The Society has produced an annual Handbook since 1946, though its form has changed as its editors have changed. However, 2006 marked a significant new direction. Following Maciej Soltynski's advocacy of a new and modern format, the then editor, Auke Slotegraaf, produced the first edition of the Sky Guide Africa South (SGAS). For the first time it was produced in colour, with a 'catchy' title, and was widely sold in bookshops. The income generated has been partly used to support the Society's Scholarship programme.
The Pretoria Centre hosted the Biennial ASSA Symposium from 7-9 October 2010, at the Silverton campus of the Council for Geosciences, and although the theme of the Symposium was "Light and Spectrum Pollution", a wide range of papers were presented with topics as diverse as "Mining in Space" and the problems facing "Science Journalism" in South Africa.
As reported in the August MNASSA (Vol 69, p5, 2010), Prof Belinda Bozzoli, Chairperson of the Board of the NRF, has, in the wake of this affair, made a number of recommendations to the Minister of Science and Technology. One of them was the establishment of an 'Astronomy Desk'.
The Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Rob Davies, has appointed fifteen people from various government departments, academia and industry, to serve on the South African Council for Space Affairs (SACSA). Dr Peter Martinez MRSSAf, of the National Research Foundation's South African Astronomical Observatory and former ASSA President (2008/9) has been appointed Chairperson of the Council.
A European team of astronomers using ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) has measured the distance to the most remote galaxy so far. By carefully analyzing the very faint glow of the galaxy they have found that they are seeing it when the Universe was only about 600 million years old (a redshift of 8.6). These are the first confirmed observations of a galaxy whose light is clearing the opaque hydrogen fog that filled the cosmos at this early time.
Astronomers using the National Science Foundation's Green Bank Telescope (GBT) have discovered the most massive neutron star yet found, a discovery with strong and wide-ranging impacts across several fields of physics and astrophysics.
Type II supernovae may join their Type Ia cousins as gauges of cosmic expansion.
Astronomers have long relied on stellar explosions called Type Ia supernovae to measure the scale of the cosmos. A second class of supernovae may now be put to the same use, providing an independent check on measurements that were first used more than a decade ago to discover the accelerating expansion of the Universe.
Five years before South Africa's MeerKAT telescope becomes operational, more than 43 000 hours of observing time (adding up to about five years) have already been allocated to radio astronomers from Africa and around the world, who have applied for time to do research with this unique and world-leading instrument. Surveys of radio pulsars and hydrogen gas in the deep universe came out on top in the first round of allocating MeerKAT's observing time.
Amateur Telescope Making (ATM) is a hobby that remains alive and well despite the general availability of commercial telescopes. This is evidenced by the popularity of events like the annual ScopeX in Johannesburg where telescope builders display their creations. ATM'ers worldwide have the knack of coming up with many innovative approaches to problems, making improvements to existing designs and methods and making do with materials that are generally or locally available. This also applies to the techniques for grinding, polishing and figuring of telescope mirrors of various sizes and focal ratios. Excellent mirrors are made both by hand and machine.
Education in South Africa was achieved during October when Hermanus Centre members, together with science teachers and learners from Hermanus High School and Qhayiya Secondary School, saw "first light" on the 1,2m MONET North telescope at the McDonald Observatory, Texas via the internet from the Hermanus High School's computer room. This all happened under the capable, enthusiastic and patient guidance of MONET Project Leader Dr Rick Hessman of the Institut für Astrophysik, Göttingen, through a Skype link to his home in Göttingen, Germany.
The planned museum at Boyden about the history of the observatories in Bloemfontein as well as the Roberts archives and all the most important contributors to astronomy in the region will be discussed. The layout, current progress, future plans, the people involved and all relevant information will be shown. A conclusion about the possible impact and the possible events around the opening will then be made.
Slender and lithe forms are typically associated with wild birds. When we look up at the stars we also find interesting shapes and patterns that appear slender and lithe. Combining the world of the wild and the world of the night sky, it is not that difficult to find a constellation like Grus the Crane presenting itself to our imagination. In real life the Blue Crane is very special, and is our South African national bird.