Willie Koorts (SAAO; MNASSA Editor), Chris de Coning (ASSA Historical Section) and myself fly up to Johannesburg, passing over some beautiful scenery as the Cape fold mountains unfurl below us.
At O.R. Thambo airport we were picked up by big-hearted O.R. Toumilovitch, and enroute to the ScopeX venue we stopped by the Republic Observatory where I got my first view of the impressive Innes 26.5-inch refractor. Jaw-dropping.
This is the kind of telescope every little astronomer dreams of. More pix here, here and here, while this image shows the envious author. For details about the history of this beautiful telescope visit Chris de Coning's Historical Section web pages. As luck would have it, Chris Stewart and Francois Nortje were at the Observatory when we arrived, so the first of many pleasant reunions kicked off.
We arrived at the venue, the South African National Museum of Military History (next to the Johannesburg Zoo) and had a few moments to walk about amongst the displays.
Except for its rather macabre nature (a shrine to devices for killing your fellow man) the venue is excellent. Beautifully maintained lawns and buildings, comfortable lecture rooms and plenty of display space made it a delight. Then it was off to Richard Berry's astronomical image processing workshop.
An engaging and able speaker, Richard demonstrated image processing fundamentals using his award-winning software AIP4Win. I was geared for taking copious notes, but Richard supplied all the goodies and more on a CDROM, so one could sit back and concentrate on the talk.
After hastily setting up my deepsky stand and hunting for a power lead (thanks Vincent), I scouted the area and spent some time amongst the 60+ telescopes that had seemingly mushroomed on the lawns overnight. Although I much prefer to look through a telescope than at one, the variety, and sense of dedication & enthusiasm, was obvious.
I gave my first deepsky talk to a crowded audience, and distributed a good number of Discover! booklets, thoughtfully prepared by Lerika & Co.
Then a quick second tour of the telescope field, meeting up with a lot of folk along the way who I had only had e-mail contact with up to now. Of course I had no idea what they looked like, so I accidentally avoided Robert Groess, Johan Smit, Mauritz Geyser and Luke Arnott along the way before finally meeting up with them. On the other hand, folk I had hoped to sit down and chat with at length, like Tim Cooper, Gerrit Penning Chris Middleton, and Brian Fraser, were lost in the buzz. Next time. Meanwhile, photos of all these and more.
Then I rushed off to join Willie Koorts and Cees Rijsdijk (below) to judge the astrophotos. In my laptop bag I had a set of dice, and it would have been easier to use these to choose the winners, because the overall standard was high.
It became obvious that there were four categories (deepsky, solar system, landscape scenes, and comet McNaught) and after much deliberation, particularly about the deepsky images, winners were chosen. I felt that an additional special category for deepsky objects was needed, because its next to impossible to compare, say, a wide-field image of the Orion Belt & Sword region, with an image of NGC 5189.
In the Marrieres Wood room, commercial exhibitions were on display.
Two items in particular caught my eye; (top, left) Oleg's red counter-balanced binocular stand (I noticed two other variants out in the telescope field), and (top, right) his multi-power green laser pointer with a custom bracket for easy and accurate telescope mounting. Details of these items can be found on the Foton Optoelectronics website.
At the Foton exhibition table (below), Oleg's daughter Alicia draws the winning entry, which belonged to an overjoyed Willie Koorts, who won himself a red laser pointer. Johan van Rensburg looks on.
As darkness fell, people gravitated towards the telescope field for viewing, and the Voortrekker tent for lekker kos. All too soon it was over and we packed up, heading for our guest house, Oaklands Inn in Randburg, which I can heartily recommend.
After a leisurely breakfast we were whisked through the Randburg waterfront for coffee (real coffee, in case you're wondering; Lavazza americano) before Oleg dropped us off at the airport. Next stop, Cape Town.
My only ScopeX disappointments was that there was no decent coffee, no strippers, and that it only lasted one day. Other than that: wow, well done Joburg Centre and kudos to all the hard-working organizers & exhibitors. If you can at all make it to the next ScopeX, be there.
What follows is a photo gallery of the faces & characters I ran into. The list of folks missing in action is long and incomplete, but includes Tim Cooper, Jacques van Delft, Chris Middleton, Gerrit Penning, Roy van der Westhuizen, and so onů
The Cape Town contingent and their ScopeX escorts. [click to start slide show]
2. ScopeX 2007
nothing more to see. please move along.