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.

 

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.

Museum Open Night: Thursday 10th March 2016.

Lynnette and I arrived first outside the Iziko Museum (go here to visit their website) and Planetarium (go here to see their webpage) and, after some vehicular gymnastics, managed to park the Vito. Auke and Wendy arrived shortly after us in Wendy’s new vehicle. After Elsabé Uys had assured us we were parked in the correct places we started setting up. The windy conditions soon made it clear that banners were not going to be put up at all. The wind was to become a major factor in the rest of the evening’s proceedings. However we set up Lorenzo, Wendy’s 8” Dobby and Walter, Auke’s refractor, and settled down to wait. The sun was already behind the trees and buildings on the western edge of the amphitheater so we couldn’t show people that and there was no moon, so we had no choice but to wait for it to get dark before we would (hopefully) have something to show people.

Shortly after sunset the queue started forming at the entrance to the museum and quickly extended itself down the steps of the amphitheater past our telescopes. I must say we certainly got some pretty odd looks sitting behind our telescopes twiddling our thumbs and gazing up into the sky. In the meantime the wind was steadily becoming stronger and the wispy clouds around Devil’s Peak and the eastern buttress of Table Mountain were becoming more and more substantial by the minute. Even before it was properly dark these clouds had started sweeping down the front of the mountain and then breaking up and floating across the city. They looked like giant tufts of candyfloss tinted pink and yellow by Cape Town’s poorly designed lighting.

TOP: The queue starts forming. BOTTOM LEFT: Checking the weather forecast. BOTTOM CENTRE: Theo Ferreira (The Planetarium Boss) Auke and Walter. BOTTOM RIGHT: Lynnette in discussion with a gentleman who disputed the fact that our Sun was a star.
TOP: The queue starts forming. BOTTOM LEFT: Checking the weather forecast. BOTTOM CENTRE: Theo Ferreira (The Planetarium Boss) Auke and Walter. BOTTOM RIGHT: Lynnette in discussion with a gentleman who disputed the fact that our Sun was a star.
TOP LEFT: Auke explaining matters astronomical while a lone viewer tries to see what Walter will show her. TOP RIGHT: I point out Jupiter in the sky as viewers wait to look through Lorenzo. BOTTOM LEFT: More Jupiter viewers and Wendy’s scope is visible in the background. BOTTOM RIGHT: Auke with viewers and Walter. The bright light in the background is not Auke’s halo it is a reflective yellow strip on the side of a taxi in the background.
TOP LEFT: Auke explaining matters astronomical while a lone viewer tries to see what Walter will show her. TOP RIGHT: I point out Jupiter in the sky as viewers wait to look through Lorenzo. BOTTOM LEFT: More Jupiter viewers and Wendy’s scope is visible in the background. BOTTOM RIGHT: Auke with viewers and Walter. The bright light in the background is not Auke’s halo it is a reflective yellow strip on the side of a taxi in the background.

When we finally got started the area around Orion, Canis Major and the surrounding constellations were only visible for brief moments in the breaks between the scurrying clouds and our best (in fact only bet) was Jupiter, low down on the eastern horizon. It seemed as if the clouds avoided that area. By now the wind was blowing a mini-gale, and when it gusted it overturned our tables and chairs, rocked the telescopes and blew dust and leaves into people’s eyes. Most certainly not the most pleasant evening for astronomy outreach we had experienced. As Jupiter rose higher it entered the cloudy zone and we had to wait patiently for it to reappear in the gaps before people could view it through the telescopes.

