Annual Report to Council (2009)

Deep-Sky Observing Section annual report

It is a pleasure to thank the following individuals for their contributions to the Section in the year under review: Magda Streicher, Richard Ford, and Gary Lillis.

Magda continues to be a stalwart of the Section, and her work continues in collaboration with Jenni Kay of Australia on an observer’s book of southern asterisms and open clusters.

Richard Ford has submitted regular reports of observations made mainly from the Cape, while Gary Lillis of Walmer (Port Elizabeth) has continued his observations for the “ASSA Top 100” project, including remarkable sketches with his notes.

Astrophotos of deep sky objects were received from Oleg Toumilovich, Lucas Ferreira, Dany Duprez, Kos Coronaios, Zbig Zembaty, Dieter Willasch and Daan van der Merwe. These images have been indexed for inclusion in the proposed online database.

During the year under review, the “Deep Sky Explorer’s Atlas” was produced, a set of 30 star charts covering the sky visible from mid-southern latitudes. Stars down to magnitude 8.0 are shown as well as several thousand deep sky objects. These charts are freely available for downloading and the hope is that they will be useful to novice observers who have not invested in a good star atlas yet. Helpful comments during the design stage were received from Chris Stewart, Kos Coronaios, Gary Lillis and others.

Work continued on the digitization of old deep sky publications, with selections being made for material not available in the NASA/SAO ADS database.

Several deep sky articles were published on the Director’s website, while the deep sky observing tutorials continue to be downloaded frequently.

A great deal of effort has been put into the design of a comprehensive web-based database of deep sky observations. It consists of two components: an astronomical database and software to manage it. The database lists 17,200 objects and over 32,000 observations and comments.

As designed, the application software will allow observers to manage and plan their own observing sessions, record and share their observations, and obviously access all available observations and comments on record. Think of it as a Google for deep sky observing. Helpful advice regarding the design of the application was received from Magda Streicher and Chris Stewart, as well as several non-ASSA members.

The writing of the software to drive the database has, however, been the bottleneck. The main culprit has been the Director’s lack of expertise and time. After some discussion, it was decided to approach ASSA for funding to have the software professionally developed.

Hopefully by the next AGM I will be able to report on the positive reception of this database amongst deep sky observers here and internationally.

Auke Slotegraaf