The autumn Southern Star Party at Night Sky Caravan Farm (you can visit their Facebook Page here) followed so hard on the heels of the Southern Star Party in November (read all about it here) that we felt there was hardly any break. We were booked out two weeks before the event, which was a record, and it was a huge success judging from the verbal comments and the written feedback we received. We are obviously elated at the success but also a tad tired, so the long gap till the next Star Party at the end of October is most welcome. However, that gap is already filling up with all sorts of other things so we won’t be exactly idle. We are in fact going flat-out at present to get our grant application for the National Science Week ready to send off to SAASTA by the end of February.
On Tuesday the 02nd of February at 07:00, without any sleep the previous night, Lynnette, Snorre and I left and arrived at Night Sky to find the lawn mowing in full swing. Shortly after they finished, Tersius and his crew from Bonnievale Verhurings (go here to see more about their activities) arrived to put up the tent. As soon as that was done I got the projection screen set up and then it started raining lightly. The three of us went to bed early and the next morning we started organizing the tent. Alan and Rose arrived in the course of the morning and after they had set up camp they pitched in to help setting up as well. During the course of Wednesday Auke also arrived. Volker and Aka Kuehne from Pforzheim in Germany were also at Night Sky as they are every summer from early January to mid-March. This was their second SSP and as on the previous occasion they were always ready to lend a hand with just about everything.
Lynnette and I drove to Bonnievale to meet Rudolf who had found a fossil deposit and after viewing and photographing the Zoophytes trace-fossils in the Witteberg sediments, we drove back to Night Sky after some essential shopping. Before going to Night Sky we stopped off at Oppiekoppie Guesthouse (go here to see more about Oppiekoppie) to label the rooms, so everybody would know where to go when they arrived the next day. We then drove back to Night Sky for supper, putting up all the banners at the entrance on the way, to make sure nobody got lost. Shortly after supper we turned in. On Thursday Jonathan Balladon, Louis Fourie, Eddy & Jannie Nijeboer and Barry & Miemie Dumas arrived, followed by Pierre de Villiers, Karin de Bruin and Susan Joubert from the Hermanus Centre.
Alan once again set up his model table in the tent where he displayed the Saturn V rocket, the Space Shuttle, the yet to be completed model of SALT and some very nifty models of the Mars habitat with the surface vehicle and fuel generation unit. During the course of the SSP, and especially on Sunday morning this attracted a lot of attention and many favourable comments. I personally can’t wait for the completion of the SALT model.
Just as we were preparing for the evening braai on Thursday, I was laid low by a kidney stone. Juri de Wet went to a great deal of trouble to track down Dr Esterhuisen in Bonnievale who agreed to meet us at his consulting rooms. Auke drove Lynnette and I there in his car in a record time and I was given a shot of morphine to reduce the pain. The doctor liaised with an urologist; Dr Deon Marais in Worcester and off the three of us went again to the Worcester Medi Clinic. I was put on a drip and had to stay in hospital for a scan before having an operation to remove the kidney stone, the next day. Lynnette and Auke had to leave me contemplating my kidney stone, while they drove back to attend to the running of the SSP. On the Friday Alan and Rose were roped in to help organize things and keep the administration running smoothly while Lynnette came back to Worcester in Auke’s car. She stayed with me until late in the afternoon before driving back to help at Night Sky, where everyone had by now arrived. I was eventually operated on at around 18:00 on Friday and at 06:00 on Saturday, Lynnette was there again in Auke’s car, to pick me up and back to Bonnievale we went.
Shortly after 08:30, on Saturday morning, I had a session with the beginner group and was rather amazed to find Pierre de Villiers, current ASSA president there. I am quite certain he is well out of the beginner category, but perhaps he just wanted to make sure I did not spout too much drivel.
After the beginners, we started the main program and kicked off with Magda Streicher’s talk “Deep-Sky Delights” which took us on a genteel journey through the process of observing deep-sky objects and sketching them. Her talk was lavishly illustrated with personal anecdotes and examples of her own sketches. We are all looking forward to the book you intend publishing with all those sketches, Magda!
Next up was Bani van der Merwe who unfortunately couldn’t make it, so Pierre de Villiers, present ASSA president, came out to bat and he more than welcomed the extra time at the wicket. Pierre’s topic “How to foster an interest in, and enjoyment of, astronomy” was actually a workshop rather than an ordinary talk. He illustrated the various initiatives of the Hermanus Centre intended to achieve these objectives and engaged with the audience to get their ideas on the matter.
