West Rand Astronomy Club (WRAC) opened their viewfinders and lens caps to give the public a chance to view the heavens up close.
Utilising the beautiful expanses of the Kloofendal Nature Reserve, the stargazing event on June 24 doubled as a fundraising event for NG Kerk Culembeeck and a reminder of the amazing work done by Friends of Kloofendal (FRoK) in maintaining the reserve.
Before the stars began to reveal themselves in the night sky, attendees went on a short tour of the solar system via FRoK’s educational display. The Planet Walk is a series of informative stations with rocks painted as the planets, sequentially dotted around the edge of the grass auditorium to demonstrate the scale of the solar system and the distance between the planets. For visual enthusiasts, University of Johannesburg lecturer Sheldon Rahmeez Herbst gave several presentations on the projects undertaken by WRAC.
A variety of telescopes were set up in the middle of the auditorium and the stargazing tourists took turns examining the detail of the moon and getting a closer look at Venus and Mars. Due to the time of year, gas giants Jupiter and Saturn were not visible but some telescopes gave an intimate look at the Moon’s Terminator, a term given to the area where sunlight meets the darkness.
Dagmar Hubbard, Secretary of the WRAC, touched on the romance associated with the stars.
“We get so consumed with our small worlds that we forget to look up and see what is out there. It is very humbling and centering,” said Dagmar.
WRAC is primarily a social club for astro-enthusiasts and has several WhatsApp groups that specialise in a variety of topics from astrophotography, telescope parts and sales, physics, and general info for lovers of everything beyond our atmosphere.