Visit to !Khwa ttu, the San Cultural and Education Centre

Thursday & Friday the 27th & 28th of August 2015

Snorre’s trip started with a bang.  As I was carrying him out to the Vito in his carry cage the handle broke. Snorre and the cage hit the brick paving with an almighty thump, which unclipped the top half of the cage from the bottom half. In the process the door fell off and Snorre bolted. I eventually found him under the trailer and he was definitely not a happy cat. It took a lot of coaxing to get him out of there and a plenty of convincing to get him back into the cage as well. Why did the handle break?  Obviously it must have been shoddy workmanship because it could definitely not have been overloading!

We've hit the road. Top left: Onto the N1 Top right: N7 coming up Middle left: N7 moving into open country Middle right: About to leave the N7 Bottom left: On the way to the R27 Bottom right: Did the kids buy the car or are they just tagging him?
We’ve hit the road.
Top left: Onto the N1
Top right: N7 coming up
Middle left: N7 moving into open country
Middle right: About to leave the N7
Bottom left: On the way to the R27
Bottom right: Did the kids buy the car or are they just tagging him?
On the R27 and heading West Top left: This road is a temptation for people with fast cars Top right: We aren't going that far today Bottom left: Good wine to the right but we'll give it a pass today Bottom right: Not far to go now
On the R27 and heading West
Top left: This road is a temptation for people with fast cars
Top right: We aren’t going that far today
Bottom left: Good wine to the right but we’ll give it a pass today
Bottom right: Not far to go now

This visit had been in the pipeline for a very long time. Michael Daiber, the CEO at !Khwa ttu and I met at a West Coast Tourism event in 2013.  I steered the conversation in the direction of astronomy, as I always tend to do, and from there it didn’t take long for us to agree that we ought to arrange an opportunity for Star People to meet and interact with the trainee guides. However, as often happens with best intentions, all sorts of occurrences prevented the visit from taking place.  I had a serious back operation and then Michael had to have even more drastic surgery but, eventually, life got back on even keel for both of us, so we started arranging again.  Actually that is not quite correct, because somewhere along the line Ri Vermooten, the Programme Manager and Facilitator at !Khwa ttu, got involved and she set the ball rolling again. Go here to brush up your background on !Khwa ttu

Here are two more links with more information on the activities at !Khwa ttu.  The first one is about training and the second one gives more details about the activities and persons at !Khwa ttu.

!Khwa ttu is situated on the R27, about 70 km north of Cape Town. This farm is called Grootwater in Afrikaans and the name San !Khwa ttu also means an open expanse of water, like a pan. When Lynnette, Snorre and I left on Thursday morning the weather did not look promising for the stargazing we had planned to present in the evening. I also had to give a talk after lunch in which I intended to stress the necessity of integrating traditional astronomy’s mythology with the western (Greco/Roman) mythology and factual scientific astronomy, when interacting with visitors; especially overseas visitors. We hoped that the clouds might give us a few breaks to do some star gazing and constellation hopping that evening but the chances seemed slim.

We were met, welcomed and shown to our very cosy accommodation in the guest house by Magdalena Lucas. Magdalena is a ᵵKhomani from the small southern Kgalagadi settlement of Rietfontein.  She came to !Khwa ttu to attend the guiding course, completed it successfully and stayed on to become one of their two trainee curators. Her fellow trainee curator at !Khwa ttu is Jobe Gabototwe, a Xhaikwe from Kedia near Mopipi in Botswana.

Top left: The entrance to !Khwa ttu and the buildings up on the hill Top right: The training centre with our poster display on the stoep Bottom left: Introductions being made Bottom right: Star Wheel instruction
Top left: The entrance to !Khwa ttu and the buildings up on the hill
Top right: The training centre with our poster display on the stoep
Bottom left: Introductions being made
Bottom right: Star Wheel instruction
The group from left to right Joubert Kamamba (!Kung), Edward Foster, Martin Joseph (!Kung), Nathan Friedburg (‡Khomani), Omphile Motshabi (Naro), Anton Kana (!Xun), Magdalena Lucas (Admin), Ri Vermooten (Training Manager), Richard van der Byl (‡Khomani), Jostina Amutenya (!Kung), André Antonio (!Xun), André Vaalbooi (‡Khomani)
The group, from left to right are Joubert Kamamba (Khwe), Edward Foster, Martin Joseph (!Kung), Nathan Friedburg (‡Khomani), Omphile Motshabi (Naro), Anton Kana (!Xun), Magdalena Lucas (Admin), Ri Vermooten (Training Manager), Richard van der Byl (‡Khomani), Jostina Amutenya (!Kung), André Antonio (!Xun), André Vaalbooi (‡Khomani)

