Thursday, 9 July 2015

New Horizons Pluto Spacecraft Sends Photos As Excitement Builds for Flyby

Dwarf planet Pluto, shown here in the latest high-res image from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, will get its close-up in less than a week.

By Nadia Drake, National Geographic
PUBLISHED July 07, 2015

Pluto will get its closeup in less than a week, despite a heart-stopping glitch that briefly silenced the New Horizons spacecraft over the holiday weekend. Now, the craft is back in action and entering what NASA calls encounter mode—where gathering data about the frosted world trumps just about everything else.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Dunlop and Lacaille - Deep-sky Marathons at FS Star Party

The Guidelines for the two Deep-sky Marthons in progress....  The James Dunlop Catalogue (150 objects) and the Lacaille (1755) - Southern Nebulous Objects (41) are the two marathons on our deep-sky menu at the Free State Star Party (12 - 16 June 2015).

Visit the ASSA Marathon section

 Read more about the first ever marathon we have completed in Central South Africa in 2014 in Nigtfall.

 "Nightfall" (2015 April) is the current newsletter of the Deep-Sky Observing Section of the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa.
- Download the free PDF from the ASSA website at

Friday, 8 May 2015

Free State Winter Star Party - Vrystaat Winter Sterrefees

A Star Part in the warm heart of Central South Africa
12 – 16 June 2015

On the farm Gansvlei close to Brandfort (13km)
GPS Coordinates:  28°47'48.63"S   26°28'25.66"E

 Highlights at the FS Star Party
- Observing and Astrophotography
- Deep-sky Marathon
- A visit to Boyden Observatory (Museum and old telescopes)
- A show in the Digital Planetarium on Naval Hill.
- 3 Astro Guest Speakers

Vrystaat Winter Sterrefees
Sterpartytjie in die warm hart van Sentraal Suid-Afrika

Op die plaas Gansvlei by Brandfort (13km)
GPS Ko├Ârdinate  28°47'48.63"S   26°28'25.66"E

Hoogtepunte by die VS Sterrefees: 
- Waarneming en Astrofotografie
- Besoek Boyden Sterrewag met sy museum en ou teleskope

- Vertoning in die Digitale Planetarium op Naval Hill
- 3 Astro Gassprekers

Monday, 13 April 2015

First South African Comet Discovery in 35 Years


13 April 2015
First South African Comet Discovery in 35 Years

In the early hours of the 7th April, an un-manned robotic telescope, MASTER-SAAO, situated near Sutherland in the Karoo, discovered a new comet. This is the first comet to be discovered in South Africa since 1978.  The Russian – South African run telescope has been scanning the southern skies since it began operating in late December 2014, looking for “transients” – new objects which appear in the sky for the first time. Since then, over 60 new  objects have been discovered, most of them being erupting or exploding stars. However, the MASTER-SAAO telescope has just discovered its first comet.

Read more about this discovery 

Sunday, 29 March 2015

DSLR Photometry Experiments. 4. How many darks?

When performing photometry on DSLR images, should dark frames be stacked and subtracted from the light frames? If so, how many dark frames should be used, and which stacking method should be employed? This experiment attempts to answer the first question by evaluating the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of stars on an image from which different numbers of dark frames have been subtracted.

Working with constellations in DOCdb

Constellations, of course, aren’t “real” objects, but they are a handy way of slicing up the night sky into more manageable chunks.

Having the sky sub-divided in this way immediately suggests an observing project: carefully examine each chunk of sky for anything and everything interesting. This raises the question: when is a particular part of the sky well-placed for observing?

With the recent addition of “constellation place holders” to the DOCdb database, this is now easy to answer, using the DOCdb List Plan option. Here’s the step-by-step guide.

"Nightfall" - the deep-sky observing newsletter

[1] Editorial
[2] News Notes
[8] Three in: Carina by Dave Blane & Auke Slotegraaf
[19] E3 — A curious globular cluster in Chamaeleon by Douglas Bullis
[28] Heartbeat of a Unicorn — Exploring the fascinating but often overlooked constellation of Monoceros by Carol Botha
[31] Birth of a Deep-Sky Marathon — A report from the 2014 Free State Star Party, with guidelines and recommendations for conducting a deep-sky observing marathon by Hannes & Pieter Pieterse
[50] At My Eyepiece — Veteran deep-sky observer Magda Streicher gives us a look at how she observes. by Magda Streicher
[56] Deep-Sky Projects
[57] Photo Gallery
[59] On The Cover
[appendix] Big 5 of the African Sky