Outreach at Labiance Primary School: Friday 23rd of September 2016.

This outing started on the 10th of September when we were setup on the Pierhead in the V&A Waterfront (this link will take you to a page where you can read more about our monthly outings there). Gert van Lill an educator and Head of Department at Labiance Primary School (this is the school’s web page) was visiting the Waterfront and asked us if we could do something at the school as well. After hours activities would be difficult, so we settled on solar viewing and a small poster display. He undertook to discuss the arrangements with the school and we would then settle on a date. We have had this same enthusiasm many, many times before, only to have it dissipate over time as it became entangled in logistics and imagined difficulties, so we did not let our expectations get out of hand. Gert, however, was serious and before long we had a date, the logistics were sorted out and we had identified the display and viewing area at the school.

TOP: Setting up and Lynnette enjoys the coffee so kindly brought out by Mrs. Mfika. BOTTOM LEFT: Mrs Mfika who originally hails from the same part of the Eastern Cape (now KwaZulu Natal) as I do - Matatiele. BOTTOM RIGHT: Mrs Thebus, who runs the tuck shop.
TOP: Setting up and Lynnette enjoys the coffee so kindly brought out by Mrs. Mfika. BOTTOM LEFT: Mrs Mfika who originally hails from the same part of the Eastern Cape (now KwaZulu Natal) as I do – Matatiele. BOTTOM RIGHT: Mrs Thebus, who runs the tuck shop.
TOP: Each group was given a quick run-through about solar safety, what they would see through the telescope, sunspots and renewable energy. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Either Lynnette or I did the telescope bit depending on who had the camera. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Learners were encouraged to browse the poster display after looking through the telescope. BOTTOM: There were lots of questions and most were good ones.
TOP: Each group was given a quick run-through about solar safety, what they would see through the telescope, sunspots and renewable energy. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Either Lynnette or I did the telescope bit depending on who had the camera. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Learners were encouraged to browse the poster display after looking through the telescope. BOTTOM: There were lots of questions and most were good ones.

So on Friday the 23rd of September Lynnette and I saddled up the Vito and headed for the school just after 07:00. The traffic on the R300 northbound was very heavy but quite reasonable southbound until we got the Van Riebeek Road turnoff when it became bumper to bumper stuff and stayed that way on the R102 all the way to the College Road intersection. Once at the school we parked the Vito and Gert took us in to introduce us to the staff and show us where the essential amenities were. Then out we went and started unloading and setting up.  Gert explained that we would be getting all the learners from grades five to seven in batches from about 08:30 through to 13:00. So we would have just over four hours to do our stuff with just over 400 learners (431 to be exact) and their educators but bear in mind we would be out in the full sun for the entire period.  It was clearly going to a long hot morning but then solar viewing exercises are always hot stuff.

TOP: Lorenzo, the 10-inch Dobsonian, is a veteran of many such encounters and knows that all viewers come to telescopes that wait patiently. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Although some of the learners were on the short side we never needed the ladder which I had remembered to bring along this time. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Time constraints meant that requests for having a second look could not really be accommodated. BOTTOM: Learners really used the time available to look quite closely at the posters we had on display.
TOP: Lorenzo, the 10-inch Dobsonian, is a veteran of many such encounters and knows that all viewers come to telescopes that wait patiently. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Although most of the learners were tall enough we did need the ladder (which I fortunately remembered to bring along) for one or two of them. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Time constraints meant that requests for having a second look could not really be accommodated. BOTTOM: Learners really used the time available to look quite closely at the posters we had on display.
TOP: Whatever I was saying seemed to have their attention. BOTTOM: The time available did not allow us to answer all the learners had; not even nearly.
TOP: Whatever I was saying seemed to have their attention. BOTTOM: The time available did not allow us to answer all the learners had; not even nearly.
TOP: Gert (far right) brought his group around too and I hope delivery was to his satisfaction. SECOND FROM THE TOP: There was a slight overlap when a second group, accompanied by Ms. Van der Heyde, arrived but the more the merrier we say. SECOND FROM THE TOP: The learners were all very patient while waiting their turn at the eyepiece. BOTTOM: Those who had been at the telescope first obviously had the most time to examine the posters which was a bit unfair on the tail-enders.
TOP: Gert (far right) brought his group around too and I hope delivery was to his satisfaction. SECOND FROM THE TOP: There was a slight overlap when a second group, accompanied by Ms. Van der Heyde, arrived but the more the merrier we say. SECOND FROM THE TOP: The learners were all very patient while waiting their turn at the eyepiece. BOTTOM: Those who had been at the telescope first obviously had the most time to examine the posters which was a bit unfair on the tail-enders.