TOP LEFT: The back is the best part of a donkey. TOP RIGHT: Walter’s angle exactly suites this shorter viewer. BOTTOM LEFT: With all that light around one needs t have a really bright object to look at with a telescope if one is to see anything at all. BOTTOM RIGHT: Wendy with her queue of viewers and that reflective strip on the taxi in the background again.
TOP LEFT: The back is the best part of a donkey. TOP RIGHT: Walter’s angle exactly suites this shorter viewer. BOTTOM LEFT: With all that light around one needs t have a really bright object to look at with a telescope if one is to see anything at all. BOTTOM RIGHT: Wendy with her queue of viewers and that reflective strip on the taxi in the background again.
TOP LEFT: I forgot our ladder which we use to assist the shorter viewers so I had to depend on “Parent Power”. TOP RIGHT: Auke, Wendy myself and the three scopes all in one picture. BOTTOM LEFT: Auke and Walter and I do not know what caused the shaft of light across the picture. BOTTOM RIGHT: Walter waits while Auke explains in the background.
TOP LEFT: I forgot our ladder which we use to assist the shorter viewers so I had to depend on “Parent Power”. TOP RIGHT: Auke, Wendy myself and the three scopes all in one picture. BOTTOM LEFT: Auke and Walter and I do not know what caused the shaft of light across the picture. BOTTOM RIGHT: Walter waits while Auke explains in the background.

By the time 21:40 rolled around all three of us were more than eager to pack up and go home. We bundled everything into the cars and made our respective ways home. It was fun, I think, but not the sort of fun I would like to repeat in a hurry. We are uncertain if it was just the very windy conditions or if there were other factors, but we definitely had far fewer people at the telescopes than last year and there were also fewer people in the queues.

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.

Global Astronomy Month and Kingdom Skies: April 2015

Public astronomy outing in Jack Muller / Danie Uys park in Bellville (Boston).

Ricardo (Ricky) Adams and Zenobia (Zee) Rinquest approached Auke, Lynnette and I to join them for a public astronomy outreach in celebration of Global Astronomy Month 2015 which you can read more about here. They had a venue all planned and were looking for fellow astronomy enthusiasts to enjoy the outing with them. Ricky was associated with the Iziko Planetarium for a long time and when he spoke to Theo Ferreira the MMWC at the Planetarium, Theo was kind enough to recommend us and also to arrange for support in the form of the Iziko bus with the three museum stalwarts, Temba Matomele, Sthembele Harmans and Luzuko Dalasile. You can read more about the Iziko outreach program here.

Top left: Early arrivals talking to Zee. Top right: Zee and new arrivals while Lorenzo sneaks into the picture Centre: Kingdom Skies eye-catching branding banner Bottom left: More is better when it comes to branding Bottom right: Visitors at the information table Background: The Vito and an ELF Astronomy door magnet just visible
Top left: Early arrivals talking to Zee.
Top right: Zee and new arrivals while Lorenzo sneaks into the picture
Centre: Kingdom Skies eye-catching branding banner
Bottom left: More is better when it comes to branding
Bottom right: Visitors at the information table
Background: The Vito and an ELF Astronomy door magnet just visible

Ricky and Zee’s outfit, Kingdom Skies, boasts a portable planetarium and they had plans to put that up as part of the show. Read more about them here.  Eventually they were unable to do that due to various logistical problems but mainly because of a whole lot of red tape. As it turned out their planetarium would have been a tremendous asset on the specific evening because the weather gods were there usual fickle selves and we had cloudy conditions on the evening in question.

Top left: Temba Matomela looks on as Sthembile sets to work unpacking Iziko's impressive display Top right: Sthembile arranged his display with great care Bottom left: The learners that accompanied their parents found the Iziko display very interesting Bottom right: Sthembile was all smiles as the crowd of interested viewers grew  Background: The very colourfull and effective display screens used by Iziko
Top left: Temba Matomela looks on as Sthembele sets to work unpacking Iziko’s impressive display
Top right: Sthembile arranged his display with great care
Bottom left: The learners that accompanied their parents found the Iziko display very interesting
Bottom right: Sthembele was all smiles as the crowd of interested viewers grew
Background: The very colourfull and effective display screens used by Iziko

Auke had a prior commitment for that weekend as he and Hans van der Merwe were off to Van Rhynsdorp with the rest of the crew to carry out one of their high altitude balloon launches. The base station was in Van Rhynsdorp and the launch site was at the top of Van Rhyn’s Pass. He was due back on Saturday morning but balloon launches, like the path of true love, apparently do not always run smoothly. This one was no exception and Auke did not make it back on time. There is a If you click here you will be taken to a photograph of the setup.

