Annual Report to Council (2006)

Deep-Sky Observing Section annual report

In the year under review, members of the Deepsky Section were involved in both observing and astronomy popularizing.

Magda Streicher has continued her excellent observing programme, which for the year under review included the study of 384 deepsky objects, 90 asterisms (of which 21 are her own discoveries) and almost 100 double star observations (including the possible discovery of a faint companion to a triple-system in Aries). Furthering her ongoing interest in asterisms, she co-operated with Jenni Kay of Australia on a “Small Clusters and Asterisms” project, and has been working towards her Herschel 400 certificate (having logged 87 to date). In addition to a regular newspaper column and regional radio talks, her “Deepsky Delights” column appears regularly in MNASSA. In the period under review, Magda published an article on double stars in Circinus, in Deepsky Observer, the journal of the Webb Society. A special publication (co-authored with Jenni Kay) of Magda’s observations of the Jack Bennett Catalogue is being prepared by Bob Argyle of the Webb Society. Magda’s deep-sky sketches appear regularly in the Australian magazine Sky and Space to illustrate Jenni Kay’s deepsky column. Magda will also be representing the Section at the 2006 ScopeX with a display of deepsky photographs and drawings, and promoting the Section’s workbook (see below).

Gerrit Penning, the Bloemfontein Centre deep-sky coordinator, reports that during the year, various deep sky evenings in and around the city were held. Informal evenings were also arranged after meetings. At the start of the year, a monthly observation schedule was compiled, but due to practical reasons, little of the schedule could be followed and observations were not as numerous as in 2004. For the current year it was rather decided to focus on specific constellations that were most suited for observation of its deep sky objects. Unfortunately clouds and rainy weather hampered some practical club activities and it was further restricted by the fact that the Centre’s deep sky coordinator was out of the country for a few months. Beginners were properly trained in night sky observations and some members acquired or even built telescopes. The Centre can now proudly say that the majority of its deep sky members have telescopes of sufficient aperture. The venues of some of the deep sky evenings included Boyden Observatory, Barkly-Wes, De Oude Kraal Country Estate and the city of Bloemfontein. The greatest challenge now lies in motivating advanced members to further their interest in deep sky and persuading them to follow discipline in self-development.

In 2005 July, the Section published a booklet containing naked-eye star maps, intended as a first-step in observing the night sky. Called Discover!, the workbook aims to teach the constellations and at the same time encourages the novice to use binoculars or a small telescope to search the southern skies and record any deepsky objects they find. Discover! was compiled by myself, with valuable advice received from Magda Streicher and Gerrit Penning. In 2006 January a second edition was prepared. The workbook is advertised to ASSA members in the 2006 SkyGuide, in various issues of MNASSA, and on the ASSA website. Discover! was also mentioned on several e-mail lists, in newspaper columns, and on my personal website. Discover! is also available for download from the ASSA website, and from my personal website. From my homepage, 413 copies of Discover! were downloaded. In addition, 94 copies of a preliminary Advanced Discover! workbook, and 64 copies of DOC (the Deepsky Observer’s Companion), were downloaded. An unconfirmed number of copies were downloaded from the ASSA website, kindly hosted by SAAO. Reproduction, binding and distribution of the workbook was undertaken by Magda Streicher and myself. Magda has distributed 41 copies (costing R530), mainly to local high schools, social clubs, and at game parks and camps in the Kruger National Park. I have distributed 95 copies (costing R890) including sending sets to ASSA Centres who accepted an invitation for the free workbooks; responses were received from the Bloemfontein, Durban, Garden Route, Johannesburg & Natal Midlands Centres. In addition, 28 copies were distributed to individuals who were unable to download the free electronic version and requested printed versions instead (at a cost of R25 per copy to cover printing, ring binding and postage).

In summary, for the year under review, at least 160 paper and 413+ electronic copies of Discover! were distributed.

Auke Slotegraaf