Human beings have been observing the skies for thousands of years. When the telescope was first used at the beginning of the 17th century, it opened up a whole new world of fascination and study. The night sky is still one of the most astonishing things you will ever see, if you just pay attention. With the brilliantly bright stars, streaking meteors and shifting planetary neighbors, it’s an amazing sight to see. Beginners don’t even need a telescope to stargaze. Finding yourself a pair of binoculars for sale or a spotting scope will also do the trick.
If you want to do stargazing properly then you will need to find yourself a telescope for sale. If you want to view the stars from earth then the only way to do it is to use an optical telescope, which works by capturing and focusing light. (There are a few other types of telescopes but these need to be positioned in space in order to work and as they are outside of the optical spectrum so you need computers to process the images). We will now explain the different kinds of optical telescopes and how they work…
Different types of Telescopes:
There are three basic types of telescopes for sale: refractors, reflectors and compound telescopes.
- Refractors have a lens at the front of the viewing tube — you will probably be most familiar with this type. They are generally low maintenance but can become expensive as the size of the telescope increases.
- Reflectors work by gathering light with a mirror at the rear of the main tube. These are generally the least expensive of the three kinds of telescopes, but you’ll need to adjust the optical alignment periodically (particularly if you bump the device often…)
- Lastly, there are compound or catadioptric telescopes, which use a combination of lenses and various mirrors, compact tubes and are relatively light.
That’s it for the types of telescopes. If you want to do stargazing properly then you need to get away from the lights of the city. Cities are bad for stargazing because of excess light pollution. You will be surprised by just how much you are missing out on due to the light pollution created by nearby towns and cities. To help you find places to stargaze, we have compiled a list of the ten best stargazing and viewing spots in South Africa:
10 Amazing stargazing and telescope viewing spots in SA
10. Golden Gate Highlands National Park, Free State
If you love wide open spaces then this is definitely the place to visit. The Golden Gate Highlands National Park in the Free State province lies smack bang in the middle of Johannesburg, Durban and Bloemfontein. The park is famous for its ‘’golden aura’’ which is due to the large amount of sandstone in the area and the way that the sunlight reflects off of it.
It’s almost un-spoilt scenery makes it perfect for stargazing. It also has a number of very secluded cabins where one can find a comfortable spot on the veranda and watch the universe’s story unfold. If you want to get the full benefit from the skies of the Golden Gate Highlands National Park then you can take a hike up Ribokkop, the highest point in the park. You are able to spend the night in the wilderness on the Rhebok Hiking Trail. This is undoubtable the best place to stargaze in the park.
9. Madikwe River Lodge, North West Province
Madikwe is a four hours’ drive from Johannesburg or Pretoria and is not too far from Sun City resort. It is one of the best places to enjoy star gazing under the African sky. From this position, you can easily catch a view of the Southern Cross, the beauty of the Jewel Box star cluster, or the Milky Way at its best.
There are roughly 20 Madikwe lodges available, and if you want to visit the Madikwe Game Reserve then you have to stay in one of them as no day visitors are allowed. This is one of the best features of the lodge as you get to enjoy a lot of peace and quiet due to the limited residents allowed on the conservancy at any given time. Another benefit for stargazers is if you stay at the Etali Safari Lodge, they have a telescope setup in the lodge that will allow guests to focus on the best sightings during their stay.
The various lodges offer accommodation ranging from self-catering right up to five star luxury so they can cater to whatever your budget allows. They also have the big five here so you can use your binoculars to view the stars and to view some magnificent wildlife at the same time.
8. Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, Northern Cape
Tswalu Kalahari is the largest private game reserve in South Africa and is home to two exceptional camps, namely The Motse and Tarkuni camps. The reserve is owned by the Oppenheimers and used to be their own private reserve but they have now opened it up for the public to enjoy. The reserve features buffalo, cheetah, giraffe, meerkats and black-maned lions. You can also see many rarer species such as aardwolf, pangolin and mountain zebra.
Due to the fact that the reserve is in the middle of the Kalahari dessert, there are very few other places in the world where you’ll be able to see such a bright sky. In this part of the world you don’t really even need a telescope. A powerful pair of binoculars will do the trick. There is no better place to lie on your back and gaze at the stars.