Top left: Luzuko Dalasile chatting to a member of the public while setting up the Iziko telescopes Top right: Luzuko keeping an eye as a parent helps a small would be astronomer up to the eyepiece Centre: Temba Matomela checking a photograph he had just taken Bottom left: Ricky brushing up on his knowledge at the Iziko display table Bottom right: Luzuko setting up one of the Iziko telescopes Background: children at the Iziko display table, a snippet of the Iziko outreach vehicle and a section of one of Iziko's colourfull display banners
Top left: Luzuko Dalasile chatting to a member of the public while setting up the Iziko telescopes
Top right: Luzuko keeping an eye as a parent helps a small, would be astronomer up to the eyepiece
Centre: Temba Matomela checking a photograph he had just taken
Bottom left: Ricky brushing up on his knowledge at the Iziko display table
Bottom right: Luzuko setting up one of the Iziko telescopes
Background: Children at the Iziko display table, a snippet of the Iziko outreach vehicle and a section of one of Iziko’s colourfull display banners

Lynnette and I were on site by 16:00, as was the Iziko bus with Sthembele and Luzuko. Ricky and Zee arrived a little later as they had to make a detour to pick up Temba, who was going to give a talk on Indigenous Southern African Astronomy later in the evening. Zee’s volunteers had disappeared but were later found waiting outside the Bellville Public Library.

Top : The team from left to right Luzuko Dalasile, Ricky Adams, Zee Rinquest, Temba Matomela, Lynnette Foster, Edward Foster, Sthembele Harmans and in front Lorenzo. Bottom left: Edward & Lorenzo showing the Moon to a visitor Bottom right: Ricky explaining some finer points to a visitor at one of Iziko's telescopes
Top : The team from left to right Luzuko Dalasile, Ricky Adams, Zee Rinquest, Temba Matomela, Lynnette Foster, Edward Foster, Sthembele Harmans and in front Lorenzo.
Bottom left: Edward & Lorenzo showing the Moon to a visitor
Bottom right: Ricky explaining some finer points to a visitor at one of Iziko’s telescopes
Top: The team flanked by Kingdom Skies banners. From left to right Ricky Adams, Edward Foster, Lynnette Foster, Temba Matomela, Luzuko Dalalsile, Sthembele Harmans and Zee Rinquest Bottom left: Edward, Lorenzo and visitors wiring to view the Moon Bottom right: Zee looks on while Edward and Lorenzo give visitors a peek at the Moon.
Top: The team flanked by Kingdom Skies banners. From left to right Ricky Adams, Edward Foster, Lynnette Foster, Temba Matomela, Luzuko Dalalsile, Sthembele Harmans and Zee Rinquest
Bottom left: Edward, Lorenzo and visitors wiring to view the Moon
Bottom right: Zee looks on while Edward and Lorenzo give visitors a peek at the Moon.

Once we started setting up everything went quite quickly, although the amount of cloud overhead did not bode well for stargazing later in the evening. By 17:30 we decided to capitalize on the fact that the Moon was visible through gaps in the clouds and Zukile and I started showing it to the first guests. After the sun set we managed to show people Jupiter too before the clouds realized what we were up to and started closing up the gaps.

Top left: That first look at  the Moon through a telescope never fails to generate expressions of  "Wow!" Top right: For the umpteenth time we forgot the step ladder for the short folk Centre: Luzuko's setup was also lacking a ladder Bottom left: Jupiter getting a visitor's undivided attention Bottom right: Explanations to a younger visitor while Mum keeps an eye on the threatening clouds Background: A spectacular sunset
Top left: That first look at the Moon through a telescope never fails to generate expressions of
“Wow!”
Top right: For the umpteenth time we forgot the step ladder for the short folk
Centre: Luzuko’s setup was also lacking a ladder
Bottom left: Jupiter getting a visitor’s undivided attention
Bottom right: Explanations to a younger visitor while Mum keeps an eye on the threatening clouds
Background: A spectacular sunset
Top left: Ricky and some visitors wait while Lorenzo and I find the Moon Top right: Ricky checking out Jupiter while Temba records the moment Centre: Lorenzo flanked by the Star People and ELF Astronomy door magnets on the Vito Bottom left: Another short person has to be lifted because I forgot the ladder Bottom right: Young and old were eager to have a closer look at the Moon and at Jupiter. Background: Ricky and Lorenzo
Top left: Ricky and some visitors wait while Lorenzo and I find the Moon
Top right: Ricky checking out Jupiter while Temba records the moment
Centre: Lorenzo flanked by the Star People and ELF Astronomy door magnets on the Vito
Bottom left: Another short person has to be lifted because I forgot the ladder
Bottom right: Young and old were eager to have a closer look at the Moon and at Jupiter.
Background: Ricky and Lorenzo

