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Stargazing - Helpful hints and stuff.

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JenB
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Stargazing - Helpful hints and stuff.

Unread postby JenB » Thu Jan 22, 2009 9:11 am

I'm still a dust cloud when it comes to stargazing but I've always been interested in what is beyond. Please share any tips and helpful info with myself and other dust clouds so we too can enjoy the hobby? What can be better than listening to the sounds of the African bust while watching the stars? :D

My tip:
Stellarium an excellent night sky program which is a free download from the web. You can set your location and time and it shows you the sky in real time, you can also go forward and back. Shows you constellations with star names, planets, nebulae ect.
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Best night sky viewing

Unread postby nightjar » Thu Jan 22, 2009 9:05 pm

Where is your favourite place to stargaze in SAN Parks?
I was really amazed at the impressive display of stars on show at Talamati. It adds a whole new dimension to a visit to Kruger.
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Re: Stargazing - Helpful hints and stuff.

Unread postby Betelgeuse » Thu Jan 22, 2009 10:05 pm

Stellarium sounds so 8) 8) 8) ...
Will wait till I get to a DSL line though before I download :whistle:

We have been checking out the South African Astronomical Observatory's website for star maps & printed them out every month - the monthly updates come with a description of what's where when & a bit of interesting info.

Here's a direct link to where you can download info for Jan. 2009
http://www.saao.ac.za/public-info/sun-m ... 9/january/
Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the download options.

Alternatively go to their homepage www.saao.ac.za, click on the "Public info" tab; a drop down menu will appear, click on "sun, moon & stars. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the download options.

In addition you can also view the Johannesburg planetarium's website & download starmaps from there at www.planetarium.co.za

I received the Sky Guide, Africa South 2009, Astronomical handbook for southern Africa, Astronomical Soceity of southern Africa as a gift. (a very 8) 8) 8) gift!!) It contains very good info about monthly events, the sun/moon/planets/deep-sky observing/basic observing skills/astronomy in southern Africa/useful websites etc.

A stargazing tip: If you don't have fancy telescopes & stuff - use your binoculars/spotting scope. You'll be surprized at how many more stars you can see.

Now is a good time for evening stargazing since the moon only rises after midnight rendering a dark sky for approximately 6 hours.

:hmz: me thinks me need to chair and go sit outside under the stars now...Ciao!!
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Re: Best night sky viewing

Unread postby Betelgeuse » Thu Jan 22, 2009 10:30 pm

On a drive at Punda Maria!! (Okay I might be biased :twisted: )
There's no light pollution from settlements here. I love to stop during a drive & switch all the lights off on the vehicle as well as the engine. While on a drive I can also select an open spot as there are quite a lot of large trees (& a hillside) in camp which hinder the view.

:hmz: thinking...on top of Dzundzwini hill...(I wish!)

I have fond memories of sitting around a small camp fire at Marakele's delapidated bush camp underneath the stars while on a course. It's at the base of the mountain & I remember a full moon rising from behind the cliffs...

I haven't stayed at Talamati yet - mental note made to go & check it out!
There is nothing like looking, if u want to find sumthing. You certainly usually find sumthing, if u look, but it is not always quite the sumthing you were after. - JRR Tolkien.

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Re: Best night sky viewing

Unread postby christo » Fri Jan 23, 2009 7:05 am

Most of the smaller camps (not on the border of Kruger) gives you an impressive display on a clear night.

I just love the view from all.

I sometimes love winter more, less cloud cover, less leaves on trees to hinder the sighting of stars and less snakes to step on when my eyes are fixed on the stars.
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Re: Best night sky viewing

Unread postby deefstes » Fri Jan 23, 2009 11:48 am

I can't claim to have been to ALL of the SANParks so I suppose I can't say which one offers the BEST stargazing. However, I'd have a very difficult time imagining any of the parks in South Africa offering better night sky views than the Richtersveld Transfrontier Park. In fact, I think the night skies could be the most important attraction to RTP.

Here are two timed exposure pics I took in the park. No special lenses or anything, just the plain old Canon 350D camera with the kit lens but pitch black night with plenty plenty plenty stars (didn't I mention they were plenty?).

First picture taken at Kokerboomkloof. One of the most magical places you are likely to ever find yourself in. The point of view is towards the south and, as the photo clearly shows, incorporates the south celestial pole. What I particularly like about this picture is that both the large and small magellanic clouds are visible (above and below to the left of the Quiver tree). These are dwarf galaxies which are well outside of our own galaxy and two of the few extra-galactical bodies visible to the naked eye.