After lunch I set up a selection of our A-frame poster displays on the stoep of the training building. We were then introduced to the trainees and they introduced themselves to us after which we spent the rest of the afternoon interacting with them. We also introduced Snorre to the group, much to their amusement. We discussed the value of indigenous knowledge and specifically indigenous astronomy knowledge. I drove the point home that this knowledge had great value as a cultural possession and that it should never be seen as inferior to modern scientific astronomy interpretations. The ancient astronomy knowledge worldwide is the basis on which later knowledge was able to develop. It is imperative that they remember that overseas guests come to Southern Africa for an African Experience. Their unique cultural astronomy narratives are an intrinsic part of such an experience.

During the coffee break we were able to generate some interesting discussions around the poster display and after the break we discussed the problem, which the African knowledge tradition experiences in a modern world; it was an oral tradition. However, the social fabric, within which it had efficiently functioned for millennia, has all but disappeared in modern times. This means that the oral histories are disappearing too, as the last bearers of that knowledge pass away. The trainees are in the unique position that they still have access, probably only for short while, to sources of these histories; the ageing storytellers. They have an individual and collective responsibility to collect and record as many of these stories as is possible, before they all became lost.

The clouds, as is often the nature of clouds when one wants to do astronomy, were not going to go anywhere that evening. As a substitute, I spent two hours running through some basic astronomy in Stellarium and demonstrating that programme and the Virtual Moon Atlas.  I discussed the use of the Sky Guide and also showed the group how to use the Southern Star Wheel which they had each been given. I was able to use Stellarium to illustrate to the group the fact that our southern skies were completely unknown to visitors from the Northern Hemisphere and that they should capitalize on this.

Two of !Khwa ttu’s full time guides, André Vaalbooi and André Antonio as well as Magdalena Lucas and Ri Vermooten also attended the sessions. André Antonio has elected to be known as André Regopstaan to distinguish him from André Vaalbooi.

Our very nice accommodation at !Khwa ttu
Our very nice accommodation at !Khwa ttu
Panoramic view from the front of our guest house toward the Atlantic
Panoramic view from the front of our guest house toward the Atlantic
Weaver helping herself to nectar from an Aloe
Weaver helping herself to nectar from an Aloe
A very cocky mouse-bird on a very thorny perch
A very cocky mouse-bird on a very thorny perch
Panoramic view to the north behind the guest house
Panoramic view to the north behind the guest house
The "werf" of the complex, still deserted this early in the morning
The “werf” of the complex, still deserted this early in the morning
Top left: The kitchen end of our flatlet with a nice fireplace Top right: The sleeping end of the flatlet with a very good bed Middle left: Snorre wondering when breakfast is going to materialize Middle right: Lynnette and Snorre at breakfast - Snorre watching the kitchen door Bottom left: The dining room with a lovely fireplace separating it from the reception area Bottom right: How long is this breakfast going to take you guys?
Top left: The kitchen end of our flatlet with a nice fireplace
Top right: The sleeping end of the flatlet with a very good bed
Middle left: Snorre wondering when breakfast is going to materialize
Middle right: Lynnette and Snorre at breakfast – Snorre watching the kitchen door
Bottom left: The dining room with a lovely fireplace separating it from the reception area
Bottom right: How long is this breakfast going to take you guys?
Top left: The covered pathway leading from the visitors parking area Top right: The front of the reception area and restaurant entrance Middle left: The reception and restaurant from another angel Middle right: I love this notice posted on the library door Bottom row: Two very important publications on San culture that are well worth reading
Top left: The covered pathway leading from the visitors parking area
Top right: The front of the reception area and restaurant entrance
Middle left: The reception and restaurant from another angel
Middle right: I love this notice posted on the library door
Bottom row: Two very important publications on San culture that are well worth reading

After the evening session Lynnette, Snorre and I had supper and went to bed. The next morning, after breakfast in !Khwa ttu’s lovely restaurant, we said our farewells and left for home.  On the way back we passed a group of municipal workers cutting the roadside grass with weed-eaters that were not fitted with stone guards. One of these infernal machines flung up a stone that hit the Vito right side window in the sliding door and shattered it. More than R8000-00 later it has been replaced (at our expense) but the saga with the municipality is still developing. I wonder if all the flag waving is to get motorists to slow down so they can take better aim.

