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Cape Town Cosmology School 2012

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About Naming a Star

Ancient, White Dwarf Stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. © NASA and H. Richer (University of British Columbia)

Stars are beautiful. They are the steady companions of all times; they appear every night, whether we are happy or sad. Whether we can see them or not, we know they are always there, reliable like a best friend. Stars are beautiful sprinkles of hope in the darkest of night and their twinkles seem like thousands of winks, saying ‘It’s OK, we can see you’.

No wonder, then, that giving someone a star is one of the most romantic gifts of all. But stars are far away, so how to give one? Simply by naming it. Naming a star after a loved one is the promise that every time you look up and see that star, you will think of that person. It is the promise of always remembering.

Many companies offer star naming services, but please do not be fooled by them! Those names will never be official and those companies merely make their money on fooling kind and romantic people. It is a sad situation, and the fact that there are so many star naming companies should alert you that something is not right!

In reality, this is how it works: Official names of stars are given by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the global professional association of astronomers.

The IAU is the only official organisation allowed to name celestial objects.

They name stars, comets, and other objects in space. They are the ones who decided to give Pluto a whole new category of planet. The IAU has naming conventions, which are chosen to be fair to all peoples, sourcing names from all cultures. Most stars have a catalog name, which is not very pretty, but makes it easy to find for scientists.

Astronomers may be boring like that, but they would never make money on anyone’s back by selling star names, like those companies do!

So if you wish to name a star after someone you love, the best you can do is just do it for yourselves. Don’t spend any money on a business promising nothing but fools’ gold. Spend it on a nice card, maybe a gift, and on a moment with that special person. Show them your favourite star, and tell them that you’ve decided to name that star after them forever. It’s just as official as what those companies promise, but way more personal and romantic.

The gaseous outer layers of a Sun-like star glow in space after being expelled as the star reached the end of its life. © NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Lunar Eclipse events and links

Cape Town

For hikers, the South African Astronomical Observatory will bring telescopes to the top of Lion’s Head for keen stargazers. Free, no booking needed, weather permitting.

For non-hikers, the Cape Centre organises a stargazing session on Signal Hill. Info line is 088 131 1001. They will be starting telescope viewing just after 8pm on Signal Hill behind the car park. They call it ‘Lion’s Head Lite’. The event is free.


A group of keen amateur astronomers will be setting up telescopes behind the town hall for public viewing.


Lunar eclipse, soup and “soetes” at the Taalmonument: Visitors will be able to view the only total lunar eclipse visible to South Africans in 2011 at the Taalmonument on Paarl Mountain on Wednesday 15 June. The event is presented in collaboration with the Orion Observation Group (OOG), an informal stargazing club from the Boland area. Visitors will be able to watch the lunar eclipse through telescopes under the guidance of OOG members. People are encouraged to bring their binoculars. The gates open at 19:00 and close at 22:30. Entrance is R25 for adults and R10 for children. For bookings call tel. 021 872 3441 or 072 181 6744 (also for weather enquiries). The event will be cancelled if the weather is bad.


A few restaurants in the Gauteng area doing dinner and telescope viewing, and at the Planetarium we’ll be running a couple of short eclipse shows, and have a couple of telescopes, for the start of the eclipse. See


The Pretoria centre of the Astronomical Society of South Africa, will be hosting a special observing evening at our observatory. We plan to be there from sunset until the event is finished. During the event we will demonstrate the Danjon and Selivanov methods of measuring the eclipsed moon brightness. As well as attempt some crater timings. The location is at our observatory on the Christian Brother’s College school grounds. In Pretoria road, Silverton, Pretoria. See their web site for maps and directions, at the bottom of the first page. Entrance is free and visitors are encouraged to bring a picnic basket, warm clothes, chairs and whatever equipment they want (telescopes, binoculars, cameras etc..). They will have a number of telescopes available to share with visitors.


Café Scientific proposes: At the occasion of the total lunar eclipse tomorrow Dr Vincent Couling, physicist at UKZN will come with his telescope and the image will be projected on a big screen whilst talking to us about the wonders of the universe and eclipses. This café will start at 6.30pm with Dr Couling’s talk of 30-40minutes, followed by a time for questions and discussion. Attendance is free but there will be an honesty box for those who wish to make a donation for the speaker. RSVP as places are limited. For more information contact Stéphanie at or call 033 342 9380

Louis Trichardt

The Soutpansberg Astronomy Club in Louis Trichardt will have a number of telescopes available as well as big screen with real time video imaging for those wanting to view  the Lunar Eclipse on Wednesday evening. Contact Kos Coronaios on 079 148 4934 or by email at for further information.

Online has listings of events, where to go, what to do, how to observe the eclipse, what else to see during the eclipse, etc. will be opened for everyone to post their images during the Lunar Eclipse on 15th of May, Wednesday evening for displaying them on the webpage. The images will be added and updated every 5 minutes or so, depending on weather, traffic and fitness of the Internet service provider.  Photos from the related events are also welcome! is always a good reference.

Streaming (in case of bad weather)

Links to the live webcast from SLOOH (with Martin Lyons in Somerset West providing the southernmost feed) are here:


Norwegian Aurora Timelapse

Featured on Today’s APOD – for a very good reason! It’s simply gorgeous!

The Aurora from Terje Sorgjerd on Vimeo.

I spent a week capturing one of the biggest aurora borealis shows in recent years.

Shot in and around Kirkenes and Pas National Park bordering Russia, at 70 degree north and 30 degrees east. Temperatures around -25 Celsius. Good fun.

Visit my Facebook page for more information.

If you are interested in hiring me or licensing my clips contact me at

Available in Digital Cinema 4k.

Big thanks to the guys over at for their amazing all-in-one motion control dolly.

Music is Gladiator soundtrack “Now we are free”

Very original artistic interpretation of scientific history

Helios – short film from Juan Behrens on Vimeo.

Direction, Animation and Concept by Juan Behrens

“Galileo was not the first person to invent the telescope but was the first to turn one toward the night sky“

During the 17th century, the Roman Catholic church believed that the earth was the center of the universe and people who tried to prove them wrong were in danger of being accused of heresy. Helios is the story of how an idea found his innovator, triggering a series of consequences in time. The date is 1609, Italy, late night at Galileo Galilei’s workplace watching the sky, studying celestial bodies focusing on the moon. He prepares to see this unexplored world with his customized telescope while some of his sketches and notes rest on the floor. After a gentle approach to the telescope, he sees the moon through it, a celestial body full of enigmas and intriguing for any human eye. After a moment, a bright light invades his scene but he does not notice it. This light resembles the silhouette of the invention, this enigmatic form splits into three muses.

These three muses approach Galileo and start touching his back, rest next to him and point to the sky. Galileo start watching the moon different, he start spotting data out from the moon he did not see before, now he seems to understand how the moon works and why. He draws what he sees, prepares himself to present this to the cardinal Bellarmine at the church proving that the earth is not the center of the universe but orbits around the sun just like the moon around the earth.

Galileo’s discovery fundamentally alters the way humans perceive themselves in the cosmos. Visually, the scene transition to schematic graphs that represent each belief, they merge and present a montage of the inventions that resulted from this epiphany.

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