Under African Skies at Kirstenbosch

posted: 2150 days ago, on Thursday, 2012 Mar 01 at 09:34
tags: astronomy, outreach, Ed Foster, Cape Town, events.

Paarl Media held their 2012 Leap Year Bash at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in Cape Town yesterday, February 29, 2012. The event was organized by Eventscape and the theme was "Under an African Sky".

As bona fide Africans with a certain familiarity with the skies, Edward and Lynnette Foster and myself were there to share the stars.

A marquee tent had been set up adjacent to the upper parking area, and our telescopes were arrayed in a suitably darkish nook just below. While setting up (it's still light out at 19:00) the 'scopes attracted the attention of several passers-by on their way to a poetry reading elsewhere. Early glimpses of the Moon set against a cyan sky were enjoyed, and a good number returned after their event to round out the evening with a few moment's star gazing.

Majestic Table Mountain unfortunately hid Venus from view, but Jupiter remained high up so that the first guests trickling down from the marquee got to enjoy the giant planet and its four attendant moons. Candle-lanterns along the foot path from the tent made a very attractive ribbon of light, leading the guests safely to the telescopes.

By 21:00 we had 28 first-time star gazers at the telescopes, mostly arriving in groups of two or three. Then something happened, and they arrived by the dozens. We lost count at 200. The last two star gazers left at 23:40.

It's always thrilling to be able to share honest eye-ball views of the heavens. Hubble photos are stunningly beautiful, but to experience a flood of photons, streaming from deep space directly into your brain - that's the ticket.

Photo gallery

The beautiful surroundings of Kirstenbosch. (above, left) The marquee tent, seen from the observing area. (above, centre) Candle-lanterns snaking down from the tent to the telescopes. (above, right) Collimating the telescopes in preparation.

(above) The marquee tent with craggy Table Mountain, lit by the city glow, in the background. The (almost) First Quarter Moon dominates the celestial view. At extreme left, the bright "star" just above the mountain is Jupiter. In the centre (to the left of the Moon) the Seven Sisters (Pleiades) star cluster can be seen. Directly above the Moon is the bright star Aldebaran, the brightest star of Taurus the Bull. Notice the large sideways V of stars with Aldebaran at the one tip - that's the star cluster known as the Hyades.

Canon Powershot S3 IS, ISO 800, f/2.7, 15-seconds.

(above) The final photo for the evening, taken while packing up just before midnight. Just above the mountain's edge, left of centre, Orion's Belt can be seen, three bright stars setting almost vertically. The bright star on the left is Rigel, and the bright star in the centre of view is Betelgeuse. Between the Belt and Rigel, three stars at a slant can be seen, representing Orion's sword.

Canon Powershot S3 IS, ISO 800, f/2.7, 15-seconds.

Nikon D5000, ISO 250, f/4.5. (left) 27mm, 65-seconds and (right) 112mm, 49-seconds.

nothing more to see. please move along.