Simon Arrived just before nine and helped set up the final arrangements for the afternoon. Fires and braais were laid out and the area around the "groot gat" was secured against someone stumbling into it in the dark. We were treated to the sight of three Mocambique spitting cobras intertwining in the sun.
As people arrived from 11:00am I began tours of our natural building and renewable energy system and this kept me busy until dark. The ASSA members had set up their telescopes in the centre of a huge camp ground that had mysteriously appeared (well Pete & Dion were responsible for getting it going with Pete giving us a great demonstration of how to destroy a tent) ) Around 80 people had turned up for the event. Solar viewing was first on the cards before the moon was admired. Then stars and more stars and many galaxies were admired. Some decided that fire gazing (much the same thing) was preferable and I think there were at least seven people who never ventured into range of the array of telescopes. Jupiter was also a hot favorite as we watched one of her moons crossing in front of her. Stargazing carried on throughout the night but I did notice that more and more people gravitated to the roaring fires.
The next morning commenced bright and early with walks up the mountain and we were treated to a fascinating description from Dr Bob Scholes on the geology and resultant plants and their amazing adaptations to the infertile conditions and their different methods of taking advantage of the natural fire cycles.
Then slowly most people dragged themselves back to the big smoke and peace and quite were enjoyed by me!
Once again we are arranging a joint star gazing event on August 22 between ESSA (Explorer Society of SA) and ASSA (Astronomical Society), and once again it happens to be in the depths of winter. The venue is a secluded but easily accessible farm in the Magaliesberg which belongs to Paul Marais and Vanessa and is a short drive from Joburg or Pretoria . It has some unusual examples of sustainable energy solutions namely a Lister engine (first invented in 1929-this particular example built in 1952 and still going strong) and a wind turbine, to name a few.
The evening starts with a "bring & braai", followed by star gazing. Fires for the "bring & braai" will be organized and ready from 16h00 onwards and there may even be a couple of bottles of red wine to kick off the evening too. If you would like to explore the farm in the daylight hours you are welcome to arrive from 11h00 onwards and to bring a picnic with you.
Should you decide to join us, please bring your own crockery, cutlery and a wine glass plus R20 (if you are a paid up member-non members pay R40) to cover the incidental expenses for this initiative. You are welcome to overnight on Paul and Vanessa's farm but you need to bring your own tent - and breakfast! Anyone who brings a telescope will be exempt from this fee.
In keeping with the spirit of the last event we would appreciate it if some of the people from ASSA who plan to join us, bring along a telescope and in return we will arrange the venue, a braai and maybe even a tour of some green energy initiatives. Anyone bringing a telescope with them will be exempt from this fee.
Paul is organising a mini bird day on Sunday Morning- bring binoculars, field guides and a pen to join in. This will be before breakfast on the morning
If any of you are interested in participating, please contact Simon at: 0824721231
Some pertinent astronomical details follow courtesy of Chris Stewart
The venue has a relatively dark sky with minimal local lighting and horizon permitting, we should see Saturn, Mercury and the Moon in the west for a while after sunset. The Moon should be spectacular in the early evening, setting early to provide dark skies for viewing deep-space objects.
Jupiter will be well poised to show the dance of the Galilean Moons for most of the night. (Why not use the JupSat freeware program to preview this? Get it at http://indigo.ie/~gnugent/JupSat95/ and predict interesting events.)
The Milky way and Southern Cross are prominently high at this time of the year and wonderful deep-sky objects abound. (Northerners eat your hearts out: the Southern winter sky has all the good stuff.) In the morning, Orion rises to be well placed before sunrise. The challenge for the night is to spot Uranus. An 8" scope will do it.
Some important general information to take into consideration
IMPORTANT: standing around outside in the dead of winter can bring on hypothermia - you really do need plenty of warm clothes and a snack for later. And remember that white light is the enemy of dark-adapted vision. If you must bring a torch, please make sure it is red (cover it with a suitable filter) and keep it pointed at the ground. Try to park facing out, and if you arrive/leave after dark please use parking lights only in the vicinity. If possible, keep the interior lights of your car off too and avoid reverse gear.