Auke, Lynnette and I pitched nice and early followed shortly by Wendy and we all promptly set about setting up the telescopes in preparation for the arrival of the Friends of the Helderberg nature Reserve later on. Wendy set up her 8” Dobsonian and Auke set up the Celestron nicknamed “Little Martin” while Lynnette and I set up the other Celestron known as the “One Armed Bandit”. Both Celestrons were automated and we hoped to gain time and make life easier by not having to adjust all the time to follow an object, as is the case with a Dobsonian. Although there are definite advantages to using an automated telescope as opposed to a good old push-and-tug Dobsonian I found that with the 5” instrument I had it was less stable and did not give me the clarity and brightness I was used to on our workhorse, Lorenzo the 10” Dobsonian. I will definitely investigate other uses for the Celestron but at present, I have my doubts when it comes to general outreach. Watch this space is I believe the expression to use.
There were still day picnickers around and when the children spotted the telescopes they made a beeline for us before we had time to set up properly. As soon as we were up and running we let them look at the moon to their heart’s content. Auke even had on eager little lass trained up in no time to operate the control paddle of his telescope; I was less adventurous. As the picnickers trickled away the Friends of the Helderberg Nature Reserve ) started arriving and setting up their picnics.
By the time it was dark enough to do a what’s up tonight most of them had looked at the moon. I kept my introduction as short as possible and steadily increased the number of stars and constellations as the gathering dark allowed us to see more of them.
After the talk, it was back to the telescopes and we spent the rest of the evening until packing up time around 21:45 showing various objects and talking about whichever astronomy questions were put to us. All in all, it was a very pleasant and enjoyable evening with fair weather, very little wind and nice people.
Thanks to the Friends for the invitation and we are very glad the weather gods viewed our little get together favourably this time round.
Auke, Lynnette and I arrived on time and set up under cloudless skies in the Helderberg Nature Reserve (go here to learn more about this jewel in Somerset West) and it looked as if, for once, yr.no had got it completely wrong. People started arriving and setting up their picnics and it looked increasingly as if it was going to be clear all evening but then at 19:00 the wind shifted to the south and the temperature dropped a few degrees. Shortly after this change the first wisps of cloud appeared from the direction of False Bay and pretty soon the wisps had become large chunks and shortly thereafter it was completely overcast. The conclusion is that the Norwegian weather forecasters might be late sometimes, but they are only very, very seldom wrong.
Clearly there was going to be no stargazing but what was there going to be? After a hurried council of war between Margie and Auke it was decided that Auke would present his normal What’s Up in a different format to substitute for the lack of moon and stars.
Auke pitched in and first up explained the difference between refractors and reflecting telescopes using Daniel Snyman’s refractor and his Dobby, Maphefu. He then launched into a brilliant coverage of astronomy, astronomy history, cosmology and indigenous astronomy that entertained the Friends for more than an hour. Well done Auke!
We will be back at a later date to do the stargazing.
Claudia and her able associates had organized lavish picnic baskets for us, including a bottle of pink bubbly. We had definitely landed firmly in the lap of luxury, but barely had time to eat some of the delicacies on offer, when the first torches twinkled through the trees to the North, announcing the group’s approach.
Many of the people were actually quite knowledgeable, which was a pleasant change from the largely totally uninformed groups we often have to deal with. Having Lorenzo and Maphefo side by side also made a considerable difference in the number of people we could handle. Having the two telescopes there greatly reduced the waiting time in the queues and also helped us cover a wider range of objects in the available time.
Auke sat off to one side and conducted his usual very informative what’s up tonight laser guided star talk. He also fielded many of the questions taking the pressure off Lynnette and I at the telescopes. Quite a few of the people actually went from the telescopes to Auke and then came back to the telescopes again, although most seemed to only move from the telescopes to Auke.
The weather was fairly clear with only a few small scattered clouds to the south and south-east. The wind, which we initially hardly felt among the trees did, however, cause some upper air instability. This resulted in quite lot of twinkle and sparkle of objects as high up as 20 degrees above the horizon. Toward 21:30 the wind became quite strong and gusty hastening our departure from the Reserve.
All in all, it was a successful evening with about 80 people of which about 20 were children. We must really remember to take along a stepladder for the dimensionally challenged viewers.
In case anyone is wondering why there are no photographs of the event there is a simple explanation. Lynnette took them and I downloaded them but now i cannot find them. If and when I do find them they will be posted here.