I do not know which of the following is applicable to our case “You cannot have your cake and eat it” or “What you gain on the swings you loose on the roundabouts”. On the one hand we had bright sunshine and a six day old waxing moon that was situated very nicely but, on the other hand, we had a brisk and fairly chilly South-Easter that pushed clumps of fluffy clouds across our field of view all afternoon and, to top it all, there were only two minuscule sunspots visible.
Auke was already there and Eddy and Jannie arrived shortly after us with Dirk about 30 minutes after them. Alan and Rose weren’t there because Alan had to work and Wendy could also not make it as her husband was ill and had been hospitalized.
The brisk South-Easter was quite cold and, as we had suspected the wind drove a never ending series of fluffy clouds across the face of the Moon limiting viewing to the intervening gaps between them. I decided not to even try the Sun as the two diminutive sunspots were really not worth the effort and concentrated on the Moon.
There were fewer people around and this seems to be the pattern when there is a bit of wind. I also think that in the wind people tend to bunch up more at the Swing Bridge and are less inclined to look around. There seems to be a greater sense of urgency to get across. Also for the people coming from the other side they seem to move straight on and not fan out as they do on days when there is less wind.
There were fewer clouds as the afternoon wore on and by sunset we had almost uninterrupted views of the moon. I decided to give viewers a special treat and added a 3x Barlow to my 25 mm eyepiece. That never fails to draw Wows, OMG’s, Awesome’s. Nooo’s and even a You Lie or two from the viewers. It takes a bit more nudging and shoving, but the effect on viewers is more than worth the trouble. In addition Lorenzo has the advantage of being more stable and less prone to wind induced vibrations than the smaller telescopes.
Once the Sun was down it became really chilly and one once again had to marvel at the fact that one could actually show people celestial objects from such a heavily light polluted site as the Pierhead. Unfortunately Venus and Saturn were not well placed for viewing from our position and the best position would have been under the coloured fairy lights on the quayside.
We had bright sunshine and clear skies but on the way into Cape Town there was a suspicious looking cloud hanging around over the Eastern end of Table Mountain and the Devil’s Peak. I say suspicious because clouds like that, more often than not, are the forerunners of a South-Easter in Cape Town. This proved to be correct in this case although it did not develop into a full scale gale it was cold and a nuisance on the Pierhead.
By the time the Noon Day Gun (there is an informative piece on Wikipedia about this Cape Town icon) had sounded we were on site and setting up, followed shortly by Alan and Rose and then by Dirk. Auke and Wendy arrived a bit later. Wendy was just back from gallivanting around England and had brought het new telescope along for its inaugural session. The wind very quickly gave us to understand that today was not a day for banners, or A-frame poster displays. Later on it even toppled our trestles with the A2-framed posters and some of the gusts turned over tables and caused general mayhem. Dirk and Wendy’s smaller telescopes constantly had the jitters and even Alan’s eight inch Dobby and Lorenzo were not completely steady.
The moon was well up by 13:30 so Dirk could get his scope set on that as he does not have a solar filter for viewing the Sun. The Sun, by the way, was sporting a nice crop of sunspots unlike on our previous outing. I don’t know if it was the wind but the people were disinclined to look through the telescopes and needed quite a bit of coaxing. We eventually tallied up just under 600 visitors but felt that, with the sunshine, we should have had more.
The Chairperson of ASSA’s (Astronomical Society of Southern Africa) Cape Centre, Eddy Nijeboer also paid us a visit. Thanks Eddy it was nice to have somebody from the Cape Centre joining Wendy at the Pierhead. You can go here to find out more about ASSA and visit this page to find out more about the Cape Centre. If you are interested in astronomy please join ASSA or, if you live in Cape Town join the Cape Centre.
Venus was a nice early evening target for a short while and Saturn was well positioned for viewing. The Moon is always a good attraction and never fails to elicit exclamations of surprise, delight or amazement from even the apparently disinterested viewers. Despite what looked like clear skies, it soon became apparent the wind was driving moisture through the atmosphere somewhere above us, because the view through the telescope was just not as crisp as we would have wanted it to be. This wasn’t as visible when looking at the Moon but the effects were quite pronounced when looking at Saturn.
