Limpopo Astronomy Outreach (2009 Jun 26-28)
by Kos Coronaios
On Friday the 26th around lunch time James, Cuan and I headed north over the Soutpansberg mountain range towards Tshipise and our first stop for the weekend's outreach programme.
The display and telescope were set up at the entrance to the resort so as to cater to the local population and the resort's staff and guests. With the school holidays under way the popular destination is packed with holiday makers and kids. James (my son) and Cuan, a grade nine pupil from Louis Trichardt High School, realised that unfortunately this weekend was not going to be a holiday for them. Taking turns to man the telescope and display until well after 22:00, they were both quite exhausted by the time we called it a night.
Prior to packing up we confirmed with the resort's management that we would be spending one more evening as there was a lot of interest shown by guests arriving late but too tired to come and view the display and look through the telescope.
A few minor gremlins with the equipment were sorted out during the course of the evening and fine tuned the next day.
The following morning we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at the restaurant and soon afterwards the display and telescope were set up again at the entrance to the restaurant. This was in close proximity to the shops and we were well-rewarded with a continuous flow of kids and adults during most of the day.
Information on the Sun, Saturn, Jupiter, the solar system and Moon was handed out and everyone passing by had a view of the Sun through the telescope. An important book by Ginny Stone, Sibo in Space, was a hit with the children and these were quickly snapped up. The IYA 2009 banner and telescope were definitely crowd pullers and one could see the kids pointing and asking their parents if they could come over and see what it was all about.
At around 14:30 I moved the display to the area that we would be setting up the telescope for the evening. I told James and Cuan to go enjoy themselves and they decided to go for a swim and play some putt-putt before the evening's viewing started. I also took a break and watched the first half of the second test between the Springboks and Lions.
By 17:00 we were once again ready and my wife (Sarah) and Christopher (3 year old son) joined us from Louis Trichardt to lend a helping hand. This allowed Cuan to man a spotting scope trained on the Moon while I operated the telescope and camera while Sarah assisted.
Beautiful views of the Moon and Saturn were projected on the screen and I kept a running commentary on what we were viewing. Various astronomy clips were utilised during the evening allowing us to take a few minute's break.
All in all the evening was well attended and ended around 22:30 with only a handful of people remaining as temperatures plummeted to a couple of degrees above zero. The die-hards were shown a few of the more popular targets such as M4, M6 & 7, M8, M20, Omega Centauri, Jewel Box and Alpha Crucis through the eyepiece before we all called it a night.
A late supper followed by a well-earned sleep was eagerly anticipated as we packed up for the evening.
Sunday morning and after a quick cup of coffee we headed east towards Pafuri (northern Kruger National Park). About 20km from Tshipise a vibration and grating noise forced a halt to the journey and a blown tyre on the trailer had to be changed.
On arrival at Pafuri River Camp ingredients for brunch were handed over to Robert the chef who cooked us a lovely meal of bacon eggs and sausages. A walk along the river followed by an hour or so of relaxing at the camp was most welcome prior to meeting our interpreter Nelson at the community centre in Bende Mutale. The centre is still in the process of being built and the floor was mopped in preparation of our arrival but unfortunately it was still wet when we started so the kids carried in bricks to use as chairs.
From 15:30 to 17:00, 50 Southern Star Wheels were completed by the kids and shortly after sunset we were joined by Edward who helped me translate as we showed a 70-plus strong crowd views of the Moon & Saturn on the screen.
A question and answer session followed by various astronomy related clips showing the different size of the planets and stars ended the evenings entertainment.
While packing up a small group of visitors to Pafuri River Camp arrived and I gave them a short presentation of what's up with views through the telescope. All keen birders, they now have another use for their binoculars.
All-in-all a successful start for Limpopo Astronomy Outreach and I'm looking forward to the next one in July.
Thank you to Forever Resorts Tshipise, Pafuri River Camp, Mirror & Zoutpansberger, Maranga Phanda Office National, Leach Printers, Auke Slotegraaf (Southern Star Wheel), Edward Foster from Biospoor (fossil posters), SAAO, SAASTA and everyone else involved in making this project a success.
nothing more to see. please move along.