The first event in the programme to celebrate "Ten Years of Democracy" at HartRAO started close to home, with a visit by 26 learners from the local community to the science centre run by the observatory. They are children of employees of HartRAO and the adjacent Satellite Application Centre (SAC), and ranged in age from four to fifteen years.
The visiting group wonder what awaits them in this funny-looking place... Staff educator Daphne Kedibone Lekgwathi, standing at the back, is about to help them find out.
Launching water bottle rockets is a great loosening up activity - and works off lots of energy. It is also a real scientific study - how much water does one need to make the bottle go highest?
Tefo Masiteng has figured it out - and is rewarded with a shower as the rocket streaks up. Asked why there is "steam" coming out of the water bottle after it lands, he replied "Fa o pompa mowa mo rocketing, mowa o o dira gore metsi a bele" (the water started boiling when we pumped air inside the rocket).
Spinning things seem to behave very differently - discovering what conserving angular momentum is all about. The turntable graphically demonstrates what happens when dying stars collapse to form white dwarf stars or neutron stars. Later, four year old Palesa Phadi told her aunt - receptionist Kedibone Montwedi - that she had learned that "Go na le naledi e e phelang le e e swang" (There is a living star and a dying star)".
Why does tilting a spinning wheel make one go around in circles? More weird behaviour, from a gyroscope. Staff educator Mzi Taele, behind the learner, has it all under control.
Did she really say that? Discovering communications technology by using Whisper dishes. Asked about how whisper dishes work, Tshepo Stormberg said "Go na le megala ka fa tlase ga lefatshe e e kopantshang di satellite tse" (there are wires under the ground connecting the two satellites)!
Mzi discusses the solar system, while an asteroid (in the blue shirt) whizzes past.
Setting up a scale model of the solar system shows just how far apart the planets really are.
The learners also discovered how one needs to dress to be able to walk on the moon and survive with no air, before watching a show on the Apollo moon landings. Nthabiseng Moralo was our very own astronaut, who dressed in a space suit for a trip to the to the moon. Poor four year old Maki, daughter of staff member Sophie Montwedi, hid behind a chair crying and afraid of this person wearing a weird suit and helmet - she actually thought that it was a monster.