There’s no doubt about it, looking up at the night sky is just as human as becoming mesmerised by the flames of a campfire. You could say it’s atavistic.
So, where to see the stars in Gauteng, apart from your back garden or favourite rooftop restaurant, that is? There are a few organisations ready to show you the splendour of the Milky Way and beyond.
Johannesburg’s Wits Planetarium is a great place to start your acquaintance with the southern hemisphere’s skies, and the planetarium claims these are the more interesting skies in the world.
Although popular with children, this isn’t just a show for kids (there is one specifically tailored to them, however). You’ll be treated to an impressive and beautiful projection of the current night sky. Take the whole family, or try it out as an unusual and romantic date idea.
Talking of romance, plan a scenic drive out to the Cradle of Humankind, 90 minutes west of both Johannesburg and Pretoria, to enjoy a stargazing evening at Maropeng, the Cradle’s official visitor site. Evenings start with a sundowner in your hand and the sun setting over the distant Magaliesberg and Witwatersburg mountains. Book here.
Round off your astronomical outing in style with a five-star dinner and a stargazing talk by resident astronomer Vincent Nettmann, who explains why the planetarium claims our skies are the best. “In the southern hemisphere there are two-thirds more stars than in the northern hemisphere – it’s just the way nature is.”
If you’re serious about this stargazing thing, the Astronomical Society of South Africa has branches in Johannesburg and Pretoria, both of which host viewing evenings. These gurus of the night sky offer a chance for amateurs and professionals to get together to learn more about our star-filled southern skies. The society also organises weekends away to places like the Karoo, where there is less pollution and the stars shine brighter.