Respectively, they are 170,000 and 210,000 light years from us which is VAST. I mean really really far. In 1987 a supernova occurred in the large magellanic cloud which was the closest observed supernova since Oct 9 1604 and visible to the naked eye. The staggering fact is that the star exploded some 170,000 years ago (10,000 years earlier than the oldest known fossils of humans on earth) but the light of the event reached us only in 1987.

I was just a teeny kid at the time but would have loved to see it as it might well be the only naked eye supernova in our lifetimes seeing as the previous one was 380 years before this one so who knows, we may have to wait another 380 years for the next one.
Image

Second picture taken at Richtersberg, on the bank of the Orange River. This one is pointing in a north-easterly direction showing stars as they appear from behind the horizon and climb up into the sky.
Image
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Re: Stargazing - Helpful hints and stuff.

Unread postby deefstes » Fri Jan 23, 2009 12:46 pm

Kudos to Betelgeuse for having the coolest name. Here's a new thread I created which explains why I think so. :D
Astronomy - Give us your trivia
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Re: Best night sky viewing

Unread postby restio » Fri Jan 23, 2009 9:11 pm

Haven't been to the Richtersveld. :mrgreen:

Nossob in KTP is amazing when the generator's off at night. *sigh* Augrabies is great too.
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Re: Best night sky viewing

Unread postby Hawk » Fri Jan 23, 2009 9:39 pm

Deefstes, DB and I are always promising ourselves that we will one day visit Richtersveld, and now your post and magical star trace pics have just reminded me that it's time we made that promise a reality.
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Re: Stargazing - Helpful hints and stuff.

Unread postby jaapvandijk » Wed Jan 28, 2009 6:30 pm

a real obvious point is keep watching :shock: (watching).

keep :shock: over the weeks, months and year. keep in touch with what you have seen and what you have learned. in may we started off with the Southern Cross, now that one is gone and Orion came in its place.
So keep watching over time as the constellations (seem) to move across the sky. That way you will get a 'feeling' for the movement and position of the different constellations, moon cycle, planet movement etc.

dont do only stargazing in the bush, but back at home as well!

As said an obvious point, but might be good to restate..
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Re: Best night sky viewing

Unread postby Batsman » Fri Jan 30, 2009 3:15 pm

I totally agree with deefstes. The nightsky in Richtersfeld NP is amazing.

We haven't stayed at Kokerboomkloof but especially at Potjiesprom and all other camps without artificial light pollution it's amazing.

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Re: Stargazing - Helpful hints and stuff.

Unread postby Hawk » Sun Feb 08, 2009 9:50 pm

Thanks Jenb for the link to Stellarium. Installed it last night and its really great. For someone to put that much work into something so good and then give it away and still support, maintain and continue to develop it is amazing.

We've had a few beautifully clear nights here in EL recently, but cloud cover is quite complete tonight.
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Re: Stargazing - Helpful hints and stuff.

Unread postby deefstes » Fri Feb 20, 2009 11:16 am

Ever wondered how some of those outlandish names of stars and constellations are pronounced? Here's a handy guide that gives the pronunciation of a few.

http://www.astronomyclub.org/learn/Say_What.htm
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Re: Best night sky viewing

Unread postby onewithnature » Tue Apr 21, 2009 4:34 am

Anywhere in South Africa away from civilisation will guarantee a magnificent display that will take your breath away. Especially in winter in the interior when skies are at their clearest. I always gasp in the Karoo, in the Kalahari, on any hilltop away from lights, and in the Okavango. I want to still go to Sutherland.

The amazing thing is that you're only seeing two to three thousand stars with the naked eye. Why do I say only two or three thousand stars? Because the latest estimates of the number of stars in our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is anywhere between a few hundred billion and a few trillion!! Yes, billions and trillions - thats 1 followed by 11 or 12 zeroes!!! Can you even imagine what the sky would look like with a million stars, never mind a million times that number! The mind, the soul, boggles ... And that is enough to humble us, even just a little, yes?!.
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Re: Best night sky viewing

Unread postby deefstes » Fri Apr 24, 2009 8:48 am

I'm not saying there isn't great night sky viewing to be had in any of the KNP camps but surely, if the thread is about "best" night sky viewing, none of the KNP camps could possibly contend.

Apart from the fact that most of them have some sort of light pollution the air in the eastern parts of the country (and certainly in KNP) contains a lot of moisture which impedes night sky viewing ever so slightly.

For that reason you will find that large observatories are in dry regions and deserts, and if it can be at a high elevation, even better. But what I wanted to say is that, while the night skies can be magical as seen from Satara and many other KNP camps, it doesn't quite hold a candle (pardon the pun) to the viewing that is to be had in places like RTP or KTP where the air is dry.
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