Destinations: Stargazing at Cederberg Observatory (Sterewag- Afrikaans for Star Watch/Observatory), Western Cape, South Africa
Saturday night, November 26, 2022. There was a waxing crescent moon on that night. We were at the Cederberg Observatory to gaze at the moon, planets and stars. First there was the sunset. It was an out of body experience. This privately owned observatory is operated by volunteers. It is generally open on Saturday nights – to the public- – weather permitting. One cannot see much when there is full moon so that means it is open three Saturdays a month. If it is raining or cloudy, there is no point in being there. The best time to go is shortly after new moon – a waxing moon – when the moon is getting bigger. We were lucky with a clear sky – breathtakingly so. With minimal light pollution, everything is illuminated, more so when the moon sets.
There is usually a slide show but not on Saturday night, November 26, 2022, as there was loadshedding (electricity outages). After sunset (about 7.40pm) and the three twilights (civil, nautical and astronomical), night finally clicked in at 10pm.
From 6pm, when we arrived, we looked through two telescopes, named, Eugene and Bertha. No one could tell me about the provenance of Eugene’s moniker. Bertha is named after Big Bertha – the German siege gun used by the German army from 1914 to 1918. I found it very spacey being at the Observatory. I felt how insignificant we are in relation to ancient galaxies and space in general. It was a mind trip – without drugs but I did have one gin and tonic (one shot).
Jupiter was amazing – incredibly bright – and so was the star cluster, the Seven Sisters (Pleiades- Greek). I did not know that the Seven Sisters is incorporated in the logo of Subaru (as in Japanese cars).
The Observatory is about three and half hours drive from Cape Town. We stayed in the Southern Cederberg, about a 50 minute drive from the observatory on a gravel road. There is no mobile reception. It is a road travelled with some anxiety. Watch out for animals. We slowed down for an owl, chilling in the road. The nearest place to stay, with access to The Observatory is Sandrift – less than 2kms a way. Impressive range of accommodation there – from camping to higher end spots. Wonderful facilities by Cape Nature. https://www.capenature.co.za/reserves/cederberg-wilderness-area
There is no charge to access the Cederberg Observatory (Sterewag),but donations are welcomed. See its website https://www.cederbergobs.org.za/or Instagram page http://@astrocederburg. Group visits (schools etc) may be arranged.
❇ Image credits: © TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen, November 26, 2022.