Notice: 17th SSP. (September 25-30, 2019)

As we promised the 17th Southern Star Party or, if you prefer it the Spring 2019 Southern Star Party, is just around the corner and we would like to invite you to come and spend time with us under some of the best dark skies available within easy driving distance of Cape Town. 

Come and take your own star trails like this one at the upcoming SSP.

The official programme runs from Friday the 27th till Sunday the 29th of September but we urge you to pitch up on Wednesday the 25th and stay till Monday the 30th. That way you will get lots more personal observing time and lots more talk-time with the other astronomers.

First AnnouncementSaturday 24th August

All the information you need has been sent out by Lynnette and should be popping into your inbox roundabout now. Please note that booking only opens on Sunday evening (25 August) at 20:00. You can contact us at info@southernstarparty.org

Update 1 – Wednesday the 28th of August

When bookings opened on Sunday the 25th it was the usual rush. Everybody wanted a house and many wanted not just any old house but a specific one. However, we have cleared this first hurdle relatively unscathed and all the houses, caravans and bungalows are full. There are still plenty of lovely camping sites available and, with the SSP being right at the end of September, there is every likelihood of the weather being excellent for camping. The first five campers have, in fact, already booked their spots. You can contact us at info@southernstarparty.org

Update 2 – Wednesday the 11th of September

First the unwelcome news; Prof. Patrick Woudt has had to withdraw due to events beyond his control. Here is the text of the message he sent us explaining why he had to withdraw. I am sure you will agree that he had no choice in the matter.

“I’m terribly sorry at this late stage to have to inform you that I have been asked yesterday to attend a DST-led BRICS workshop in Rio from 29 September to 2 October. The BRICS countries have set up flagship science themes where each country could propose a theme. South Africa has chosen Astronomy as its flagship theme. At this workshop, a number of large BRICS  astronomy programs are being presented and discussed which have tremendous funding implications for the UCT Astronomy department. At times when research funding in South Africa is limited, the BRICS flagship programs provide an excellent means of supporting our research programs. I was looking forward to meeting you (and Snorre of course) next month, but the Rio workshop has to take priority: regrettably.”

The good news is that Prof. Woudt is definitely available for the 18th SSP in February 2020 as he is on a sabbatical then. So, please mark February the 19th to the 24th 2020 and make sure you are there.

It has obviously not been easy to find a replacement for Prof. Woudt at such short notice. Good and willing speakers are in short supply at the best of times! However, the ever-resourceful, Auke, has come up with a brilliant Plan B, which I will fill you in on as soon as we have finalized the details.

In the meantime please come to the SSP, we have still got some lovely campsites open. If you have already booked, please encourage your friends, family, neighbours and even colleagues at work to come to the SSP. You can contact us at info@southernstarparty.org

Update 3 – Tuesday the 17th of September

Role up! Role up! Attend a Great Star Party, the Best in the West. You simply have to be there. Time and space are both running out so please book right now!
Plan B, which I referred to in Update 2, will consist of a selection of astrophotographs presented by Auke and a group of selected astrophotographers. Auke is organizing this, so it will be good.

Reminder 1: There is a SALE table. Please page down for details.
Reminder 2: There is a DISPLAY table. Please page down for details.

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What can you expect at the 17th Southern Star Party?

At 10:15, the main speaker is Dr. Danièl Groenewald, a SALT Astronomer at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO)

Title of talk: Mars, our next home?

Condensed CV: Dr. Danièl Groenewald is a SALT Astronomer at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO). She received her PhD from the North West University (Potch) in 2016 with a thesis entitled “Investigating the build-up of brightest cluster galaxies over half of cosmic time”. Shortly after graduating, she started a Postdoctoral fellowship (awarded by the National Research Foundation) at SAAO in 2016, where after she took up the position of SALT Astronomer in 2018. Her main research interests are the formation and evolution of galaxies in clusters.

