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

Thursday required an early start to beat the infamous N1-traffic and have breakfast at the Rcafe in Long Street (go here to find out more) before starting our day. We left Brackenfell at 05:17, which was actually later than our original ITD of 05:00. ITD? My shorthand for Intended Time of Departure. We were parked in front of Rcafe by 05:45 which meant that the trip had taken us a mere 28 minutes. As soon as the doors opened at 06:00 Lynnette and I went inside to order two much needed Americano’s to start the day properly. What really amazed us was that the owner and staff recognized us the moment we walked in the door and it was a few days more than a year since we’d last been there! Auke arrived shortly after us and ordered his cappuccino. After breakfast, we headed for the Iziko South African Museum (click here for more information) where Benjamin was waiting to unlock the gates for us and set out the traffic cones to prevent vehicles entering our display and observing space in the amphitheatre. The weather was clear but blustery. The wind was, in fact, such a nuisance that I eventually took down and put away the posters, as the frames were being badly scratched every time they toppled over onto the brick paving. Anyway, by 08:00 we were ready to roll and all we needed was a visitor or two, which we soon got.

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

Thursday’s are popular school days at Iziko and we had three groups that we managed to convince that they should take a peek at the Sun. There were several other school groups whose teachers waved us away when we invited them to view the Sun. Being a weekday many of our visitors were from outside the country’s borders as most South Africans were hard at work earning an income. Many of the tour guides with the groups declined to let their tourists take a look at the Sun. Their reason was mostly that they had a schedule to keep to and did not have the time. Nevertheless, we had groups from Gabon, Thailand, Hong Kong, France, Netherlands, Israel, and Germany.

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

It was also nice to have the research staff from the backrooms of Iziko pay us a visit. I was especially pleased to make the acquaintance of Jay van den Berg a palaeontologist on Dr Roger Smith’s staff and Clair Browning the newly appointed Curator of the Karoo Collection.

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

The problem of getting people to sign our visitor’s book was highlighted for the umpteenth time. Many people who viewed the Sun through our telescopes flatly refused to sign the list and some actually became quite agitated when asked to do so. This problem is exasperated when one is busy and you simply do not have time to chase after people and ask them to sign. So, once again, our signature total (288) and counter tally (597) do not agree. I am more convinced than ever that the answer lies in devising a means to automatically count the number of people who look into each telescope’s eyepiece.

Because the Sun appears as a very bland and uninteresting white ball as a result of of the solar filter fitted to Lorenzo, many viewers say it looks like the Moon. So I decided to do some experimenting with filters to make the image more “exciting”. The images were all taken with my mobile and I am afraid that I do not have the world’s steadiest hand, so the photos are not of the best quality.

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

 

Outreach by StarPeople for SKA-Africa during National Science Week 2017 at the Iziko South African Museum: Sunday 13th August 2017

Sunday was an almost perfect day for an outreach event in the amphitheater of the Iziko South African Museum (click here for more information) in Cape Town.  Lynnette and I, unfortunately, got there a bit later than we had intended. Auke had almost finished setting up by the time we arrived and we just managed to get Lorenzo setup before the first visitors put in an appearance.

TOP LEFT: All packed up in the new workhorse, courtesy of SKA-Africa (Click here for more information). TOP RIGHT: Snorre putting on his pissed-off-to-be-left-behind act. BOTTOM LEFT: The start of a table cloth on Table Mountain had me a tad worried because once the South-Easter gets going you do not want to be in the amphitheater in front of the Iziko South African Museum with telescopes, banners, and posters. BOTTOM RIGHT: The first group in were Dutch tourists, here gathered around Auke with Lynnette lending a hand.
TOP LEFT: Lynnette and Auke showing a small group the almost spotless sun through Lorenzo the 10” Dobby. TOP RIGHT: Edward, who actually remembered the ladder this time, helping a brightly dressed young lady to look at the sun. BOTTOM LEFT: Rose’s Egyptian geese and this year’s batch of young ones on a morning stroll. In 2009 they were officially declared a pest in the United Kingdom. (Click here for more information) BOTTOM RIGHT: Auke in a serious discussion with a small group of visitors.

While we were setting up, Benjamin, the museum security guard, came round to say hello and put out the traffic cones thereby preventing people from attempting to park among the telescopes. Throughout the rest of the day, he appeared every now and again, keeping a watchful eye on the ever present idlers and strollers who often have less than honest intentions.

In the background are our banners; the SKA banner is partially hidden on the left, with the striking StarPeople banner in the middle and the impressive Sun banner on the right. In the foreground, three guests try out the solar viewing glasses.
TOP LEFT: Three guests heading for the museum after Lynnette showed them the sun and Auke taking a break in the background. TOP RIGHT: Auke and a small group of tourists at the telescope. BOTTOM LEFT: Edward, Lorenzo and a young astronomy enthusiast. BOTTOM RIGHT: The museum building reflected in our new 4×4 vehicle supplied by the SKA.
TOP LEFT: The very striking StarPeople poster designed by Auke and beautifully framed thanks to Dirk’s donation of the frame. TOP RIGHT: Edward in conversation with a group that eventually showed interest in attending the next Southern Star Party too. BOTTOM LEFT: Late afternoon visitors and you can see the shadows of the trees encroaching on our viewing territory. BOTTOM RIGHT: A bee that seemed to have trouble flying for more than a short distance at a time was rescued after almost being stepped on.

We had a steady stream of visitors throughout the day. However, every time a tour group passed through the activity around the telescopes peaked and required all hands on deck. It was really a pity that, other than one lone sunspot (2670) which was about to disappear over the rim of the sun, there was no activity to be seen. I found the overseas visitors far more aware of astronomical matters than the South Africans. Having said that though, Lynnette had one local three-year old who knew the names of all the planets and, when quizzed, also knew which planet was the smallest and which was the largest!

TOP LEFT: Lynnette and I would love to take this vehicle out on the back roads up in the Northern Cape. TOP RIGHT: Auke pointing out matters of astronomical interest on some of our A3 posters mounted on hardboard. BOTTOM LEFT: Lynnette, Lorenzo and a couple of enthusiastic visitors. BOTTOM RIGHT: Lynnette urging a family to buy the Sky Guide (go here to find out more) and become clued up amateur astronomers.

All in all, it was a very pleasant day with the wind dying down by mid-morning and the few clouds that there were never really posing a serious threat to our solar observing. One of the problems, that occurs every year, with this kind of event is the effort to get people to sign our visitor’s register. Some people just refuse point blank and others again refuse to give contact details. During periods of high activity, when everyone is manning a telescope, we also lose signatures because there is nobody available to monitor if visitors sign the register or not. Our counters, as is usual, gave far higher figures than the number of signatures but, because one is busy with visitors, one probably also misses visitors with the counters. Maybe we should get some inventive person to install a counter at the eyepiece that counts when people look into it.