7. Eastern Cape border with Lesotho – the Eastern Cape Highlands
The mountain passes of the Eastern Cape Highlands are a treat for any avid 4×4 enthusiast. You will enjoy driving through a plethora of mountain Passes. These include negotiating the 1:6 gradient of Joubert’s Pass, which is the third highest pass in South Africa, and Naude’s Neck, the highest mountain pass in South Africa.
The elevation of the high mountain passes and lack of light pollution make this an ideal stargazing spot. There are countless places along the trials that lend themselves perfectly to pulling over for a while to get your telescope out.
6. Entabeni Private Game Reserve, Waterberg, Limpopo
The Waterberg region is an excellent tourism hub. It has Mountains, Big Five game viewing opportunities and a very interesting pre-historic past. It is the only savannah biosphere reserve in Southern Africa and offers many rock art sites and abundant bushveld plains. It is known for its natural mineral springs and stunning scenic views that are unmatched anywhere in the world.
In terms of stargazing, winter is the best time to visit this area. You will get to see the majestic Milky Way and Southern Cross, which are very difficult to see during the summer. If you have a telescope then you can see a lot of near invisible objects like nebulas, clusters, globular clusters and even double stars.
5. Sutherland to Calvinia
The journey from Sutherland to Calvinia, otherwise known as the starry Karoo route, is littered with perfect stargazing spots. Sutherland is said to be South Africa’s astronomy capital, the area has many places that are untouched by mankind and are therefore void of light pollution or disturbances from the outside world. It is 1 450 meters above sea level which makes its night skies among the clearest and darkest in the world. It also boasts 80% cloudless nights throughout the year, so you will always be able to enjoy pristine stargazing conditions all year round.
This area is also home to The Southern African Large Telescope, but we will discuss this further in the article.
4. Maropeng Visitor Centre, Cradle of Humankind
Maropeng, which is the official visitors’ center for the Cradle of Humankind, is built on a 47 000 hectare piece of land that was recognized as a world heritage site in 1999. A vast amount of human fossils have been found in and around the limestone caves that cover the area. More human fossils have been found on this site than anywhere else in the world.
Inside Maropeng, you will find entertaining, interactive displays that could keep you occupied for a good length of time. Just outside there is a great restaurant that serves up plenty of delicious food.
Stargazing at Maropeng is one of its main attractions. The site has a resident astronomer named Vincent Nettmann. They hold monthly stargazing events where Vincent walks you through their laser-guided sky tours. They also have a range of large aperture telescopes that you are also allowed to make use of. If you aren’t one to tag along with the crowd then you can visit the area and view the stars at your own leisure.
3. Karoo National Park, Western Cape
This area of the Western Cape is one of the driest regions in the country. There are very few places in the area that has electricity which means that there is little to no light pollution in the entire region, which as we know, is perfect for stargazing. The area is also rich in small mammals and birds life so you are allowed to get out of the car and walk around, as there are not many predators in the area. This means that you can literally stop your car where ever you want to and get out the telescope.
The closest town to the Park is Calvinia, which is approximately 90 kilometres away. There are no amenities in the reserve so you really are in the middle of nature. All of this means that you can experience the African skies like nowhere else.
2. The Johannesburg Planetarium, Braamfontein, Gauteng
If you are serious about astronomy, then a visit to the planetarium in Braamfontein is a must. This world class planetarium the biggest in Africa and is the second biggest planetarium in the Southern Hemisphere. They host shows that make use of powerful projectors to create images of the universe. The planetarium will give you an unimaginable glimpse into space. You will learn about the movements of planets, star constellations and the amazing deep space objects that have been discovered by mankind.
1. The South African Large Telescope near Sutherland
As we previously discussed, Sutherland is home to The South African Large Telescope or SALT for short. SALT is the largest optical telescope in the southern hemisphere. This telescope is so powerful that it can look back 13 billion years into space and observe things that took place around the beginning of time, as we know it.
It was constructed on this site because it is one of the few placing in the world that is perfect for stargazing. This is mainly due to the site’s remoteness and elevation, which is 2 000 meters above sea level. The area is also very cold and the absence of light pollution, ensures clear, cloudless skies which is perfect for looking and researching the stars. All of this result in a telescope that can see the light of a candle on the moon
If you are looking for your telescope or any other binoculars for sale, Junk Mail is the perfect place to start. With a wide range of telescopes for sale, you are sure to find one that’s just right for you. Selling your telescope or binoculars? Place your free ad on www.JunkMail.co.za today!