Annual Report to Council (2014)

Deep-Sky Observing Section annual report

The Section has experienced a very active year, not least because of the reorganizing of observing groups such that deep-sky, double stars, and variable stars now resort under one banner. The Section’s pages on the newly-launched ASSA website now contain a great deal of material that will be of interest to observers.

Regular and new observers are thanked for their support.

Alan Cassells continues with his personal observing projects, and having recently acquired a 12-inch Dobsonian has created much anticipation. Alan received a Merit Award (presented at the 2014 Autumn Southern Star Party) for a series of observations he made last year.

Carol Botha is well underway with a constellation-by-constellation observing programme, and since regularly using a 12-inch Dobsonian has become enamoured with the sky’s multitude of very tiny bluish-greenish dots (i.e. planetary nebulae).

Hannes Pieterse (Bloemfontein Centre) always has something up his sleeve, including novel designs for an observing shelter, a deep-sky sketching apparatus, and plans to carry out an ASSA Top-100 Marathon.

Richard Ford continues to work towards his Bennett Certificate, a catalogue of comet-like deep-sky objects identified by past ASSA President and comet hunter Jack Bennett.

Magda Streicher’s regular deep-sky writings continue to appear in MNASSA, Canopus, and elsewhere. Following the successful publication of her compilation volume “Astronomy Delights”, she is considering compiling a second volume. With the relocation of her observatory completed, she is now using her 16-inch to observe the brighter objects, as well as review particularly curious objects she had noted in previous years.

Michael Poll and Johan Smit, through their efforts at the Pretoria Centre’s observing evenings, are thanked for continuing to ensure that deep-sky objects remain popular public targets. Similarly, the various star parties held across the country are also popular platforms to showcase the deep-sky. The director welcomes reports of all deep-sky observations made at these, and other, events.

Last year, George Dehlen became the first observer to formally complete the “ASSA Top-100” deep-sky list. It is a pleasure to report that Percy Jacobs, Louis Kloke and Michael Moller (all of the Pretoria Centre) can now be added to the list. And Percy is to be thanked for continuing to drive this project at the Centre.

New observers, of whom a great deal is expected, include Nigel Rotherham, Bruce Tomalin, Brett du Preez and Kyle Vorster.

Several months of planning and discussion have resulted in an exciting new deep-sky project, still under wraps, to be launched before the end of 2014. Kos Coronaios and Carol Botha are heartily thanked for their significant input and continued support.

During the year contact was made with Dr Wolfgang Steinicke, noted astronomy historian and deep-sky expert. He will be presenting a talk in Cape Town in September, and later that month at the Symposium in Durban.

Imaging of the deep-sky continues to be a popular pursuit, and the re-established Astrophotography Section is doing a great job of curating the images.

The on-going digitisation of historical deep-sky observations and published sketches has been sadly neglected; work will hopefully resume in the not too distant future, hopefully as one or more volunteers are identified.

An updated and expanded version of the deep-sky book “Pearls of the Southern Skies” (by Dieter Willasch and Auke Slotegraaf) was prepared, and will be published by Firefly Books (Canada) before the end of this calendar year.

The Double Star Group, under the guidance of Dave Blane, has experienced a surge of activity during the year. A dedicated web page on the new ASSA website is regularly updated with articles and observations by Dave and Magda Streicher.
Dave is engaged in a programme to measure all of James Dunlop’s discoveries, while Magda is re-measuring the double stars she first observed more than a decade ago.

The highlight in the Variable Stars Group has been the monitoring of Nova Cen 2013 (V1369 Cen), with members (including Cliff Turk, Peter Wedepohl, Dave Blane and Auke Slotegraaf) logging over 100 observations and images. The results were published on the ASSA website and submitted to the AAVSO.

Dave Blane’s variable star observations for the year total 759.

News articles, by Dave Blane, were published on the group’s web page on the ASSA website.

Some DSLR photometry has also been attempted, an exciting development that, with further guidance and experimentation, is certain to yield good results. With Jerome Jooste and Kos Coronaios’ involvement, a tentative photographic nova search project has been outlined.

In closing, Director’s Awards for deep-sky observing have been issued to Percy Jacobs, Louis Kloke and Michael Moller.

Auke Slotegraaf