TOP: Everything cleared up and packed away as we prepare to head for home. BOTTOM: The Tygerberg against a clear blue sky and the unusual treat of having the N1 relatively traffic free.

 

Outreach by StarPeople for SKA-Africa during National Science Week 2017 at the Brackenfell Public Library: Thursday 10th August 2017.

Thursday was a very different kettle of fish at the Brackenfell Public Library compared to Tuesday. No sun, lots of low gray clouds and a cold, blustery north-westerly wind. We implemented plan-B and moved inside, as discussed previously with the library staff.  Amanda helped us get organized in the library hall and pointed out the spots in the foyer we could use for posters and A-frames.

Despite putting up notices inviting people to come and flummox us with their astronomy queries we had the grand total of two visitors the entire morning. Those two were actually old friends, Billy and Halcyone Brits who had heard that we would be there and come specially to see us.

TOP LEFT: The entrance to the Brackenfell Public Library against a cloudy background. TOP RIGHT: One of our signs attempting to entice interested persons into our Astronomical clutches. BOTTOM LEFT: Edward and the small group of learners at the start of the afternoon’s talk. BOTTOM RIGHT: Auke holding the attention of some learners.

The afternoon wasn’t much better as the cold weather seemed to have thinned out the number of learners quite drastically too. Following Lynnette’s suggestion, we gave a talk to the small group that was there.  This talk was one we had previously compiled with input from the staff at Boesmansrivier Primary School for use with their learners. The talk was quite enthusiastically received by the learners present. Their enthusiasm was, in fact, at times more than just a bit rowdy!

TOP LEFT: One of the slides in the talk which Edward uses to emphasize the negative effects of light pollution. TOP RIGHT: The age-spread of the learners in the group was quite large. BOTTOM LEFT: Auke discussing an issue with a small group of the learners. BOTTOM RIGHT: The talk actually held the attention of the learners remarkably well.

Murphy saved his final trick for the end of the day. When we tried to start the Vito and leave for home it refused point blank. Not too much of a problem as I had a spare battery at home.  We phoned a friend who nipped round, picked me up and dropped me at home. I picked up the spare battery, popped it into the boot of the Polo, and headed back to the Library where Lynnette was waiting.

Murphy now played his next trick. The new battery was about one millimeter too large to fit into the battery compartment of the Vito and the battery leads were too short to reach the battery in any other place outside the battery compartment, where we would be able to shut the door. Lynnette and I quickly ran through plans C to Y before I hit on plan-Z. I connected the spare battery and, while I was holding it, Lynnette started the Vito. Lynnette then kept the engine running quite fast and I disconnected the spare battery, connected the old battery, and slid that into the battery compartment. It all worked perfectly without any shocks, sparks or short-circuits. I was very careful not to throw a clearly crestfallen Murphy the middle finger as he has a very long memory.

Lynnette drove the Polo home and I followed in the Vito, finally bringing the day to a close.

Outreach by StarPeople for SKA-Africa during National Science Week 2017 at the Brackenfell Public Library: Tuesday 08th August 2017.

We set up just outside the entrance to the Brackenfell Public Library. The forecast said it would be a sunny day so we also put up our gazebo and decorated that with some of our banners. The banners look nice, provide added wind protection, make the gazebo sturdier and also help prevent uncontrolled access. Sunelle, Lötter and her staff used the material we gave them, predominantly from our own stocks, to put up displays in the entrance foyer and several other parts of the library

The Vito all loaded and ready to go.
LEFT: The cover of the mission MeerKAT booklets received from SKA-Africa. RIGHT: Part of the static display set up inside the library by the very helpful library staff.
TOP LEFT: Our setup as seen from the parking area by visitors approaching the front door of the library.  TOP RIGHT: Our setup as seen from a different angle in the parking area. BOTTOM LEFT: Lorenzo and I getting our dose of Cape Winter sunshine. Other than the learners we also had many people bringing young children to the library show interest. BOTTOM RIGHT: The flow of viewers fluctuated quite a lot during the morning but during the afternoon had much more activity and in a fairly steady stream.

As we have experienced in the past it takes a lot of effort to get the public to come and take a look, despite the fact that the telescope was very visible, as were our A-frames and pull-up banners. One has to resort to accosting people, as they approach the entrance and begging them to come and take a peek at the Sun and its lonely sunspot.

TOP LEFT: An enthusiastic group around Lynnette’s table.  TOP RIGHT: Some of the younger learners had the usual problem of not knowing which eye to shut when looking into the eyepiece. BOTTOM LEFT: Edward getting the sun into the eyepiece for the next viewer. BOTTOM RIGHT: Some of the older learners asked questions and while many of the others looked and did not show much interest.

This all changed dramatically during the afternoon when the schools closed; we were almost inundated!  The Library serves as a focal point for learners whose parents are at work as they also use the library hall to do their homework. The youngsters from the apartments across the road from the library simply use the library and environs as an entertainment area. For the latter group, our presence was a welcome added attraction to their normal routine.

TOP: The morning was generally slow with older adults coming in ones and twos.  BOTTOM: Edward taking a break during a quieter period in the afternoon.

Thanks to the sunny weather and the eager learners it was eventually quite a pleasant and productive outing.

Our spot, all cleared up in the late afternoon sun and waiting for our return on Thursday.

 

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

August in the Western Cape is known for wet, blustery and cold conditions so we were mentally prepared for the worst during National Science Week 2016. However, the weather was uncharacteristically fine except for the last two days. Fortunately for us the Iziko South African Museum (go here to find out more about this exciting venue) allowed us to move inside and use the large open area adjacent to the now non-existent cafe. Thank you Elsabé and Theo for all your efforts on our behalf.

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

National Science Week had to be move forward by one week due to the local elections. That also caused some problems because we had already started making arrangements and the change meant changing other things as well. The run-up to National Science Week was a also unsettling because our sponsors had organizational problems, which meant that both the funding and the display material were very, very late. Late funding meant that we had to postpone all purchases and rentals until the very last minute which resulted in a lot of frantic rushing around with panic levels going off the scale every now and again. Scary stuff but we made it in one piece although it was really touch and go with some plans having to be partially shelved due to a lack of time to implement them properly.

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

Our setup this year shared the amphitheater with the impressive DNA model of the Past All from One Exhibition. Please go here to read more about this interesting exhibition sponsored by Standard Bank.

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

We had many visitors from overseas and also many visitors from other African countries. Despite the rather nerve racking preparation phase everything actually went off quite well. We definitely had more dubious characters hanging around this year than in 2014. Special thanks to the Iziko security staff who were very efficient and here Benjamin stands out and, quite honestly deserves a medal for his efforts. Despite their surveillance we had items “disappear”, among others Lynnette’s phone and that loss is still having repercussions almost a month later.