Top left: Just at the bottom of that hill in the right-hand background is where the weed-eater incident occurred Top centre: The window does not look damaged if you stand far enough away but look at its left edge Top right: This is where the impact was and from this close the damage is much clearer Middle left: View from the inside and now the broken window (left) is clearly different from the one on the right Middle centre: The municipal vehicle and its driver who said the foreman had gone "to fetch something" Middle right: The other end of the municipal vehicle attached to a trailer Bottom left: The hill with the two lines of weed-eater wielding workers on either side of the road in their orange overalls
Top left: Just at the bottom of that hill in the right-hand background is where the weed-eater incident occurred
Top centre: The window does not look damaged if you stand far enough away but look at its left edge
Top right: This is where the impact was and from this close the damage is much clearer
Middle left: View from the inside and now the broken window (left) is clearly different from the one on the right
Middle centre: The municipal vehicle and its driver who said the foreman had gone “to fetch something”
Middle right: The other end of the municipal vehicle attached to a trailer
Bottom left: The hill with the two lines of weed-eater wielding workers on either side of the road in their orange overalls

 

First South African Comet Discovery in 35 Years

13 April 2015 – First South African Comet Discovery in 35 Years

In the early hours of the 7th April, diagnosis an un-manned robotic telescope, MASTER-SAAO, situated near Sutherland in the Karoo, discovered a new comet. This is the first comet to be discovered in South Africa since 1978.  The Russian – South African run telescope has been scanning the southern skies since it began operating in late December 2014, looking for “transients” – new objects which appear in the sky for the first time. Since then, over 60 new  objects have been discovered, most of them being erupting or exploding stars. However, the MASTER-SAAO telescope has just discovered its first comet. Please go here to read all about the discovery and see pictures on the SAAO website

Autumn Southern Star Party from April 25th to April 28th 2014

Night Sky Caravan Park, Oudekraal, Bonnievale (-33.012486, 19.994881& 207m)

To start with, a special word of thanks to the sponsors, speakers, newcomers, day visitors and of course the regulars who helped to make the event possible. If you want to read some feedback from people who attended the Star Party please go here.

Sponsors:
Andrie van der Linde, Eridanus Optics,
http://www.eridanusoptics.com/store

Anneliese Carstens, Bonnievale Verhurings, Gelukshoop,
marankis@lando.co.za

Gesina de Wet, Oudekraal, Bonnievale,
nightsky@breede.co.za

SAASTA, South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement,
http://www.saasta.ac.za

Waltons – Stellenbosch,
http://www.waltons.co.za

Donors
Alan & Rose Cassells – the two lights for the interior of the marquee.

Speakers (in order of appearance)
Martin Lyons – “Live Video Astronomy Demo”
Kos Coroniaos – “Amateur Astronomy in South Africa”
Martin Lyons – “Basic Spectroscopic Astronomy”
Lia Labuschagne – “Brown Dwarfs”
Alan Cassels – “Comfortable observing – Moving the Beast”
Auke Slotegraaf – “Photometry with a DSLR Camera”
Kechil Kirkham – “The SKA – The story so far”
Kerry Patterson – “Planetary Models of Hu Aquarii”
Brett du Preez – “Collimating a Newtonian Reflector Telescope”

Newcomers
Dwayne Engelbrecht, Lia Labuschagne, Charmaine Pretorius, Anneke Steyn, Bernie, Michelle & Keagan Swanepoel, Gerhard Vermeulen and Wendy Vermeulen

Day visitors
Anneliese & Tertius Carstens, Willie Lombard & Elise, Inus & Elsophie van Staden

The “old hands”
Alan & Rose Cassells, Charl and Yolandi Cater, Kos Coronaios, Brett du Preez, Wim Filmalter, Iain Finlay, Kechil Kirkham, Martin Lyons, Kerry Paterson, John Richards, Leslie Rose, Auke Slotegraaf, Willem van Zyl, and of course Lynnette and myself.

