There’s a highway of stars across the heavens
The whispering song of the wind in the grass
There’s the rolling thunder across the savanna
A hope and dream at the edge of the sky
Johnny Clegg (Spirit of the Great Heart)
The African skies are among the world’s darkest ,and there arefew sights as beautiful as the skies of the southern hemisphere which are home to the mysterious glow of the Magellanic Clouds, the graceful arc of the Milky Way and Crux, the Southern Cross, the most famed of all southern constellations. Former Harvard University astronomer, Bart Bok is quoted as saying “All the good stuff is in the southern hemisphere!” and we agree!
Morukuru Family Madikwe, Morukuru Ocean House and Morukuru Beach Lodge all offer spectacular stargazing opportunities since these properties are largely immune from light pollution, which is the number one enemy of astronomers. Whether you are an experienced, astronomical whizz or just an amateur looking to enjoy some nighttime recreation, you will be mesmerized by the show the universe puts on. Most of us live in cities where a couple of tiny, sparkling dots constitutes a starry night but South African night skies offer the chance to understand more about the galaxies and beyond.
Together with our knowledgeable rangers and guides we have compiled these five introductory tips to enhance your stargazing experience.
1: First up – do some preparation. There are many brilliant resources out there and the internet offers plenty of information. Familiarise yourself with the basic orientation by looking at some star charts or maps. This will make your excursions more enjoyable as you will be more confident in what you are looking at. There are many apps available which can enhance your experience so check those out before you leave home.
2: It is Important to remember that the Northern and Southern hemispheres are different so if you are visiting from abroad you will see unfamiliar and different things.
3: You definitely don’t need a telescope. The night skies can be enjoyed with the naked eye, or you can use your binoculars.
4: Remember that clear evenings are essential and that it could be chilly. Our experienced staff will be able to check the weather and advise on the best opportunities. Plus they will make sure hot beverages and blankets are on hand to keep you warm and comfortable.
5. Consider the phases of the moon – you’re there for the stars and the moon can outshine them.Astronomy is the oldest of the natural sciences, dating back to antiquity and the influence of Ancient Greek mythology is strongly demonstrated by the Latin and Ancient Greek names and terms. If you are not a Classical scholar some of the background might be unfamiliar to you. Here is a quick mythology cheat sheet so you can impress your fellow guests.
Canis Major is the Great Dog. Along with Canis Minor, these were believed to be Orion’s hunting dogs. The brightest star in the sky is held within the constellation of Canis Major. Sirius is the star at the nose of the dog and was believed by those living near the Nile River to be a signal for a flood to come.
The Southern Cross is not visible at most latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere and therefore, no Greek or Roman myths have been created around the constellation. However, today we often use it to locate the geographical point South.