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ASTRONOMY IN AFRICA
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Limpopo Astronomy Outreach headed to the Waterberg and visited Vaalwater on the 19th and 20th of August 2009.   Two hours after leaving Louis Trichardt the road headed up the northern slopes ofthe Waterberg Mountains and saw me dodging fallen rock slides and baboonsrushing across the road. Arriving at Boschdraai Primary 40km from Vaalwatershortly after lunch, I was greeted by the learners who rushed towards the vehicleand trailer. They were expecting me one hour earlier and could not wait for my arrival, teachers Katie and Toboha explained, as they welcomed me to the school.  My two assistants helped with translation and the handing out of material etc. Theyexplained that the Headmistress was away for the day on a workshop but would join us for the evening's stargazing later on. The next couple of hours were spent building Southern Star Wheels and MoonScopes with the eager learners who had loads of question to ask. During the afternoon we practiced using the Star Wheel and the MoonScope stressing that they must not look at the Sun with it. Explaining the basic principals of the Star Wheel, I had a couple of the kids imagining that they were the Sun and Earth and showed them as the Earth rotated while at the same time orbiting the Sun how the view of the sky changed.  Information on the Moon with some interesting facts found the kids especially excited when they learned that they could jump really far and that they could not hear their teachers shouting at them to keep quiet. A few future astronauts in the making…! After the presentation I had just enough time to head to Windsong Cottages to meet Dr. Philip Calcott who had kindly supplied the accommodation for the evening. After hurriedly unpacking I rushed back to the school to set up equipment for the evening's stargazing.  Teachers, parents and learners arrived at the school around sunset and after meeting headmistress Johanna Motshodi, who apologized for being unable to attend the afternoon session, we started the evening's proceedings. Views of Jupiter and deep sky objects were shown on the improvised screen, including various clips explaining how big and far stars are. Once again the children had lots of questions to ask about falling stars, rockets and space travel.  The audience found our South African star lore very interesting and we finished the evening with a quick look at some of the constellations that were visible in the crystal clear, unpollutedand light-free Waterberg skies. Unfortunately views of the Moon with their newly built MoonScope would have to wait for a couple of nights when the crescent Moon would be visible in the west.  Midday the following day found me addressing pupils and a few of the teachers at the Waterberg Academy a few kilometers outside the small town of Vaalwater. The Director of the ASSA’s Imaging Section, Oleg Toumilovitch, and his daughter Alicia, joined us, and Alicia helped with handing out material, scissors, glue, and the various components to construct the MoonScopes and Star Wheels. The very capable Mike Burton, a teacher at the school, was instrumental at “crowd control” and once again the learners were full of enthusiasm and questions. Oleg was called upon to assist in answering a couple of the questions and it was a pleasure having someone with his knowledge to help out.  About 130 people, mostly learners, attended both sessions and it was really great to see the interest and their willingness to learn about astronomy and science. Last year’s Planetary Festival and the upcoming one had surely had some positive significance.   A warm thank you to Phil and his team (Windsong Cottages), the heads of the two schools, Ray Gordon and Johanna Motshodi, their staff and of course to all the students.