Astronomy open-days at Bloemfontein
The ASSA Bloemfontein Centre, in co-operation with Boyden Observatory, held two open-days for the public in February. The aim was to introduce visitors to the activities of the Centre and to astronomy as a hobby. Even before the first event was held, on February 12, a second open day, on the 26th, had to be arranged, because of the overwhelming public interest.
"Experience has shown that January and February are not the best months for practical Centre activities (e.g. night sky observations) because of the unpredictable weather," said Gerrit Penning, Chairman of the Centre. "The first two months are thus ideal for fund-raising and recruiting new members. When the observing season starts in March, new members are then able to join in from the beginning."
Visitors were entertained in the new Boyden Science Centre auditorium, where Centre members presented short insightful lectures indoors in the afternoon and on the buildings roof during the evening. The presentations included the introductory A Zoom Journey to the Stars and talks on deep sky objects, comets and meteors, telescopes, constellations and stars, the Moon and the planets. In addition to presenting the topics factually, the practical aspects were also stressed.
During the afternoon break, solar viewing from the observation platform was done. "Visitors were enthralled to see sunspots and solar flares through special solar filters," said Penning.
The evening observations were announced by timely Iridium satellite flares. "These satellite events are extremely successful on every occasion and true crowd pleasers," Penning enthused.
After an introduction to the constellations, visitors took a peek at the 60-inch (1.5-m) Boyden-UFS reflector, used for professional research (see cover photograph). Boydens dark skies were then enojyed at the historic 13-inch Clark refractor and on the observation platform, where visitors stood in awe before a fine Saturn through the eyepieces. Members on the platform also delighted the visitors with deep sky viewing and answered many questions.
"ASSA Bloemfontein Centre would like to thank Boyden Observatory for the use of their facilities amid a busy visitor schedule," said Penning. "Almost 100 people attended these two days hosted by the Centre and received a tailored astronomy program. A private group of about 60 people arranged their own evening. There is no doubt an increasing interest in astronomy amongst the public and amateur astronomers can play a big role in informing people about their exciting hobby."
(Gerrit Penning & MNASSA, vol 64, nos 3&4, p 37)
The recently-completed Boyden Science Centre auditorium was used for indoor (top) and rooftop (centre) presentations. (bottom) Pieter Pieterse on the observation platform with his 10-inch equipped for solar viewing.
(Photos: Hannes Pieterse)