Starwaders at UNISA Outreach 27 July 2012 All photographs credit: Jen Els
Starwaders enjoyed a rewarding evening helping Prof Derck Smits and his staff to entertain 200 scholars. They attended a lecture at 16h00, followed by a visit to a mobile planetarium and then down to the observatory car park to see the real thing through telescopes manned by the staff and other volunteer helpers. Starwaders took along its Portable Solar System Model (PSSM) to explain to the scholars why the planets they had being seeing and learning about, were in the positions they were in that evening.
Knowing the name of planet is a start but does not do much to get the brain cells even luke warm. Learning some facts about the planets may pique the brain's interest. Seeing the planets moving in the planetarium can begin to give an idea how the planets move. Peeking through a telescope raises the excitement levels but the real learning and knowledge retention comes with answering the 'how' and 'why' questions. "Why is Saturn there - near to Mars? " "How will Mars overtake Saturn from West to East during August?" The PSSM provides answers to those questions. Pupils took a mental photograph of the model to take away with them so that they could follow Mars and Saturn in the next month and understand why and how Mars will move eastward, then passed through the gap between Saturn and the star Spica.
The Starwaders Southern Cross Motion model helped Suzette Els point out the Southern Cross and show how it moves through the night .
Although the daylight hours had been comfortably warm, the evening soon turned very cold and a cup of hot chocolate was a deserved end to the evening. In fact, it was a fascinating drink. We were all given a mug to take home. On first seeing the mug it had a beautiful cosmic scene painted on it, but the one I was handed was plain black to my disappointment. Lo and Behold, as soon as the hot drink was poured into it, the image was unveiled. Such excitement!