Temba gave his talk and Ricky was fortunate to have some stars when he gave a brief what’s-up tonight. I did a short talk on light pollution and emphasized the fact that everyone could help by ensuring that lights around our homes were astronomy friendly. By 20:30 it was clear that the clouds were definitely winning and we all started packing up.

Top left: There were lots of questions about how the image got to the eyepiece Top right: These ladies first went past and them changed their minds Centre: As it got dark the clouds got thicker and made it more and more difficult to see either the Moon or Jupiter let alone anything else Bottom left: The visitors had lots of questions about the telescope as well as the Moon and Jupiter Bottom right: Quite a few visitors came back for a second and even a third look Background: The Vito, a veteran of many outreach and other astronomy outings
Top left: There were lots of questions about how the image got to the eyepiece
Top right: These ladies first went past and them changed their minds
Centre: As it got dark the clouds got thicker and made it more and more difficult to see either the Moon or Jupiter let alone anything else
Bottom left: The visitors had lots of questions about the telescope as well as the Moon and Jupiter
Bottom right: Quite a few visitors came back for a second and even a third look
Background: The Vito, a veteran of many outreach and other astronomy outings

All in all it was a very pleasant evening and I think the venue has a good deal of potential for events like this in the future. Thanks Ricky and Zee for inviting us along and it was a pleasant experience to work with you guys and the team from Iziko.

Stargazing and Moon watching at the Museum Night: February 2015

It was, thankfully, not a dark and stormy night.

Auke, Lynnette and I were invited, in our capacity as StarPeople, to set up outside the entrance to the Iziko Museum (**) at the top of the Company Gardens (**) in Cape Town and let people look at the Moon, Jupiter and whatever through a telescope. We also intended projecting at least the Moon onto a screen so that we could discuss important features with members of the public. We felt quite chuffed to be participating in the Museum Night project, so we accepted without hesitation.

We arrived shortly after 15:00 to find Auke already parked in front of the Museum building and a brief discussion with Elsabe sorted out where we should set up. The venue is a very attractive one and our position at the head of the stairs leading from the Company Gardens up to the Iziko Museum was perfect, because we were so visible to people approaching or leaving the building. We began unpacking and setting up and by shortly after 16:00 everything was set up and ready to go, except the projection system. Elsabe brought us coffee which was most welcome as well as some small containers of juice. By 17:00 the people were queuing for tickets to the planetarium shows scheduled for 18:00, 19:00 and 20:00 and by about 17:30 we had Lorenzo aimed at the still pale daylight Moon. At first people were hesitant to take a peek, but after the ice had been broken, we soon had a steady stream of moon gazers.

The site was perfect and the setting as well
The site was perfect and the setting as well
Lynnette manning the admin cum info table.
Lynnette manning the admin cum info table.
Auke and Elsabe Uys - Planetarium Presenter at the Iziko Planetarium
Auke and Elsabe Uys – Planetarium Presenter at the Iziko Planetarium
A collage of photos taken early in the afternoon.  There were lots of people
A collage of photos taken early in the afternoon. There were lots of people

Our poster display on the cardboard A-frames was quite effective and drew many readers and lookers of which some had questions but most did not. Auke and Lynnette had the A3-planet posters set up on the steps representing a scaled down Solar System. Later in the evening the planets and our other poster displays again showed their vulnerability to windy conditions with most of them ending up either flat or propped up against a wall out of the wind. Short of carting around a load of bricks to weight them down, we have a not yet come up with a workable solution to the problem of them falling over at the slightest puff of wind.