While Pierre was talking Marius, Kim, Lynnette and I packed and lit the fires for the lunch-time braai. During the course of the lunch-break it was decided that it was just too hot to go back into the tent for the remainder of the talks at 15:00, so everything was postponed until 17:00. We hoped that it would have cooled by then. The lucky draw also shifted and the Pub Quiz looked as if might have to take a back seat till October.
Ray Brederode’s presentation “The discoveries of Rosette and Philae” was very well received and generated quite a number of questions from the audience. He was followed by Charl Cater, who presented a short, but very interesting talk entitled “Green Pea Galaxies”. Auke Slotegraaf rounded of the programme with a presentation titled “To Forever Remain a Child: Astronomy and cultural heritage in South Africa.” The talk covered a number of important issues pertaining to astronomical heritage in South Africa and hopefully some members of the audience will heed Auke’s call to become involved in efforts to preserve that heritage.
On Friday night Dwayne apparently only had eyes for the stars in the love of his life’s eyes. How do I know? Because he took Claire out under the stars and proposed to her. Congratulations, this is the first engagement for the Southern Star Party and we hope that by the next SSP he will have taken the logical step and be able to bring his starry eyed wife along. We took the opportunity after the last talk to congratulate them and hope they enjoyed the bottle of wine and slab of chocolate we presented them with.
By this time the light was just right for the group photo and after that Pierre de Villiers drew the three winners of our raffle. The first prize, a Skywatcher Newtonian telescope was won by Chris Vermeulen (D=130, F=650, 25mm & 10mm eyepieces, Red Dot Finder, tripod and manual equatorial mount). The second and third prizes were two bottles of good red wine which went to Barry Dumas and Martin Coetzee respectively.
it was clear that time had overtaken us so we cancelled everything else and got ready for the evenings observing and related activities. It was a good evening for observing even though there were signs of clouds encroaching by about 23:00 and it actually rained around 03:00 or shortly thereafter. Martin Lyons and several other stalwarts were quick to rescue the telescopes that had been left in the telescope area by owners that had ignored the impending change in the weather.
On Sunday Lynnette and I were up at 08:00 to lay out the material for presenting astronomy to the visually impaired so that people coming to the tent to say goodbye could look at it. Part of the display was Dr Wanda Diaze-Merced’s 20 mHz Jove radio telescope. By Sunday evening Lynnette and I, Auke, Barry and Miemie, John, Alan and Rose and Snorre were all that was left of the crowd. On Monday afternoon, only Lynnette, Snorre and I and Alan and Rose were left. On Tuesday Tersius and his team took down the tent and loaded up the tables and chairs and on Wednesday the rest of us packed up and left. This brought down the final curtain on the 2016 Autumn Southern Star Party.
Last but not least, a special word of thanks to our generous sponsors, because, without their help and support there is no way we could present a Southern Star Party.
Night Sky Caravan Farm
Promotional Printing and Signage
As is usual, the most important topic during the run-up to the Spring Southern Star Party was the weather. The clouds played silly buggers with us in the run-up to the SSP. First they shifted away from the weekend and then they shifted back again and then partially moved away again, but eventually it looked as if we would probably have one good night on the Friday and at least half a good night on the Saturday. (View more information about the Southern Star Party here) The Southern Star Party is held at Night Sky Caravan Farm (go here to see their Facebook page) (or go here to see their add on Budget Getaways).
Lynnette, Snorre and I left on Tuesday after Lynnette had her hair colour changed to a bright red, which suits her temperament perfectly. First stop was Pitkos Padstal and Francina for a quick chat, wine purchases, olive tasting and some catching up on the local “skindernuus” or local gossip. Then on to Night Sky where either Anneliese or Tertius form Bonnievale Verhurings (go here to visit a webpage with more details about them) were due to come and pitch the big tent at around 14:00. I started unloading as soon as we arrived and Lynnette organized the mountain of stuff as I unloaded, but Bonnievale Verhurings had developed a problem and could only pitch the tent later in the afternoon. Anyway, by Wednesday evening, Alan and Rose had arrived, the banners were in place and the telescope area had been cordoned off.
