the southern star party

voted "Best in the Universe!"

2014 Spring Southern Star Party group photo, by Paul Kruger

Spring 2014 SSP

The Spring 2014 SSP was held on the week-end of November 21–23 at Night Sky Caravan Park, Bonnievale, South Africa.

Who was there?

Ross Bauer, Deon Begemann, Ronelle Begemann, Ray Brederode, Anneliese Carstens, Tertius Carstens, Alan Cassells, Rose Cassells, Charl Cater, Yolande Cater, Ludwig Churr, Elmare Cross, Brett du Preez, Dwayne Engelbrecht, Festus Engelbrecht, Westley Engelbrecht, Iain Finlay, Wim Filmster, Edward Foster, Lynnette Foster, Jackie Halford, Eduard Hoffman, Erika Hoffman, Kobus Hoffman, Evan Knox-Davies, Miemie Kock, Robin Köhler, Paul Kruger, Lia Labuschagne, Jennifer Lamberth, Rudi Lombard, Alex Nicolaides, Louka Nicolaides, Paul Nicolaides, Dianne Nxumalo-Köhler, Bastian Paetzold, Deon Pitzer, Deon Pitzer Jr., Salika Rafiq, Leslie Rose, Auke Slotegraaf, Aidan Smith, Suann Smith, Sandy Struckmeyer, Rhiannon Thomas, Johan Uys, Thinus van der Merwe, Willem van Zyl, and Gerhard Vermeulen.

Photo gallery

Scorpius setting

View across the Telescope Area, with Scorpius setting.

Sun telescope

(ltr) Thinus van der Merwe (ASSA Bloemfontein), Brett du Preez, new solar telescope, and Leslie Rose.

Wim Filmalter

Telescope guru Wim Filmalter looking through Brett du Preez's newly-built solar telescope. Brett writes: "The idea was originally brought to me by David Groski in the US. The scope is basically a newtonian reflector with a Herschel wedge. The primary is uncoated, the secondary is an uncoated penta prism and then the Herschel wedge is uncoated without a polarising filter. The polarisation is done by rotating the wedge wrt to the penta prism. I must say that, the views were the best that I have seen through any white light set up. And this was with a turbulent sky."


(l.t.r.) Allan Cassells, Paul Kruger, Ludwig Churr, and Sandy Struckmeyer.


Bastian Paetzold and Salika Rafiq.

Pondering the Sun

Sebastian Guile pondering the Sun.

Before daybreak

Orion on its way down as day breaks.

Big 5 of the African Sky

With the Sun set to rise, the Big 5 of the African Sky were on display. From bottom to top - omega Cen, the Coal Sack, the Southern Pleiades, the eta Carinae Nebula, and (part of) the Milky Way.

Talks and activities

Talk: Amateur Astronomy at Boyden Observatory

Thinus van der Merwe (ASSA Bloemfontein): Thinus is Chair of the ASSA Bloemfontein member and Boyden Observatory stalwart.

Talk: Real backyard science – amateur spectroscopy

Charl Cater (UCT): Charl, using some pretty serious equipment at UCT while observing from the not-so-dark skies of Rondebosch, has been able to see some pretty astounding things, which he will share with us.

Talk: Why the Western Cape isn't all nice and flat

Ed Foster: Ed's popular account of the geography of South Africa.

Talk: Making a solar/lunar telescope

Brett du Preez: Brett, an SSP regular and an astrophotographer of merit, will be sharing his latest adventure down the by-ways of photography by demonstrating his newly-constructed high-spec solar telescope.

Beginner's Corner

Ed and Lynnette presented a series of activities for the less-experienced star gazers.


Lynnette Foster skryf:

Soos altyd, lyk dinge nie so erg wanneer dit eers agter die rug is nie! Dit was egter ‘n baie suksesvolle Somer SSP en ons wil almal wat dit bygewoon en ons ondersteun het, baie bedank. Sonder julle is dit nie moontlik om die SSP aan te bied nie.
   Ek kan egter nie nalaat om sekere mense te bedank nie: Gesina de Wet, Anneliese Carstens, Waltons, Alan en Rose Cassells, Auke Slotegraaf en ook my man, Ed Foster, laaste maar beslis nie die minste nie!
   Ek is seker ek praat namens die Reëlingskomitee wanneer ek sê dat ons almal baie graag weer in Februarie 2015 daar sou wou sien.
   Ek haal so ‘n paar van die kommentare aan wat kom uit e-posse wat gestuur was en ook uit die terugvoervorms:

   Johan Uys: Thanks so much for a learning experience and enjoyable weekend. It was awesome! All your effort does not go unnoticed and is highly appreciated.
   Anita Hechter: I would like to thank you both so much for a wonderful weekend and all the organising – thanks too for the delicious cake – I am truly hooked!! And much more enthusiastic about astronomy and star gazing – cannot wait to look up into the skies again and see what I have learnt. I have also made some new friends and met wonderful people.
   Erika Hoffman: Keep up the good work. We really enjoyed it.
   Dwayne Engelbrecht: I have had great time thanks. Please let me know if there are any up and coming astronomy events.
   Lia Labuschagne: Ek voel steeds regtig sleg oor die feit dat ek letterlik die pad byster geraak het. Natuurlik het ek dit geniet. En tensy ‘n bus oor my ry, sal ek daar wees vir die volgende twee.
   Alan and Rose Cassells: Thank you. Well done. Ten out ot ten!
   Paul Kruger: Baie baie dankie, dit was bif.

Sien julle almal weer in Februarie 2015. Maak nou al ‘n inskrywing by die volgende datum: 20-22 Februarie 2015. Tot dan, wederom!

Alan Cassells writes:

Rosemary and I arrived Wednesday 19th at around 14H00 to find that the marquee was already up and Ed and Lynnette had already fitted it out. They were both glistening from the perspiration of their efforts and looked decidedly slimmer...
   Friday the 21st was the official start of the weekend with most everybody having arrived by the time the supper braai fires were lit. After introductions; we got to know all the new faces.
   Friday night observing was spectacular albeit rather cold. The what’s up tonight tour of the sky seemed to be well attended and thoroughly enjoyed by all, Rose and I took the opportunity to listen as well which helped to reaffirm our current knowledge of “what’s up” up there. We tried our hand at the observation marathon proceeding directly with the all night items and managed about twenty two deep sky objects before my mirror fogged over as once again we found ourselves battling with that product of the condensation of atmospheric water vapour that falls under gravity! The sectioning off of the telescope area also seemed to work well and being central, everyone knew where to come to observe and ply their questions.
   Saturday’s lectures were great – Thinus van der Merwe’s talk on the amateur astronomy at Boyden and the observatory there was truly inspiring especially how he and his colleagues went about building their telescopes and the restoration of existing scopes – it really is amazing what can be done if one puts one’s mind to it which serves to take note of Brett’s solar/lunar telescope he had constructed and demonstrated – superb Brett!
   Charl’s talk on amateur spectroscopy [sounds a bit like a medical procedure] was really quite informative and both Rose and I quite enjoyed chatting with him and Yolande afterwards.
   Edward’s talk on the beginnings of South Africa had everyone’s rapt attention – I have heard it before, but I can assure you I would listen to it again and again. It is always good and humbling to realise the culmination of terrestrial events that contributed to our current existence.
   The new format of the world famous pub quiz was quite hysterical with some really funny comments flying around.
   Gesina’s cake making prowess is awe inspiring! The eight SSP cake was magnificent and the taste just as good!
   Saturday night’s observations were all but scuppered with the clouds scudding around overhead and when it did clear momentarily the atmosphere seemed a little fuzzy.
   Sunday everyone said cheers after some tea and coffee and went off home - sincerely hope everyone arrived home safely without incident.
   Thank you once again Edward and Lynnette and Auke for all the arranging and effort that goes into ensuring a successful SSP!

The next star party?

See you at the Summer 2015 Southern Star Party (2015 Feb 20–22) !



The SSP is a gathering of stargazing enthusiasts in the Western Cape, South Africa, for a weekend of observing, sharing and socializing.



mobile: 083 787 0792 (Ed)

mobile: 084 512 9866 (Lynnette)

mobile: 074 100 7237 (Auke)

AstroQuiz Champion

The reigning SSP AstroQuiz Champion is James Smith.

Observing Challenges

Challenge yourself! See how many selected deep sky objects you can observe while at the SSP.

Karin de Bruin and Pierre de Villiers earned Deep-sky Challenge badges at the Autumn 2016 SSP.

Alan Cassells has earned an ASSA Deep-Sky Certificate for his observations made during several SSPs.

Spring 2011 Challenge certificates were awarded to Pierre de Villiers, Andre de Villiers & Wim Filmalter.

Honourable Mentions go to Jaco Wiese and Henry Oliver for their observations during the Spring 2012 SSP. Congratulations!