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

But, by and large it was a successful week with lots of sunshine making it easy to demonstrate and discuss renewable energy. The solar cooker, solar oven, and various solar power driven devices were all put to good use and other equipment was used to demonstrate the existence of energy at other wavelengths in the solar spectrum. We also used the telescopes equipped with special filters to good effect so that people could take a look at the sun, the source of all this free energy.

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

Our poster about solar energy depicted the photo-voltaic plant about 6 km outside the town of De Aar in the Northern Cape Province (go here to read more about this development). The other three projects we mentioned and discussed were Concentrating Solar Plants also situated in the Northern Cape Province. !Ka Xu is located about 40 km from the town of Pofadder (go here to read more about this innovative development). Close-by and just off the R358 Onseepkans road lies a similar development Xina (read more about this by going here).. Equally interesting is the !Khi Solar one project which is being constructed close to the town of Upington (go here to read more about this development).

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

Many of the South African visitors were totally oblivious of the efforts currently underway in South Africa to harness wind and solar energy. It is indeed a great pity that the handout material was so totally unrelated to the topic of Renewable Energy because people looked for something tangible to take away with them after visiting us and were noticeably disappointed when they discovered that the handouts were not related to the topic.

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

The late arrival of the handouts and posters also meant that we had to improvise in order to organize our usual displays at the three largest public in our area. Fortunately some of the librarians were very resourceful and able to contribute very good ideas.

It is also a pity that we did not get to see a member of the official inspectorate as we felt that we had a very good setup. As luck would have it an official photographer did turn up on one of the days when rain had forced us indoors. Our indoor display was not nearly as impressive as the outdoor one and, of course, the photographer turned up when we had a very quiet period and only a trickle of visitors.

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

Our total number of visitors was well over the 4 000 and at the three Libraries we supplied material to, we reached another 12 000 to 15 000. The circulation figure of the newspapers we advertised in was over one and a half million, so the exposure for National Science Week this year, was quite substantial. The NRF/SAASTA should be well satisfied with the number of people reached for the money they spent.

We can only hope that we have very good weather again next year and a smoother, less stressful run-up to the event.

National Science Week 2015

It is the little ones that require more attention
It is the little ones that require more attention

National Science Week in 2015 took place from the 01st to the 08th of August. After 2014’s hectic outing we opted for what we hoped would be an easier event this year. We approached the Iziko South African Museum to find out if they would allow us to set up every day in the amphitheatre in front of the Museum. Theo Ferreira and Elsabe Uys were very helpful in arranging all the logistics of the event and without their able and willing assistance I doubt if everything would have run quite as smoothly as it did.

In the run-up to National Science Week there was the usual rush to fix last minute glitches and, of course, our house looked decidedly scruffy with all the piles of posters and handouts.

The first consignment of posters and handouts
The first consignment of posters and handouts
The second consignment of goodies from SAASTA
The second consignment of goodies from SAASTA
The third consignment of hand-outs from up north
The third consignment of hand-outs from up north

On Saturday 01st left home early, so as not to be caught in the traffic. We had roped Jaco Wiese in to help out as an extra pair of hands because we expected a fair number of people. Alan and Rose Cassels were also on site as Alan had to man the table with his absolutely superb model of the Southern African large Telescope (SALT). As part of our program the Iziko planetarium agreed to administer a competition for us. After each planetarium show the name of an entrant in the competition was drawn and the first person drawn that had answered the question correctly received a prize from us. The weather was superb for outdoor activities like ours and drew many Capetonians to the Company Gardens, so we had a constant stream of visitors wanting to view the sun through our telescope, which was equipped with special filters to safeguard their eyes.

A collection of images from day one of National Science Week.
A collection of images from day one of National Science Week.

Sunday the 02nd was pretty much a repeat of the Saturday.

Some scenes from day two of National Science Week
Some scenes from day two of National Science Week
Some images of Alan's magnificent model of the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT)
Some images of Alan’s magnificent model of the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT)

Unlike 2014 when we worked the crowds every day we took a break on the Monday and Tuesday but on Wednesday the 05th we were back at the Museum but, being a weekday we had to start much earlier to beat the traffic. It was also a tough day because neither Jaco nor Alan and Rose were available so Auke, Lynnette and I had to really know our stuff to cope with everything and we were very glad when closing time rolled around. The trip home was not a picnic either, because we were right in the thick of the dreaded 5 o’clock traffic.

Day three and as you can see we had to contend with the early morning and late afternoon traffic
Day three and as you can see we had to contend with the early morning and late afternoon traffic

We had planned it so that we would have Thursday free but on Friday 07th we were back on site after a very early start from home. Mercifully Alan and Rose had put in leave so they were also there to assist. The day was very successful with a particularly large number of schools showing up. Going home was a bit of a nightmare because, not only was it Friday, it was also the start of a long weekend. We had a long drive home.

Friday before the long weekend and was the traffic hectic
Friday before the long weekend and was the traffic hectic

On Saturday 08th we could leave home a bit later and the traffic was definitely easier. The day was surprisingly busy, considering the fact that many people had probably gone away for the long weekend, so we were very glad to have Alan and Rose on site again. For the first time that week the weather played up and we had bigger and bigger patches of cloud to contend with as well as an appreciable drop in temperature and a brisk breeze.

Images from our last day of a very pleasant and successful National Science Week
Images from our last day of a very pleasant and successful National Science Week
Our UV-beads worked well. Top left to bottom right you can follow the very fast colour change when exposed to sunlight
Our UV-beads worked well. Top left to bottom right you can follow the very fast colour change when exposed to sunlight

All round it was a very successful National Science Week.  We were well over our target figures and it was definitely less stressful then a road trip and the idea of having days off in between was a brilliant one. Having Jac and especially Alan and Rose on hand was also a huge help. Next year we plan to hit the Museum again but for eight consecutive days. Okay, so we are suckers for punishment!

Over and above our activities at the Iziko South African Museum we advertised in a number of newspapers, I spoke on one of the local radio stations and we had two static exhibitions at the Bellville and Brackenfell Public Libraries. Our media coverage reached a staggering 518 223 during National Science Week and at the Museum we had direct contact with another 16 430 people. So Star People brought National Science Week to the attention of more than half a million people that week; not bad at all!

The front pages of the newspapers we advertised in
The front pages of the newspapers we advertised in

For Auke, Lynnette and I there remained the site report to be written and submitted as well as the dreaded financial report. As usual the financial report gobbled up many, many hours of Lynnette’s time, but eventually that was done and dusted too and the 195 page document was in the courier’s hands and off to SAASTA in Pretoria.

