An enormous amount of work has recently been done on the core remnants of SN1987A, but no appealing images have emerged. This 2010 artist's impression of the material around the recently exploded star is based on observations which have for the first time revealed a three dimensional view of the distribution of the expelled material.
A map recently released by NASA's Near Earth Object (NEO) Program reveals that small asteroids frequently enter and disintegrate in the Earth's atmosphere with random distribution around the globe. Released to the scientific community, the map visualizes data gathered by U.S. government sensors from 1994 to 2013. The data indicate that Earth's atmosphere was impacted by small asteroids, resulting in a bolide (or fireball), on 556 separate occasions in a 20-year period. Almost all asteroids of this size disintegrate in the atmosphere and are usually harmless. The notable exception was the Chelyabinsk event which was the largest asteroid to hit Earth in this period. The new data could help scientists better refine estimates of the distribution of the sizes of NEOs including larger ones that could pose a danger to Earth.
Stellar occultations are popular events for amateur astronomers who want to make real scientific contributions. They have traditionally been observed by travelling to a location where an occultation will be visible and timing the moments when the star vanishes and reappears. This is usually done by means of a speaking clock service, or some other audible time signal, and a tape recorder. Shortly before the occultation begins, the observer turns on the time signal, and begins recording it with the tape recorder. The observer speaks into the microphone when the star blinks out, and then speaks again when it reappears. This captures an accurate record of the times when the asteroid (or other body) passed in front of the star, and the duration of the occultation.
This article covers the activities of the MOONWATCH team in Johannesburg that was situated in the grounds of the then Union Observatory (later the Republic Observatory) and operated from 1957 till the end of the IGY (International Geographical Year) in 1958.
Southern Africa has virtually no established astronomical artefacts, but it has an extremely rich, and very mixed, heritage of oral traditions, especially about the night skies. Stories were told and retold and formed an important part of the social fabric of its peoples. However with the advent of industrialization and mining many of these oral traditions are dying out, and unless they are captured or known about, many, or most, will be lost forever.
I thank the reviewer of my e-book (Venus Rising: South African Astronomical Beliefs, Customs and Observations) for his notes published in the October 2014 issue of the journal. I believe that certain points need to be explored in this regard. The main thrust of the reviewer's comments is that the book, consisting of 386 pages, lacks a detailed analysis of the material presented therein. It was made clear in the Preface of Venus Rising that further research and analysis of the topic is essential. It is evident that the book functions as a synthesis of the available material. The book is thus (as stated in the Preface) a beginning but not an end. It is interesting to note that not much has been written on the subject in recent years, where most of the literature is of considerable antiquity. The present author is satisfied that he has achieved his primary objective, which was to bring a very disperse literature together in one volume (notwithstanding omissions) for further work by interested parties over time. There is, in essence, only so much that can be achieved in any volume starting from a very limited base and covering a broad field. It follows that a concise analysis of all the material in the book would be a "step too far" and would have meant a book of impossible length and complexity. The reviewer's requirement that this be done in one volume is frankly unrealistic.
Venus Rising: South African Astronomical Beliefs, Customs and Observations adds the most comprehensive overview of South African cultural astronomy to date to a very limited library on South African cultural astronomy. In 2010 Author Peter Alcock, one of only a few working in the field of recording indigenous knowledge, wrote Rainbows in the Mist: Indigenous Weather Knowledge, Beliefs and Folklore in South Africa, and he has now followed it with Venus Rising. Its importance is evidenced by the fact that the book has been funded by the Department of Science and Technology, with administrative support supplied by North-West University.