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 Post subject: Best night sky viewing
Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 22, 2009 9:05 pm 
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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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 Post subject: Re: Best night sky viewing
Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 22, 2009 10:30 pm 
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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!

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 Post subject: Re: Best night sky viewing
Unread postPosted: Fri Jan 23, 2009 7:05 am 
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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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 Post subject: Re: Best night sky viewing
Unread postPosted: Fri Jan 23, 2009 11:48 am 
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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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 Post subject: Re: Best night sky viewing
Unread postPosted: Fri Jan 23, 2009 9:11 pm 
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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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 Post subject: Re: Best night sky viewing
Unread postPosted: Fri Jan 23, 2009 9:12 pm 
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@ Betelgeuse - I think I have to try one of your night drives next time I'm at Punda.
@ Christo - You are right winter/spring is best - few leaves and more clear nights.
@ deefstes - thanks for these great pictures. I would love to go to Richtersveld.
Quote:
I was just a teeny kid at the time
1987 or 1604? :twisted:

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 Post subject: Re: Best night sky viewing
Unread postPosted: Fri Jan 23, 2009 9:39 pm 
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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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 Post subject: Re: Best night sky viewing
Unread postPosted: Fri Jan 30, 2009 3:15 pm 
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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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 Post subject: Re: Best night sky viewing
Unread postPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 4:34 am 
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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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 Post subject: Re: Best night sky viewing
Unread postPosted: Wed Apr 22, 2009 7:26 pm 
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Strange nobody metioned Satara on a cold winters night with no camp activity. :hmz:


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 Post subject: Re: Best night sky viewing
Unread postPosted: Wed Apr 22, 2009 11:41 pm 
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Yes, It suppose the only time Satara has no camp activity is on a cold winter's night. Otherwise the braai fires and camping and hut lights impede the viewing to some extent. As with all large camps.

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 Post subject: Re: Best night sky viewing
Unread postPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2009 8:48 am 
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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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 Post subject: Re: Best night sky viewing
Unread postPosted: Sat Apr 25, 2009 3:47 am 
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And the Karoo!
But, of course, the best viewing would be to climb a high mountain and look on a clear day. At least another couple of thousand stars would appear.

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 Post subject: Re: Best night sky viewing
Unread postPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 9:46 am 
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As to date I would have to say Olifants rest camp in KNP, the river view in full moon is awesome & every little flicker of light can be seen in the sky. Having a telescope on hand was the cherry on top...

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 Post subject: Re: Best night sky viewing
Unread postPosted: Sat Aug 15, 2009 2:32 am 
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deffstes, I'm still blown away by those two brilliant photographs - I love the forethought of composition that went into them. Both are great, but the southern circumpolar one is my favourite - I don't know if you planned to have the Magellanic Clouds where they were perfectly positioned for the photograph, but I think you should win some kind of award ... Really!

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