13th Southern Star Party (Summer 2017)

posted: 145 days ago, on Wednesday, 2017 Mar 01 at 06:18
tags: astronomy, Southern Star Party, outreach, light pollution, SQM, star party, astrophotography, SKA, Leeuwenboschfontein.

The 2017 Summer Southern Star Party - StarPeople's 13th event - was held at Leeuwenboschfontein in the Klein Karoo, February 22-27.

The 50+ party goers enjoyed two talks by Jim Adams (NASA Deputy Chief Technologist (ret.)), a talk by Lorenzo Raynard (Manager: Science Communication at SKA SA), a Messier Marathon (hosted by Deon and Ronelle Begemann), a two-day Beginner's Programme, the World Famous SSP Astro Pub Quiz, and lots of time to observe and socialize.

I took two sets of SQM-L measurements. The first, on 2017 Feb 25 at 02:29 (SAST), gave the sky brightness as 21.78 +/- 0.01 mags/sq.arcsec. And on 2017 Feb 25 at 22:42 the reading was 21.53 +/- 0.02.

On Sunday afternoon, the rare treat of a partial solar eclipse was enjoyed by those who stayed until the Monday. Photos of the eclipse and eclipse gazers are elsewhere on my website.

Futher details of the star party are on the official SSP website: before the event, and after the event.

Star trails over the telescope field. GoPro Hero5 Black. 7 hours 3 minutes of data taken as 30-second exposures (Friday/Saturday Feb 24/25, 20:32 to 03:35). Processed in StarStax.

Group photo. Party goers. Photo by Paul Kruger.

Setting up the telescopes. (top) Before the official start of the formal programme, several observers were already set up. (centre-left) First telescope up: Jonathan Balladon's 6-inch refractor. (centre-right) At far right is Pierre de Villiers' refractor under wraps. (bottom-left) My kit for the first evening - binoculars, ConCards, GoPro and SQM-L. (bottom-right) Dramatic thunder cloud building up.

The Social Barn. In lieu of a Social Tent, Leeuwenbosch has a well equipped barn ideal for presentations, activities, and hot drinks during the night. (top) The area set up with posters and displays. (centre) Exhibits of models and material for the visually impaired. (bottom) Deon and Ronelle Begemann presented a Messier Marathon, for which they may a model of the sky showing the positions of the Messier objects, colour-coded by object type.

Deon Begemann's Binocular Stand. Deon designed a magnificent paralellogram binocular stand that is complete with its own tripod. Easy to balance and use, Deon manufactures and sells these excellent observing aides for R 1,700. Contact him via e-mail at begemannd[at]gmail.com.

Invited talks. Our programme for Saturday traditionally includes several speakers. For the 13th event we decided to cut back the presentations to two, so that things are less hectic for both the organizers and the audience. Edward Foster opened the SSP and introduced the delightful Anja Fourie (SKA SA Science Engagement Coordinator). In turn, Anja introduced Jim Adams (a.k.a. @nasajim, NASA Deputy Chief Technologist (ret.)), who gave two presentations packed with awesome highlights from his long career at NASA. His first talk described spinoffs from space science research, and the second gave an overview of robotics in space exploration.

Saturday Braai. The popular communal braai on Saturday was held in the campsite lappa.

Astro Pub Quiz. The final event for Saturday was the Pub Quiz. The photos above show the teams, including the winning team (bottom-most; Evan, Bennie, Alex and Arne) competing in the final round. The winner - who got 12 out of 40 answers correct - was Alex Wright - congratulations!

And so it ends. Sunday morning saw most party goers pack up and head home. (top-left) Marius and Kim Reitz stashing their 8-inch telescope. (top-right) Cheyenne Kersting (centre) receiving her Messier Marathon Certificate from Lynnette, accompanied by Harald, Christine, and Jamie. (bottom) Monday afternoon - only tables left to pack up.

Star trails over the telescope area. Canon 60D and 10-mm lens. 6 hours of data taken as 30-second exposures (Friday/Saturday Feb 24/25, 21:10 to 03:11). Processed in StarStax.

Star trails over the telescope area.

nothing more to see. please move along.