Karoo ideal for stargazing - astronomer

2012-02-22 13:00
The Karoo is ideal for stargazing, astronomer Kechil Kirkham has said. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

The Karoo is ideal for stargazing, astronomer Kechil Kirkham has said. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Laingsburg - The Karoo provides the ideal opportunity to observe the night sky for both professionals and amateurs, an astronomer has said.

It's very dark; many places in the Karoo are dark and that's very good and that's rare," astronomer Kechil Kirkham from Over the Moon Tours told News24.

The Anysberg Nature Reserve recently began a stargazing programme for visitors and Kirkham said that the open plain of the Karoo provided an easy way to observe the stars.

"Mountains are bad for stargazing for two reasons: One is that they generate clouds and potentially rain as well. They also will restrict your view and Anysberg has this beautiful wide open plain. So you can plonk your telescope or lie down on the ground and see all around."

The 62 500ha reserve has accommodation for about 20 people in cottages although there is also a campsite and plans to build one more cottage.

Astronomy tourism

CapeNature, which owns the reserve, wants to ensure that the area remains unspoilt and as a result, there is very little development on the site.

"There is no light pollution here: It's one of the darkest spots on Earth. It's as dark as Sutherland where the Southern African Large Telescope [Salt] and the other telescopes are for the South African Astronomical Observatory," said Kirkham.

In urban areas, light pollution and atmospheric moisture make stargazing difficult, but rural areas have an advantage in that their lack of development makes it easy to see stars more clearly than urban areas.

"There's very little in the way of air pollution and perturbations in the atmosphere that you would get around centres of population or places where there're large forests," said Kirkham.

The reserve which also features several species of animals such as gemsbok, red hartebeest, the endangered Cape mountain zebra may benefit from an increasing interest in astronomy.

SA is currently bidding to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) which aims to build over 3 000 linked radio telescopes in the Northern Cape province.

"I believe that in the Western Cape, astronomy tourism is just going to increase. Even if South Africa doesn't win the Square Kilometre Array bid, there's going to be MeerKAT [Karoo Array Telescope].

"The Southern African Large Telescope is now fully operational; all kinds of interesting results are going to be generated from that place which will attract more people to wonder about astronomy - both local tourists and international tourists," Kirkham said.

Accessing the reserve is not easy as there are no tarred roads and the CapeNature website advises that high clearance vehicles are used, but small groups of visitors may find the experience quite rewarding.

"Most tourists will not have seen a very dark place like Anysberg so I believe that this place can attract all kinds of visitors, but especially those who are interested in stargazing, and those who haven't seen the Southern Hemisphere night sky, because that's different here," Kirkham added.

- Follow Duncan on Twitter
Read more on:    kimberley  |  environment  |  astronomy  |  ska

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Save up to 40% on outdoor accessories!

Tents, sleeping, day packs and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Month End Madness Sale!

Save up to 60% on across a wide range of goods from books to electronics, DVDs and many more. Sale end 31 January 2015. Shop now!

Valentine’s Day gifts – 14 Feb!

Gifts to spoil him and her. While stocks last. Shop now!

30% off fragrances

Get 30% off fragrances for him and her. While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off All Textbooks

Save up to 30% off an extensive range of prescribed textbooks for all major universities and FET colleges. Shop Now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25


Spontaneity and bright ideas are emphasized today but there is a tendency to be too impulsive and you may want to keep a handle on...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.