Astronomy Outreach at Root44 Market: January 2015

Mad Dogs and Amateur Astronomers go out in the midday sun (apologies to Noël Coward)

Astronomy outreach during the daytime and in summer is not for the fainthearted or those who forget to apply their sunblock as Star People, being Auke, Lynnette and myself were about to discover at the Root44 Market, on the Audacia Wine Estate on Saturday the 17th, Sunday the 18th and Saturday the 24th of January. On the first Saturday we were very ably supported by Wendy Vermeulen and Brett du Preez who’s innovative solar telescope was also pressed into service. Permission to be there was negotiated by Auke with Surea and Megan and on the individual days JJ and Jason were available for all manner of practical assistance. The wine estate is situated on the R44 between Stellenbsch and Somerset West right next to the equally well known Mooiberge farm stall and strawberry farm with its huge collection of imaginative scarecrows.

The preparation of the poster A-frames seemed a never ending task.
The preparation of the poster A-frames seemed a never ending task.
The Vito loaded with all the parphenalia for an outreach event
The Vito loaded with all the paraphernalia for an outreach event
Wendy doing a stint in the sun with Lorenzo
Wendy doing a stint in the sun with Lorenzo. Note the candy floss.
Brett making last minute adjustments to the solar telescope
Brett making last minute adjustments to the solar telescope
The visitors came in all sizes, although the smaller versions were easily distracted by all the other goings on
The visitors came in all sizes, although the smaller versions were easily distracted by all the other goings on

The Root44 Market is the venue for the Root44 parkrun every Saturday morning when hundreds of serious and also not so serious runners and walkers descend on the venue to participate in the weekly, timed excursion through the vineyards. Some progress at the highest speed they can manage while others are merely intent on finishing the 5 km and soaking up the beauty of their surroundings. However, it is also the venue of choice for hundreds of folk who want to spend a Saturday or Sunday with good food and wine, relaxing music and the convivial company of good friends in the sort of tranquil surroundings which only the Winelands of the Western Cape can offer.

We were there to generate an interest in Astronomy and especially in space related activities and research. To do this we employed a wide selection of informative posters, and Lorenzo, the 10-inch Dobsonian, equipped with the appropriate Solar filter to show guests the Sun and the rather meager harvest of sunspots. On the second Saturday we even managed to show people the rather pale pre-first quarter moon. We talked to lots of interesting people and also met many astronomically enthusiastic persons as well.

One gentleman turned out to be the estate manager for the Earl of Rosse’s estate in Ireland where Birr castle is situated and where William Parsons, the 3rd Earl of Rosse, built his gigantic Newtonian telescope between 1842 and 1845.  Called the Leviathan of Parsonstown it had a 1,8 m speculum mirror with a focal length of 16 m. In 1994 a retired structural engineer and amateur astronomer Michael Tubridy was asked to resurrect the Leviathan of Parsonstown. The original plans had disappeared so intense detective work was called for to achieve his goal. Reconstruction lasted from early 1996 to early 1997 and a new aluminium mirror was installed in 1999.

Part of our poster display on the "new" A-frame display boards
Part of our poster display on the “new” A-frame display boards
Southe African astronomy and our involvement in space matters was given prominence
South African astronomy and our involvement in space matters was given prominence
We emphasized the importance of space exploration
We emphasized the importance of space exploration
Space exploration and missions to other planets got a lot of attention
Space exploration and missions to other planets got a lot of attention. Wendy in the background manning the solar telescope
Visitors were also encouraged to join ASSA or the Cape Centre
Visitors were also encouraged to join ASSA or the Cape Centre while Star People and the Southern Star Party were also on display. Lynnette taking a break in the shade can be seen in the centre
More posters and Auke in the background on the second Saturday
More posters with Lynnette and Auke in the background on the second Saturday
The model of the Saturn Rocket drew quite a lot of attention
The model of the Saturn Rocket drew quite a lot of attention

Our poster display was quite impressive and most visitors found it very informative as well. In fact many of the interesting discussions originated around one or more of these posters. Some visitors started a discussion at one poster and then continued on to a second and third poster, eventually departing after more than an hour of questions and answers; heavy stuff!

On the second Saturday it was hotter but there were fewer visitors
On the second Saturday it was hotter but there were fewer visitors
Some visitors actually sat down to study the posters
Some visitors actually sat down to study the posters. Note the Earth and models of the Moon and Mars in the background
Lynnette and Lorenzo on duty
Lynnette and Lorenzo on duty
Auke braves the Sun to show visitors the Sun through Lorenzo
Auke braves the Sun to show visitors the Sun through Lorenzo
These visitors wanted to see the Moon and Lorenzo and I obliged
These visitors wanted to see the Moon and Lorenzo and I obliged
Auke had an impromptu reunion with an old class mate
Auke had an impromptu reunion with an old class mate

However, the Sun took its toll and by closing time on the second Saturday we were done, well done. It did not take a long discussion to decide that we were just not up to another day in the Sun. Auke made the appropriate apologies to Surea and Megan and we spent the Sunday recuperating.  All things being equal it is much easier to battle the mozzies and their biting cronies at night than to take on the Sun for seven hours or more.

Moon evening with the Helderberg Eco Rangers at the Helderberg Nature Reserve – 08 November 2014

Hi Ho Hi Ho , It’s Off To Show the Moon We Go!!

Yes, I know that is not exactly what the Seven Dwarfs sang in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and neither did we really sing either, but that is more or less what it amounted to as Auke, Lynnette and I set off for the Helderberg Nature Reserve in Somerset West. Auke had arranged with Claudia Shuster and Andreas Groenewald that the three of us would come along and give the Eco Rangers and their parents an opportunity to look at the Moon through a telescope. We brought our two Dobbies, Lorenzo and Maphefo and the Eco Rangers would supply a third Dobby.  This whole outing was to have been part of the National Space Week project which SAASTA seems to have allowed to fizzle out.

Claudia was at the gate of the Reserve to meet us and, after parking the Vito, Andreas and others were on hand to help us get the telescopes to the viewing site.  The chosen site was a bit unusual as it was situated on the boardwalk at the Northern edge of the dam adjacent to the restaurant in the Reserve. There might be some discussion as to whether this is the “greenest” site we’ve ever observed from but it was definitely the wobbliest. Anyone not treading very lightly on the boardwalk, promptly set the moon yo-yo-ing wildly in and out of the field of view.

