Stargaze at Boyden Observatory (Bloemfontein)
South Africa is famous for it's diamonds; diamonds which South African skies receive on a sunless night canopy for safe-keeping.
As the African night deepens the heavens enrobe themselves in midnight velvet for a evening gown and adorn themselves with a perfectly placed cross for jewellery. This Southern Cross hangs direction on the darkened horizon and guides its gazer toward the embellished hemisphere's most southerly sanctuary. As African camp fires are lit by flamed torches, the moon rises to light the silver bonfires that burn brilliance into African camp side ceilings. This is the nightly ritual taken in by the naked eye on a South African sky and collected in constellations by the telescopes of the Boyden Observatory.
The University of the Free State continued in Bloemfontein with the work commenced by Harvard University in Peru in 1889. Stable atmospheric environments and perfect weather conditions resulted in the relocation of this look-out laboratory to South Africa in 1927. Closed down in 1977, the cast of loyal galaxies stayed faithful until its re-opening in 1989.
The support of the local Amateur Astronomy Association ultimately led to the formation of The Friends of Boyden Society which makes magnified star gazing a high-tech experience for both the public and professionals. Impressive telescopic lenses pierce the atmosphere of day and night skies.
Telescopes include the 60 inch Rockefeller reflector, the 16 inch Nishimura reflector, the 16 inch Watcher Robotic reflector, the 13 inch Alvin Clark refractor, the 10 inch Metcalf refractor, the 20 cm Coelostat solar telescope and the UFS Boyden refractor (1.5m) which is the third largest operational telescope in Africa.
Vantage points for taking in sunsets and planetary pathways include an auditorium roof and observation platform. The auditorium, science centre and library (holding original historic books that date back centuries), enlighten minds on the meaning of light years. Human and robotic spaceflight as well as planet discoveries are explored in digital presentations while the skies present their dazzling live displays.
Boyden Observatory is the most accessible observatory of its nature and the star of a Bloemfontein visit. Observatory visitors can take advantage of the very same equipment once utilised by famous astronomers who now look down from the very heavens they once studied. Look up and look out.
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