The mythology and astrology of the night sky over Paardeplaats

  • Monday, 29 January 2018
  • Linda Chivell

 nightky banner web

The increasing amount of light pollution of Lydenburg, the closest town, makes Paardeplaats Nature Retreat the foot of the Longtom Pass,  a prime location for viewing the night sky- a magnificent blanket of some 2,500 stars, all visible with the unaided eye on clear evenings.

The laymen stargazers and amateur photographers, usually have a contagious curiosity for the cosmos, patiently expecting the birth of a star that will explode any day– which in astronomer-speak means anytime between now and the next 100,000 years.

nightsky collage

Peering into the night sky at Paardeplaats Nature Retreat is a playful mix of astronomy and mythology. The stories are not only about derelict mine tunnels underground, they are also in the sky above,

Like when, in a fit of passion, the notoriously flirtatious Zeus became enamoured with mere mortal Alcmene, and together they conceived a son named Hercules. Hoping to make his son immortal, Zeus secretly attached him to the bosom of his sleeping wife, the goddess Hera, who awoke mid-suckle. Realizing that the child was not hers, she pushed him away and her milk squirted across the sky, creating the band of light and stars known as the Milky Way.

nightsky milky way

Due to increased amounts of light pollution, Paardeplaats is one of the few places left in the Lowveld where the Milky Way can still easily be seen.

On a clear night the novice astronomers, armed with telescopes, can point out the overhead constellations, which might include Cassiopeia, Cepheus and Andromeda – another derelict family trio that got itself into trouble, with Poseidon in this case, leading to drama with Perseus and the eventual beheading of Medusa.

Or, depending on weather conditions and the orbit of certain planets, the stories will change to bewitching glimpses into the night sky, such as the moon and its craters, and Cassini’s Division, the largest and most prominent gap in the rings of Saturn.

nightsky sunset

It’s important for everyone to know a little bit about what’s above them. There is something about peering into the night sky and seeing stars that are 250 million light years away- it really changes your perspective on the insignificant things that bog you down on a daily basis.

Paardeplaats Nature Retreat offers affordable off the grid eco accommodation for individuals and groups. Hosts: Brian and Gerda Whitehorn

Afriscapes conduct photographic workshops locally and abroad. Contact Des Jacobs.



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