After been thrown into the deep end in March 2006 to take over as Editor from Auke Slotegraaf when he suddenly resigned, I had to learn to swim quite quickly. Not only had I suddenly to write, edit and often originate articles, but I had to (very quickly) learn a desktop publishing software package which was completely foreign to me. Regarding the latter, I am ever thankful to Shireen Davis who gave me a crash course in Adobe InDesign and helped me set up master pages and templates to get going.
In terms of receiving information about the activities of various centres, things have improved, but regrettably, they are still incomplete! I know that many centres are active and it would be great if a short report of these for the year could be sent in to me by June next year, one that could be used by the local centre at their AGM as well.
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.
Once again most of the favourable minor planet occultation predictions for South Africa were spoilt by unfavourable weather and no positive events were recorded. None of the local lunar occultation observers were active during the year.
Planetary astronomy and, in particular, the search for extra-solar planets is currently one of the most interesting research areas in astronomy in recent years. [The extra-solar planet count stands at 452 as of 13 September 2010.]
The Society has made a printing and distribution agreement with Random House Struik for the 2011 Sky Guide Africa South. This is part of the plan to reduce the administrative complexity of the Society.
In a major engineering feat, the 200 ton, 50 year old, 26m diameter radio telescope at the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) has been recommissioned after replacing the main bearing in its polar shaft that failed in October 2008.
Undoubtedly the most common telescope type at any star party or telescope makers' convention like ScopeX, is the Dobsonian. This is no surprise since its design is simple and cheap, yet very stable and, if well made, has very smooth movement and is extremely easy to use.
A 1300-page final report for the International Year of Astronomy 2009 was released on 7 September 2010 at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science in Lisbon, Portugal. The report shows that at least 815 million people in 148 countries participated in the world's largest science event in decades. Funds equivalent to at least 18 million euros were devoted to IYA2009 activities.
The President of the South African National Research Foundation, Dr. Albert van Jaarsveld, and the General Secretary of the IAU, Dr. Ian Corbett, signed an agreement on 30 July with the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to foster and promote astronomy in the developing world.
ScopeX was held on Saturday, 17 April at the Military History Museum, Johannesburg. It was three days before the volcano Eyjafjallajökull (pronounced "AY-yah-fyah-lah-YOH-kuul") starting spewing ash, grounding hundreds of flights internationally. Luckily the out-of-town guests, Case Rijsdijk, Auke Slotegraaf and Willie Koorts only had to fly to the Cape. In anticipation of the World Cup, the Camera Obscura sported ribbons and a South African flag - the intended soccer ball unfortunately could not materialise.
The constellation Pavo the Peacock can be seen flying south of the constellations Sagittarius and the Southern Crown. The bird itself, long a symbol of immortality, does not fail to show off its true colours in spreading its tail for all to see. The brighter stars in this constellation closely resemble the shape of a peacock and it isn't difficult to see why a constellation should have been named after one of the most colourful land birds we know. Astronomers of old must have regarded the dance and extravagant, showy display, of the Peacock as special, hence it's prominence in the southern night skies.