The 2014 Autumn Southern Star Parties Group Photo
The 2014 Autumn Southern Star Parties Group Photo

Lynnette, Snorre the cat and I got off to a very early start in Brackenfell and arrived at Night Sky by about 09:30 on Thursday.  Alan and Rose were already settled in and shortly after 10:00 Anneliese Carstens of Bonnievale Verhuurings and her two assistants were on site to pitch the marquee tent.  The whole process took just over 70 minute.  As soon as that was done,  we started putting up the banners and posters and doing all the other essentials to get the inside organized.  Alan and Rose pitched in to help with this and without their very able assistance, the job would have taken a great deal longer.  Thanks guys, as usual your convivial company made an otherwise boring task seem quite fun. Lynnette got the Admin table sorted out, as well as the chairs in the main tent and the coffee bar at the back of the tent.

The banner displayed at the entrance to Night Sky Caravan Park dates back to a 2004 astronomy outreach programme
The banner we displayed at the entrance to Night Sky Caravan Park dates back to a 2004 astronomy outreach programme
The side of the marquee tent facing the main camp area
The side of the marquee tent facing the main camp area
The left side of the tent's interior with the Admin Table on the left.
The left side of the tent’s interior with the Admin Table on the left.
The right side of the tent's interior.  The Sale Table is hidden by the chairs on the right.  All banners, inside and outside the tent, were designed by Auke.
The right side of the tent’s interior. The Sale Table is hidden by the chairs on the right. All banners, inside and outside the tent, were designed by Auke.
The Coffee Table was open all day and all night
The Coffee Table was open all day and all night
The Sale Table later sported binoculars and eyepieces put up for sale by various attendees.
The Sale Table later sported binoculars and eyepieces put up for sale by various attendees.

 

Lynnette at the Admin Table
Lynnette at the Admin Table

Thursday evening didn’t offer much by way of stargazing as it was one of those evenings where the clouds opened up and, just as one thought it was telescope time, they closed in again. Somewhere between 02:00 and 03:00 I got up to have a peek and it was totally clear, but I was too lazy to take the telescopes outside.

During the course of Friday most of the others trickled in, but by sunset there were still people on the list who had not turned up so we decided to move the Pub Quiz forward to the Saturday.

The weather looked indecisive about being cloudy or not, so we socialized and had an uncharacteristically late braai while Martin Lyons started setting up for his live video astronomy demonstration. Unfortunately the electronic gremlins were out in force and even with the able assistance of Kos Coraniaos the system obstinately refused to perform to expectations. As the clouds had cleared up we all dispersed to the telescopes and spent the rest of the evening observing or introducing the newcomers to the wonders of the night sky.

John, Alan & Leslie around the braai fires
John, Alan & Leslie around the braai fires
Paul, Alan, part of the camp and the marquee looking almost due South
Paul, Alan, part of the camp and the marquee looking almost due south
Evening reflection looking south-east
Evening reflection looking south-east
Alan point out a UFO to Paul, or maybe an early star?
Alan pointing out a UFO to Paul, or maybe an early star?

On Saturday Kos kicked off the programme followed by Lia in Martin’s vacant slot. The planned braai turned into a bit of a fiasco, because it started raining quite heavily just as the fires got going nicely. Kos and Wim’s attempts to rescue one of the fires by putting the braai drum on Brett and Leslie’s stoep, had unexpected consequences. Despite the fact that they closed the doors and windows the smoke from the fire still got into the house and tainted everything with a distinct “wood smoke” odour.

I am going to get myself a camera with a CCD this wide
I am going to get myself a camera with a CCD this wide
Leslie, Brett & Wenday at Kos's talk
Leslie, Brett, Wendy, Charmain & Gerhard at Kos’s talk
Lia concentrating on Brown Dwarfs
Lia concentrating on Brown Dwarfs
Reflections on the dam of the rain that was to follow shortly afterwards
Reflections on the dam of the rain that was to follow shortly afterwards

Even though Martin’s talk had been cancelled as a result of his equipment failure, leaving an open slot for an extended lunch, the braai was so late that Alan had to wait for people to finish eating before he could start his talk.  After Alan’s talk, Auke presented Alan with his long-awaited observing certificate and a special t-shirt commemorating his acquisition of a 12-inch telescope.  After that ceremony we took the group photo and set ourselves up for the Pub Quiz after supper.