On Thursday Deon and Ronelle Beugemann arrived and sometime later in the evening Sebastian Guile and Aurelie Lemiere also pitched up. Jopie and Pieternel Coetzee sent a message cancelling their participation because they thought the weather forecast was unfavourable, which proved to be a big mistake for them. Early on Friday morning Alan and I put up the projection screen and completed the final touches to the tent, ready for the rest of the crowd to arrive so we could start the programme. Roelina Losper was also a late cancellation due to illness in her family, but we hope to see her next time.
Spring Southern Star Party Programme – 06 to 08 November 2015
Friday 18:00 Tea & coffee in the Social Tent
19:30 Beginner’s Programme starts, Fight Light Pollution! Starts, Constellation Explorers set up
20:00 All lights out!
20:00 Deep-Sky Challenge starts
20:15 Constellation Exploration starts
Saturday 08:30 Beginner’s Programme, continued
10:30 Tea & coffee in the Social Tent
11:00 Africa in Space – Kechil Kirkham
11:45 Building (a pinch of) SALT – Alan Cassells
12:30 Detecting the Sun in Microwaves [demo] – Evan Knox-Davies
14:30 Modelling MeerKAT – Bani van der Merwe
15:00 A New Glimpse of the Old Cape Observatory – Auke Slotegraaf
15:45 Feedback: Constellation Exploration & Deep-Sky Challenge
16:00 World Famous SSP Pub Quiz
18:00 Group photo
19:30 Beginner’s Programme, continued
20:00 All lights out! Deep-Sky Challenge, continued, Constellation Exploration (repeat)
Sunday 09:00 Tea & coffee in the Social Tent
10:00 Presentation of certificates
Farewell until next time! (2016 Autumn SSP, February 05 – 07)
Tea and coffee available 24/7. Bring your own midnight snacks!
By 18:45 almost all of the 33 prospective SSP attendees were accounted for and we had on site the following:
Deon & Ronelle Beugemann, Alan & Rose Cassells, Martin Coetzee, Evan Knox-Davies, Barry & Miemie Dumas (both new), Iain Finlay, Louis Fourie (new) Sebastian Guile & Aurelie Lemiere, Kechil Kirkham, Annatjie Kunz (new), Eddy & Jannie Nijeboer, Marius & Kim Reitz (new), John Richards, James Smith, Alida Taljard (new), Chris Vermeulen, Gerhard Vermeulen, Wendy Vermeulen (none of the Vermeulen triplets are related) and Willem van Zyl, plus Auke, Lynnette, Snorre and myself.
Dwayne Engelbrecht & Clair Ingram (new) as well as Leslie Rose were still on the road while Bani van der Merwe (new) would only arrive on Saturday.
The evening was clear, except for a few small clouds very low down to the southeast so, after welcoming everyone, we got started. The serious observers and astrophotographers did their own thing, as usual, and the constellation hunters gathered round Auke while the total newcomers and I sat down next to Lorenzo, the 10” Dobby.
My system for the beginners (Alida Taljaard and Annatjie Kunz) was to show them how to use the Discover! Charts (go here to download them for free) and ConCards (they are available for free here). Once they understand how to use them, they will be able to find their way around the sky in the future. I emphasized that Rome was not built in one day and neither does one become a clued up amateur astronomer in the course of one evening or one weekend. I used Lorenzo to show them interesting objects and pointed out the various symbols representing these objects on the charts. I explained the movements of the stars in the sky and pointed out the South Celestial Pole. Unfortunately Crux was just below the horizon so I had to employ an alternative to finding south for the group. We systematically worked our way from Pavo, and Triangulum Australe, Ara, Sagittarius and Scutum round to Pegasus and later included Taurus. By 23:30 the dew had become a problem for Lorenzo, so we decided to pack up and go to bed.
During the discussions I emphasized that astronomy was a hobby that they should practice solely for their own enjoyment. Each person should determine their own rate of progress and also the level of expertise they personally wished to attain. There was absolutely no external pressure to perform to any predefined level or meet any externally imposed criteria.
The inevitable question about which telescope they should buy came up and my answer was none, at least not until they had achieved some proficiency with the naked eye and binoculars. When they did eventually buy a telescope, they should only do so after consultation with some knowledgeable people and not just buy one off the shelf from the local outdoor goods store.
At 11:00 Kechil presented her informative talk on Africa in Space dressed in her space suite for dramatic effect. Kechil gave an interesting overview which highlighted the role of South Africa and, in particular, the South African Space Agency.
At 11:45 Alan demonstrated his magnificent model of SALT in a talk titled Building (a pinch of) SALT, giving details of the problems he had experienced during the building process and highlighting the importance of his visit to SALT in perfecting the model.
