Scopex 2004 by Brian Fraser
The Johannesburg center of ASSA chose April 24th 2004 , international astronomy day, to hold their annual telescope and astronomy exhibition. It was again held at the War Museum next to the Johannesburg zoo and attracted some 2000 people, including, for the first time, a number of school groups.
This year scopex received sponsorship from World Space Week and the department of Science and Technology, who also arranged a display of the proposed Square Kilometer Array project.
Scopex was initiated by members of the telescope making class to showcase their homemade telescopes and this year there were more than 30 on show. The telescopes ranged from a 4-inch Dobsonian made by 9-year old Lorenzo Maritz to a computer driven 12-inch belonging to Peter Baxter. With a wide selection of commercial telescope dealers also displaying their wares, there was something for everybody, including a selection of excellent Russian-made telescopes and accessories.
Carl Ahlers, from Experilab, entertained the crowds with his wonderful mad-science display that focuses on things that glow, things that go bang and fun science ideas for kids of all ages.
There was a superb mirror-grinding machine designed and built by Johann Swanepoel. Johann amazed onlookers with a demonstration of how easy it is to polish a 20-inch F4.5 mirror. Vince Nettman organized the local ATM's and demonstrated the art of mirror making to a large number of fascinated visitors.
Members from a number of centers of ASSA joined in, either as exhibitors or spectators.
Duncan Rosie and Geoff Nelson traveled all the way from Durban. Geoff demonstrated his home-made mirror grinding machine. Chairman of the Bloemfontein center, Gerrit Penning, and ten other members and friends made the pilgrimage to Johannesburg for the day and were seen to be walking around with their tongues hanging out!
Pretoria center members Neville Young, Mauritz Geyser and Johann Swanepoel shared their astronomical interests with the many visitors. Prof Tony Fairall and Case Rijsdijk from Cape Town were involved in the auditorium talks.
This year it was decided to have a theme of "Is there Life Out There" and the auditorium talks were mainly focused on the idea of other life in the universe.
A new feature was the holding of an astrophoto competition in conjunction with scopex. This attracted a large number of entrants and showed that there are many amateurs out there taking excellent photographs with very modest equipment, included CCD's, webcams and conventional cameras attached to small backyard scopes.
Case Rijsdijk toiled all day. First he was called on to judge the astrophoto competition, then he spoke on "Comets". Later in the afternoon he chaired the panel discussion on "Is there Life out there" and just to prove he has stamina, he gave a talk on SALT (Southern Africa Large Telescope) in the early evening. What a star!
When the sun had set the telescopes were turned to the skies and many visitors enjoyed their first look at Saturn and Jupiter through a telescope. Some thin clouds prevented a peep at many deep-sky objects but the general opinion was that it had been a very successful day. Lerika Cross, main organizer, reported a warm response from all who participated.