100 Hours Day 1 (2009 Apr 03)
The first week-end evening of the "100 Hours of Astronomy" was held on Friday, 2009 April 3.
In Stellenbosch, five telescopes were set up on the Braak, and despite intermittent cloud, pleasing views of the Moon and Saturn were enjoyed by over 100 casual stargazers. Engaging questions were often asked, and the enthusiasm was heartening.
Edward Foster, Lynnette Eygelaar, Martin Lyons, Dieter Willasch, Rudie Loots and myself had a steady stream of visitors from shortly after 19:00 until just before midnight. Unfortunately the patchy high cloud rendered the predicted satellite flybys invisible.
Posters, sponsored by SAASTA, were set up on a busy highly-visible street corner, and visitors were directed to the other four telescopes somewhat more in the dark behind a row of trees.
A total lunar occultation of mu Cancri was observed around 21:00; this would have been a great event to display on a projected screen for all to enjoy.
In addition to SAAO brochures and SAASTA booklets, a special moon pamphlet was handed out, as well as free copies of the Southern Star Wheel. Guests were also invited to add their name to a sign-up list for a fledgling astronomy club in Stellenbosch.
A very popular activity was photographing the Moon though the telescope using nothing more than a cell phone camera. Several visitors enthusiastically imaged the Moon, and one entrepeneur even managed a shot of Saturn and its rings!
In Louis Trichardt, Kos Coronaios of the Soutpansberg Astronomy Club presented the second of his scheduled four-day events. He was set up by 16:30, and noted that the telescopes were a draw-card, with visitors coming over to see the varied displays he had on offer, and returning at nightfall for stargazing.
"The weather during the early part of the evening was perfect but then intermittent cloud rolled in blocking our view. I started packing up the display leaving the 10-inch till last by which time a few raindrops could be felt," he writes.
Material handed out included a few ASSA membership forms, SAAO pamphlets and a flyer with interesting Moon facts. One element of the display included astronomy clips and a slide show, running in the background.
"Lots of kids visited the telescope and were astounded by the images of Saturn as well as the Moon," Kos says, who was set up in a parking lot near two popular restaurants. "As you can imagine," he adds, "the parking lights played havoc with the seeing conditions and just to find Saturn through a green haze on florescent light was difficult (the planet was a couple of degrees to the left of one of the lights)."
To further engage his audience, Kos asked the adults and older kids to identify lunar features they were observing by using the Virtual Moon computer program.
Several new astronomy enthusiasts signed up, eager to receive the club's newsletter and attend future viewing evenings.
"All in all I think the evening was a success," Kos concludes, "and if the weather holds out, tonight promises to be even better. Hopefully all the events nationally and around the globe were successful."
nothing more to see. please move along.