The three Dobbies on the boardwalk against the magnificent backdrop of Helderberg Mountain with Haelkop Peak on the far right
The three Dobbies on the boardwalk against the magnificent backdrop of Helderberg Mountain with Haelkop Peak on the far right
Even Auke, who's seen it all, had to admit that this was the most "different" site he'd ever set up in
Even Auke, who’s seen it all, had to admit that this was the most “different” site he’d ever set up in
Lorenzo at attention and ready for action, of which there was to be plenty later in the evening
Lorenzo at attention and ready for action, of which there was to be plenty later in the evening
Auke getting ready to go and have supper.  In the background the dam and in the far distance Kogelberg peak
Auke getting ready to go and have supper. In the background the dam and in the far distance Kogelberg peak

After setting up the telescopes we went back to the Vito for the picnic supper Lynnette had packed for us and Andreas explained that he would first take the Eco Rangers on a short moonlight walk through the reserve after which they would arrive at the telescopes in small groups. The three of us finished supper and made our way back to the telescopes in the gathering dusk to await the rising of the moon over the Hottentots Holland Mountains and the Eco Rangers. In the meantime we were entertained by an at times cacophonous chorus of frog and bird calls.  Go’here to listen to a recording I made on the cell phone

Suppertime!  Delicious potato salad, cocktail tomatoes, lettuce and sliced cucumber prepared by Lynnette.  The trusty Vito, resplendent with door magnets and in the background Hans se Kop
Suppertime! Delicious potato salad, cocktail tomatoes, lettuce, sliced cucumber and Gypsy ham prepared by Lynnette. The trusty Vito, resplendent with door magnets in the background and in the distance Hans se Kop

When the Eco Rangers and the accompanying adults pitched up it was not in the planned small groups at all. Instead, we were inundated by waves of eager moon-gazers from both directions on the boardwalk. Most moved quite sedately but, as is usual with children, there were groups that insisted on running resulting in an extreme case of telescope shakes. At one stage the 1957 Elvis Presler hit “I’m All Shook Up” on Capitol Records did cross my mind as an accurate title for this outing. Eventually the flood dwindled to a stream and finally to a trickle and when the last few drips and drabs had passed we started to pack up.

We were so busy that none of us had time to take photographs of the hordes of guests. With the bouncing boardwalk taking photographs as a bit dodgy in any case, as can be seen by the blur in this ons
We were so busy that none of us had time to take photographs of the hordes of guests. With the bouncing boardwalk taking photographs is a bit dodgy in any case, as can be seen by the blur in this one

I carried Lorenzo back to the Vito and installed him firmly in place and then went back for the rocker box only to discover that I had lost the keys to the Vito.

Disaster!

First I double checked all my pockets then checked the Vito, which I had fortunately not locked, but they were gone. Everyone pitched in combing the boardwalk and the vegetation on either side with torches. Eventually we realized that it was very unlikely that we were going to find them so Lynnette phoned her sister Petro who got the spare keys from our house and she and her fiancé drove through to Auke’s place with them. Claudia went home to get some well-earned rest and Andreas took Auke home so that he could bring us the keys when they arrived, courtesy of Petro. In the meantime Lynnette and I spent some quiet time in the moonlight under the watchful eye of the Mother Goose weather vane.

When Auke arrived we could eventually start the long overdue journey home.  The next day Auke kindly agreed to accompany us back to the Reserve to search for the keys in broad daylight.  The search was, however, fruitless.

The entrance to the actual Reserve with the Mother Goose Weather vane prominently displayed on top, in the middle.  The Helderberg Mountain forming a nice backdrop for the gateway
The entrance to the actual Reserve with the Mother Goose Weather vane prominently displayed on top, in the middle. The Helderberg Mountain forming a nice backdrop for the gateway
A close-up of Peggy, the Mother Goose weather vane
A close-up of Peggy, the Mother Goose weather vane
The Mother Goose plaque on a rock just inside the main entrance
The Mother Goose plaque on a rock just inside the main entrance
The boardwalk in broad daylight and somewhere along here are the Vito's keys
The boardwalk in broad daylight and somewhere along here are the Vito’s keys
The dam under cloudy skies with two Egyptian Geese having it all to themselves
The dam under cloudy skies with two Egyptian Geese having it all to themselves
Lynnette and Auke searching meticulously but in vain
Lynnette and Auke searching meticulously but in vain
The restaurant in the Helderberg Nature Reserve
The restaurant in the Helderberg Nature Reserve
Auke very uncharacteristically out in bright sunshine, among the birds and the bees (and plants).  Thanks for your efforts Auke.
Auke very uncharacteristically out in bright sunshine, among the birds and the bees (and plants). Thanks for your efforts Auke.
This Leopard tortoise is a resident  of the Nature Reserve and was not a member of the search party
This Leopard tortoise is a resident of the Nature Reserve and was not a member of the search party

 

Space Week Outreach at the Makadas Country Festival – 03 to 05 October 2014

Makadas Country Festival 03 to 05 October 2014

Lynnette, treatment Snorre and I got off to a later than planned start and only arrived at Auke’s place at 07:30. We were on the R44 heading for Stellenbosch by just after 08:00 and made good time on the N1, cialis through the Huguenot Tunnel and past Worcester before stopping off at the Veldskoen Farm Stall for a toasted cheese and tomato sandwich and coffee and some last minute planning.

In Touws River we reported to Adelaide at the reception desk of the Loganda Karoo Lodge and after being assigned our rooms and unloading gear we would not need we headed for the sports grounds where the Makadas Country Festival was to take place. Once there we quickly located Karin one of the three kingpins around whom most of the organization for the Festival had revolved; the other two being Deon Steyl and Willie Marais. She pointed out the site we had been allocated and we started to set up the gazebo, banners and telescopes.

The Star People stand at the Makadas Country Festival.  Lorenzo fitted with a solar filter on the left
The Star People stand at the Makadas Country Festival. Lorenzo fitted with a solar filter on the left
The big tent where all the performers did their thing
The big tent where all the performers did their thing
Inside the big tent it was country, country and more country
Inside the big tent it was country, country and more country
Country all the way there and back in the big tent
Country all the way there and back in the big tent
The local Supermarket was a big sponsor and made sure everyone noticed that
The local Supermarket was a big sponsor and made sure everyone noticed that

Here is some background to this Country Festival’s rather unusual name for the unenlightened reader. The railway line from Cape Town to Johannesburg traverses relatively flat terrain as far as Worcester and then begins to gain altitude. Initially relatively slowly until it passes De Doorns and then there is a long climb up through the tunnels to the top of the Hex Pass. In the days when trains were pulled by steam engines a long climb like that required lots of steam and to produce that used a lot of water. Touws River originally came into being as a station where the steam locomotives could replenish their water supply before the long haul through the Karoo to Beaufort-West. So the town was in every sense a railway town and even administered by the South African Railways up to a point in the 1950’s. The electrification of the railways and the introduction of diesel-electric locomotives brought the steam era to a close and also reduced the importance of Touws River for the South African Railways and they began a process of staff reduction.

Apart from the main line a rural line also operated from Touws River to Ladismith.  This line was opened in 1925 and was, in many ways a life line for the farming communities along the route; it delivered and collected letters and packages; took cans of milk to the dairy in Ladismith and returned the empty cans; conveyed farm produce and farming equipment and, of course, transported people.  There are many tales of the train stopping, on request, in the middle of nowhere to drop of a passenger or goods of some sort and also of people flagging down the train because they had to go to either Ladismith or Touws River. These slow trains were also known in Afrikaans as “Melktreine” or “Milk Trains” because they quite literally stopped everywhere along the route to pick up cans of milk.

