Friends of the Helderberg Nature Reserve: Saturday 04th of March 2017.

After our previous bad luck with the weather at the Helderberg Nature Reserve, we were holding thumbs that history would not repeat itself. Fortunately, it didn’t and we could actually show people things in the sky other than clouds.

This eager young viewer quickly got the hang of the control pad on “Little Martin” and under Auke’s watchful eye set about finding the moon.
This eager young viewer quickly got the hang of the control pad on “Little Martin” and under Auke’s watchful eye set about finding the moon.

Auke, Lynnette and I pitched nice and early followed shortly by Wendy and we all promptly set about setting up the telescopes in preparation for the arrival of the Friends of the Helderberg nature Reserve later on. Wendy set up her 8” Dobsonian and Auke set up the Celestron nicknamed “Little Martin” while Lynnette and I set up the other Celestron known as the “One Armed Bandit”. Both Celestrons were automated and we hoped to gain time and make life easier by not having to adjust all the time to follow an object, as is the case with a Dobsonian.  Although there are definite advantages to using an automated telescope as opposed to a good old push-and-tug Dobsonian I found that with the 5” instrument I had it was less stable and did not give me the clarity and brightness I was used to on our workhorse, Lorenzo the 10” Dobsonian. I will definitely investigate other uses for the Celestron but at present, I have my doubts when it comes to general outreach.  Watch this space is I believe the expression to use.

TOP LEFT: Auke and I setting up. Lorenzo stayed at home and the “One Armed Bandit” was out in the field with Auke’s “Little Martin”. CENTRE LEFT: Myself and Auke sort out last minute details. BOTTOM LEFT: Some of the picnickers were quick to latch onto the opportunity to do some viewing even if the event wasn’t really for them. TOP RIGHT: Wendy’s 8” Dobsonian drew immediate attention. BOTTOM RIGHT: Wendy and a small crowd of enthusiastic potential viewers.
TOP LEFT: Auke and I setting up. Lorenzo stayed at home and the “One Armed Bandit” was out in the field with Auke’s “Little Martin”. CENTRE LEFT: Myself and Auke sort out last minute details. BOTTOM LEFT: Some of the picnickers were quick to latch onto the opportunity to do some viewing even if the event wasn’t really for them. TOP RIGHT: Wendy’s 8” Dobsonian drew immediate attention. BOTTOM RIGHT: Wendy and a small crowd of enthusiastic potential viewers.

There were still day picnickers around and when the children spotted the telescopes they made a beeline for us before we had time to set up properly. As soon as we were up and running we let them look at the moon to their heart’s content.  Auke even had on eager little lass trained up in no time to operate the control paddle of his telescope; I was less adventurous. As the picnickers trickled away the Friends of the Helderberg Nature Reserve ) started arriving and setting up their picnics.

TOP: The Friends of the Helderberg Nature Reserve starting to arrive, well equipped for the evening’s picnic and dressed appropriately in case the temperature dropped. 2nd FROM TOP: The Moon was up so we could view that before it got dark enough to do a what’s up. 2nd FROM BOTTOM: While some looked at the moon others enjoyed a leisurely picnic. BOTTOM: Edward presenting the what’s up.
TOP: The Friends of the Helderberg Nature Reserve starting to arrive, well equipped for the evening’s picnic and dressed appropriately in case the temperature dropped. 2nd FROM TOP: The Moon was up so we could view that before it got dark enough to do a what’s up. 2nd FROM BOTTOM: While some looked at the moon others enjoyed a leisurely picnic. BOTTOM: Edward presenting the what’s up.

By the time it was dark enough to do a what’s up tonight most of them had looked at the moon.  I kept my introduction as short as possible and steadily increased the number of stars and constellations as the gathering dark allowed us to see more of them.