Alan maneuvering The Beast into position
Alan maneuvering The Beast into position
Alan's ingenious drawing table
Alan’s ingenious drawing table
Auke handing over Alan's observing certificate
Auke handing over Alan’s observing certificate
Alan and the long overdue observing certificate
Alan and the long overdue observing certificate
Alan receiving his 12-inch t-shirt
Alan receiving his 12-inch t-shirt
Leslie & Auke enjoying the sunshine after the rain while the braai fires got going again
Leslie & Auke enjoying the sunshine after the rain while the braai fires got going again
Gesina after delivering the SSP-cake
Gesina, after delivering the Southern Star Party cake
Auke and Gesina in a congenial mood
Auke and Gesina in a congenial mood

The Pub Quiz was contended between six teams. After the first three rounds, three teams were eliminated leaving three to contest the next four rounds before Lia and John’s team made it through to the finals. It was a tight race between these two teams until John’s team took the lead. By that time the weather had cleared completely leaving everyone itching to get to the telescopes, so this year’s Quiz, like the Spring SSP in 2013, was not taken to the individual level. Probably a good thing because John has already won the Quiz twice before on an individual basis!

A rainbow at night is a shepherd's delight or something to that effect
A rainbow at night is a shepherd’s delight or something to that effect
With the clouds looking as if they were clearing people hastily started setting up so that they could start observing after the Pub Quiz
With the clouds looking as if they were clearing people hastily started setting up so that they could start observing after the Pub Quiz
Richard, Charl and Yolandi have spotted something interesting in the evening sky
Richard, Charl and Yolandi have spotted something interesting in the evening sky
Wim is also looking but Yolandi seems to be be worrying about the photographer
Wim is also looking but Yolandi seems to be be worrying about the photographer
Al set up and ready to fire off the first salvo in the Autumn 2014 Pub Quiz
All set up and ready to fire off the first salvo in the Autumn 2014 Southern Star Pub Quiz
The final rounds and on my left gaining steadily, John's team
The final rounds and on my left gaining steadily, John’s team
The final rounds and on my right, putting up a brave fight to stay in the lead, Lia's team team
The final rounds and on my right, putting up a brave fight to stay in the lead, Lia’s team
The winners of the Autumn 2014 Southern Star Pub Quiz. Bernie Swanepoel, Muchelle Swanepoel, Iain Finlay, John Richards and Keagan Swanepole.  Keagan is wearing the coveted Southern Star Party Pub Quiz Floating Rosette
The winners of the Autumn 2014 Southern Star Pub Quiz. Bernie Swanepoel, Michelle Swanepoel, Iain Finlay, John Richards and Keagan Swanepoel. Keagan is wearing the coveted Southern Star Party Pub Quiz Floating Rosette

For the evening and late-night coffee we had a very nice cake baked by Gesina to commemorate the seventh Southern Star Party.  The cake was iced in blue and decorated with silver stars.  The cake also served to celebrate John Richard’s 70th birthday and we wish him well on his next 100 years.  A very nice gesture indeed, thanks Lynnette.

The Southern Star Parties Cake commemorating seven Star parties (and John's birthday)
The Southern Star Parties Cake commemorating seven Southern Star Parties (and John’s birthday this time too)

Sunday’s day-programme went off without a hitch. Auke had to leave just after his talk to get Kos back to Somerset West and then he unfortunately encountered a problem and was unable to return as planned. By evening the sky was clouded over, much to everyone’s disappointment, so we also cancelled the scheduled “Ethno-What’s up Tonight”. Anneliese and Tertius had come over specially for the stars, so it was a great disappointment for them.  However, just as we were sitting down having coffee with them, Leslie knocked on the door and announced that the clouds were clearing so we could set up a telescope and take them on a tour. Before midnight Lynnette and I gave up the unequal battle with the dew and went to bed.

Auke seated, left back talking about photometry with a DSLR camera
Auke seated, left back talking about photometry with a DSLR camera
Kechil talking about the SKA after having shown us how to dance the SKA!
Kechil talking about the SKA after having shown us how to dance the SKA!
Kerry explaining the intricacies of HU Aquarii
Kerry explaining the intricacies of HU Aquarii
Brett explaining exactly why most of us avoid collimating our telescopes
Brett explaining exactly why most of us avoid collimating our telescopes
The sunset was absolutely magnificent
The sunset was absolutely magnificent
Much later we could actually do some stargazing on an absolutely windless night as evidenced by the reflections in the dam
Much later we could actually do some stargazing on an absolutely windless night as evidenced by the reflections in the dam
Over on the far side of the dam a moving red light is reflected in the water
Over on the far side of the dam a moving red light is reflected in the water
The Magellanic Clouds, 47 Tuc, the Tarantula very faintly and a tiny corner of the Milky Way
The Magellanic Clouds, 47 Tuc, the Tarantula very faintly and a tiny corner of the Milky Way

On Monday morning everyone was packing up and saying goodbyes. In-between all the farewells, we took down the posters and banners in the tent, folded up tables, stacked chairs and loaded the trailer. By that evening it was only Lynnette, Snorre, myself and Iain and Willem left.

