One of the things people attempt to see when visiting an ultra-dark site is to look for the eerie and elusive zodiacal light, a feeble nebulous cone based on the horizon and extending upwards along the ecliptic. It originates from sunlight scattered off countless tiny flecks of dust in the inner Solar System.
As part of the International Year of Astronomy, towards the end of last year, SAAO / SALT conducted an asteroid naming competition, exclusively targeted at the young of South Africa. This was the initiative of SALT Astronomer Dr Amanda Gulbis, who offered the SAAO IYA2009 organising committee the opportunity to name one of the asteroids that she discovered as part of her involvement in the Deep Ecliptic Survey.
The editors would like to draw members' attention to the fact that articles in MNASSA are among those included in the SAO-NASA data system. This is a free service that offers copies of almost all astronomical papers published, though sometimes with a delay when these are proprietary. It is easy to use and it enables people even in remote places and those not affiliated with institutions to have access to the literature.
For the entire week 15-19 March, 150 delegates gathered at the Ritz hotel in Sea Point for the Communicating Astronomy with the Public 2010 conference. See it IS possible for something other than football to happen in '2010' (but please don't report me to FIFA)! It was a showcase for the IYA2009, and a meeting place for the international cognoscenti in the field of astronomy education.
While on foot in the Cape Town CBD on the morning of 16 March 2010, our Treasurer, Cliff Turk, discovered to his horror that the historical century-old plaque commemorating de Lacaille's monumental contribution to astronomy during a two-year stay in Cape Town more than 250 years ago had disappeared. On a previous occasion Cliff explained its significance to the owner of the shop next to the plaque, who showed great interest in its history. When Cliff enquired of her about its disappearance, she was equally stunned. She had shown it to someone about two weeks before so it had to have disappeared quite recently. A smaller plaque that was below it is still there.
Members of our Society come from all walks of life and some of them have quite useful day jobs. Chris de Coning, vice-chair of the Cape Centre, is a tour guide. He put his skills and resources to great effect in designing the Cape Centre's trip to SKA and SALT.
There are currently 13 telescopes dotted around the Sutherland Observatory hilltop. The number will soon be increased by almost 50% by one single institute, namely the Las Cumbres Observatory from California. As part of the LCOGT (Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network), two domes each containing a 1.0m (40-inch) telescope as well as two clamshell buildings, each with two 0.4m (16-inch) telescopes - hence a total of six new fully robotic telescopes - are planned to be erected in Sutherland towards the end of this year.
The Bronberg Observatory (25° 54' 32 S, 28° 26 18 E, alt. 1590 m) is situated 40 km south-east of Pretoria, on plot 39, Rietfontein JR 395, which is located on top of the Bronberg ridge, which stretches from Pretoria to just east of the observatory.
This is not a newly published book. In fact, it was published in 2002. So, why publish a review eight years later? Because this book is well worth reading, and because it was not widely noticed when it was published. It presents an engaging biographical account by Desmond Prout-Jones of his rocketry activities in South Africa, spanning the years from 1947 to 1963, when those activities were stopped by the government of the day.
Consider for a moment those early seafarers - their fearlessness, their daring and their courage to explore the mighty oceans of the world. For them the compass must have been a most indispensable aid in their brave undertakings.
Kos Coronaios, Chairman of the Soutpansberg Astronomy Club and Project Manager of the Limpopo Astronomy Outreach, collected the following comments by the public during viewing sessions throughout the IYA2009.