Hello everyone, I know I haven’t written a blog in quite some time, but I hope everyone is doing well. I’ve recently had several guests that have shown a particular interest in the stars in the Southern hemisphere. So, I thought I would write about what we are currently seeing in our night sky and speak a bit about a very different, but fascinating sighting we had a few days back that left Eric, my tracker, utterly speechless and to be honest, quite concerned!
Although the weather over the past two weeks has been rather inconsistent, we have been lucky with a few crystal-clear nights, which has allowed for some great stargazing.
At the moment in the Timbavati we can clearly see the Southern Cross in all its glory, directly above our heads driving back to the lodge in the evenings, with its two pointers (Alpha and Beta Centuari) which form part of the giant constellation Centaurus. Undoubtedly, the Southern Cross is our most famous constellation in the Southern Hemisphere. Although it was first documented in the Northern Hemisphere when the Greeks first depicted it as part of Centuari some 3000 years ago and was said to be low in the evening sky. The Southern Cross, however, is no longer visible in the Northern Hemisphere and is thought to have been rediscovered by the Portuguese when they began their voyage around Africa, arriving in Southern Africa in 1478 by using the stars to help navigate their way down and along the coast of Africa.
Another great constellation that we can see throughout the night now is that of Scorpius, one of the most far spreading constellations we get in our night sky. According to the Greeks, Scorpius was created by the goddess Artemis and her mother Leto after Orion boasted that he, the great hunter, would kill every living creature. After Zeus caught wind of the great battle between Orion and Scorpius, he put them both in the night sky to serve as a remind to all to curb their excessive pride. If you look at Scorpius the brightest star is Antares, which is located exactly where Scorpius’s heart would be. Antares’ surface temperature is about 3400 degrees Celsius (6100 degrees Fahrenheit) which explains why it appears orange compared to our sun which appears yellow due to the fact its surface temperature is 5500 degrees Celsius (9932 degrees Fahrenheit). Antares is 550 lightyears away, and because it is 700 times bigger than the sun, it’s therefore 75000 times more luminous than the sun.
Before I get to carried away with all sorts of astrological facts, let me tell you the story of Eric and Elon Musk (sort of). A few days back, and on the last nights stay of the Manley Family’s safari trip, we departed from one of Tanda Tula’s famous sundowner stops in an area called Sunset Plains, a wide open area that allows one to look upon the Drakensberg Mountain range and watch the sun go down. It was Ginger, Chad and I guiding, and after our group sundowner we all went our separate ways as Chad and Ginger went off to relocate Nyleti Leopardess and I took those who want to go back to the lodge.
On our way back we were all following the beam of the spotlight, hoping we might find something on the way home, when I heard on the radio “Stations switch off your lights, and looks up and you will see Starlink”. Lights off and all of us looking up… there it was: Elon Musk’s Starlink project.
For those of you whom may not know what the Starlink project is or have never seen it before, it is a long string of satellites that Space X have deployed into orbit with the plan to eventually provide internet for the entire world. I had only ever heard of Starlink and thought if you did see it, it would be this tiny trail of satellites lost amongst the stars. This however felt so close we could grab it, and it went almost right across the entire night’s sky.
We all watched in absolute awe and felt as if we had just seen into the future. Well, all of us, except for Eric. Eric seemed to be quite concerned about the event and thought it to be some kind of UFO as he later explained to me that they couldn’t have been satellites because of how they were all in a line and then as suddenly as they appeared they disappeared. After much convincing and explaining to Eric how because of the position of the sun they would have essentially gone into Earth’s shadow and disappeared he seemed to calm down a bit. However, I’m still not sure he believes a word I said.
Alright everyone, that’s it from me for now, until next time and hopefully see you soon.