The vast expanse of a star-studded galaxy has been fascinating the human race throughout the ages and still creates a sense of awe and wonder. Looking up into a starlit sky still holds magic and mystery. Whether you’re a keen astronomer or just mesmerised by space, the Northern Cape unarguably offers the best stargazing in the world.
The lack of light and air pollution has made South Africa’s largest province a mecca for stargazers and scientists. The establishment of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project near Carnarvon in the heart of the Northern Cape is testament to the unsurpassed quality of galaxy exploration in the province. The SKA project will feature the world’s largest radio telescope, and is expected to answer fundamental questions of science and about the laws of nature.
The Northern Cape is also home to world’s largest astronomical observatory, in the rural town of Sutherland. Members of the public can visit the South African Astronomical Observatory and the SA Large Telescope by appointment, and guided day and night tours are available.
In a recent listing of the eight top stargazing spots in South Africa, www.drivesouthafrica picked four Northern Cape locations, including the Tankwa Karoo National Park and the Kgalagadi and ǀAi-ǀAis/Richtersveld Transfrontier Parks, as well as Sutherland, as prime star-watching spots.
The Northern Cape’s wide expanses of star-studded skies are a huge attraction for novice and professional photographers. Romi Boom, editor of Wild magazine, gives the following tips to star photographers: “In the southern hemisphere, you must aim the camera to the south celestial pole so that all the stars will circle around it like streaks. Aiming the camera towards the east or west creates straight-line streaks.”
If you want to explore the skies of the Northern Cape, get hold of a copy of Sky Guide Africa South 2017, edited by Auke Slotegraaf, for highlights of the top five astronomical events of 2017 and to be prepared for unforgettable experiences.