Though the situation is much better than last year, it is still disappointing that the director has received so few details from Centres about their activities. Partial statistics have been received from several Centres. As mentioned on several occasions, the time will come when ASSA wants to start fund raising and, invariably, any proposals that are submitted to potential funders will be more favourably received if there is some evidence of public outreach, particularly amongst the educational community. It is known that all Centres have frequent activities and it is a mystery as to why information on these cannot simply be collected, kept and sent to the director in time for the annual report, or simply sent to the director as and when they happen. Thank you to those who sent in details.
Having just taken over the directorship of this section, I sadly have very little to report. Recently there has been little reported activity as those who have done some observations have sent them directly overseas.
The second active year of the Imaging Section has proven that astro-photography is a fast growing and very important sector of astronomy - professional and amateur. Here is the summary of the Section's activities.
The ASSA Scholarship was established in 2000 to encourage the study of Astronomy at any Southern African university at the 2nd and 3rd year level. The Scholarship is funded by ASSA with significant financial support from the ASSA Endowment Trust.
At the end of the last financial year, total funds had increased to R116 950 of which R36 340 was capital, with R76 950 in the distributable reserve. At that time there were estimated liabilities of R3 660.
The Year of Astronomy 2009 celebrates Galileo's telescopic discoveries four hundred years ago. The precise dates of his epoch-making observations of the Moon are controversial but we can be reasonably sure they began some time in 1609. His famous publication, the Sidereus Nuncius or Sidereal Messenger was of course published in 1610.
ASSA and its sections issue rewards to members who actively partake and submit their observations. These rewards will hopefully encourage recipients to continue their good work but also those who have made casual observations but did not send them in or others who are still considering it but have not yet got so far as actually doing some observing. The following rewards were made during 2008/9.
''Ni hao'' means hallo for the Chinese people. For our group of eclipse chasers, perusing the total solar eclipse of 22 July 2009, it was a hallo that opened up a completely different country. China is totally overstocked with people, but they are friendly and are trying their utmost to keep their population growth under control. Shanghai has a population of about 17 million.
An important milestone was reached on 17 July 2009 when the first dish of the KAT-7 prototype interferometer array was mounted on its pedestal on site, which is about 100 km west of Carnarvon in the Northern Cape. The Karoo Array Telescope (KAT) will eventually comprise seven identical dishes, hence the designation KAT-7. The KAT-7 instrument will not be used for advanced scientific research but be employed for simpler science projects, planned to start next year. Its main purpose is to act as a test-bed for engineering systems for the MeerKAT radio telescope array.
With a press release in early September, the Hubble Team showed off a stunning gallery of remote galaxies, an enormous globular cluster packed with countless pinpoint stars, a dying sun blowing off its outer atmosphere in butterfly-like wings of debris and examples of spectrographic data, all taken with the newly refurbished space telescope.
The 27th triennial General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) took place during 3-14 August in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. No fewer than 63 countries are national members of the Union, which has been in existence for 90 years. About 2 100 delegates out of 9 000 members attended in spite of the economic times and the fear of swine flu. Fifteen South African astronomers and students were present.
SumbandilaSat, meaning "lead the way" in the Venda language, was one of seven satellites successfully launched atop a Russian Soyuz rocket from Baikonur in Kazakhstan on 17 September 2009, witnessed by South Africa's Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor. The launch's primary payload was the Meteor M1 weather satellite, a new Russian observatory designed to monitor the Earth's climate.
With 373 extrasolar planets known as of 13 September, the discovery of another one might not seem so extraordinary. But, over the period May to December of the years 2006 and 2007, the WASP telescope at Sutherland has made 8235 photometric observations of the star HD10069, known as WASP-18, a relatively young main-sequence object of type F6. This star shows a recurrent dip of about 1% in brightness, with a period of 0.94 days, which must be caused by a planet passing in front of it. The planet has been named WASP-18b.