The Karoo village of Prince Albert is a sought-after haven for various reasons. The charming atmosphere, beautiful architecture, fabulous restaurants and bars and gorgeous natural scenery all have a pivotal role to play in the town’s rightful claim as a world-class destination. But did you know that the Great Karoo is also famous for its star-gazing possibilities?
South Africa has the Southern celestial “Big Five” looming in its skies, and Prince Albert is an incredible destination for viewing them. The surrounding area’s dry climate constitutes an average of five cloudless nights per week!
The Big Five are:
– The brightest star (Sirius).
– The closest star (Alpha Centauri).
– The largest globular cluster (Omega Centauri).
– The most beautiful open cluster (Jewel Box).
– The closest galaxy (Tarantula).
Hans and Tilanie Daehne of Astro Tours have brought their passion for stargazing to the village by taking visitors on celestial tours of the Southern Hemisphere. They investigated more than thirty-three venues over a period of three years, and eventually settled on Prince Albert for its extremely favourable conditions. And, of course, for everything else that makes it a magical place.
“Unbeknown to us, there is so much beauty out in space. To miss out on it would leave us much poorer as human beings!” says Tilanie. “The vastness of space is simply breathtaking, and to miss out on a chance to experience its full magnitude would rob us of an experience that is a true privilege.”
Thanks to computer technology and astronomy engineering, the knowledge base behind astronomy’s scientific foundation has grown so much over the past few years that novices are often overwhelmed before even grasping the basics of stargazing.
“However, the wealth of information at our disposal nowadays ensures that the subject can never be boring, even to those that do not particularly take an interest,” says Hans. “It’s easy to admire the stars and the galaxy for its visual beauty, but once you actually understand what you see… that’s when the real magic happens.”
Tours range from one evening with or without accommodation, and also a weekend-long grand tour that takes visitors to the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) outside Sutherland. The grand tour needs to be booked six months in advance.
Stargazing is a weather-dependant outing (the phases of the moon also needs to be taken into account), and as such it is better to book with Atro Tours in advance at one’s earliest convenience. And, of course, to make provision for experiencing the full glory of all Prince Albert’s offerings!