The Purpose of Awards

Astronical Society of Southern Africa Presiden't AwardI suppose everyone likes to be recognized and receiving an award is definitely an honour. Apart from regular school certifcates, college diplomas and a few Sunday school stamps, I was never in line for big awards. As far as monetary prizes go, I won a few cents at a regional debating contest. I was taught never to boast and humbly stored my awards in a box except for the few-cents-award, which bought me a packet of sweets.

When astronomy became my full-time hobby, I was at an age where I had dropped most shackles and pretence and I started to acknowledge human’s basic needs – one being a desire for validation. However, I never needed this validation in the form of an official award. The utter glee on the faces of children, the oohs and wows of grown-ups at my telescope were more than enough reward for me. I feel that my awards are not mine alone but belong to all who bring me happiness as well as those who are prepared to share their knowledge and inspire me.

Once, I had an inkling that I may get a certificate for my first 20 deep sky observations and sketches. The award came at an outreach event when I was least expecting it and my reaction, apart from jumping up and down, was hugging the Deep Sky Director into a blush. If only I could find and destroy those embarassing photos of that occasion. Friends love to let them surface every so often.

Human psychology plays a big roll in the giving and receiving of awards. The number of awards handed out daily is astounding. When it comes to awards, I’m aware that human behaviour is influenced by direct or indirect incentives. I never want to find myself being driven by awards alone nor would I appreciate an award which comes with a certain expectation.

I could blame my jumping up and down on an overactive hypothalamus and over production of dopamine but no, at my age I think I’m entitled to brag. Who knows whether I’ll have the energy to go for gold. As long as I can inspire and bring a little happiness to every person I meet along my way, I’ll be sure to produce enough of that vital chemical to ensure a happy life.

To become a member of the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa visit


Moon Category Winner

I remember how we looked forward to the big celebrations that were being planned for October 2020. How could we ever have imagined that our lives were about to change drastically and due to something as strange as a virus. Organisers bounced back after total lock down and proceeded with preparations for an incredible online event.

To keep me motivated and inspired during a time of isolation, I spent many evenings taking images of the Moon. When the SAAO launched the astrophotography competition, I had many Moon images to choose from.

In this shot the Moon seemed to be floating above the clouds,  in contrast with the heaviness of heart that I oftened experienced during this period. Entering the competition was more about being part of the special celebrations and making a positive contribution. I parted with my Moon and enjoyed the celebrations to the full.

I read the email over and over, just to be sure. Confirmation came when I saw the following post by the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) on social media:

The year 2020 was a big milestone for the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), marking 200 years of its existence as an astronomical observatory.This landmark allows us to commemorate not only our scientific accomplishments, but also to celebrate our country’s rich cultural heritage as a whole.Since this is a celebration, the SAAO held an Astrophotography Competition in partnership with Scifest Africa. The winning images will be exhibited at the SAAO Visitor Center, which is currently under construction in Cape Town.

Congratulations to our winner Carol Botha for the astonishing work submitted for the Astrophotography Competition 2020 under the Moon category.
Goodness me – I was a winner!…/saao-200-astrophotography…/