The hospitality at the school was fantastic. Mrs Mfika brought us coffee shortly after our arrival and later in the morning Mrs Thebus brought is soft drinks, pies, samosas and two chocolate bars. The educators were all very friendly and interested. The school is neat and very well run. The educators that accompanied the various groups of learners were always in control and I was impressed by the general quality of the question the learners asked and also by their general knowledge. The security is top notch and we never ever had the slightest qualms about our belongings possibly being relocated. We have been to a fair number of schools over the course of the last eight years and Labiance really stands out. The school deserves a pat on the back and a good round of applause because it is doing a great job. Congratulations to all concerned and we look forward to a return visit, possibly even an evening session with the Moon and the stars.

TOP: Lynnette managed to get this lot to all point at the sun. Well, almost all because we have Mister Poser up front striking a pose. SECOND FROM THE TOP: I am not entirely sure where the handbag and cuddly bear fit in but then I have never really understood ladies accessories. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Somebody remarked that they thought the Sun would be a “wow” object. How can we make it that? A better, more exciting image, or a more exciting verbal delivery, or both? BOTTOM: The posters drew attention from every group and yes, once a poser always a poser.
TOP: Lynnette managed to get this lot to all point at the sun. Well, almost all because we have Mister Poser up front striking a pose. SECOND FROM THE TOP: I am not entirely sure where the handbag and cuddly bear fit in but then I have never really understood ladies accessories. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Somebody remarked that they thought the Sun would be a “wow” object. How can we make it that? A better, more exciting image, or a more exciting verbal delivery, or both? BOTTOM: The posters drew attention from every group and yes, once a poser always a poser.
TOP: Lynnette even managed to get Ms van der Heyde to point at the Sun but there were . SECOND FROM THE TOP: Telescope time for this lot was almost over. SECOND FROM THE TOP: An animated group around the posters. This lot were especially interested in the dwarf planets. BOTTOM: How far is outer space was a bit of a “wow” fact for most of the learners and their educators.
TOP: Lynnette even managed to get Ms van der Heyde to point at the Sun but there were no special posers in this group. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Telescope time for this lot was almost over. SECOND FROM THE TOP: An animated group around the posters. This lot were especially interested in the dwarf planets. BOTTOM: How far is outer space was a bit of a “wow” fact for most of the learners and their educators.
TOP: No sun-pointing but they were no less enthusiastic than their predecessors. SECOND FROM THE TOP: The weather was weird because the sun was hot but the wind was decidedly chilly. SECOND FROM THE TOP: No not a sit-in. This group just found it easier to read the lower posters when seated rather than standing. BOTTOM: How far is outer space raises quite a few eyebrows, yet again.
TOP: No sun-pointing but they were no less enthusiastic than their predecessors. SECOND FROM THE TOP: The weather was weird because the sun was hot but the wind was decidedly chilly. SECOND FROM THE TOP: No not a sit-in. This group just found it easier to read the lower posters when seated rather than standing. BOTTOM: How far is outer space raises quite a few eyebrows, yet again.

Last but not least a very big thank you to Gert van Lill for his initiative, the invitation and the very well organized and smoothly run event.