After the show we all had coffee at Den Anker served by our favourite waitron, Patrick, before heading home. Go here to find out more about this Belgian restaurant in the Waterfront.
We had bright sunshine and clear skies which was nice but there were no sunspots and also no moon before almost 21:00. So why on earth did we choose Saturday the 20th to set up in the waterfront? Actually we didn’t exactly choose it, it was chosen for us by circumstances. Our scheduled date was Saturday the 13th of August but, let me go right back to the beginning and explain what happened.
We had to decide whether to cancel our Waterfront date on the 13th or to move it one week on. We opted for the latter choice, knowing that the moon would only be out later but still hoping for some sunspots. We didn’t have sunspots, but the change of date wasn’t all negative because the weather was overcast and rainy on the 13th so we would not have been able to set up in the Waterfront in any case.
So, there we were with no sunspots and a late moon but beautiful weather and lots of enthusiastic people (680 visited us) all eager to get to know more about astronomy. Auke also had a table set up with some of the material and demonstrations on renewable energy that we had used during National Science Week. This also attracted quite a lot of attention.
The lack of sunspots gave us the opportunity to talk about other aspects of astronomy and space exploration, after allowing people to view the sun through our specially protected telescopes. Our display about space junk attracted a lot of attention as well. The fact that outer space was a mere 100 km away compared to all the other places on the Pierhead signpost left many of our visitors a bit shell shocked too.
Dirk was not quite his normal chirpy self and still had a cough and sore ribs after his recent indisposition, so he left pretty sharply at 21:00 to get out of the cold night air. Alan and Rose also opted to get home and get some well earned rest while Auke, Lynnette and I decided to have coffee at Den Anker (click here to find out more about this delightful restaurant), where Patrick was delighted to see Lynnette and I again.
Also on the positive side I should mention that we had very little dew, so our equipment and other material was put away dry. This meant Lynnette and I could pack everything away without first unpacking all the stuff and laying it out in the sun to dry. What a joy and also a huge saving in time and effort for the two of us.
“Third time lucky” is an expression one often hears and it certainly applied to or stargazing efforts at the Pierhead in the V&A Waterfront. After poor weather in May and worse weather in June we had fantastic open skies this time. Unfortunately the Sun wasn’t as well endowed with sunspots as we would have like it to be, which immediately brings to mind the hackneyed expression “What you lose on the swings, you gain on the roundabouts”.
Lynnette and I made had to first drop John-Henry off in Mowbray but we were still first on the scene followed by Alan and Rose, then Dirk and lastly Auke and the birthday girl, Wendy. It soon became clear that the fine weather had lured the visitors out in force and there were many more people in the Waterfront than on either of our previous visits. We were soon very busy.
Alan and Rosemary had their eight-inch Dobsonian set up close to the water’s edge. I suppose you can take a man out of the Navy but you can’t really take the sea out of a naval man, Alan? Dirk set up his Celestron close to the two red poodles, probably because he missed his Yorkies, while Auke and Wendy set up Maphefu, Auke’s eight-inch Dobsonian, an outreach veteran, next to the signpost.
Auke had his very nifty demonstration of how to use a simple pinhole to calculate the size of the Sun set up there as well. Lynnette and I set up Lorenzo our workhorse 10-inch Dobsonian, also a veteran of many outreach events, a short distance away from Auke and Wendy.
I was surprised by the large number of foreigners but should not really have been, because the V&A is known to be a magnet for foreign tourists. One Spanish family, on seeing the name Lorenzo on our telescope, came up with the following interesting piece of information.
It was a warm sunny day with very few sunspots but lots of interested and interesting people. The 30% illuminated waxing moon had risen shortly after 11:00, so it was well positioned for Alan and Dirk who do not have solar filters for their telescopes. My, soon to be patented, (Bob) Marley 40 mm Solar-finder worked very well and the erudite Mr Cassells even complimented me by saying it looked “very professional”.