At 11:15 the second speaker is not just one speaker but several speakers, so it’s a buy one get several free sort of deal! Auke is handling this slot and he is going to contact a number of the experienced astrophotography folks who are coming to the SSP. Then, by means foul or fair, he will get photos from them and, once he has the photos, compile a slide show.  At the SSP he and the photographers will talk about the object(s) in their photo(s), the technique(s) they used and what they still want to achieve with their astrophotography.  This should tie in nicely with Wim’s beginner’s workshop and give people a glimpse of what can be achieved if they persevere.

“What’s up tonight – Part 1” presented by Auke Slotegraaf in the Telescope Area from 20:00 to 21:00 on Friday and everyone is welcome.
“What’s up tonight – Part 2” will take place in the same time-slot on Saturday.

“Floating Info Session – Part I” with Auke Slotegraaf from 21:30 to 24:00 on Friday. Auke will float around the telescope area and go from telescope to telescope until midnight, generously imparting pearls of astronomical wisdom as he goes. So be at your telescope to participate in this event.
“Floating Info Session – Part 2” will take place in the same time-slot on Saturday.

Short talks by fellow astronomy enthusiasts

Here are this year’s four candidates for the short talks. They will, I think and hope, tell you who they are and what they do for a living. However, more importantly, they will also tell you what got them into astronomy in the first place, whether they have specific interests in astronomy and what keeps them in the game. They just might also share information about the whereabouts of their favourite Dark Sky sites too, but I wouldn’t bet on that.

At 16:00 Jay Fox
At 16:15 Wendy Vermeulen
At 16:30 Christine Kersting
At 16:45 Pamela Cooper

For beginners, there is a lot of useful stuff (see the list below) that can be downloaded if you go to “Downloads“.

  • Big 5 of the African Sky – The best of the best!
  • ConCards – A free Star Atlas
  • Discover (version 3) – A free Constellation Guide
  • Southern Star Wheel – A free DIY Planisphere (If you print this, do so on A3, please.)
  • Stargazing 101 from ASSA

However, if you want us to make copies and bind the material for you we will do that, but you will, unfortunately, have to pay us. See the registration form for more information.

There will also be a short introductory discussion in the Social Barn at 08:00 for the beginners.

On Saturday evening there will be two telescopes with operators available for beginners who wish to do some practical observing and experiment with star charts. Interested beginners should indicate their intention to participate in this activity while attending the introductory session on Saturday morning.

Photographing the Night Sky

A very basic workshop for people who want to start photographing the night sky will be run by Wim Filmalter. Here is Wim’s description of what you can expect.

A basic astrophotography workshop at the SSP intended for people that would like to photograph the night sky, but have never done so and also for people that have tried and couldn’t make it work.

The workshop will be presented in three sections:
Part 1. A daytime information session with PowerPoint examples at 09:00 on Saturday morning,
Part 2. A practical night time workshop after the What’s up Tonight on Saturday evening at 21:30 and
Part 3. A feedback session in the Social Barn with Wim on Sunday morning at 09:00.

  • The practical workshop will focus on wide-angle night time photography of the Milky Way or other regions of interest.
  • Equipment necessary to participate will include the following:
  • A DSLR, mirrorless or bridge camera with ISO capability of at least 3200 as well as live view facility.
  • Wide-angle lenses. Kit lenses are OK eg. 18-55mm. 18mm at least on crop-frame cameras and 24mm on full-frame are preferable. Zoom lenses are a nice asset to assist with focus.
  • A sturdy tripod.
  • A remote cable release or wireless release.
    It is highly recommended that each participant takes time before the SSP to study their camera manual in order to familiarise themselves with its functions before the event.

Sale Table

We are going to have a Sale Table again. So please bring along the astro-bits and/or books you haven’t used for a while (perhaps never used) to be exchanged for Rhinos, Elephants, Lions, Buffalo or Leopards, depending on your wildlife preferences.

Display Table

We are going to have a Display Table for people who want to show off gadgets or models they have built, or the innovative changes and/or additions to their equipment. Should astrophotographers wish to display the fruits of their labours, this is the space to do so. I wanted to call it the Windgat-table but decided against that.