Final Report - ScopeX

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Previous events > ScopeX 2010

Scopex 2010 – 17 April - Final Report
by Lerika Cross

ScopeX happened on the last day of Summer 2010 and ended with the crescent Moon in a sultry cloudless sky looking down on the Star Party with lots of people, lots of telescopes and good food from the Unika Food Tent.   

No one cared that Eyjafjallajökull  (say it: “AY-yah-fyah-lah-YOH-kuul” ) starting spewing ash three days before ScopeX because our special out-of-town guests - Case Rijsdijk, Auke Slotegraaf and Willie Koorts  - only flew in as far as the Cape.

In anticipation of the World Cup the Camera Obscura sported ribbons and South African flag – it wanted to sport a soccer ball on its head but 'they' said not allowed and it had to make do with an old ScopeX cap.

So what was new this year?   The telescope auction, which lasted all of about 5 minutes!

ATM Awards
There were a record number ~ 30 amateur telescope exhibits.
ATM Winners:

  • George Jagals

  • Rainer Jakob

  • Fred Oosthuizen

  • Julian Shellard

  • Johan Swanepoel

  • Nigel Wakefield

Read Chris Stewart’s full ATM report.

Although there were few exhibits, they were of a high standard.
Award winners:

  • George Liakos with “Omega Centauri”

  • Chris Stewart with “22 degree Solar Halo”

  • Percy Amoils with “Amateur versus Professional”

  • Gary Els with “Colour Moon”

Many thanks for all presenters (and moderators) - summary of presentations:

Johan Smit, ASSA Pretoria, presented The Dark Side of Light.  It was well attended and an interesting and a polished presentation.  It generated good interest and there were some sound and searching questions from the school children who were attending the sponsored structured programme as well as from the others. It was interesting to note attendants’ reaction to the security issue – it may well change some mind-sets! (Moderator: Case Rijsdijkl)

Ernie Halberg (Gr 12) explains how he discovered and became the 1st school student in Africa to discover an asteroid, Asteroid 2010 DC2 and Monique Gerber (Gr 10) explains her asteroid project “The Doomsday Rock”.  What a wonderful breath of fresh air.  Here were two great role models for our youngsters that attended and they generated a lot of questions from other young students.  They both gained from the experience and we really hope they stay in touch with ASSA. (Moderator: Case Rijsdijkl)

Radio Sonder Grense – Sterre en Planete with Hennie Maas  - live recording of the popular radio programme. The interview with Willie Koorts went off well and the audience found it interesting to see how these things work.  It was followed with a Question and Answer session where the audience asked questions to the panel Willie Koorts and Case Rijsdijk.  This generated a lot of interest and really good questions.  Three programmes were done and available as podcast /”potgooi” section from  on 22 and 29 April 2010.  (Moderator: Case Rijsdijk)

Willie Koorts on Computers in Astronomy. This talk covered the history of “computers” in astronomy over the past 100-odd years.  Starting with the contribution that human “computers” made in the early 1900’s to the complicated calculations involved in the reduction of astronomical observations to the complexities of operating the SALT telescope at Sutherland, Willie touched on many of the ways that computers are essential to astronomy.  We were exposed to some of the intricacies of the operation of SALT and learnt some of the complexities of running such a massive and unique telescope.  It really is remarkable what the computer people have had to do to allow the operators and astronomers to do their thing.  The audience left wishing for more. (Moderator: Brian Fraser)

Brett Edwards on Photoshop for AstroPhotography. Following his popular "Introduction to Planetary Photography” talk at last year's ScopeX,  Brett continued the topic by discussing and demonstrating how to use Adobe Photoshop to process astronomical images.  Brett presented a structured approach and each theoretical description was accompanied by a hands-on demonstration using his own images. The talk was well attended and Brett provided each attendee with a CD with the images to allow them to practise their newly gained knowledge. He ended his talk by saying that he hopes that next year's Scopex astrophotography competition will have a record number of entries! (Moderator: Francois Nortje)

Dr Ian J. Mckay of the School of Geosciences presented “Earth: from space ship to lifeboat on a restless sea” .  The talk began with quotes from famous people who told of just how fragile our planet is and yet it is still at the mercy of many perils such as magnetic reversals, meteoric impacts, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis  and  climate change. He went on to show the devastating effects both in the past and present from these perils.  And then he ended by giving advice as to what we could when faced with such global effects, which is to : Understand the problems, Identify risky areas and avoid them, Implement constant monitoring and early warning systems, Make contingency plans, Be conservative and above all Don’t Panic.  (Moderator: Gary Els)

Nigel Wakefield`
s talk titled Cosmoclimatology, was based on a paper by Henrik Svensmark of the Centre for Sun-Climate research of the Danish National Space Agency. He observed that there was a close correlation between the cosmic ray count, the amount of cloud and the observed temperature of the Earth over the last 30 years. The higher the cosmic ray count, the higher the cloud cover and the lower the temperature. This explanation holds good for the last 500 million years whereas the varying carbon dioxide level during this period did not correlate with the Earth's temperature changes at all despite, at times, rising to over 12 times the current level.  Nigel contends that it is not CO2 that is responsible for climate change, but rather the cloudiness resulting from varying cosmic radiation that determines the earths cyclic temperature periods. These are remarkably consistent with the passage of the Solar System through the spiral arms of the Milky Way Galaxy. He ended by noting that we are at the transition between the last ice age and the coming tropical period and warming is going to happen regardless of our attempts to control CO2. He finally stressed that he still feels that mankind should be conserving the planets' resources responsibly (Moderator: Gary Els)