This train became known locally as the Makadas. Obviously this was not a line that was ever going to be electrified and neither was it a line generating a large profit for the Railways so eventual closure was probably unavoidable. Then Mother Nature provided the Railways with a perfectly watertight reason for closing the line; the great flood of January 1981. This flood decimated Laingsburg, Montagu and large sections of the Karoo on either side of the Buffels, Touws and Groot Rivers washing away farms, entire orchards and also about 50 km of the approximately 144 km railway line between Touws River and Ladismith.  Despite protestations and numerous appeals by many people and organizations the Makadas line went to a watery grave never to be resurrected. There are several versions about the origin of the name and none of them are really verifiable so I will give them all here.

A stand with wooden toys featured a Makadas model
A stand with wooden toys featured a Makadas model

The locomotives that exclusively worked the line from 1925 to 1968 were Class  7 locomotives and they had a very distinctive sound which was totally different from their successors, the Class 24’s that made their appearance in 1968 and eventually took over completely in 1972.  Makadas is, according to one source an onomatopoeic word representing the Class 7’s distinctive sound.

The second explanation of the name is linked to the fact that the train regularly carried loads of dry manure which was smelly and gave of a very fine dust. In the early years of its operation the train crews were all English speaking and they apparently referred to it as the “Muck and dust” train because of this specific freight.  Afrikaans speaking people are known for their tendency to mangle words from other languages until they sound vaguely Afrikaans so it would not have been difficult to convert “muck and dust” to Makadas.

The conductor of the Makadas used to walk up and down the platform urging slow moving passengers along by shouting “Make a dash” and this too would have been easy for the Afrikaans ear to convert to Makadas.  The “Make a dash” is also attributed to the fact that passengers waiting for the train would sit under trees, often situated some distance from where the train would stop and, when the approaching train was heard or seen they would “Make a dash” for the siding, halt or station.

We put Lorenzo up and fitted its solar filter and we were soon in business showing interested parties the Sun and the sunspots.  Later in the afternoon we also had the moon to show people and, as the Sun set we set Maphefo up too. Maphefo had not been set up for Solar viewing because I had forgotten the solar filter. By the time it should have been dark we realized that there was no way it was ever going to really be dark because of the floodlights around the sports grounds and the extra lighting that had been erected for the Festival. So we had the Moon, Saturn situated about 10 degrees away from a particularly bright spotlight, the Pointers, Mars, Antares, three of the stars in Crux and a few other objects. By 21:30 the stream of viewers had dwindled to a drop or two here and there so we packed up.  Security at the site was excellent so we left all our banners, tables and chairs on site and headed for the Loganda to get some well-earned rest.

Group photos are the in thing at events like this
Group photos are the in thing at events like this
Viewing the Moon during daytime was a novelty for most people
Viewing the Moon during daytime was a novelty for most people
Lorenzo takes a break from solar viewing
Lorenzo takes a break from solar viewing
Thse guys are part of the cleaning staff that patrolled the grounds and kept everything super clean
These guys are part of the cleaning staff that patrolled the grounds and kept everything super clean
These guys new where the stars were so I must have been pointing something else out
These guys from Drie Kuilen private reserve knew where the stars were so I must have been pointing something else out
Light pollution was really terrible
Light pollution was really terrible
This spotlight was one of several that turned night int day
This spotlight was one of several that turned night into day

On Saturday morning we started the day by setting up Hans van der Merwe’s water rocket and what a hit that was.  Everybody wanted to help refuel, fetch the rocket pull the “firing-string” and in general, get involved.  Lorenzo did duty as a solar scope all day and by the time sunset approached all three of us were quite fed-up with showing the Sun. We were all three “medium-rare” after spending the whole day out in the Sun.  We decided to pack away everything except the two telescopes so that we would not need to do so in the dark when it was time to go home. An important aspect of the Festival was how clean everything was. There were small teams of cleaners doing the rounds on a regular basis.  They picked up every scrap of anything lying around and put it refuse bags they carried with them.  The same applied to the toilets where a team come round on a regular basis and made sure nothing was blocked, thet the tanks were full and that there was enough paper. Ten out of ten for the organizers of the festival on these two counts.

The water rocket was a lot of fun and is very easy to make
The water rocket was a lot of fun and is very easy to make
Everybody wanted to be part of the rocket launching
Everybody wanted to be part of the rocket launching
Auke retreats in expectation of the blast from the lift-off
Auke retreats in expectation of the blast from the lift-off
The yellow cones indicate distances travelled with different amounts of water and different pressures
The yellow cones indicate distances travelled with different amounts of water and different pressures
The rocket on the launch-pad
The rocket on the launch-pad

 

Ear protection was not essential but this young rocket scientist felt he should wear some
Ear protection was not essential but this young rocket scientist felt he should wear some
Some viewers were too short to reach the eyepiece and we had forgotten to bring a stepladder
Some viewers were too short to reach the eyepiece and we had forgotten to bring a stepladder
Finding the Sun with a Dobby is actually quite tricky, believe it or not
Finding the Sun with a Dobby is actually quite tricky, believe it or not

After sunset we had both Lorenzo and Maphefo set up to view the Moon and the few other objects visible under the heavily light polluted conditions. By 21:00 we had run out of viewers and decided to head for the Loganda, supper and sleep. Snorre spent both days sleeping in his carry cage under the tables in the gazebo and only needed one or two excursions to the nearest sandy patch to relieve himself during the day. Our room in the Loganda had a wide windowsill and he spent two very frustrating mornings there watching the pigeons parade up and down on the outside windowsill, totally unperturbed by his whisker twitching presence on the other side of the glass.

The viewers were already gathering as Auke unpacked Maphefo
The viewers were already gathering as Auke unpacked Maphefo
Just check out the Light pollution levels as Auke and Lynnette operate Maphefo and Lorenzo
Just check out the Light pollution levels as Auke and Lynnette operate Maphefo and Lorenzo
Lynnette and Lorenzo actually managed to show people Saturn.  No mean feat if you consider there was a spotlight about 10 degrees away from Saturn
Lynnette and Lorenzo actually managed to show people Saturn. No mean feat if you consider there was a spotlight about 10 degrees away from Saturn
Auke demonstrating to viewers that  Maphefo can view terrestrial objects a well
Auke demonstrating to viewers that Maphefo can view terrestrial objects as well
And this is our next outreach vehicle.
And this is our next outreach vehicle.

After breakfast we returned home to the usual grind of unpacking and packing away and wondering if it was really worth all the trouble. Despite all those doubts we will do it all again.

National Science Week 2014

To the West Coast, Cederberg, Matzikama and back

National Science Week in 2014 took place from the 02nd to the 08th of August. Before that event could take place there was a lot to do. Lots of planning and discussions, lots of paperwork to be sorted, equipment to be hired, telephone calls to be made, e-mails to be sent and frayed nerves soothed because the money from SAASTA was not forthcoming. But eventually, all the loose ends came together and we could go and get the job done.