TOP: Wendy and the 8” getting some photographic exposure. CENTRE: One advantage of using the OAB is that one does not have to keep adjusting to keep the object in the eyepiece. I still prefer Lorenzo despite the convenience of the OAB. BOTTOM: Auke and “Little Martin” in the background while the two ladies on the right evaluate the setup.
TOP: Wendy and the 8” getting some photographic exposure. CENTRE: One advantage of using the OAB is that one does not have to keep adjusting to keep the object in the eyepiece. I still prefer Lorenzo despite the convenience of the OAB. BOTTOM: Auke and “Little Martin” in the background while the two ladies on the right evaluate the setup.

After the talk, it was back to the telescopes and we spent the rest of the evening until packing up time around 21:45 showing various objects and talking about whichever astronomy questions were put to us.  All in all, it was a very pleasant and enjoyable evening with fair weather, very little wind and nice people.

Thanks to the Friends for the invitation and we are very glad the weather gods viewed our little get together favourably this time round.

The Carina Nebula by Leslie Rose: 02 December 2015.

The Carina Nebula is about 7500 light-years away in the direction of the Carina constellation. Carina was originally part of a very large constellation Argo Nevis but Nicolas de Lacaille divided it into three new constellations in 1763, Carina (the keel), Puppis (the poop deck) and Vela (the ship’s sails). It is also known as NGC 3372 and was discovered in 1751 by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille while observing from the Cape of Good Hope. It is a colossal emission nebula about 300 light-years wide that contains extensive star-forming regions. A very interesting object in the Carina Nebula is the Homunculus Nebula which is a planetary nebula that is being ejected by a luminous blue variable star, Eta Carinae (shorthand ? Carinae or ? Car). This star is one of the most massive stars known and has reached the theoretical upper limit for the mass of a star and is therefore unstable. The instability results in periodic outbursts during which it brightens and then fades again. During one such outburst between the 11th and the 14th of March 1843, it became the second brightest star in the sky but then faded away. Around 1940 it began to brighten again, eventually peaking in 2014 but not achieving nearly the levels of brightness seen in 1843.

This chart shows the location of the Carina Nebula within the constellation of Carina (The Keel). The map shows most of the stars visible to the unaided eye under good conditions and the nebula itself is marked as a green square in a red circle at the left (labelled 3372 for NGC 3372).
This chart shows the location of the Carina Nebula within the constellation of Carina (The Keel). The map shows most of the stars visible to the unaided eye under good conditions and the nebula itself is marked as a green square in a red circle at the left (labeled 3372 for NGC 3372).

This nebula is very bright and can be seen well in small telescopes, and faintly without a telescope at all. The original of this chart may be viewed here.

Leslie Rose is one of the regulars who attend the Southern Star Party and the photograph featured here, was taken by Leslie. The first SSP he attended was in March 2011 when Leslie had neither telescope nor camera!

For this image of the Eta Carina Nebula Leslie employed a narrow band filter with the Hubble pallet and an Atik 383l mono CCD camera. The image was taken through a Celestron Nexstar 8SE tube on a Celestron CGEM equatorial mount. The total exposure time was 10.7 hours and it was shot from a suburban environment in Durbanville, Western Cape, South Africa.
For this image of the Eta Carina Nebula Leslie employed a narrow band filter with the Hubble pallet and an Atik 383l mono CCD camera. The image was taken through a Celestron Nexstar 8SE tube on a Celestron CGEM equatorial mount. The total exposure time was 10.7 hours and it was shot from a suburban environment in Durbanville, Western Cape, South Africa.

This photograph was the winner of Celestron Telescopes South Africa’s November Nights competition. Celestron commented that the quality of the pictures they received was amazing and really showcased the beauty of the South African Night Skies. Go here to view Celestron’s Facebook page or, if you wish to visit the Celestron webpage, click here.

Leslie’s prize was a pair of Celestron UpClose G2 10×50 Binoculars. Congratulations Leslie and thank you Celestron for running competitions like this to encourage astrophotographers.