On Tuesday morning with the clouds building up, Anneliese and her crew arrived to take down the marquee.  Iain and Willem were also packing up and when Anneliese and her crew had finished one of her crew remarked, “Look at those two still struggling with that little tent and we’ve already finished with the big one.”  Iain and Willem did eventually finish and left shortly after midday.  Lynnette and Snorre and I stayed till Wednesday before we left for home via the Pitkos Farm Stall.  Regrettably they had no more roosterkoek by the time we got there so we just had coffee and bought a box of Nuy Muscadel for the next SSP in October 2014 before heading home!

This table gives the sky brightness readings obtained during the Autumn 2014 Southern Star Party.

Place Night Sky Caravan Park Night Sky Caravan Park Night Sky Caravan Park Night Sky Caravan Park Night Sky Caravan Park Night Sky Caravan Park
Locality & GPS -33°00’44.95″, 19°59’41.57″, 207m -33°00’44.95″, 19°59’41.57″, 207m -33°00’44.95″, 19°59’41.57″, 207m -33°00’44.95″, 19°59’41.57″, 207m -33°00’44.95″, 19°59’41.57″, 207m -33°00’44.95″, 19°59’41.57″, 207m
Date 24/03/2014 25/03/2014 26/03/2014 27/03/2014 28/03/2014 29/03/2014
Time (SAST) 22:30 23:30 22:00 22:00 22:00 22:00
Temp (°C) 18.00 17.00 16.00 16.00 16.00 17.00
SQM1 21.68 21.58 21.61 21.67 21.59 21.65
SQM2 21.65 21.57 21.62 21.67 21.60 21.64
SQM3 21.66 21.56 21.62 21.66 21.61 21.65
SQM4 21.64 21.59 21.63 21.66 21.60 21.64
SQM5 21.65 21.58 21.60 21.67 21.61 21.64
SQM6 21.63 21.56 21.61 21.68 21.60 21.64
SQM7 21.65 21.58 21.61 21.67 21.59 21.61
SQM8 21.66 21.56 21.62 21.67 21.59 21.64
SQM9 21.65 21.55 21.61 21.66 21.60 21.63
SQM10 21.66 21.58 21.61 21.66 21.60 21.65
Average (MSAS) 21.65 21.57 21.61 21.67 21.60 21.64
StdDev (MSAS) 0.012689 0.012207 0.008000 0.006403 0.007000 0.011358
Med.(MSAS) 21.65 21.58 21.61 21.67 21.60 21.64
NELM (V mags) 6.4610 6.4203 6.4418 6.4679 6.4343 6.4541

Southern Star Wheel

A planisphere is a very usefull tool for learning your way around the night sky. It shows the rising and setting of the stars, and how the constellations relate to one another.

The Southern Star Wheel  is a revolutionary new planisphere developed by Auke Slotegraaf in 2009, that is a substantial improvement on previous planispheres because it is customisable.

If you live in the big city and can only see the brightest stars (or are still learning your way around the night sky), you can select a simplified “star disk” that shows only the major stars. If you want to learn the shapes of the constellations, use the star disk that delineates their stick figures.

More experienced users can use an advanced star disk that shows many more (fainter) stars. And if you’re interested in the ethnoastronomy of southern Africa, there is a special star disk that shows some of the most famous indigenous stars and patterns.  Go here to download your copy of this brilliant addition to your astronomy arsenal.

Please note that the Southern Star Wheel is designed very specifically for the Southern Hemisphere.  You can also visit Auke’s site to find out more about the Southern Star Wheel.