Just before the lunch time braai, at 12:30, Evan explained his ingenious radio telescope, which he had built using a discarded television dish aerial, in his talk Detecting the Sun in Microwaves and demonstrated it afterwards.
I had laid and made the fires, with the able assistance of Marius and supervision by Kim and Miemie, so by 13:00 the coals were just right and everyone could get going and prepare lunch. The braai was, as always, a very relaxed opportunity to socialize and everyone made good use of it. Bani arrived during lunch so we were all set for the afternoon’s entertainment.
At 14:30 Bani entertained us with the trials and tribulations of building models of the radio telescope dishes in his talk Modelling MeerKAT. Over and above the technical differences he has also had to cope with a burglary which relocated his tools and a subsequent holdup at gunpoint.
Auke’s talk at 15:00, A New Glimpse of the Old Cape Observatory, took us back to the roots of scientific astronomy in Southern Africa and in fact in Africa. The talk left one very concerned about the preservation of this heritage.
We were running a bit late, so we skipped the feedback session and went straight on the World Famous SSP Pub Quiz. Lynnette and I had selected the teams and we hoped we had come up with reasonably balanced ones. The final teams were:
Team A – Barry & Miemie, Evan, Marius & Kim and Leslie. Team B – Deon & Ronelle, Aurelie and Sebastian, Kechil, Eddy & Jannie Team C – Paul, John, James, Alida, Chris and Wendy Team D – Alan & Rose, Martin, Iain, Willem, Annatjie, Louis and Bani
The teams ended up numerically unequal because of late withdrawals mostly by novices, but we decided not to move people around because it would have meant splitting up couples, which is a very unpopular move. The first round was a team event in which we would have five rounds of five questions each. Each member of a team that dropped out received a chocolate as a consolation prize. The winning team was Team D and they each received a 250 ml bottle of Nuy Red Muscadel and a chocolate.
After the group rounds, each team selected two members to represent them in the individual competition. The final group consisted of Alan, Evan, Bani, Chris, Deon, James, Leslie and Sebastian. The individual rounds took longer than expected because we had to have repeat rounds when two people tied on the lowest score to determine who had to fall out. These delays meant we had to interrupt the competition so that we could take the group photo while the light was good. After this unscheduled break we resumed and eventually James Smith was the winner with Leslie Rose in second place and Evan Knox-Davies, winner on two previous occasions, in third place. James received the coveted SSP floating Rosette, donated by SCOPEX, as well as a bottle of red wine and a bottle of Nuy Red Muscadel.
After the Pub Quiz we had delicious cup cakes which Gesina had baked for our “10th birthday” and, as is often the case with things like this, everybody was going to photograph them but eventually nobody did! They were, however, delicious.
We made several mistakes with this Pub Quiz and if we present it in this format again, these will be rectified. The first mistake was to have eliminated teams in the group stage. We should have allowed all the teams to stay in the competition for all five or six rounds and then determined a winner based on the highest total score. The second mistake was again the elimination process in the individual section. Next time we will do six rounds and determine the winner based on the combined highest score. If there are two people with the same score, an elimination round or rounds will decide the winner.
Dwayne and his crew had made a mutton “potjie” which they were kind enough to share with Auke, Lynnette and I before the evening’s proceedings started. After supper we started the evening’s proceedings under clear skies, except for a few wisps of cloud to the north and northwest. I put the beginner through their paces with the star charts and the constellations as well as individual stars and deep sky objects to see if they had grasped the basics from the previous night and the morning session. In the process we covered the sky from Pavo all the way to Taurus again. After that we moved on to Orion, Canis Major, Lepus, Monceros, Puppis and Carina. I think the beginners have a reasonable grasp of how to use the star charts to find constellations and orientate themselves for finding specific objects; provided they do not wait too long and forget everything. I am confident that they have the basics to get their astronomy going if they practice. By midnight we had patchy high clouds moving in from the northwest and the dew was quite heavy so we decided to call it a night. Lynnette and I went to bed, but there were discussions elsewhere that went on until much, much later.
Most people left early on Sunday, because nobody had participated in the Deep Sky Challenge, so there were no certificates to be handed out. On Sunday evening it was fairly cloudy, so everyone that was left (Auke, Lynnette and I, Alan & Rose, Barry & Miemie, Chris, Iain & Willem, John and Louis) got together for a braai.