The crowds start gathering and the queue gets longer and longer
The crowds start gathering and the queue gets longer and longer
The queue seemed never ending at the beginning of the show and yet everyone was amazingly patient
The queue seemed never ending at the beginning of the show and yet everyone was amazingly patient
At the other end the Iziko Museum seemed to keep on absorbing the people and never showed signs of popping at the seams
At the other end the Iziko Museum seemed to keep on absorbing the people and never showed signs of popping at the seams
People actually stopped to look art and read the posters
People actually stopped to look art and read the posters
Our A-frame poster displays were quite effective until the wind started to mess us around
Our A-frame poster displays were quite effective until the wind started to mess us around
More photos to give an indication of the large number of people
More photos to give an indication of the large number of people

Lynnette helped Auke lay out the Solar System and put up the poster A-frames and when the action started she manned the information table with all our handouts. She had to spend a considerable amount of time chasing after handouts and blown of her table by the gusting wind as well as setting the Solar System posters and our A-frame poster boards up every time the wind toppled them. Eventually she decided to let the wind win and put the handouts in boxes, laid the planets down flat and propped the A-frames up against the nearest wall. As it turned out her table also became the point where people approaching the Museum, expected to get information about the Museum Night and the Planetarium. When it later became clear that neither Auke nor I were going to have time to take photographs she shut down the information table, put on her photographer’s hat and took most of the photos we have of the evenings proceedings. All in all Lynnette had quite a busy night even if she did not spend time manning a telescope.

Auke and Lorenzo right in the front lines
Auke and Lorenzo right in the front lines
Shaun and I in conversation before he set up to raise funds for an Africa Burn project
Shaun and I in conversation before he set up to raise funds for an Africa Burn project
More photos to give an indication of the large number of people
More photos to give an indication of the large number of people

As is usual with events like this, there is always somebody who manages to do something amusing at the telescope. I have in the past had people drop to their knees and attempt to look through the Dobby’s handles at whatever. This time around I had several people walk up to Lorenzo from the front, embrace him and peer intently into the front of the finder scope. There were also the three gentlemen who looked as if they had not seen a change of clothing or too much water in quite a while. They first stood off to one side, glancing from the refractor to the Moon and back again and conducting an animated conversation, presumably about the Moon and the telescope. When they finally came closer, the spokesperson took a long look through the eyepiece, stood back and motioned his cronies forward. After they had each taken a long look and also glanced up at the moon several times while doing so, their leader had a second look and, as the three walked away, he announced to all within earshot, “it’s a hoax” before they disappeared in the direction of the National Gallery.

Even as darkness fell the posters still attracted attention
Even as darkness fell the posters still attracted attention
Most people had never looked through a telescope before.
Most people had never looked through a telescope before.
The darkness did not really diminish the flow of people until much later
The darkness did not really diminish the flow of people until much later

Initially we were only drawing people from the queue going into the museum but, after the first planetarium show finished just before 19:00, we had people coming out of the planetarium also stopping off for a look. Things quickly got quite hectic and as it grew darker I prepared to put the refractor and projection system into action, so as to relieve the pressure on Lorenzo, now taken over by Auke. The wind was a nuisance because it made the screen flap even though the central shaft was tied to a pillar underlining the need for a wall or other non-flapping surface to project onto. The wind also caused the telescope to vibrate, especially after I attached the video camera. Then my inexperience using the system in public came to the fore because, try as I might, I could not get a decent image. Nerves, lack of practice or just plain stupidity, or possibly all three, who knows. After a while I gave up and simply used the refractor with a high magnification eyepiece to give people a close-up view of the Moon and later of a very fuzzy Jupiter too. I must really get this projection thing sorted out so that it works anywhere, first time and every time.

In the meantime Shaun, who had popped in earlier in the evening, had fetched his Meade and set up further down the walkway, where he was also showing people astronomical objects. In exchange for looking through his telescope he was asking viewers for donations toward a 2015 Africa Burn project with an astronomy theme.

