The Cavern, in the Northern Drakensberg, held its annual Stargazing weekend on 22-24 August. As usual Tim Cooper brought along a large telescope to show guests the wonders of the heavens. A large cold front cleared away during Friday, leaving clear skies, but with very high winds, the sky was very turbulent, and the observing poor. Conditions improved during Saturday, which was calm and the observing better. During his talk in the afternoon, Tim showed slides of the types of objects he would later show in the telescope after dark; planets, double stars, star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies.
The only bright plants visible were fiery red Mars, and the ringed planet Saturn. As ever Saturn drew the usual gasps as people looking through the eyepiece realised they can really see Saturn’s rings. We moved onto double stars and open clusters, including the famous Jewel Box cluster, and then to the nebulae, like the Swan, where new stars are being born. The most distant object we observed over the weekend was The Sculptor Galaxy. At a distance of 8 million light years it was a sobering thought to realise we’re seeing this as it was 8 million years ago! The Cavern will be holding another stargazing weekend in 2015, so if you are interested please contact them for further details.