Monday was departure time for Auke, Barry & Miemie, Chris, John and Louis. Monday night was partially cloudy all night so no astronomy for us. On Tuesday Tertius and his crew came to take the tent down and on Tuesday night it was partially cloudy so again no astronomy. On Wednesday Alan & Rose, Lynnette, Snorre and I packed up and headed for home leaving Iain & Willem to enjoy the peace and quiet at Night Sky. On the way home we stopped off at Pitkos to buy wine, green fig and other fruit preserves, and some baby beetroot for Lynnette to pickle.
That wraps up the Spring Southern Star party and now we start organizing the summer event from the 5th to the 7th of February, 2016.
Some comments we received from people who attended the event.
“We are back from a fantastic weekend of stargazing at Nightsky Caravan park where the Spring Southern Star party was held. Thank you to Edward, Lynette and Auke for all the hard work to make this a wonderful learning experience! We re-kindled friendships, made lots of new ones and are already looking forward to February 2016! A big thank you to all the guest speakers for once again broadening our general knowledge. We managed to spot the following constellations and deep sky objects: • Orion Constellation and Nebula • Triangulum Constellation and galaxy • Aries Constellation • Andromeda galaxy • Pegasus Constellation • Sagittarius • Corona Australis • Tucana Constellation and TUC 47 globular cluster • Musca Constellation • The Chamaeleon • Messier M7 NGC 6475 • Messier M6 NGC 6405 Butterfly cluster • Scorpius Constellation • Triangulum Australe • Pleiades in Taurus • Large Magellanic cloud • Small Magellanic cloud • Tarantula Nebula • Messier 55 NGC 6809 in Sagittarius • Messier 77 NGC 1608 in Cetus • Eridanus constellation • Teapot asterism in Sagittarius • Circinus Constellation • Planetary alignment of Jupiter, Mars, Venus and the Moon. • Satellite iridium flare”
“Sjoe die tyd vlieg verby. Dis amper al weer ‘n week gelede wat ons mekaar ontmoet het. Ek wil net weereens baie, baie dankie sê vir die geleentheid wat ek
gehad het om die naweek se SSP by te woon. Ek het geweldig baie geleer. Vir my was dit ‘n belewenis en ek sal baie graag nog meer wil leer. Dankie vir ‘n stunning event en al jul moeite en reëlings was baie goed.” (Heavens but time flies. It is almost a week since we met each other. I would like to, once more, say thenk you very, very much for the opportunity that I had over the weekend to attend the SSP. I learnt an enormous amount. I found it an exceptional experience and would very much like to learn more. Thank you for the stunning event and all your efforts; the organization was very good.)
“Ons moet eintlik vir julle dankie sê. Alles het vlot verloop danksy julle tyd en opoffering.” (We should actually thank you. Everything went very smoothly thanks to to the time and effort you put in.)
At each Southern Star Party (SSP) we need notebooks, find paper, pencils, clips and a host of other stationery items. Over the past three years Waltons in Stellenbosch has been a major supporter of the SSP because they have supplied us with these items at a very respectable discount. The November 2015 SSP has been no exception with Nicardo Basson and his team of very capable assistants at the Stellenbosch branch of Waltons once again supporting us. This SSP, the tenth one since March 2011, will once again be a resounding success thanks to their generous support.
It will rain, no it won’t, it will be overcast, no it won’t, the long term weather forecast is always wrong, no it isn’t, yr.no is always right, no they aren’t etc.
When I was much, much younger the girls used to take a flower, usually, a daisy if I remember correctly and then pluck the petals off reciting “he loves me, he loves me not, he loves me” etc. Depending on what the last petal “said”, one was then either elated or despondent. That is pretty much the way Auke, Lynnette and I spent the week leading up to the Summer Southern Star Party (SSP) held in February at the Night Sky Caravan Farm on the Farm Oudekraal between Bonnievale and McGregor. This was to be the ninth SSP and we had a larger than usual contingent of attendees, who included a fair number of newcomers, so it was quite important that the event should not be clouded over or, worse still, rained out.
