In the past there has always been a problem with people "selling" stars - usually because there was no agreed central registry, which meant that ultimately more the one person became to sole proprietor of a star. Now with the discovery of large numbers of extrasolar planets, people are selling the rights to name these planets. But the question remains as to how you can sell, or name, something you don't own! The International Astronomical Union, IAU, has maintained that they are the only recognized international body control the naming of Moons, stars, planets etc.
A resource for all! Some readers may not know that practically all the astronomical journal literature is freely available to them using the SAO/NASA Abstract service. This can be accessed at http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abstract_service.html.
This article continues the sequential numbering of reported fireball sightings from southern Africa, and covers fireballs observed during 2011-2012. By definition, a fireball is any meteor event with brightness equal to or greater than visual magnitude -3. The following events were reported to the author and details are reproduced as given by the observer. All times were converted to UT, and all coordinates are for epoch J2000.0.
In the early afternoon of 12 May 2013, a meteoroid, probably weighing several hundred kilograms, entered the Earth's atmosphere over the Western Cape. The resulting fireball was widely seen despite its passage in broad daylight. Based on a few eye witness accounts, Tim Cooper attempted to reconstruct the event.
The Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope (LCOGT) network has come a significant step closer to completion with the installation and first light of three new 1-metre sized telescopes at the South African Astronomical Observatory's (SAAO) observing site at Sutherland.
It is with a deep sense of sadness that we note the passing of Prof Edmund Zingu on 20 April 2013. Whilst he was not an astronomer, he had many friends within the astronomical community and was a supporter of astronomy in South Africa.
In March this year, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the official opening of SAAO Sutherland. On 8 April 2013 Margaret Thatcher passed away. You may wonder what is the relevance of these two facts. Fewer and fewer people nowadays remember that Margaret Thatcher was present at the opening ceremony of the Sutherland Observatory on 15 March 1973, almost to the day, 40 years before her death.
A wide-spread African concept is that the sky is a solid dome, perhaps made of blue rock, resting on the Earth, upon which the Sun moves. The traditional Tswana idea is that stars are holes in the rocky vault that is the sky.
Claus Madsen, who is from Denmark, joined the European Southern Observatory in 1980 to assist with the production of their Sky Atlas. He soon moved on to the essential field of public relations and outreach activities. More recently he has been involved in handling ESO's international relations. He is one of their longest-serving employees and has had an insider's view of its development over the past thirty years. I found the book well written and fascinating. It is a tale of how every kind of obstacle can be overcome in the pursuit of science, whether in the minds of people, in international relations or in the difficulties associated with remote sites.
Late southern autumn is the best time to go galaxy-hunting. Not only is the Orion arm down in the west, but the Milky Way is still way down towards the east. The time slot gives us the opportunity for an intense look into the wide universe to observe the faint fuzzies, which are actually entire galaxies. You only need the use of a modest medium to larger telescope and dark skies.