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Observing the Night Sky from De Oude Kraal
The Splendour of the Galaxy
Night sky observers stand in awe before the rich and bright Milky Way as seen from the Free State, South Africa. The dark and crispy clear air, away from the hindrance of city lights, brings out a treasure trove of deep sky objects and even the faintest of the small southern sky constellation.
Under the Roof of the Stars
Our busy lives afford us little time and opportunity to truly appreciate the splendour and magnificence of the night sky. In the veld during darkness at De Oude Kraal, one experiences the feeling of standing small amongst the great expanse of thousands upon thousands of stars pressing down on you. The feeling of your own insignificance becomes overwhelming. You picture yourself floating in our galaxy, seeing the arms of the great spiral in three dimensions and the stars and nebulae forming intricate patterns and shapes from horizon to horizon.
When darkness falls over the veld
When the sun starts setting over the veld and the first stars make their appearance, a certain calmness envelopes the scene. At first the silence is overbearing, but when you listen closely, the sound of a lone jackal cyring out can be heard in the distance or the scurying movements of a hare and the night birds talking with their eerie vocals. Above the veld the stars alight one after the other until thousands are visible under total darkness.
The Bright Starry skies of the south
The scenic route to the Southern Cross and the ancient constellations of Argo is filled with open clusters, globular clusters, nebulae of all sorts and galaxies. Crux, found on so many southern hemisphere country flags, puts up a prominent display during the south's autumn to spring months, flanked by large and bright constellations such as Carina, Vela, Puppis and Centaurus. Any northern hemisphere citizen will be awed by the the southern skies exquisite brightness and beauty.
The legacy of de Lacaille
Circumnavigating the southern pole in the sky are constellations such as Chameleon, Apus (the Bird of Paradise), Octans (the Octant) and Hydrus (the Water Snake). The eighteenth century French astronomer Nicholas Louis de Lacaille named many other small southern constellation like Mensa (Table Mountain), during his stay at the Cape from 1750 to 1754. He also compiled a catalogue of more than 10,000 stars, an immense contribution to southern astronomical research in such a small time span.
Your choice of deep sky objects
Some of the most spectacular deep sky objects can be found in the southern skies. The most well known objects include such impressive ones as "Omega Centuari", a globular cluster containing more than 500 000 stars, looking like a small fuzzy round cloud in the sky.
Jump into Carina and you will find Eta Carina - a huge star in the process of dying, surrounded by a star-rich area and nebula. One of the most populated open clusters can be found very near to Eta Carina, namely NGC 3532: a cluster containing about 150 stars easily visible in binoculars and small telescopes.
Content is courtesy of ASSA Bloemfontein
ASSA Bloemfontein Centre is a group of active enthusiasts meeting on a regular basis to discuss their interest in astronomy. Whether a member's interest lies with armchair astronomy, deep sky observations, astrophotography, solar or lunar studies, telescope making or astronomical history, they all share the need to expand their knowledge in the subject and enjoy astronomy as a humble and fulfilling hobby.
This non-profit club is centered around the City of Bloemfontein, in South Africa. Please contact us for more information: membership is open to anyone, regardless of how much you know about astronomy! Further reading on who we are.
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