Lynnette, as usual, handled all the bookings, answered all the queries and made sure all the financial I’s were dotted and T’s crossed. Auke looked after the website, organized speakers and performed his usual magic with designing any forms we needed. I just hung around in the background, ran errands and eventually did the loading and unloading. As the SSP approached the excitement levels rose because the bookings just kept coming and we eventually ended up with a record 61 final registrations. This figure could have been much higher, had 28 people not canceled toward the end. We watched the weather reports anxiously as they changed from sunny, to rainy, to cloudy and then back to rainy and finally settled on partially cloudy before we left for Night Sky. Apart from the weather, we thought that we might also have to contend with load shedding, but Gesina solved that problem for us by offering the use of a generator should the power go out on Saturday, during the talks. Eventually, all the preparation was done and it was time to pack up and go. As usual, all my good intentions of starting to pack in time to avoid the last minute rush and packing marathon that lasts into the wee small hours of the morning did not materialize. I also had one catastrophe when Lorenzo’s rocker box fell of the trailer while I was loading and smashed. That still has to be repaired too.
On the way to Night Sky we stopped off at Pitkos Farm Stall to purchase wine and fresh, ripe figs and have coffee, accompanied by Frances’s delicious roosterkoek with biltong and melted cheese. Once at Night Sky we unloaded the essentials and after lunch took a well-earned nap. Monday evening was a perfect evening for observing and taking photographs so we only got to bed around 03:00. On Tuesday we relaxed, recuperating from the hectic run-up to the SSP. Tuesday night was again a fine night although the seeing was not quite as good as on Monday.
On Wednesday Anneliese and Tersius of Bonnievale Verhurings arrived with an assistant to pitch the marquee tent and shortly afterward Alan and Rose arrived followed later by Iain and Willem. After Alan and Rose had pitched camp they got stuck in lending a hand to get the tent organized. Wednesday evening was not a good observing night at all. On Thursday we finished off the tent with the help of Alan and Rose. Marie Eygelaar arrived in the course of the morning and Auke arrived late that afternoon. Thursday evening things started out looking good from an observing point of view, but later deteriorated and we had to pack it in. Lynnette started to worry about Wendy, who was supposed to have arrived earlier in the evening, so she attempted to phone her around midnight. By sheer luck, the call actually went through and we discovered that Wendy was in Bonnievale, hopelessly lost, having spent a fair portion of the night driving around in circles in the dark. Lynnette told her to stay put and we went off to fetch her and guide her back to Night Sky. Mission accomplished and we all went to bed.
On Friday the Sale Table was set up and the urn on the Coffee Table was hot and ready for the guests. We also put up the very large and impressive clock the SSP had purchased to make sure everyone knew what time it was and to keep time during the Pub Quiz. By late on Friday afternoon most people had arrived but so had the clouds; lots of them. To compensate for the fact that no observing based activities could take place, we moved the Pub Quiz from Saturday to Friday, hoping the weather would be kinder to us on Saturday. We had two special guests at the SSP this time, Volker and Edeltraut Kühn all the way from Pforzheim in Germany. These two have been coming to Night Sky for two months every summer since 1989, but this is the first time the SSP has coincided with their stay.
One of our newcomers, Gert, Isabella and Catherina Vice come from Bredasdorp and on weekends they travel to wherever there is a show or event going and set up their stall, called “Tvice as Nice”, selling pancakes and a variety of other delicacies. They were not at the SSP in their “official” capacity but they had come prepared to produce pancakes and compliment the Sale Table with a variety of homemade fudges. The pancakes were very well received on Friday evening and one eager individual started out with and order for five. Brilliant idea Isabella and next time I think you should provide pancakes 24/7. Do you guys do hamburgers too?
Most of us went to bed early on Friday, convinced that the clouds were on an all-night mission. Auke, Chris Forder, Chris Vermeulen and a few other hardy souls decided to drink coffee, talk, watch the clouds, drink more coffee etc. Their patience, or was it perseverance, paid off because, just after midnight, the clouds cleared leaving them with all the stars they could have wished for, until dawn and the returning clouds sent them off to bed.
Saturday was cloudy and cooler than earlier in the week, which suited us as it made sitting in the tent listening to the talks a lot more bearable. The morning activities started at 08:30 with my presentation for the beginners. After coffee at 10:00 and some socializing, the talks kicked off at 11:00 with our main speaker Chris Forder, who presented a very interesting and entertaining history of the Cederberg Observatory. He was followed by Ray Brederode with an enlightening update on the MeerKat and SKA projects. Then it was time for the lunchtime braai and, much to our relief, Leslie and his family arrived so we did not have to implement “Plan B” to replace his talk. What was “Plan B”, by the way? Unfortunately, James Smith and Marius Reitz had to leave before the afternoon part of the programme commenced but they promised to plan their affairs better in November.
