Annual Report to Council (2013)

Deep-Sky Observing Section annual report

The recent surge in interest in observing the deep-sky, as reflected by observations submitted to the Section during the year, is surely mirrored by unreported observations made elsewhere (e.g. at Centre gatherings). Members are reminded that reports of all deep-sky observations are welcome.

New observers in the year under review include Allan Cassells and Jaco Wiese, who are hereby formally welcomed to the Section.

George Dehlen has distinguished himself by becoming the first observer to formally complete the “ASSA Top-100” deep-sky list. In recognition he was awarded a Director’s Certificate at a meeting of the Pretoria Centre on May 22. The Pretoria Centre also issued him with a special (and handsome) ASSA Pretoria Centre Top 100 badge, a creative innovation inspired by Percy Jacobs.

Percy deserves his own gold star (or perhaps an entire open cluster) for his ongoing efforts to promote deep-sky observing amongst members of the Pretoria Centre. At the time of writing, active observers include Andre de la Ponte, George Dehlen, Percy Jacobs, Louis Kloke, Craig Kloke, Pat Kühn, Albie Lombard, Graham Low, Michael Moller, Michael Poll and Grant Thompson.

Magda Streicher continues her unfailing support through her series of articles in MNASSA, Canopus, and elsewhere.

Cape Town observer Richard Ford is approaching 400 observations and his dedication, sometimes under difficult conditions, deserves special mention. Richard is presently working on the Bennett Catalogue and is looking forward to it’s completion before the end of 2013.

Michael Poll and Johan Smit, through their efforts at the Pretoria Centre’s observing evenings, continue to ensure that the deep-sky remains in the public eye, so to speak.

Imaging of the deep-sky continues to be a growing area of activity and although outside the central scope of this observing section, the efforts of Kos Coronaios, Dany Duprez, Brett du Preez, Chris Forder, Louis Kloke, Dale Liebenberg, Michael Moller, Leslie Rose, and Dieter Willasch, beautifully complement the visual observations.

In October, the director held a Skype-based workshop with observers from the Pretoria Centre. The experience showed that, with some modifications, such online meetings should be pursued in future (in lieu of more logistically-challenging face-to-face meetings) and that informal live-chat sessions should be considered, too.

Work on digitising historical deep-sky observations and published sketches (to make these unique resources readily available) has continued in fits and starts throughout the year. Valuable discussions with Shireen Davis-Evans, SAAO Librarian, has helped clarify the way forward. Meanwhile, Richard Ford has begun assisting the effort as Digital Archivist, and his painstaking contributions are gratefully acknowledged.

In December, the German-language book “Pearls of the Southern Skies – A journey to exotic star clusters, nebulae and galaxies” was published (Oculum Press, Erlangen; ISBN 978-3-938469-55-2). Dieter Willasch provided the astrophotos and Auke Slotegraaf wrote the text. An English-language edition is scheduled for publication later in the year.

Auke Slotegraaf