Annual Report to Council (2005)

Deep-Sky Observing Section annual report

During 2004, deepsky observing continued to be a popular branch of amateur observational astronomy.

Magda Streicher of Pietersburg has continued her systematic recording of deepsky objects, particularly of galactic clusters. She had continued her “star string” project – searching for and recording asterisms – logging 28 new ones in the year under review. She is also working towards her Herschel 400 certificate, and has recorded 70 objects. During the year she visited the UK, visiting various astronomical sites, such as the home of William Herschel, Sir John’s grave, and more.

In Bloemfontein, Gerrit Penning has continued as coordinator of the Centre’s Deepsky Group. Their year began with the introduction of 15 observation logs to help members plan their observing sessions. This culminated in 13 formal observation evenings throughout the year. All the deep sky members obtained binoculars and some members bought 8- to 12-inch telescopes. Binoculars allowed everyone to participate in the evening and effective skills in navigating the night sky were acquired. The experience earned from these sessions was applied during public open nights at Boyden Observatory. During a visit to Scope-X 2004 in Johannesburg, the Bloemfontein Centre kick-started a telescope making project and two 8-inch telescopes were completed at the time of writing this report.

During the year, observations submitted to the Section were added to the growing deepsky database. Some of these, including sketches of selected objects, have been published on the ASSA website.

I’m aware that deepsky observations are often made by folk nationwide, but that only a small fraction is reported to this Section. I’d like to invite all Society members, and especially Centre members (who may be unaware of the Section), to send in their observations for inclusion in the database. Feedback will be given for all observations submitted.

As described in the previous report to Council, the Director continues to search for open cluster remnants by sifting through archival data. During the year, a copy of the 2MASS All-Sky Point Source catalogue was obtained. This 10-DVD database has proved challenging to integrate with the automated cluster-search software.

The Director has also sporadically worked on the development of an exciting observing activity to encourage first-time star gazers and to further develop the skills of beginner and intermediate-level observers. Work on the SkyGuide interrupted this project, which was resumed at year’s end. Completion is anticipated during 2005 following discussions with other active observers.

Auke Slotegraaf