History of the Karoo Star Party
by Johan Smit & Danie Barnardo*
It all started out as a casual idea by Pretoria Centre members, Johan Smit and Danie Barnardo to invite some friends along to share a wonderful experience under the dark Karoo skies.
The chosen venue is the Kambro guest farm, 20 km north of Britstown. The town is centrally located, 250 km south of Kimberley on the N12, on route between Cape Town and JohanŽnesburg. Danie regularly sleeps over at Kambro and on returning to Pretoria is always haunted by the memory of the pristine skies of Britstown.
The first weekend was arranged for the long weekend 25 to 27 April 2009, and so the first ever national star party was born. Since then another one was held on the long weekend 7 to 9 August 2010, and the 3rd one on the weekend 29 April to 2 May 2011.
During the first event a "Sky Quality Meter" which can quantitatively determine the brightness of the night sky in magnitudes per square arcsecond, measured 21.4, 21.1 and 21.7 mags/Arcsec2 for the three nights respectively - this translates to a naked-eye limiting magnitude of between magnitude 6.1 and 6.5. It is as dark as anyone could wish for.
Danie and Johan look at the calendar and decide on a long weekend close to new moon, preferably during the dry season. The event is advertised by ASSA Pretoria and everyone is invited to book directly at the Kambro location. Despite the obvious dark location, the organisers strive to keep the event accessible to "normal" people.. So, even if you are a novice observer you are just as welcome as seasoned dark sky observer. No one will complain too loudly if your torch is a bit too bright. It is organised to be like a weekend away between friends and you will be shown the right way in a friendly manner.
Because the long weekends in 2012 are all close to full moon, no date has been decided yet. We will first have to study the calendar very carefully to find a suitable date for the 2012 event.
So, when you hear about the next one, be sure to book early and come and enjoy the stars with your friends.
* A shortened version will appear in the 2012 SkyGuide.
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