Once the Sun went down it quickly became chilly but the sky was clear and we were able to show the Moon in high definition as well as Jupiter, Mars and Saturn to a host of visitors. I used a 9 mm eyepiece on Lorenzo, which gave visitors a quite spectacular view of the Moon and the other objects but also meant that I was kept busy making corrections to keep the objects in the field of vision.
We packed up at 21:00 just as the dew was beginning to become problematic. At that stage there were still quite a few people around but with a tally of 1622 visitors on our counters we felt that enough was enough. After packing up we handed over Wendy’s birthday present and went our various ways homeward.
On outings like this one always encounters people with odd requests and non-mainstream views and Saturday was no exception. There was one small group that insisted I show them the planet Nibiru and all my diplomatic attempts to convince them of its non-existence came to naught. I eventually resorted to verbal force majeure to get rid of them when they became abusive about my inability to show it to them. This by the way was all in broad daylight! Another gentleman insisted that the telescope was an instrument of the anti-Christ and that Saturn was, in fact, Satan’s seat of power. He eventually wandered of proclaiming to all and sundry that science was actually the anti-Christ not just poor Lorenzo. Lorenzo was relieved.
On Sunday it was all about unpacking and putting all the stuff out to dry before packing everything away again.
When Lynnette and I left Brackenfell the conditions were not all that good for viewing the Sun and we hoped that they would improve during the course of the afternoon and evening. The clouds were thin and patchy so there was some hope.
We had hardly stopped at the Pierhead in the Waterfront when Alan and Rose arrived followed very shortly by Auke and Wendy. Dirk had been delayed and only arrived quite a bit after the rest of us. We set up quickly and got Lorenzo and Maphefu onto the Sun. The high level clouds blurred the image and made it difficult to see the two large sunspots but when the Sun got into a fairly clear patch the image was good. The conditions were not all that pleasant and the cold wind probably reduced the numbers of visitors to the Waterfront because there were definitely fewer passersby than on our previous visit.
While Wendy and I kept the visitors busy on Lorenzo and Maphefu, Dirk was setting up and Auke and Alan were measuring out the size of the Sun in comparison to the inflatable Earth globes we had brought along. They also used chalk to draw the relative sizes of the planets around the signpost on the Pierhead.
Lynnette had packed some delicious sandwiches for the two of us, which went down really well. She had also bought a variety of very nice muffins which she shared out to the rest of the crew to have with their coffee. Lynnette also did her usual with the visitors lists when the telescope operators were tied up and operated Lorenzo when I had to do something else. Her skill at finding the Sun with the Dobsonians also came in very handy when Auke, Wendy or I struggled to find it.
The gusty conditions blew the cover off Lorenzo and sent it spinning over the edge of the pier. Fortunately it lodged in a position where Alan could retrieve it. We had two disasters with our inflatable Earth globes. In one case a boy decided to practice his soccer kick on one and broke the tag to which the string for holding it is attached. To the boy’s mother I would like to say that grabbing his hand and hustling him away as if nothing had happened, sets a very bad example to him and shows a regrettable lack of responsibility on your behalf. The same comment applies to the three youths who forcibly dislodged the other Earth globe and then had the temerity to chirp Alan when he went chasing after it to prevent it being blown into the water.
As time passed the clouds became thicker until we could no longer see the Sun at all and George also lost sight of the Moon. By 17:00 it looked as if we were fighting a losing battle and I had Lorenzo fixed on Lion’s Head giving visitors a clear view of the people sitting and walking around up there. Shortly after 17:30 we decided the weather was not going to clear so we packed up and headed for home.
The only consolation was that there had been no dew so Lynnette and I did not have to unpack and dry everything before packing it all away. However, despite the unfavourable conditions we managed to service just under 300 visitors during the course of the afternoon.
We can only hope that the 09th of July, which is when we are scheduled to set up on the Pierhead again, provides us with better viewing conditions.