The final agreement document and budget for National Science Week
The final agreement document and budget for National Science Week
All correct and off it goes with the courier
All correct and off it goes with the courier
Preparing our new, lightweight poster boards
Preparing our new, lightweight poster boards

 

SkyNet the bringers of lots and lots of paper
SkyNet the bringers of lots and lots of paper
It was a case of paper, paper everywhere and nowhere to put the rest.
It was a case of paper, paper everywhere and nowhere to put the rest.
Posters all rolled and organized and ready for delivery
Posters all rolled and organized and ready for delivery

 

Early morning Velddrif on our way to check out the venues
Early morning Velddrif on our way to check out the venues

 

The Long House's ample stoep
The Long House’s ample stoep
One of the Long House's cats.  Later named Pieke by Auke.
One of the Long House’s cats. Later named Pieke by Auke.

 

One of the six or seven dreaded stop-and-go points  between Clanwilliam and Klawer
One of the six or seven dreaded stop-and-go points between Clanwilliam and Klawer
Oh no! another load of paper from SAASTA on the day before we left
Oh no! Another load of paper from SAASTA on the day before we left

 

Sunday the 03rd of August

On Sunday the 03rd of August Lynnette, Petro, Snorre and I drove to Somerset West in the hired Quantum with a large trailer. National Science Week, 2014 had kicked of for us. Petro was going to house-sit Auke’s Aunt, will the rest of us did our National Science Week thing on the West Coast. After unloading Petro and her belongings we loaded Auke and his paraphernalia, said our goodbyes, and hit the road. We did not take the N7, as we wanted to avoid the road works between Citrusdal and Clanwilliam. We could have avoided them by taking the road along the northern bank of the Olifant’s River, but that road is unsurfaced and apparently quite bad in places, so we opted for the slightly longer West Coast route. This took us past Malmesbury, Hopefield, Langebaanweg, Saldanha, Velddrif, Laaiplek, Dwarskersbos, Elandsbaai, Leipoldtville and Graafwater. We reached our destination, Clanwilliam and the Long House Guest House, our base for the next six days.

 

The quantum and trailer all loaded and ready to go
The quantum and trailer all loaded and ready to go
Sunday evening dinner - the quiet before the storm
Sunday evening dinner – the quiet before the storm

Monday the 04th of August

On Monday the 04th of August it was cloudy and rainy but luckily we could set up in the hall of the Clanwilliam Senior Secondary School, courtesy of the principal, Mr Munnik. The program for the day was very well coordinated by one of the teachers, Mrs, Cornel de Waal. We had loads of learners from the host school and from the Sederberg Primary School right next door, where Mr Barends is the principal. Mr Nel, the principal at the Augsberg Agricultural Gymnasium, also arranged to have a large number of learners from his school visit us. Several of the educators from the various schools accompanied their learners. Snorre’s contribution was to undertake several parades around the school hall and spend time on the table amongst the hand-outs, having his head scratched by all and sundry. However, for most of the day he was quite happy snoozing in his carry-cage.

After the end of the normal school day we had a steady stream of learners who lived close to the school or in the school hostel, as well as members of the public visit us. Although we were on site until well after sunset, the weather never cleared up sufficiently to justify setting up a telescope.  It actually started drizzling right on cue as we started loading our stuff back in the vehicle.

The team will always have fond memories of the Clanwilliam Senior Secondary’s hospitality. The lunch and other refreshments provided were life savers for the presenters.

 

Clanwilliam Senior Seconday School
Clanwilliam Senior Seconday School
Augsberg Agricultural Gymnasium at Clanwilliam Senior Secondary School
Augsberg Agricultural Gymnasium at Clanwilliam Senior Secondary School

Tuesday the 05th of August

On Tuesday the 05th of August we had an early breakfast and then set of in the rain and predawn darkness northward on the N7 to Klawer. This section of the N7 is also under reconstruction, or as SANRAL calls it, rehabilitation. We arrived at Klawer Primary School and the principal, Mr Esterhuise, showed us to the class where we could set up for the day. It rained on and off while we were unloading making it very difficult to keep things dry and not to tread mud into the classroom. The school kept a steady stream of learners coming all day and in most cases they were accompanied by their educators too. During the afternoon and early evening we had more learners, their parents and also other members of the public visit us. Snorre again made one or two appearances as “The Cat on the Table”. He also took a walk around the school grounds on his leash with Lynnette but spent most of the day in his carry-cage, which he seems to prefer when there is a lot of activity around him.

We set up a telescope late in the afternoon, when the weather looked as if it might clear, and actually managed to project the Moon for short periods before the rain sent us scurrying indoors and convinced us we should pack up and call it a day.

Negotiating the N7, which, as already mentioned, was in rehab, in the dark was not fun but we eventually made it back to Clanwilliam and the Long House where we unhitched the trailer and then had a well-earned supper before going to bed.

Non-astronomy weather on the way to Klawer
Non-astronomy weather on the way to Klawer
Learners and an educator from Klawer Primary School
Learners and an educator from Klawer Primary School
Lynnette and learners from Klawer Primary School
Lynnette and learners from Klawer Primary School
Projecting the Moon before the rain called a halt to the proceedings in Klawer
Projecting the Moon before the rain called a halt to the proceedings in Klawer

Wednesday the 06th of August

Wednesday the 06th of August started with a repeat performance of the previous day, as we again headed north up the N7, but this time past Klawer and on to Vredendal and the Vredendal Primary School. The only difference was that we started out so early that we had to skip breakfast, which was a major inconvenience. At the school the principal, Mr Moon, had arranged for us to use the school hall and also had extra hands lined up to help us unload. We had a very busy day with a constant stream of learners and educators from our host school as well as leaners from Vredendal High School, courtesy of the principal Mr Swanepoel, and also from Vredendal Senior Secondary School thanks to the principal, Mrs Henderson’s efforts. We also had a visit from the SAASTA representative, Me Lithakazi Lande, who had driven up from Cape Town the previous day. Unbeknown to either party she had spent the night at the Yellow Aloe Guest House which is right next door to the Long House. A major difference was that she started later than we did so she could have breakfast before tackling the N7. She, however, also complained about having had to negotiate the road works on the N7 between Citrusdal and Clanwilliam the previous day, justifying our use of the West Coast route. Lithakazi left before lunch as she had a long drive down to Vredenburg ahead of her and I gave her a detailed description of our route so that she could avoid the dreaded N7 between Clanwilliam and Citrusdal. . Unfortunately the partially overcast weather and especially the high level cirrus clouds made the projection of the Sun impractical. Snorre only made one or two forays out of his cage to eat, drink water and use his sandbox but, other than that, seemed disinclined to spend time outside the cage.  Fortunately he was not registered with SAASTA as a presenter otherwise we would have had to deduct form his pay for non-performance.

