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ScopeX 2011 Final Report
by Lerika Cross

ScopeX X has come and gone.

There were 23 amateur telescope exhibitors who showed off their 30 telescope exhibits and their equipment collectively had the largest light-gathering power ever in one place in Southern Africa … and that is probably why it rained.     

The ATM award winners judged by Chris Stewart and Dave Blane are in Chris’ ATM Report on the website.

Johann Swanepoel exhibited the two 20” telescopes he built.  One he built for himself and this one he drove up from George in a Corsa bakkie.  The other one he built for his friend Ron Edge who stays in Johannesburg and who kindly brought it along to ScopeX.   

Also in the Corsa bakkie was Wim Filmalter (who hails from Riversdal and who met up with Johann at George) with his telescope exhibits.    Johann and Wim remain good friends after spending ~ 30 hours together in the packed bakkie.

Not even Auke Slotegraaf - who contributed so much on the day - could part the clouds and the Star Party was cancelled by Brian when he announced that he had given up hope of the skies clearing.    Quite a number of people called during the day to ask if they could still come and look at the stars through the telescopes even if it would be raining and /or cloudy.

So what was new this year?    
The ScopeX Student Challenge – a new initiative introduced by ScopeX to encourage the youth to enter exhibits of astronomical relevance.    
Many thanks for the support with this endeavour go to:

  • Jeremy Exelby, a Math teacher from Howick High, who provided enthusiasm to get the initiative off the ground, contributed the “Astronomy at your School” exhibit, exhibited his self-built radio telescope and telescope and also presented the first talk of the day in the Auditorium.  Read Jeremy’s notes in the ATM diaries on the website;

  • Case Rijsdijk, who assisted with the brief for the Student Challenge and who also judged the exhibits;

  • Jane Webb, the teacher at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, who inspired 4 students to enter from her school.

The first winner of the Student Challenge was Montagu Thorne aged 13 (of Morningside Manor) with his homemade 6” Dobsonian telescope.

The runner-up was Abongile Xhantini of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls for her exhibit on the exoplanet Gliese 581g.

Brett Edwards, at the end of his AstroPhoto talk last year, said that he hopes 2011 brings a record number of AstroPhotos.  

And so it was: a record 36 photos from 11 exhibitors.  

The judges, Case Rijsdijk and Auke Slotegraaf declared the following winners:

  • "Centre of Milky Way Galaxy"  by George Laikos

  • "Teapot region"  by Pat Kuhn

  • "11 day old Moon"  by Gerhard Koekemoer.  

There was also a beautiful selection of photos that Johan Smit (ASSA Pretoria) displayed on behalf of his friend Doug Sharpe, a member of the Brough Astronomy Society in the UK ( and who visits South Africa regularly.   He indicated to Johan that perhaps some of his photos inspired some visitors to take up this hobby. We are looking forward to welcome Doug Sharpe in person in the near future to maybe come and talk to us about his techniques.  Doug can be contacted on   

Many thanks, to all presenters of talks at ScopeX - below is a summary of presentations with notes from the Session Chairs.

  • Jeremy Exelby, ASSA Midlands, presented ‘Moons of the Solar System” (Rob Pitroff);

  • Melaku Yigiletu, the National Laser Centre, presented "Light detection and Ranging (LIDAR) - An atmospheric probe"  (Rob Pitroff);

  • Roelf Botha - Research Assistant, Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory presented “Lunar Laser Ranging” (Rob Pitroff);

  • Tim Cooper, ASSA Section Director – Comets and Meteors, presented “Chemistry of Comets”.  Trevor writes “as usual Tim gave a wonderful talk, and much of what he said was new to even experienced visitors in the audience and therefore interesting. He led gently into what is a complex subject and spoke to the layman.  He discussed the history of comet observations, leading up to obtaining dust samples from within the coma of one comet, to the analysis, usually spectroscopically, of the various hydrocarbon and silicate molecules present.  He mentioned that the green colour of comet comas was caused by diatomic carbon, while I had understood up to that point that it was nickel.  He ended his talk with a discussion of Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Paradisaical which will pass at a predicted distance of 0.06007 AU on August 15, 2011. “ (Trevor Gould);