Shaun raising funds for the Africa Burn Project
Shaun raising funds for the Africa Burn Project
Shaun working on his Africa Burn fundraising
Shaun working on his Africa Burn fundraising

Later we had to move the telescopes back to keep the Moon in view as it slid behind a tree. Doing this with the Dobby is simply a case of pick-up-and-go. With the refractor on the alt/az-mount attached to a large 12V battery, it is not that simple. You have more pieces, the battery is heavy and re-positioning the telescope necessitates a re-alignment, so when I too had to move, Lynnette was called in to help as Auke had his hands full with a long queue of patiently waiting moon gazers.

What a pity that this fossil tree trunk cannot tell the tales of all it has experienced
What a pity that this fossil tree trunk cannot tell the tales of all it has experienced. This is a specimen of the genus Dadoxylon that flourished over wide areas of Gondwana 250 million years ago. This particular example comes from the town of Senekal in the Free State, where the local Dutch Reformed Church actually has a fence around it made of pieces of fossil tree trunks collected by the local farmers in the 1940’s. This collection exercise was instigated and encouraged by the Parson of the congregation at that time.
The Moon was popular and by now I had given up on projecting and was using the refractor to show a higher magnification of the Moon than seen on Lorenzo and also a rather fuzzy view of Jupiter
The Moon was popular and by now I had given up on projecting and was using the refractor to show a higher magnification of the Moon than seen on Lorenzo and also a rather fuzzy view of Jupiter
The last few also want to look through the telesope
The last few also want to look through the telescope
At last we were down to the last few viewers
At last we were down to the last few viewers

Eventually everything wound down and the crowds dwindled until only one or two die-hard individuals were left. Packing up became a bit of a rush and was quite tense because somebody informed us that we had better hurry up as once everyone was gone; we ran the risk of being mugged! Rather an icky finale to an otherwise lovely and exciting evening showing more than 2000 people the sights of the night sky from central Cape Town.

At last the crowds were thinning as one can see in this collection of photographs
At last the crowds were thinning as one can see in this collection of photographs
Myself, Theo Ferreira (Planetarium manager, Iziko Planetarium) and Dr Hamish Robertson (Director of Natural History, Iziko South African Museum)
Myself, Theo Ferreira (Planetarium manager, Iziko Planetarium) and Dr Hamish Robertson (Director of Natural History, Iziko South African Museum)

Thank you Iziko Museum for inviting us and in particular thanks to Elsabe and Theo for advice and help on the evening. StarPeople had a lot of fun and we would like to think that the Museum benefited from having us there. If we get invited again, and we sincerely hope we will, there are some changes we will make to improve our service delivery.

New Planetarium Show. 10th December 2014

Full Circle:  Star Lore Comes Back to Africa

Lynnette and I were quite thrilled to receive an invitation from Elsabe Uys to the opening of the new Planetarium show. The Planetarium is housed in the Iziko Museum building at the top of the historic Company Gardens in Cape Town. Although the proceedings were only due to start at 19:00 we left home in Brackenfell at 17:30 anticipating heavy traffic in the city centre. We were correct about the traffic as we only parked the car in front of the museum buildings at 18:30 on the dot.

We were amongst the first to arrive but fairly hot on our heels Auke arrived, resplendent in a new blue shirt I had not seen before. People started arriving in an ever quickening stream and soon we were able to tuck into the delicious spread the museum had laid on. The was a selection of fine wines, courtesy of the famous Groot Constantia Estate as well as water and fruit juice.

