Spring 2011 Southern Star Party

posted: 2158 days ago, on Tuesday, 2011 Oct 25 at 18:05
tags: astronomy, star party, astrophotography, Southern Star Party, events, Ed Foster, Kos Coronaios, Martin Lyons, Richard Ford, Hermann Swart, HDR.

Sunrise over Night Sky Caravan Park. Panoramic HDR by Hermann Swart.

Kos Coronaios writes:

"BRILLIANT! Well done organisers for once again making the second Southern Star Party a memorable one.

"Amid concerns regarding the weather, stargazers at the second Southern Star Party were eventually treated to lovely views of our southern skies in the evenings as well as informative presentations during the day. The format for the daytime activities was slightly different to the previous SSP with no parallel demos or presentations and so it was that I eventually had the opportunity to sit in on one that I'd been looking forward to for a long time, Ed Foster's "Fossil, Light and Time". It certainly lived up to my expectations and more, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

"Presentations by Evan Knox-Davies, Christopher Middleton, Vim Filmalter and Martin Lyons were all well attended. With my interest in astrophotography and live video I'm biased in choosing Martin's presentation on the subject as my favourite one, but I certainly learned more about radio telescopes, the SKA and MeerKat projects (Evan Knox-Davis), Stellar Travel (Chris Middelton), outreach demos and 8 inch portability (Wim Filmalter).

"The Astro Quiz held on Friday and Saturday was once again a winner. The questions on the various topics were well thought out and it gave us all the opportunity to show off our knowledge or lack of on the very diverse subject of astronomy.

"But star parties are not just about presentations, quizzes, observing challenges and looking through the various telescopes. More importantly it's the camaraderie, friendship and the getting together of people who share a common interest. This was definitely the case over the two day event close to a small town in the western Cape called Bonnievale and a site aptly named "Night Sky Caravan Park".

"ASTRONOMY was again the winner during the second SSP and it was absolutely fantastic to be in and amongst a group of people who shared their passion on the subject. We discussed, questioned, debated astronomy and on more than one occasion laughed out loudly on other topics. Telescopes with apertures ranging from 2 inches to Martin's 16-inch and Johann's 20-inch monster were on offer and I will be eternally grateful to Martin for bringing along a second scope which he allowed me to use.

"Highlights included not stressing about the weather, catching up with old friends over a beer, making new ones, having the use of a 10 inch, as well as having a constant supply of camembert (thank you Auke) over the weekend. Some special moments were helping Wim with his last observation challenge in his 8 inch Dobie, views of Jupiter and the four Galilean moons through the various size instruments, Richard Ford loudly announcing what DSO he had in the eyepiece and walking over for a peep (absolutely priceless), chatting to Chris while waiting for the Moon to rise at 3am and deciding that we'd seen enough Moon rises and it was now time to crash. I can carry on and fill a number of pages, suffice to say that the weekend was wonderful, so book your slot now for the third SSP early in 2012.

"Many thanks to Auke, Martin (I still owe you breakies with decent mushrooms!), Mitch (dropping off and fetching at Lanseria), Emily (for putting me up) and Storme for the use of your wheels. THANKS."

Lynnette Foster writes:

"Hierdie Spring SSP was ongelooflik lekker, want ons mense ken nou mekaar en dis verblydend om te sien hoe entoesiasties almal gegroet en kennis van alle soorte oor die verloop van die naweek uitgeruil word. Die wind was 'n groot faktor, maar weereens het almal rondom die wind gewerk en steeds die beste van die saak gemaak.

"Uit 'n administratiewe oogpunt was die Spring SSP suksesvol en dis waar wat die spreekwoord sê " practice makes perfect". Weens die tekort aan fondse moet ons egter steeds die admin deurdraf met minder goeie produkte, maar dit sal, wanneer ons die nodige borge vind, beslis iets van die verlede wees.

"Iets wat ongesiens verbygegaan, is die feit dat Auke en Ed nie altyd genoegsaam bedank word vir al hul insette nie en dus ek wil van hierdie geleentheid gebruik maak om dit te doen. Auke vir die reël van die sprekers en die instandhouding van die webblad, die bladsyuitleg van sekere dokumentasie, ens., en Ed, die man wat alles kan doen, die man wat agter die spreekwoordelike skerms werk. Sonder al jul insette en opofferings, sou hierdie SSP nie moontlik gewees het nie.

"Dan 'n laaste woord van dank aan Wilhelm vir al sy "muscle" hulp, aan Martin vir sy insette met die beplanning van die tent, en dan ook aan almal wat gehelp het met die afbreek van die SSP tent. Dit het dinge soveel makliker vir ons almal gemaak.

"My groot wens is dat die volgende byeenkoms veel groter en nog meer suksesvol sal wees."

(left) Party-goers. (right,top) New SSP AstroQuiz Champion John Richards. (right,bottom) Chris Middelton with his favourite banana and pill-cocktail.

Ed Foster writes:

"Word 'n leeu, solank as die Volstruiswyfie in

die groot veld met haar kleintjies wei."

Uit die Vaalkoestertjie in Dwaalstories deur Eugène N. Marais.

"I am quite certain that nobody at Night Sky actually turned into a lion after Aldebaran (die "Volstruiswyfie") and the Pleiades ("haar kleintjies") had risen. There might, however, have been some astronomers who were feeling rather "lionish" in their eagerness to get to grips with their telescopes and the night sky, so perhaps the two lines did, in a way, apply to us at the Spring SSP.

