The 4th ScopeX had nearly everything!
by Lerika Cross
In what has become the country's premier telescope and astronomy exhibition, the 4th annual telescope and astronomy day, ScopeX, held on 16 April at the SA Military History Museum, had something to offer each of the over 1000 people attending. Included were telescope making, astro-photographs, rocketry, radioastronomy, telescopes and accessories, books and talks.
Over 30 telescope makers showed off their handiwork, some came from as far as Durban, Bloemfontein and Reitz. Keith Lou's Telescope Making tent with Vince Nettmann's young team beveling and grinding away at their mirrors was a hit with visitors wanting to know how to make a telescope – the tent also made a nice shelter from the rain.
Chris Stewart, in judging the amateur telescope exhibits, had this to say: "Patrolling the field of amateur-built telescopes was as usual an interesting and gratifying experience. Once again we visited old favorites. Once again we saw some good workmanship and innovation. And once again there were a few surprises that appeared out of the blue. It was very nice to see that the Bloemfontein contingent, which only started after last ScopeX, were able to present a couple of finished instruments. We hope to see them back again next year, in force. A few strikingly different instruments - like Dave Hughes' scheifspiegler (mechanics only) - really stood out, attracting a swarm of interested onlookers heavily armed with cameras. Yet there were also quite ordinary telescopes around which crowds gathered, this by virtue of the owners being happy to answer endless streams of questions.
Not everybody who exhibited actually registered, but the ATM judges did their best to track down all exhibitors and scrutinise everything on display. As always, there were many small touches that we considered particularly meritorious, and naturally we would have liked to reward everyone who participated. But alas, we only had a few items to give away. In the end, the shortlist was obvious and the 3 judges were in total agreement. Congratulations to those who received awards, and thanks to all who participated. We hope to see you all back again next year and look forward to more surprises. Get working! "
Did the rain matter much? Chris Goosen didn’t think so: "I can truly say that I have not had such a great time without my wife, Yvonne, as I had at the show. Everybody was so helpful and friendly, great exhibits, goooooood food, and a lovely cool day. I was presented with just the right prize. Thank you so very much. Now, what can I build for the next ScopeX?"
The Sun put in an appearance late in the day and a few lucky people who cared to look saw some nice solar prominences through the Coronado solar telescopes.
When the Sun came out the power went off. By then Mike Melvill had almost completed his talk - all about magnificent men, like Burt Rutan, making beautiful flying machines and fearless men, like Mike, flying them into space.
Francois, of Experilab, got a big skrik when his well prepared and eagerly awaited Science Show in the Delville Wood Hall set off the Museum’s newly installed smoke alarm system which no one knew how to stop - the alarm screamed for quite a long while which made talking to customers very difficult for the commercial exhibitors in the Marrieres Wood Hall.
The alarm also gave the people in the auditorium a skrik and delayed Case Rijsdijk's talk on THE COSMIC EGG (where we came from sort of stuff - at a level we all understood) - it put the scheduled events behind schedule and added a sense of urgency to the rest of the events.
Case also judged the astro-photos in 3 categories: Earth Effects (Terrestrial / atmospheric and near space), Solar System and Deep Sky. When handing over the awards he said the collection was even better than last year – he then rushed off to introduce Mike as the keynote speaker.
Why did we ask Mike to talk at ScopeX? The theme for the year was Space Travel and Mike became the first commercial Astronaut after flying SpaceShipOne to above 100 km on June 21 2004. How did we get Mike to talk at ScopeX? We sent e-mail to ScaledComposites, and then e-mail to SAA and then SAA flew Mike and Sally to South Africa. Thank you Lyndy Henderson, Brian Fraser’s daughter, for performing miracles whilst working for SAA. Thanks also to Russell of the Experimental Aircraft Association (www.eaa.org.za) who was prepared to back Mike's air flights should SAA not have sponsored it.
The commercial exhibitors from last year were back as well as some newcomers such as Popular Mechanics, this year's main commercial sponsor. Thanks to the gracious sponsorship from lead sponsor, SAASTA (South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement), Dr Pieter Kotze of the Hermanus Magnetic Observatory could come to present his talk called GEOMAGNETIC STORMS - Hazards of Living in the Atmosphere of the Sun. If anyone missed Pieter's talk or any of the other talks, including Dr Fabio Frescura's, titled RELATIVITY: DILATION WITHOUT DILATION - A Relatively Simple Talk about Simple Relativity for the Relatively Simple (in celebration of 100 years since Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity) and would like to receive a video of any of the talks, send us e-mail. Brian Fraser is on each of the videos – he took care of the speakers and the auditorium talks.
Some while back Military Intelligence and the SAP confiscated two Ratels from the Armoured Car Hall - this allowed Tony Voorvelt and his team (including the radio telescope) and Albert Smuts and his rocket crew to move in under cover from the rain. It was interesting to note that the only spectator who covered his ears just before Albert set the rocket alight, was Mike Melvill – proving that having-been-there-done-that, helps. Albert said they enjoyed it and will be back, which is nice - check out their website www.saar.co.za
Also conveniently under cover (in the Aeroplane Hall) were people working away all day at the ASSA Desk, answering questions, selling stuff, giving away stuff, doing a sterling job.
It turned out a beautifully clear, crisp, evening - perfect for sky-gazing - and that is what everyone did, as well as relax in good company after the hectic day – and then the mists appeared, and ScopeX was over.
What was missing from the 4th ScopeX? Well, Dave Gordon was missing and so was Melvyn Hannibal. Oom Eben van Zyl was not selling his books. It also didn’t snow or hail. So the day had nearly everything including a touch of magic by having the Melvills visit ScopeX.
Major John Keene of the War Museum said: "Hope you will be back next year". We will be – on 6 May 2006, see you there.