  • Case Rijsdijk – ASSA Director:   Education & Public Communication presented "What's new in the Universe - an up-date on some of the most exciting new discoveries made by the leading observatories in the world".  Brian writes “this was a very interesting talk highlighting many of the latest developments in astronomy. From the Mars rovers to pictures of star movements around black holes, and many more interesting subjects, Case keeps track of the latest astronomy news and has a wonderful ability and passion in sharing these items with everybody”.  (Brian Fraser)

  • Auke Slotegraaf, Director ASSA Deep Sky Section, gave a talk about ‘Beyond the Jewel Box and 47 Tuc – next steps in exploring the deep sky’. Tim writes “Auke said that many of the observations he receives are of the same old well-known objects like omega Centauri, the Jewel Box and 47 Tucanae. He took the audience through the contents of a web-based database of deep sky objects, including lists of objects and descriptions by other observers. The database allows one to download and laminate constellation cards (ConCards) to facilitate finding other objects in need of observation, enough to keep you busy for many years without resorting to those other over-observed objects. The downloads are free, but alas in this advanced technological age you still have to do the laminating yourself. This observing resource can be accessed by pointing your browser to“ (Tim Cooper)

  • Kobus Olckers,  Space Weather Officer: SANSASpace Sciences, talked on  “Space Weather: the impact of space weather on human activities” .  Alec Jamieson who attended the talk writes:  “Kobus informed us about the recent formation of the South African Space Agency and that the Magnetic Observatory at Hermanus is now part of this organization.  Kobus explained how conditions on the Sun have an effect on the Earth and in space in the vicinity of the Earth.  SANSA is part of an international effort to improve the understanding of phenomena like solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CME's), and the consequences of these on Earth. As some of these consequences can pose significant hazards, the Space Agency is striving to improve the accuracy of predictions about space weather, which is the term given to the overall effect on the Earth of the flow of charged particles from the Sun called the solar wind.     Kobus explained how space weather creates the beautiful and harmless Northern Lights, and how it affects more practical things like long range radio propagation and electricity transmission. He touched on the potential of a severe space weather episode to cause failures in high voltage electrical equipment and therebya prolonged disruption of electricity transmission while repairs and replacements of equipment are made.  Kobus ended off with the message that severe space weather effects are fortunately rare, and the ability to give warning of such events is improving. (Prof Matie Hoffman)

  • Ask an Astronomer:  This session’s chair, Tim Cooper,  writes “we were lucky to have not one, but two eminent astronomers at our disposal, with Professor Matie Hoffman travelling from Bloemfontein and Case Rijsdijk all the way from the Garden Route. Case mentioned that they have not had rain for some time as a result of which his Cape Ash trees are dying. He offered to take the Gauteng rain which has prevented us from observing for several months back with him, but it appears the airline refused him to take it onboard.Like a meteor shower (or waiting for a number 8 bus) there was a slow start to Ask an Astronomer, but then questions started to come in bunches. Mainly of a cosmology nature, people wanted to know more about black holes, white dwarfs, cosmic strings, and WIMPS. It turned out that the astronomers had an answer for just about everything, except the question about the existence of ‘white holes’. If you know what these are, answers on a postcard please.”

Baie dankie aan Hennie Maas vir die lewendige opname by ScopeX van die populêre program van  Radio Sonder Grense,  “Sterre en Planete”,  met   Prof Matie Hoffman van Univ van die Vrystaat en Kobus Olckers van SANSA.  Baie dankie, Matie en Kobus.    Die program is opgeneem en kan geluister word as ‘n RSG Potgooi.    

