quiz. By late on Friday afternoon most people had arrived but so had the clouds; lots of them. To compensate for the fact that no observing based activities could take place, we moved the Pub Quiz from Saturday to Friday, hoping the weather would be kinder to us on Saturday. We had two special guests at the SSP this time, Volker and Edeltraut Kühn all the way from Pforzheim in Germany. These two have been coming to Night Sky for two months every summer since 1989, but this is the first time the SSP has coincided with their stay.
One of our newcomers, Gert, Isabella and Catherina Vice come from Bredasdorp and on weekends they travel to wherever there is a show or event going and set up their stall, called “Tvice as Nice”, selling pancakes and a variety of other delicacies. They were not at the SSP in their “official” capacity but they had come prepared to produce pancakes and compliment the Sale Table with a variety of homemade fudges. The pancakes were very well received on Friday evening and one eager individual started out with and order for five. Brilliant idea Isabella and next time I think you should provide pancakes 24/7. Do you guys do hamburgers too?
Most of us went to bed early on Friday, convinced that the clouds were on an all-night mission. Auke, Chris Forder, Chris Vermeulen and a few other hardy souls decided to drink coffee, talk, watch the clouds, drink more coffee etc. Their patience, or was it perseverance, paid off because, just after midnight, the clouds cleared leaving them with all the stars they could have wished for, until dawn and the returning clouds sent them off to bed.
Saturday was cloudy and cooler than earlier in the week, which suited us as it made sitting in the tent listening to the talks a lot more bearable. The morning activities started at 08:30 with my presentation for the beginners. After coffee at 10:00 and some socializing, the talks kicked off at 11:00 with our main speaker Chris Forder, who presented a very interesting and entertaining history of the Cederberg Observatory. He was followed by Ray Brederode with an enlightening update on the MeerKat and SKA projects. Then it was time for the lunchtime braai and, much to our relief, Leslie and his family arrived so we did not have to implement “Plan B” to replace his talk. What was “Plan B”, by the way? Unfortunately, James Smith and Marius Reitz had to leave before the afternoon part of the programme commenced but they promised to plan their affairs better in November.
After lunch, Chris Vermeulen gave an entertaining presentation titled “Fun with the Sun & Sun viewing”. The overcast conditions, unfortunately, bamboozle his planned solar observing session. Chris was followed by Leslie Rose with “Getting started with Astrophotography” and Auke rounded off the program with his presentation on “Big 5 of the African Sky”.
It was still cloudy so everyone was given some chill time before reporting back for the group photograph and then we had supper. The cloud cover was definitely thinning so we gathered in the telescope area, glaring at the clouds, which seemed to hasten their exodus. By about 20:30 most of the clouds were gone and Auke and I could continue with the beginners observing sessions while everyone else got down to the serious business of personal observing or astrophotography. Brett du Preez, one of our SSP regulars, has moved to Pretoria where he is studying to become a veterinarian. His place in the astrophotography arena alongside Leslie was taken by Zander Horn with David and Robert Fourie.
On Sunday it was goodbye time with lots of promises not to miss the 10th SSP in November 2015. Sunday was also Iain Finlay’s birthday and on Sunday afternoon he produced a cake (baked by Gesina) for tea. By late Sunday afternoon, it was just Lynnette and I, Auke, Alan and Rose, Wendy, Willem and Iain and Chris Vermeulen left. Chris was actually supposed to have left much earlier, as he had an appointment in Port Elizabeth the next day. He, however, enjoyed the company so much that he eventually only left at around 20:00. Snorre certainly enjoyed the SSP because there were lots of people to make a fuss of him, children to play with and lots of open space to wander around in. He was, in fact, noticeably subdued after everyone had left.
Sunday evening started out promisingly as far as observing was concerned and then around midnight, it clouded over very rapidly, sending us all to bed. Auke, Iain and Willem, as well as Alan and Rose, packed up on Monday leaving Lynnette and I with Snorre and our two German friends, Volker and Edeltraut, at Night Sky. On Monday afternoon Anneliese, Tersius and their assistant took down the marquee. Oddly enough Lynnette and I have come to see the departure of the marquee as a sort of official end to the SSP. Lynnette and I stayed on until Wednesday hoping the weather would give us a chance to do some observing on either the Monday or Tuesday evening but there was to be no such luck.
On Wednesday we stopped off at the Pitkos Farm Stall for fresh figs, more wine and Frances’s coffee and roosterkoek. Then it was home to Brackenfell and the onerous task of unloading, unpacking and putting everything away. Maybe we should just move to Night Sky to make the whole process less of a schlep.
Thanks to Auke for his help in the planning and execution of the SSP programme and designing of forms, as well as his role as master of ceremonies and, last but not least, for preparing and presenting the Pub Quiz. A big thank you to Lynnette for handling all the administration which made the whole show run so smoothly. Thanks, Alan and Rose, for helping to put everything up in the marquee and then take it apart again and pack it away again. Thanks also Alan for the two very professional extension leads you put together for use in the astrophotography area. Thank you also , arie for all the help you gave Lynnette.
To everyone who attended the 9th SSP heartfelt thank you. Whether you were a speaker, an ardent amateur astronomer, a keen astrophotographer, a newcomer eager to learn more about astronomy or perhaps just a supporter of a participant, your presence made the SSP a success. All the organizing in the world is worthless if nobody attends so you, the attendee, makes or breaks the SSP and we hope to see each one of you at Night Sky Caravan Farm in November for the 10th SSP. Remember to bring friends as well!
Astrophotographs taken at the Spring Southern Star Party
Four photographs taken at the SSP held on the Night Sky Caravan Farm near Bonnievale. All photographs were taken with a Nikon D5100 camera using a Nikon AF-S-NIKKOR 50mm F1.8G lens. Other details are given with each photograph.
We have just presented the eighth and, in my opinion, a very successful SSP at Night Sky Caravan Farm and I thought it would be the opportune moment to say something about the various people and organizations who have helped and assisted the SSP since its inception in March 2011.
The comprehensive list gives one an idea of the support we have enjoyed and recognizes their contribution to the success of the Southern Star party. Special mention has, however, to be made of two sponsors.
Alan and Rose Cassells have donated lights in April 2014 and the pegs for the Spring SSP in November 2015. More importantly they also “donate” a lot of their time to helping us unpack and pack up at every SSP and that is absolutely invaluable. Thank you guys!
Waltons in Stellenbosch have, for the last two years, been our biggest sponsor. Without their special discount on our stationery purchases, we could not have such a variety of stuff to put into our goody bags, which by the way, are also included in the sponsorship. A very big thank you Waltons and in recognition we place some photos of your very helpful staff at the Stellenbosch branch!