There was a fair and sufficient selection and quantity of food for the guests
There was a fair and sufficient selection and quantity of food for the guests
Auke, resplendent in his blue shirt making sure he does not go hungry
Auke, resplendent in his blue shirt making sure he does not go hungry
Lynnette in the striped blue and black skirt at the sushi table
Lynnette in the striped blue and white skirt at the sushi table
Elsabe Uys, clarifying a wine technicality  with the ladies from Groot Constantia
Elsabe Uys, clarifying a wine technicality with the ladies from Groot Constantia

The Planetarium Manager, Theo Ferreira, welcomed everyone and called on the Director of Education and Public Programmes at the Iziko Museum, Wayne Alexander, to fill us all in about the programme for the evening. Wayne talked briefly about the Planetarium and the development of the new programme. He mentioned the various Planetarium staff members who had been involved as well as other persons who had played an important role in the process. He then called on the script writer for the new show, Dermod Judge to give us some more background.  This Dermod did in a very entertaining and informative manner before handing the mike back to Theo. Theo informed us that we should finish up whatever we were eating or drinking as the show would start in 10 minutes time.

Theo Ferrera gets the proceedings going
Theo Ferrera gets the proceedings going
Wayne Alexander congratulating the Museum staff involved in the project
Wayne Alexander congratulating the Museum staff involved in the project
Dermod Judge delivering an informative and entertaining talk on the background to the new show
Dermod Judge delivering an informative and entertaining talk on the background to the new show
Those present listened attentively while they sipped and nibbled.  Well, I suppose some might have been more intent on sipping and nibbling than listening
Those present listened attentively while they sipped and nibbled. Well, I suppose some might have been more intent on sipping and nibbling than listening

The show is certainly a whole new view of Cultural and Ethnoastronomy. It highlights the fact that, although the ancients did not go to the Moon, their knowledge formed the basis of modern Astronomy which has taken us to the Moon and built the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) as well as the radio telescopes KAT-7, meerKAT and the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). The narration was clear and lucid and the background music and lyrics were appropriate and supplemented the narration well.  I think the show will go down very well with the general public and average visitor to the Planetarium this summer.

The projector in the Planetarium has always reminded me of some mechanical being from outer space or perhaps a mechanical deity of sorts
The projector in the Planetarium has always reminded me of some mechanical being from outer space or perhaps a mechanical deity of sorts
Could this be what the aliens will look like when we bump into them one day?
Could this be what the aliens will look like when we bump into them one day?
Aha!  Auke brings his offering to the Majestic Mechanical Majesty. Will his cellphone be accepted?
Aha! Auke brings his offering to the Majestic Mechanical Majesty. Will his cellphone be accepted?
Most Majestic Mechanical majesty please accept this humlbe electronic device as a gift from your servant, Auke
Most Majestic Mechanical majesty please accept this humlbe electronic device as a gift from your servant, Auke
Woe is me! my gift has been rejected by his Mechanical Majesty and now He has put out the lights of the Universe
Woe is me! My gift has been rejected by his Mechanical Majesty and now He has put out the lights of the Universe

It is a pity that, when the projector popped a fuse on the Southern Hemisphere circuit, and was only able to give a Northern Hemisphere star background, the technical crew did not tell the audience this. Most people there probably did not notice it and, had I not spotted Cassiopeia’s characteristic “W” fairly early on, I would, like Lynnette, have spent a considerable portion of the show wondering where all the familiar stars were and why the Milky Way was so sparse.

The ladies from Constantia packing up their goodies
The ladies from Groot Constantia packing up their goodies

Solar Eclipse – 03 November 2013

Solar eclipse:  Like the Curry Cup, unfortunately not for Cape Town.

The Northern parts of South Africa will be able to see some of the action somewhere between shortly after 15:00 and just before 17:00.  The actual times and how much of the eclipse you will see depend on exactly where you are.

For more information you can visit the Johannesburg Planetarium’s general webpage or go directly to their graphic representation. NASA has a general eclipse website with comprehensive information on past and future eclipses.  There is a good animation you can view at this UK site or you can go to the Facebook page covering the event. Kos Coronaios and the Soutpansberg Astronomy club will also be covering the event at their monthly stargazing event in Louis Trichard.  If you are in that area go to their Facebook page for more information.

Please remember that you must not look directly at the sun with the naked eye.  Sunglasses, no matter how state of the art they are, old x-ray plates, glass smoked black with a candle, pieces of green wine bottles or any one of the multitude of home made devices, are all inadequate.  Using them could leave you, and especially your children, with permanent damage that might only manifest itself long after the event.