PICS: Stunning 'strawberry moon' makes a northern appearance + must-visit stargazing spots in SA

2018-06-28 12:32 - Kavitha Pillay
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Strawberry moon. (Photo: iStock)

Strawberry moon. (Photo: iStock)

The milky way continues to enlighten us earthlings with a spectacular array of phenomena – the latest being ‘strawberry moon’ sightings.

The Strawberry Moon – June’s full moon that was visible in the northern hemisphere on Wednesday night, 27 June, and early Thursday morning, 28 June - is the first full moon that falls during the northern region’s strawberry season.

The moon gets its name because it appears around the time in North America when wild strawberries begin to ripen, says Travel and Leisure, adding that like many of the names for full moons, this name dates back to Native American origins.

In places that do not harvest strawberries, the moon is referred to by other names including Hot Moon, Hay Moon, Rose Moon or Honey Moon.

SEE: Sutherland Stargazing: Luxury camping under a star-studded sky

In addition to the unique moon sighting, on Wednesday Saturn was also at its closest to Earth.

The next full moon will be on 27 July, commonly called the Buck Moon. It will also be a Blood Moon or total lunar eclipse visible to most parts of the world – so diarise this and get your binoculars and cameras ready.

Share your stargazing pics with us by emailing or tag us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram - @Traveller24_SA.

Take a look at what the Twitterverse shared of the strawberry moon sighting:

We may not get to see a 'strawberry moon' in SA, but we sure have many places that are perfect to see the milky way, and also get to witness other fantastic solar occurrences such as the ‘super blue blood moon’, which was spotted earlier this year gracing SA skies.

ALSO SEE: PICS: 'Super blue blood moon' illuminates the sky

Stargazers and people who are passionate about the cosmos will take pleasure in keeping track of the major celestial events and wonders that cannot be missed throughout the rest of 2018. Click here to see a stargazer's guide to the galaxy in 2018.

You don’t only have to wait for these special cosmic events however, as Southern Africa is filled with stargazing spots to satisfy your wanderlust for space throughout the year.

There are even camping opportunities if you prefer to be one with nature and immerse yourself in the dark, serene outdoors under a starlit sky.

Sutherland camping

Sutherland in the Northern Cape is one of the best places in the world for stargazing. Book a luxury tented camp for a weekend of stargazing adventure.

With three camps available between 11 – 17 July, you can look forward to informative stargazing evenings at Sterland, a tour of SALT (Southern African Large Telescope) and explore the Karoo by foot or bicycle. To book call 044 535 9033 or email here for full details.

MUST-SEE: Sutherland Stargazing: Luxury camping under a star-studded sky

SALT stars and serenity

Visit the South African Large Telescope (SALT) - the largest optical telescope in the southern hemisphere. Go on a fully guided day tour that includes a walk through the Visitor Centre as well as selected research telescopes including SALT. Hourly tours, which are self-guided, are also possible, but not nearly as insightful.

Tours are on Monday to Saturday at 10:30 and 14:30, and costs R80 per adult, R40 for children and kids under the age of 6 enter free.

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A personalised Sterland tour

Much less risky to the global astronomy practice, and much more personal for stargazing visitors, is the Sterland experience. 

Jurg Wagener runs a two-hour show at Sterland Farm, a privately-owned interactive stargazing farm just outside of town. Stargazers are taken into the Muisbos-Amphi theatre where telescopes are propped up and ready for use, and a knowledgeable guide will help you identify and understand the different things you spot. It costs R120 per person. Bookings are essential - contact Jurg at 082 556 9589. 

SEE: Stargazing: Ghana and SA celebrate new success in African network to explore the universe

Eastern Cape Highlands

The remote mountain passes and unspoiled surroundings of the Eastern Cape Highlands make for terrific stargazing conditions. This is the perfect location to spot the Southern Cross.

Karoo National Park

The open plains of the Karoo are a stargazer's dream. Karoo National Park is perfect for guided night tours or solo missions.

Entabeni Private Game Reserve

You will quickly notice the effect of pollution on stargazing when you feast your eyes on the crystal-clear night skies of the Waterberg. In the day, enjoy the beautiful grassland and mountain scenery and spot the Big 5.

Maropeng Visitor Centre, Cradle of Humankind

Frequent stargazing events give the public a perfect opportunity to experience the starry night sky at Maropeng. Escape the city light and pollution for an intro to astronomy, and enjoy dinner and drinks before taking on the telescope.

Golden Gate Highlands National Park

Easily accessed from Bloemfontein, Johannesburg and Durban, the Golden Gate Highlands provides a sense of space unknown by city dwellers. Take a stargazing weekend trip and embrace the massive, bright Free State night sky.