Key Contributors

Many thanks to all ScopeX key contributors – in no particular sequence:

  • The presenters of the lunch time award session: Thandi Mdluli – SAASTA Project Coordinator, Michael Poll, ASSA President, Case Rijsdijk and Chris Stewart;

  • Rainer Jakob for taking the time to ask for donations from companies and also for displaying his amazing collection of self-built sundials to display and discuss and educate interested visitors;

  • Brian Fraser for all the help before the day and at ScopeX with the announcements and many other support;

  • Auke Slotegraaf  for the Student workshops building Moonscopes and Planisheres;

  • Dr Hubrecht Ribbons for the effort he went to with his poster display of astronomy lectures;

  • All the main helpers and supporters on the day (in no particular sequence):  Brian Fraser, Julian Shellard, Louis Viljoen, Bosman Olivier, Keith Lou, Mornè Potgieter

  • Alec and Sue Jamieson for your help with the Camera Obscura;

  • Student mentors Cetric Molelemane and the Wits students who helped mentor and guide the visiting learners on the day;

  • The ASSA Centres and Clubs for your exhibits on the day, for helping to advertise the event and for canvassing helpers:  ASSA Johannesburg Centre,  ASSA Pretoria Centre, West Rand Astronomy Club, West Rand Amateur Radio Club

  • Dewalt van den Mescht from AUCOR for running the ScopeX auction;

  • Francois Germishuizen for the ever popular EXPERILAB Science Shows;

  • Tswaaing Crater for supporting ScopeX: Julia Barnes and the team;

  • Cynthia and Stewart from SciBono for their support in arranging transport of the visiting students and the 12 excellent standing exhibits.

Baie dankie, Monica (Loubser), vir al jou hulp voor ScopeX en die organiseering om die 38  jong verkenners en helpers vir ScopeX te kry.    Die klompie het weereens uitgeblink met hulle bydrae:

Jan Hendrik Labuschagne, Willem Fourie, Almay Booysen, Henre Liebenberg, Anushka Kruger, Tiaan Engelbreght, Marno  Grobler, Nataniel  Grimsdell,  Christiaan Robbertse ,Chiron Loubser, Chantal Vogel, Cormarie   Nel, Cobus van Staden, Xander Van Zyl, Yolandi Laubscher, Janine Loubser, Markus Conway, Lienke  Conway, Anja Conway, Madelein Markgraaff, Anthonie Botes, Marissa Pietersen, Liam Vermaak, Gerdus Stapelberg, Kaylen Cains, Quintin Strydom, Henry Liebenberg,  Sias Smuts, Reuben Kruger, Michael Buckle, Christopher vd Westhuizen, Werner de Jager, Markus v Staden, Kale Neetling, Tylo Neetling, Sean Strydom, Marlou  Botha.   

Baie dankie aan die Unika Voortrekkers Kostent vir die heerlike kos!


Without the generous sponsorship ScopeX will not be possible in its current form.

Our heart-felt thanks to SAASTA / NRF  - the ScopeX’ non-commercial sponsor since 2004  - for their funding support this year.  

Many thanks to the SAAO for their sponsorship of the MoonScopes used in the telescope build workshops.

A final thank you to all the commercial sponsors for your kind and most appreciated donations which help to cover costs and provide awards and gifts in gratitude to those who help with the organization and support on the day.
A full list of items and recipients are listed in the Price Winners List on the website and listed below.

- -Lerika

Many thanks to the commercial sponsors

AUCOR,  Amateur Astronomy Magazine, Astronomy Magazine, Cambridge University Press, CANON, Easan, EridanusOptics, Exclusive Books - Hyde Park, Ferro Enamels, Gerack Electronics,  G&L Agencies, jjf Engineering, iVolve Technologies,  Industrial Hardware, Kai Chemie, KRAFT Foods, LEGO, Mercury Build-It, Next Entertainment, Penguin Books, Protea Boekhuis, Rhologan Engineering, Rutland Industries, SA Post Office Ltd: Philatelic Services, South African Astronomical Observatory, Specialty Metals, StarWaders, SunToys, Telescope Shop

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