All our stargazing experiences commence with a welcome and refreshments. While “sundowners” are being enjoyed, a highly visual (no boring text) power-point presentation commences. There is plenty of time to interact and ask questions during the presentation which lasts about 30 minutes and also allows dusk to be replaced by darkness.
After the presentation, while James does final adjustments to the telescopes, visitors have snacks and Regina shows off some binocular astronomy highlights. This is followed by a discussion on the current night sky, and an explanation of how the constellations of the zodiac came to be.
Three telescopes are usually in use. A smaller telescopes (A Meade ETX 70 or a 90mm Maksotov Cassegrain) are used for lunar views (if visible). A Skywatcher 200mm Newtonian and Celestron 8” Schmidt Cassegrain are used for planetary and deep sky viewing.
The night menu obviously varies throughout the year, but a general night would include a brief discussion on the current night sky. Then telescopic views of a planet/s, deep sky objects such as the Omega Centauri or Tucanae 47 globular clusters, open clusters such as the Pleiades and Jewel-box, and nebulosity such as that in the Orion, the Crab and Tarantula nebulae. We will also view nearby visible galaxies such as Andromeda and the Magellanic Clouds. If there is interest, we will “split” double stars such as Albiero, Mintaka and Alpha Centuarus. Have a look at the calendar to see whether there is a scheduled astro-night, or to check whether your dates fit in with a lunar or deep sky night.
This experience is geared towards younger visitors and is shorter and less technical, containing information on the zodiac, history of astronomy and basic terminology and the scale of the universe.
The experience contains a little more technical information as well as some discussion on the origin of the universe.
“Howling Moon Nights”
As full moon approaches deep sky viewing is affected. Howling moon nights are very informal “bring your own drinks and braai packs” nights that include a short presentation on the moon and telescopes set up for lunar viewing. A fire and coals are provided for braaing (barbecue) A pizza oven has been built too and you can order either a Luna ( the moon IS made from cheese) or a Supernova (which is hot and has a smattering of many ingredients). Check the calendar to see when you can howl!
Dark Skyes will arrange special events around celestial occurrences such as great conjunctions, major planetary oppositions and lunar and solar eclipses. (We have safe equipment for viewing solar phenomena such as sunspots an eclipses). Such events may include a meal included in the price.
Courses and workshops
We run short workshops on “Binocular Astronomy Highlights”, “Smartphone Astrophotography”, and “DSLR astrophotography (without the expensive equipment)”.
Many people have become accustomed to the phenomenal space images made possible by the Hubble and other space telescopes. Visitors must understand that earthbound equipment will never be able to achieve such views. The gallery contains examples of what one could expect to see through a small telescope. In addition to the limitations of telescopes, our own eyes are very inefficient and only take a snapshot, whereas many astro-photographs are composites that combine many hours of exposure.