TOP: Sun-pointing with no fewer than four enthusiastic posers. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Educator up first for a peak at the Sun. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Lynnette explaining some of the finer points of sunspots. BOTTOM: Using a poster of the Sun to shield viewer from the Sun. Is that fighting fire with fire?
TOP: Sun-pointing with no fewer than four enthusiastic posers. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Educator up first for a peak at the Sun. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Lynnette explaining some of the finer points of sunspots. BOTTOM: Using a poster of the Sun to shield viewer from the Sun. Is that fighting fire with fire?
TOP: There does not quite seem to be consensus about exactly where the Sun is in this group. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Answering questions about renewable energy efforts in South Africa. SECOND FROM THE TOP: While the group gathers around me one learner is given firm pointers as to where the line is and how to toe it. BOTTOM: That is the last showing of “How far is outer space” for today folks.
TOP: There does not quite seem to be consensus about exactly where the Sun is in this group. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Answering questions about renewable energy efforts in South Africa. SECOND FROM THE TOP: While the group gathers around me one learner is given firm pointers as to where the line is and how to toe it. BOTTOM: That is the last showing of “How far is outer space” for today folks.

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.

Durban Heights Stargazing: February 2015

A rooftop excursion with interesting possibilities for the future.

Hannes and Jacky Wagener did the groundwork working through Bernie, the chairperson of the management committee at Durban Heights to get permission to take a telescope up onto the roof and do some stargazing from there. There was a fairly chilly South to South-easterly breeze which gusted quite strongly at times as we carried the telescopes and other gear up. No lift, so everything had to be carried up four storeys. A specific problem was a large amount of smoke in the air from the fires burning in a number of places on the Cape Peninsula and also at places further to the north, like Tulbagh and Porterville. Light pollution remains a problem in the city and even though we were above many of the street lights, the topography of the area meant that there were still lights above us in places.

One unforeseen element that had a negative effect on the number of attendees, was the fact that the rugby match between the Stormers and the Bulls kicked off at 19:00.  In South Africa, if you ask a rugby supporter to choose between watching a key match and looking stars, the stars end up second by a very long shot.  Despite that competition, we had a turnout of about 20 people.

Several of the attendees were of the more mature variety, but there were also some postgraduate students from the University of the Western Cape and from the University of Stellenbosch which was very gratifying.  Bernie, Christelle, and Angeline, all committee members were on the roof to support us, thank you.

Setting up Lorenzo with Mina Viviers and our host, Hannes Wagener in the background
Setting up Lorenzo with Mina Viviers and our host, Hannes Wagener in the background
A view to the South where the fires on the Peninsular had just got going but their smoke was already visible.
A view to the South where the fires on the Peninsular had just got going but their smoke was already visible.
A view to the East catching the earth shadow and the Venus girdle above the mountains but also clearly showing the smoke from fires farther inland.
A view to the East and North catching the earth shadow and the Venus girdle above the mountains but also clearly showing the smoke from fires farther inland.
Mina takes a first look at the Moon
Mina takes her first look at the Moon

As far as viewing was concerned, the Moon was good, Jupiter was reasonable and the Orion Nebula was visible but not spectacular.  The Pleiades were not visible to the naked eye, probably because the haze, smoke, and sunset obscured them, but Aldebaran was and we could find NGC 4755 (Jewel Box) quite easily.  NGC 5139 (Omega Centauri) was so faint in the telescope that the finder scope could not pick it up and we had to use intuition and dead reckoning to find it. IC 2602 (Southern Pleiades) was just visible to the naked eye. We found eta-Carina, but it was not much to write home about due to the light pollution.

Of the constellations Orion, Canis Major with Sirius and Crux with its Pointers were reasonably distinguishable.  Procyon was visible as were Castor and Pollux, but not their respective constellations and Regulus was visible but not the rest of Leo.  The False Cross and the Diamond Cross were visible if one concentrated. Cancer and the Beehive were both “invisible”. Canopus was clearly visible and with some effort, I managed to find Achernar.

I only wish I could have had this group at Night Sky Caravan Farm the previous weekend, they would have loved it.  Many of the older stargazers spoke wistfully of starry nights on farms in Namaqualand and other parts of the Karoo that they had experienced in their youth and never really appreciated fully.

Why aren’t there more photos? Well, yours truly forgot to take along a spare battery for the camera so, halfway through the evening, Lynnette was no longer able to take photographs. I will make a point of remembering next time.