• February 03, 2013

Vincent Nettmann, like so many other astronomers, was captured by the idea of mapping out the moon and stars at a very young age. At the time of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Nettmann looked through the scope of a pellet gun to try and spot the first men on the moon. “I thought maybe I could see them up there, and of course I couldn’t. But immediately I realised that you could draw a map of the moon.” And so, from his first telescopic sighting, he drew a map of the moon.

Spurred on by his interest in telescopes and lenses, Nettmann found his way into working with optics as a technician. But he felt that his greater passion was for astronomy and stargazing, and providing what he calls “edutainment”.

Now he leads the stargazing evenings at Maropeng, mixing interesting facts about astronomy with entertainment, such as traditional African tales. “When I do these events for overseas people, especially from the Northern Hemisphere and so on, they’re quite blown away that we have African star stories down here in the south!”

Maropeng Managing Director Tony Rubin says that Nettmann’s knowledge of astronomy is amazing: “He’s a very passionate individual who knows his subject well. He’s very good.”

Stories are not the only thing that the southern hemisphere has to offer aspirant astronomers. As Nettmann explains, “In the southern hemisphere there are two thirds more stars than in the northern hemisphere – it’s just the way nature is. Then if you look at light pollution in the big cities in Europe and America, there’s so much of it compared to down here. So when those people arrive here, we might appreciate the stars here, but they are mind-blown when they see it.”

According to Nettmann, Maropeng is the ideal spot for stargazing for those who have grown tired of the bright lights and noise of Johannesburg. “You can drive 20 minutes or 40 minutes from where you live and you’re here, and Maropeng is just far enough away from Johannesburg that we still have reasonable skies.”

Hosting stargazing events fits in well with Maropeng’s role as a place of education, says Tony Rubin: “As far as learning goes, the stargazing events go hand in hand with what we do in terms of providing edutainment for visitors.”

Nettmann takes great pleasure in helping people understand the stars, the planets, and the universe. He likes to explain facts and figures in unusual ways. He says, “It’s bringing it to a level where we can all understand without going into the heavy sciences and maths. For instance, the moon is 384 000 kilometres away on average. So, if you could drive to the moon in a straight line by car, non-stop at 120 kilometres an hour, it will take you four months and ten days to get there.”

In these ways, Nettmann is following his passion. And it all started with a map of the moon. “I thought I was the first person ever to draw a map of the moon,” he says. “I’ve still got that drawing by the way ... ”

Maropeng’s stargazing events are extremely popular and require booking in advance. Enjoy an illustrated pre-dinner talk, followed by a delicious meal, and then end your evening off by gazing at the stars through large-aperture telescopes.

Explore your place in the universe through the night sky and expand on your personal sense of wonder and discovery.

The very scale of the universe is mind-boggling: Planet Earth appears as a mere speck of dust amongst the innumerable galaxies, each consisting of billions of stars.

Join Maropeng’s resident astronomer, Vincent Nettmann, as he takes you on a 15-billion-light-year journey from Earth to the extreme edge of the known universe.

Depending on the date selected, these star gazing events comprise various formats.  The adults only format begins with welcome drinks and snacks as the sun sets, at the Maropeng hotel where you can enjoy breathtaking views over the Cradle of Humankind.  This is then followed by a three course dinner and then an illustrated stargazing talk. Alternatively, the whole family can participate in a family evening with welcome drinks on the Tumulus deck, followed by the illustrated talk and then a buffet dinner in the Tumulus Restaurant. After dinner guests are encouraged to gaze at the night skies through large aperture telescopes.

Remember for both options to bring binoculars so you can participate in this laser-guided sky tour. Subject to weather conditions, you will be able to observe the summer sky objects and the moon through a range of large aperture telescopes.

 For costs or to find out more information, contact: and click on shop, call 014 577 9000 or email

Issued for and on behalf of Maropeng by Cathy Findley PR on (011) 463 6372 or email

blog comments powered by Disqus