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Southern Stars above Table Mountain

By: John Goldsmith

 

Region: Africa

Site: Cape Town - South Africa

Date: March 2010

The southern stars appear above the iconic night-scape of Table Mountain; a flat-topped mountain forming a prominent landmark overlooking Cape Town in Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. Rising from the ocean to over 1000 metres high, the mountain dominates the landscape of Cape Town. Alpha and Beta Centauri appear prominently, high above Table Mountain, as well as the distinctive constellation Triangulum Australe, the southern triangle. However the mountain is too close to the lights of the metropolitan to preserve dark starry sky. Table Mountain is the only terrestrial feature to give its name to a constellation Mensa, meaning The Table. The Southern constellation was named by the French astronomer Nicolas de Lacaille during his stay at the Cape in the mid 18th century to measure the position of almost 10,000 stars. Table Mountain was also the observing location for astronomer John Herschel in 1830s to catalog the stars, nebulae, and other objects of the southern skies; a completion of the survey of the northern heavens undertaken by his father William Herschel. John Goldsmith

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