After lunch, Chris Vermeulen gave an entertaining presentation titled “Fun with the Sun & Sun viewing”. The overcast conditions, unfortunately, bamboozle his planned solar observing session. Chris was followed by Leslie Rose with “Getting started with Astrophotography” and Auke rounded off the program with his presentation on “Big 5 of the African Sky”.
It was still cloudy so everyone was given some chill time before reporting back for the group photograph and then we had supper. The cloud cover was definitely thinning so we gathered in the telescope area, glaring at the clouds, which seemed to hasten their exodus. By about 20:30 most of the clouds were gone and Auke and I could continue with the beginners observing sessions while everyone else got down to the serious business of personal observing or astrophotography. Brett du Preez, one of our SSP regulars, has moved to Pretoria where he is studying to become a veterinarian. His place in the astrophotography arena alongside Leslie was taken by Zander Horn with David and Robert Fourie.
On Sunday it was goodbye time with lots of promises not to miss the 10th SSP in November 2015. Sunday was also Iain Finlay’s birthday and on Sunday afternoon he produced a cake (baked by Gesina) for tea. By late Sunday afternoon, it was just Lynnette and I, Auke, Alan and Rose, Wendy, Willem and Iain and Chris Vermeulen left. Chris was actually supposed to have left much earlier, as he had an appointment in Port Elizabeth the next day. He, however, enjoyed the company so much that he eventually only left at around 20:00. Snorre certainly enjoyed the SSP because there were lots of people to make a fuss of him, children to play with and lots of open space to wander around in. He was, in fact, noticeably subdued after everyone had left.
Sunday evening started out promisingly as far as observing was concerned and then around midnight, it clouded over very rapidly, sending us all to bed. Auke, Iain and Willem, as well as Alan and Rose, packed up on Monday leaving Lynnette and I with Snorre and our two German friends, Volker and Edeltraut, at Night Sky. On Monday afternoon Anneliese, Tersius and their assistant took down the marquee. Oddly enough Lynnette and I have come to see the departure of the marquee as a sort of official end to the SSP. Lynnette and I stayed on until Wednesday hoping the weather would give us a chance to do some observing on either the Monday or Tuesday evening but there was to be no such luck.
On Wednesday we stopped off at the Pitkos Farm Stall for fresh figs, more wine and Frances’s coffee and roosterkoek. Then it was home to Brackenfell and the onerous task of unloading, unpacking and putting everything away. Maybe we should just move to Night Sky to make the whole process less of a schlep.
Thanks to Auke for his help in the planning and execution of the SSP programme and designing of forms, as well as his role as master of ceremonies and, last but not least, for preparing and presenting the Pub Quiz. A big thank you to Lynnette for handling all the administration which made the whole show run so smoothly. Thanks, Alan and Rose, for helping to put everything up in the marquee and then take it apart again and pack it away again. Thanks also Alan for the two very professional extension leads you put together for use in the astrophotography area. Thank you also , arie for all the help you gave Lynnette.
To everyone who attended the 9th SSP heartfelt thank you. Whether you were a speaker, an ardent amateur astronomer, a keen astrophotographer, a newcomer eager to learn more about astronomy or perhaps just a supporter of a participant, your presence made the SSP a success. All the organizing in the world is worthless if nobody attends so you, the attendee, makes or breaks the SSP and we hope to see each one of you at Night Sky Caravan Farm in November for the 10th SSP. Remember to bring friends as well!
We have just presented the eighth and, in my opinion, a very successful SSP at Night Sky Caravan Farm and I thought it would be the opportune moment to say something about the various people and organizations who have helped and assisted the SSP since its inception in March 2011.
The comprehensive list gives one an idea of the support we have enjoyed and recognizes their contribution to the success of the Southern Star party. Special mention has, however, to be made of two sponsors.
Alan and Rose Cassells have donated lights in April 2014 and the pegs for the Spring SSP in November 2015. More importantly they also “donate” a lot of their time to helping us unpack and pack up at every SSP and that is absolutely invaluable. Thank you guys!
Waltons in Stellenbosch have, for the last two years, been our biggest sponsor. Without their special discount on our stationery purchases, we could not have such a variety of stuff to put into our goody bags, which by the way, are also included in the sponsorship. A very big thank you Waltons and in recognition we place some photos of your very helpful staff at the Stellenbosch branch!