A view of the Moon

A view of the Southern Hemisphere Moon

DSC_0006X_Maan_F-0_0-005s_ISO400
Taken with a Nikon D5100 mounted directly (no lens used) onto a 12″ Skywatcher Dobsonian telescope.
Location: Brackenfell, patient Western Cape, help South Africa
GPS: 33.811S, view 18.68E
Altitude: 75m
Date Shot: 09/11/2013
Time Shot: 20:57:27.80
Aperture: F0
Shutter Speed: 1/200s
Exposure Mode: Manual
Exposure Comp: 0EV
Metering: Center-Weighted
ISO: 400

Noctuary Volume 2, Number 2 (June 2013)

Noctuary Volume 2, online Number 2 (June 2013)

Table of contents.
Gallery: Other Worlds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 02
An infographic of the 840 confirmed exoplanets (as at December
2012), showing their relative sizes, distribution of masses,
discovery methods and discovery time-line.

From the Archimedes Archives . . . . . . . . . . . . 03
Interesting bits and pieces to pique the astronomically curious.

Southern Milky Way . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 07
The spectacular stretch of sky from the Coal Sack to eta Carinae,
imaged by Johann Swanepoel.

Astrophotography tutorial (Part 3) . . . . . . . . . . 09
The third installment of Brett du Preez’s astrophotography tutorial
discusses polar alignment.

Unveiling the mask of Venus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Earth’s evil twin sister exposed.

Three Galaxies in the Centaur . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Three deep-sky gems in Centaurus to be enjoyed.

The Rich Man’s Jewel Box . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Think the Jewel Box in Crux is a stunner? You ain’t seen nuthin
yet. Plus: internet hoax exposed!

Briefly Noted . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
Some housekeeping announcements and other stuff that didn’t
fit in elsewhere.

Go here to download the entire issue of Noctuary or go here to download previous issues

Comet C/2011 L4 aka Comet PANSTARRS

This comet is now visible with binoculars from down here in the Cape, reports Dieter Willasch.  It is very close to the Sun and Southern Sky viewers have to look very carefully to find it..  Dieter managed to get a good shot of the comet shortly after 18:30  on Thursday the 28th February from Somerset West.  The image can be viewed on his website Astro-Cabinet, which also has many other excellent examples of his astrophotography.

Comet Lemmon and Associate

Comet C2012 F6, commonly known as comet Lemmon, is proving rather difficult to find and even more difficult to photograph from my location.  In a week from now I might be able to get a better view from the northern Cederberg, but I have a sneaking suspicion the southern horizon is going to be too high from our location there.  It should be very well placed for photographing then, as it is expected to be just a hairsbreadth west of NGC 104 (47 Tucana) so I will hold thumbs and wait and see.

In the mean time Auke has been keeping tabs in Lemmon’s passage through the Southern Skies and there are finder charts and photos at www.psychohistorian.org . For a very impressive photograph of Lemmon with a tail visit Dieter Willasch’s site at http://astro-cabinet.com/showimage.php?image=Lemmon-5m-stars_90m-comet_RGB1.jpg&lang=english .

Comet Lemmon was discovered on 23rd March 2012 by Alex Gibbs of the Mount Lemmon Survey while routinely scanning for near earth objects.  At that point it was very faint at magnitude 20,7 and the prediction was that it would not improve to more than magnitude 7,7 but comet Lemmon has surprised everyone and looks as if it might reach magnitude 2 by the 21st March and be a naked eye object from dark sites.

Comet PANSTARRS, officialy known as Comet C/2011 L4  was first spotted in in June 2011 by the Pan-STARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System) telescope near the summit of Haleakala in the island of Maui in Hawaii. Initially it was at magnitude 19 but has brightened to magnitude 13,5.  Its closest approach to the Sun (perihelion) will be on the 10th March and its closest distance to the Earth on the 5th March will be 1,09 astronomical units (au).

First estimates of its brightness were that it might reach an apparent magnitude of 0 (comparable to alpha-Centauri A or Vega).  A revised estimate in October 2012 predicted that it might brighten to magnitude -4 (more or less Venus) and the current estimates are more conservative, predicting a magnitude of +1. For a comparison, Capella B is +0,96 & Spica 1,04.

Comet C/2011 L4 has come a long way as it is estimated thet it probably left its home in the Oort Cloud about a million years ago.  Currently it is visible about 15 degrees above the horizon between Telescopium and Microscopium.

More about comet C/212 S1 (ISON) which is expected to be a major spectacle in an upcoming post.

Clear Skies and Good Viewing.

Edward