During the afternoon we had a few visitors but we also had to share the hall with a dance group practicing their moves – very loudly!

That evening we had a good attendance of parents and other members of the public and we were also able to project the Moon as well as show a variety of other objects through the second telescope. After closing up we again had to run the gauntlet of the N7, its rehabilitation, the darkness and the seemingly never ending stream of heavy vehicles, before we could get to Clanwilliam, supper, a cold beer and a welcoming bed.

Our setup at Vredendal Primary School
Our setup at Vredendal Primary School
Learners gathered around Auke at Vredendal Primary School
Learners gathered around Auke at Vredendal Primary School
Two of the learners next to our projecting telescope
Two of the learners next to our projecting telescope
The type of clouds that hung around for most of the day in Vredendal
The type of clouds that hung around for most of the day in Vredendal

 Thursday the 07th of August

Thursday the 07th of August was a much easier and shorter drive after breakfast to Graafwater, where we were to set up at Graafwater Primary School.  Mr Pieters, the principal, was on hand to welcome us and organize the willing hands that helped us unload. That morning we saw many learners and educators from the host school as well as learners and educators from Graafwater High School, organized my Mr Koertse, the principal there. During the afternoon we were visited by numerous children from the nearby residential areas. Late in the afternoon we unfortunately had to call in the help of the principal as the children became difficult to control. There was an altercation involving sticks, stones, lots of shouting, climbing on the roof, running around and at least one knife.  The problem was caused by two groups of older youths that arrived at the school and appeared to be competing for control of the younger children. Snorre seemed more amenable to sitting on the table in Graafwater, but quickly took refuge in his cage when the attention becomes too demanding.

Later in the afternoon Mr Pieters brought along his telescope, which was malfunctioning, and, much to his delight, we quickly set that right for him.  It was more an operator malfunction than a telescope malfunction as he was using a 4mm eyepiece with a 3xBarlow and was totally mystified by the fact that he could not get anything into focus. After the telescope “repairs” we got busy with the evening’s proceedings. We projected the moon and could show a variety of other objects to a large group of people through the second telescope while Auke took people on visual expeditions through the night sky. After packing up, it was an easy drive back to Clanwilliam for all the usual rewards after a rather stressful day.

 

Lynnette's table at Graafwater
Lynnette’s table at Graafwater
Learners from Graafwater High School visit us at Graafwater Primary School
Learners from Graafwater High School visit us at Graafwater Primary School
Learners from Graafwater Primary School
Learners from Graafwater Primary School
Some of the afternoon crowd af Graafwater Primary School
Some of the afternoon crowd af Graafwater Primary School
Auke meditating before the evening storm descends on us
Auke meditating before the evening storm descends on us
Some of the evening crowd at Graafwater Primary School
Some of the evening crowd at Graafwater Primary School

Friday the 08th August

Friday the 08th August saw us setting up on the premises of the Sandveld Winkel in Leipoldtville, courtesy of Mr Dirk Eygelaar and Mrs Marie Eygelaar. The site was a stone’s throw away from the Leipoldtville Primary School and the principal, Ms Hammers, had everything organized so that the educators could bring the learners to us in groups during the course of the day. We broke for a light lunch with the Eygelaars and during the afternoon many children from the nearby residential areas visited us. During the evening we had a good attendance by members of the public, who came to look at our moon projection and view other objects through the other telescope while Auke did his thing with the sky tours. Snorre had the day off, because he was able to spend the entire day stretched out on an easy chair in the Eygelaar’s home, far away from the attention of those eager little hands.

Unfortunately the clouds moved in early and put an end to our show. After supper with Mr and Mrs Eygelaar we set of to Clanwilliam and a very welcome night’s rest.

 

Parked outside our site at the Sandveld Winkel in Leipoldtville
Parked outside our site at the Sandveld Winkel in Leipoldtville
Learners from Leipoldtville Primary School
Learners from Leipoldtville Primary School
Learners and an educator at Auke's maths table
Learners and an educator at Auke’s maths table
Part of the evening crowd before the clouds put an end to the proceedings
Part of the evening crowd before the clouds put an end to the proceedings

Saturday the 09th of August

On Saturday the 09th of August we set up in front of the Clanwilliam Tourism Office. This was going to be a long day of real sidewalk astronomy with lots of feet passing from the residential areas to the town’s shopping area and back again. Unfortunately a technical hitch prevented us from projecting the Sun but we were able to project the Moon, from shortly after moonrise in the late afternoon. A great deal of interest was shown in actually viewing the objects through the other telescope.

Sometimes things happen during outreach events that make one wonder about people’s motivations and the following is one such incident. One lady left in a huff after spending quite some time in the queue waiting for her turn to look through the telescope. When she got to the telescope, and before looking through the eyepiece, she asked where the food was. On being informed there was no food, she turned on her heel and marched off, announcing that if there was no food she also did not want to look through the telescope. Apparently some people do not see well on an empty stomach, so next year we will have to budget for soup and sandwiches – SAASTA please take note. Snorre again spent the whole day with us, but in a non-participative capacity snoozing in his cage under the table most of the time. He asked to be let out on one or two occasions for food water and also to use his sandbox, but showed no interest whatsoever in sitting on the table. I think the noise from the passing traffic was not to his liking.

A special word of thanks goes to Esther Steens and her staff at the Tourism Office. They stayed on several hours beyond their normal closing time, so that we could have electricity for the projection and to make their toilet facilities available.

 

Saturday morning outside the Tourism Centre in Clanwilliam
Saturday morning outside the Tourism Centre in Clanwilliam

 

Projecting the Moon in Clanwilliam
Projecting the Moon in Clanwilliam
Some of the evening crowd in Clanwilliam
Some of the evening crowd in Clanwilliam

 Sunday the 10th August

On Sunday the 10th August we had a leisurely breakfast, said goodbye to René and her staff in the kitchen at the Long House, who had so willingly supplied the early eggs and bacon and especially the coffee every morning. After breakfast we packed up and headed down the West Coast back to Cape Town. Unfortunately the crayfish for lunch did not materialize but maybe next year we can fit that in. After exchanging Auke for Petro in Somerset West we drove back to Brackenfell, where Lynnette and I set about the onerous task of unpacking, putting everything away and returning the Quantum and trailer to the hiring company. Snorre was very glad to be back home and free of his leash and harness.

On Monday the 11th of August we started the huge administrative task of preparing the final report and the financial report. One of the difficult and often delicate tasks is to get the schools to complete and send us the final documentation required by SAASTA.  Some just don’t send, others send but don’t complete, while others supply information that does not match what we already have about the visit and poor Lynnette has volunteered for the task of sorting all this out.

Will we do it again next year? Maybe but only time will tell.

A deserted Tourism Centre on the Sunday Morning
A deserted Tourism Centre on the Sunday Morning
Hopefield wind powered generators on our way home
Hopefield wind powered generators on our way home