Limpopo Astronomy Outreach (2010 Sep 10/11)
by Kos Coronaios
Limpopo Astronomy Outreach was invited to Punda Maria rest camp in the KNP for a weekend of stargazing with their guests. With the occultation of Venus by the Moon on Saturday the 11th it was also going to be a fantastic opportunity for some day-time astronomy.
The trip to Punda Maria from Pafuri River Camp on Friday afternoon took slightly longer than usual due to the rewarding game drive. Shortly after crossing the Luvuvhu River a small breeding herd of elephant was spotted and I spent over 20 minutes watching the youngsters playing in the surrounding mud pools. A little further on Lappetfaced and Whitebacked vultures were spotted on a carcass. These big birds are a joy to watch as they swoop down to land, fighting for the scraps left behind by the other scavengers before them.
Arriving at Punda I was greeted by Themba the camp manager who had already put up posters advertising two evenings of stargazing. Although the campsite was not filled the main camp was full and I was prepared for a busy weekend with the added occultation of Venus the following day.
Themba and I decided that instead of setting up at the Helipad I should rather setup outside the office/restaurant (more visible) and shortly after sunset telescope and equipment were ready. Views of the crescent Moon and Venus were enjoyed by the guests chasing the clock as they timed their arrival back to camp, just prior to the gate closing. It was interesting to point out that the two objects could be viewed during the day tomorrow and a number of guests were spotted sending sms's telling friends and family to look close to the Moon the following afternoon.
A 30 strong group of zoology students from America and a couple from Wits and UCT, on a two week field trip were to be my main stars for the evening. After showing a few of them the planet Venus and phase, they promised to return en masse after dinner. The next couple of hours were spent pointing out some of the constellations with views of some of the deep sky objects and planets (Jupiter, Uranus) that were visible through the telescope.
Various astronomy clips were shown and it was during one of these that I looked up to find Antares and slew the scope to M4 that I realised the evenings telescope viewing was over. The cooling breeze was bringing in cloud that was to remain till Sunday morning. Disappointment! there was not to be any occultation of Venus or further stargazing for the weekend, but at least I managed to persuade Sarah and the kids to spend Saturday in the "park" with me.
nothing more to see. please move along.