I recently received a copy of Crux - the newsletter of the Astronomical Society of Victoria, in Australia. The one thing that I noticed was that it contained a number of really good images taken by members.
The recent surge in interest in observing the deep-sky, as reflected by observations submitted to the Section during the year, is surely mirrored by unreported observations made elsewhere (e.g. at Centre gatherings). Members are reminded that reports of all deep-sky observations are welcome.
Magda Streicher has set up and calibrated the Meade Astrometric eyepiece on the 400mm SCT and has started a formal programme of double star measurement, concentrating on one constellation at a time. She is cutting back on her deep-sky observations and will in future concentrate on double stars. It is hoped that she will make a valuable contribution in this field.
During the past year (Calendar Year 2012) the following has happened concerning the History of Astronomy.
The centenary of the Cape Astronomical Association (C.A.A.) was in 2012. The C.A.A was the pre-cursor to A.S.S.A. Cape Centre and A.S.S.A. National. At the biannual A.S.S.A. symposium held in Cape Town a talk was given on the History of the C.A.A. as well an article that appeared in MNASSA.
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 occasional financial support from the ASSA Endowment Trust.
ScopeX 2013 took place on Saturday 20 July at their usual venue, the SA Military History Museum in Johannesburg. It was again a roaring success, seeing some 2 000 people through the gates. This year the emphasis was on amateur spectroscopy which started with a workshop, titled "Spectra data-reduction and analysis, measure star-temperatures", presented by international guest, Olivier Thizy of Shelyak Instruments in France on the Friday afternoon. This was supplemented by night- and daytime demonstrations with Thizy also doing the keynote presentation.
An 'Astronomy Desk' was set up within the Department of Science and Technology in 2011 as a National Astronomy Agency to coordinate the many astronomical activities within South Africa, particularly the new 'big science' projects. It is also concerned with human capacity development. With these in mind, a second Astronomy Town meeting was held in the iThembaLABS auditorium on 1 and 2 August 2013.
The need for a long-term strategy for astronomy in South Africa has been identified in a number of reviews conducted by the National Research Foundation (NRF). The reviews point toward the need for a national astronomy strategy for South Africa to obtain maximum return on the large investment made into the discipline, and for the country to become a global competitor in the field.
A nova is the sudden brightening of a star. Novae are thought to occur when a white dwarf star in a binary system explodes. The binary system usually consists of a white dwarf and a red giant star. If these two stars are close enough, material from the red giant star can be pulled off its surface and onto the white dwarf. This results in unhappiness for the white dwarf and it partially "explodes", brightening by 12 magnitudes or more (a factor of 10 000). Such stars may go through the nova phase many times, with outbursts separated by decades.
In this article it is shown how the improvement in the accuracy of star position measurements over the past 400 years led first to the discovery of 'Proper Motions' - the individual movements of the stars - and afterwards to 'Parallaxes' or the measurement of their distances by trigonometry. The pioneering work is described.
These form an important part of a research facility, often as a sort of prepublication discussion or a discussion of an individual's current research, and as such it is virtually impossible to "publish" this material. However by recording the topics discussed in the form below does indicate to those, who are unable to attend, what current trends are and who has visited to do research: it keeps everyone 'in the loop' so to speak.
The constellation of Pisces is distinctive and special, with the characteristic "V" formed by the stars within the image. Fishing must certainly have been a major source of food supply in antiquity. Alpha Piscius connects the tails of the two starry fish projected by the constellation at a slight angle just to the north of Cetus. Two circlets hang on to each leg - one to the north-east of Pegasus and the other towards the more southerly side of Pegasus, which appears as the smaller fish as seen from the southern hemisphere. In ancient Babylon the constellation was seen as sacrificed the fishes to the god of water and wisdom. It is even possible that the constellation reflects the period of Christ, which refers back to the two fishes and 12 loaves.