"Anyway, lions or no lions, the Spring SSP has come and gone and, looking back at all the meetings and planning sessions, hassles with bookings and administration and worrying about funds and the weather, one wonders if it was all worthwhile and if one would do it again. Speaking for myself the answer is yes on both counts although some things will probably be done differently. On the one hand one wants to improve the experience for attendees and on the other hand one also wants to make life a little easier for the committee. At least we will not have to worry about the RWC for the next few years, although the end of the world, scheduled for December 2012, might be a problem!

Each attendee received a 'goody bag' containing all the information about the weekend, as well as either a nifty key ring or a pen, both with the compliments of Eridanus Optics. During the course of the weekend various spot prizes, lucky draws and a raffle resulted in attendees walking away with solar filters and a lens cleaning pen (both courtesy of Eridanus Optics), a Galileo scope (courtesy of Kos Coronaios) and a 5-inch telescope with all the trimmings (courtesy of Auke and Edward), various book prizes, numerous bottles of wine and SSP coffee mugs (courtesy of the SSP committee).

"The introduction of Auke and Martin’s brainchild, the social tent, was a definite success and, with a few improvements and possible additions, it will function even better next time around. The tent withstood a really tough test this weekend and, aside from two bent poles, a 50-cm tear and one ripped-out eyelet, it came through with flying colours. The sale table offered a selection of astronomy books, SSP mugs and Lynnette’s special SSP chutney. The chutney, ranging from mild to very hot was appropriately labelled Brown Dwarf, Red Giant and Blue-White. The refreshment table with tea and coffee and an urn supplying hot water 24/7 was also a success as were the red lights illuminating the refreshment table all night. The red lights in the toilets will need some modification as they exhausted their batteries halfway through the night.

"Despite the wind, the talks by Chris Middelton, Kos Coronaios, Wim Filmalter, Evan Knox-Davies, Martin Lyons and myself were well attended and I think there really was something for all tastes and levels of expertise in the talks. The Astro Quiz was a success again and John Richards will, I am sure, be a worthy bearer of the SSP Floating Rosette until the next SSP, when he can be challenged and possibly dethroned.

"The overcast conditions on Friday and Saturday ruled out the planned solar viewing during the day, and the clouds on Friday evening resulted in viewing varying from difficult to almost impossible. Saturday night was much better, in fact almost excellent and helped make up for the previous evening. The much improved weather on Saturday night enabled Pierre de Villiers and his son Andrè, as well as Wim Filmalter to complete the observing challenge and receive certificates for their efforts.

"All in all I think the weekend was a success and I think astronomy was the overall winner. There is a definite need for amateur astronomers to get together at occasions like the SSP, renew old acquaintances, make new friendships and, in general, exchange ideas over a period of two or three days. Events like the SSP are also the ideal way to draw in members of the general public and nurture their interest in astronomy. It is a pity the Spring SSP event was not better supported but the committee is determined to keep going until the SSP becomes a fixture on the Astro-calender in the Cape. To do this the committee will have to advertise more widely in the hope of attracting more attendees and also find sponsors or backers for the SSP. Without sponsors the cost of presenting the SSP is going to spiral out of control."

Talks and presentations. (top) Chris Middelton, Evan Knox-Davies, and Kos Coronaios. (centre) Martin Lyons, Ed Foster, and Wim Filmalter. (bottom) Ed grasping the projector screen in the face of high winds, John Richard sharing some news from the recent International Astronautical Congress, and the AstroQuiz on Saturday.

Telescopes. (left) Martin's 16-inch with trailer and hoist. (right,top) Martin ducking under his suspended 'scope. (right,bottom) Paul Kruger, Evan and Martin. Evan, the previous AstroQuiz Champion, gives the 16-inch a thumb's-up.

More telescopes. (left) Wim Filmalter's 8-inch BikeScope, which fits into his backpack. (centre) Johann Swanepoel's 20-inch monster. In the top image: many hands make light (bucket) work. Lower image: Johann (on the right) describing the truss to Kobus Fourie. (right, top) John Saunders with his 10-inch collapsible Dobbie. (right, bottom) Leslie Rose's pet-friendly 8-inch Celestron Nexstar.

Night views. (top, left) Jupiter with Martin's 10-inch SCT pointed at it. (top,centre,right) Thin cloud scudding across the night sky, damping Kos Coronaios' chances of capturing meteors. (centre, left) Tarantula Nebula imaged by Kos through a 10-inch SCT. (centre,centre) Wide-angle view of the south sky showing the Magellanic Clouds. (centre,right) Large Magellanic Cloud through a telephoto lens. (bottom,left) Jupiter and its gleam on the dam. (bottom,centre) Richard Ford's headlamp traces arcs as he hunts for deep sky targets. (bottom,right) Orion and Taurus rising over the telescope field.

Sunrise over the dam. Panoramic HDR by Hermann Swart.

(top, left) Admin area and "social tent". (top,centre) Admin-guru Lynnette Foster. (top,right) Loyal SSPers in their branded merch. (bottom,left) Wilhelm doing emergency electrical repairs. (bottom,centre) During Evan's talk the wind was so bad that poor Ed had to lend structural support to the projector screen. (bottom,right) Emergency tent repair by Johann, Andre, Paul, Wim, Ed and Pierre.

(top, clockwise) Wim Filmalter, Chris Middelton, Evan Knox-Davies, Chris and Kobus Fourie, Richard with Hermann and Bertus, and a well-travelled attendee.

Braai! (left, right-bottom) Friday braai. (right,top) Coffee and chat between talks on Friday.

Looking across the dam to the camp site, sunrise on Sunday. Panoramic HDR by Hermann Swart.

Montage of photos by Ed and Lynnette Foster

Images by Kos Coronaios, Richard Ford, Hermann Swart, Ed Foster, Lynnette Foster and Auke Slotegraaf.

nothing more to see. please move along.