Report: Deep Sky Observing Weekend. (October 16-18, 2020)
A huge word of thanks to everyone who took the time to come out to Leeuwenboschfontein over the October New Moon Period. It was great to see so many of the familiar faces again and to talk to you all – well most of you anyway. The weather was good. I am tempted to say it was excellent, but I don’t want to give Murphy and the weather gods an excuse for letting it rain on our parade at the next event we organize.
Wednesday night was one of the best observing nights I have experienced at LBF. Thursday night was almost as good but not quite up to Wednesday’s standard. Friday was similar to Thursday, but intermittent high-level clouds complicated observing at times. Saturday was pretty much the same as Friday, but with at least one period of fairly extensive clouding and Sunday night was a mixed bag of cloudy and clear conditions that really put the patience of the two observers left at LBF to the test. We did, however, have a lovely crescent moon early in the evening.
The very kind offer from the LBF Observatory Group that the astrophotographers could set up in the observatory enclosure during the weekend was scuttled by the well-meaning intention of the LBF owners to stimulate the growth of the grass that had been planted up there. They spread a generous layer of manure over the entire area and then watered it. That was probably good for the grass, but it was also a very efficient and rather smelly astrophotographer deterrent!
This weekend’s event just happened to coincide with Kechil’s birthday and we were privileged to be invited to share the occasion with her. Thanks for including us on this special occasion, Kechil. Thanks too for the very nice glass of bubbly.
It became clear over the course of the weekend that even keen amateur astronomers do not realize how important it is to prevent light-spill into the observing area. The negative effects of fires caused by the smoke and thermal turbulence also seem to be issues that are not fully appreciated by everyone in amateur astronomy circles. This time around we did not issue any formal rules, mainly because in the past people have expressed the opinion that these rules reflect a negative attitude by the organizers. However, it only takes one maverick to spoil the conditions for many or most of the other observing or photographing people. Perhaps the same set of rules labeled as “Guidelines for a positive astronomical experience.” would not be interpreted as a negative organizational attitude?
In general, we think it was a successful event and the feedback we have had seems to corroborate this. People seemed to have enjoyed the relaxed and unprogrammed atmosphere. Those who wanted to observe, observed and those who wanted to just relax and enjoy LBF and the pleasant company did just that. For those of you who took the time to walk out into the veldt or just browse around LBF’s well-kept gardens, there was a variety of flowers and birds to enjoy. It would have been nice to have had more attendees and telescopes, but COVID-19 did scare quite a few people away.
Last but not least, thank-you Hermien and Pieter for the warm welcome and the friendly hosting at LBF. You two add something special to LBF and we hope to see you there for years to come when we have our Deepsky get-togethers and SSP’s. Hermien’s jaffles were, as usual, absolutely delicious.
StarPeople intends to organize more events like this in 2021 but, rest assured, that you will be informed well in advance when we do that.