Case Rijsdik  - ASSA  Education & Public Communication  - gave a eloquent overall review of " Particles and Stars", and explained how "one leads to the other". He introduced us to the dual nature of light, showing how it behaves as both a particle and wave, and some of the consequentA discussion about atoms led to the concepts of fission and fusion, and the explanation of how the stars shine by fusing lighter elements to heavier ones.   Case discussed stellar evolution, and showedin the sky we can see examples of the various steps, for example, the Orion Nebula, Planetary Nebulae and supernova remnants. We heard about the Big Bang, and how this theoryfits all the current observations. The talk closed with an overview of the future of instrumentation in astronomy, including a mention of the Large Hadron Collider and what it may discover.  A well attended and much appreciated talk.  (Moderator: Michael Poll)

Dr. Michael Bietenholz, a senior research associate at York University in Toronto, and also a staff scientist at HartRAO,  was our keynote speaker on “Extreme Explosions and Extreme Telescopes: VBLI Observations of Supernovae and Gamma Ray Bursts”.   Michael’s presentation was well attended and well received, prompting several interesting questions from the audience, some of which were on quite a high level. Michael struck a good balance for the audience, covering the mechanisms behind supernovae, the principles of radio telescopes, explanations of why we observe what we do and how to improve our understanding of the universe through improvements in instrumentation.  Discussion of the MeerKAT provided topical relevance with local flavour. Looking to the future, the challenges of the ambitious Square Kilometre array were touched on.  We are all wondering whether South Africa will be able to triumph over Australia in the bid to host it. We were gratified to hear that the venerable radio telescope in Hartebeesthoek, unusual for an instrument of its size in that it is equatorially mounted, and which is suffering from failure of the polar axis bearings, should soon be well again.  While the intricate mathematics behind transforming a “map” of radio data into a visible image were only alluded to, the audience gained an appreciation for how far the field has come in terms of resolving fine detail through very long baseline interferometry, supported by computer modelling of the physical processes being observed. We marvelled at the possibilities presented by using satellites in distant orbits, to enable extreme baselines to be achieved - one technical challenge being that the relative positions of all the contributing telescopes in the network need to be known to millimetre precision… over thousands of kilometres.  (Moderator: Chris Stewart)

Key Contributors

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

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

  • Visitors who came from far away.  The ones we know of: Johann Swanepoel who drove his 20” telescope from George and Nigel  Wakefield who brought his 16” scope from Natal;

  • Auke Slotegraaf for running the MoonScope building workshop for the ~300 invited students.   See Auke’s write-up at  

  • Rainer Jacob for again populating and attending to his very popular Sun Corner which was augmented with a number of new creations, notably a  Heliochronometer and a beautiful Shepherd’s Sun Dial, in addition to his popular analemmatic sundial and collection of sundials and armillary sphere;

  • Rainer Jacob for sponsoring the bulk of the material and also building the 6 new exhibit stands which offered new opportunity for exhibiting material to the public;

  • ATM Judges - Chris Stewart and Dave Blane;

  • Astrophoto Judges - Case Rijsdijk and Brett Edwards;

  • Mornè Potgieter - Help Desk Organiser, Francois Nortje  - Student Organiser,  Louis Viljoen and Alec Jamieson – Camera Obscura,  Sharon Tait – AstroPhotos;

  • All those at the Help  Desk  – John Somersvine, Sharon Tait, Nandie Coetzer, Robert Pitroff, Dagmar Hubbard,  Uma Krige, Anton Grobler;

  • Chris Curry (ATM support), Leon Krige (Photographer), Eric Brindeau (Astrophoto exhibits and for your beautiful display of pinhole camera photos);

  • Dave Hughes for organizing and manning the ATM stand and everyone who helped at the ATM stand, including Keith Lou, Julian Shellard and young Uma Krige;

  • Brian Fraser for doing duty at the outside microphone all day;

  • Chris Middleton for starting the Star Party with What’s Up in the Sky;

  • Vernon Zwiers who assisted as First Aid support  standby;

  • Student Mentors Cetric Molelemane and the Wits students who lead the student groups through their programme;

Many thanks to the ASSA Centres and Astronomy 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

Thank you,

  • Francois and Experilab for once again managing to run five exciting, bomb filled Science Shows in the Gun Park;

  • Claire, and the Johannesburg Planetarium team for your support and providing a popular stand including 3D photos;

  • Sam and colleagues from HartRAO, Lillian and Daphne from the SKA for your informative and well presented stands and models;

  • Cynthia and SciBono for your support in arranging transport of the visiting students;

  • Johann Grobler and his team from Rocketry Association.

Special thanks to Monica Loubser and everyone from the Unika Voortrekker Kommando for your support.   We cannot imagine a ScopeX without the Unika Food Tent and the support from the students with the activities and exhibits.  This year the young students even gave up two Saturdays ahead of ScopeX to come and learn the skills required for the support - these students helped on the day:

  • Sundials: Luan Swart, Marnus Marias, Charne Neuwoudt, Yolandi Laubscher

  • Camera Obscura: Cormari Nel, Tiaan Engelbrecht, Henre van Rooy, Elmay Booysen, Chantal Vogel

  • Meteor Impact Zone: Chiron Loubser, Christio Vogel, Markus  Conway

  • Moon Scope Building Workshop: Lorraine Laubscher, Marno Grobler

  • Raffle  ticket sales: Marissa Petersen        


Without generous sponsorship, the event would not be possible.

Many thanks to Kevin Govender and Cedric Jacobs of the South African Astronomical Observatory who sponsored ~ 300  Moon Scopes.

Our heart-felt thanks go to SAASTA / DST  - a ScopeX non-commercial sponsor since 2004  - for their funding support this year.  

And finally, thank you to all the commercial sponsors for your kind and most appreciated donations which help cover costs and provide gifts in gratitude to those who help with the organization and support on the day – the items and receivers of items are listed in the Price Winners List

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