The Deep-Sky Observer: Issue 185

Deep-Sky Observer - DSO 185

The Deep-Sky Observer 185 Cover

In this issue

A Visual Observation of NGC 678 by Stewart Moore

Observing & Sketching PNs with 16-inch and 20-inch Dobs by Iain Petrie

Is M48 a Real Messier Object by Yann Pothier

Extreme Sky - Palomar 10 by Yann Pothier

SkyTools 4 Visual by Owen Brazell

Deep Sky News by Owen Brazell

AGM 2020 Report by Steve Rayner

Object of the Month: M108 in Ursa Major by Wolfgang Steinicke

Book Review: 'Inside the Universe’s Star Cities' by Jonathan Gale


With the Covid-19 crisis still continuing this must be the first session in the Webb Society’s history when we have not been able to hold an AGM. All the committee members have agreed to stand again however for another year. We have the society accounts and secretaries report for 2019/2020 in this issue of DSO. Cambridge University also appear to be suggesting they are going to be going online for all courses next session so it is not clear that we will be able to hold an AGM at the IOA next year either. If this turns out to be the case then we will have to look at another venue. The committee will meet in September/October to discuss this (over Zoom of course!)

The lack of meetings has also meant that the BAA DSS meeting that was postponed this year has now been cancelled and they hope to have one (Covid permitting) next year. I see the Royal Astronomical Society have also gone to a virtual meeting format for the whole of the 2020/2021 session. One does start to wonder when physical meetings will start again. This is of course also impacting the life blood of astronomy in local societies who are also starting to have to look at how they meet. I suspect it may also have an impact on those pubs near meeting places which will also now struggle to survive. I do note the vast increase of virtual webinars now starting up, usually championed by those who I guess one would call social media influencers in the Instagram world. The worry here is that those who shout the loudest will now become the leaders, even if they know little about the subject. I think it is also true that the skills required to do virtual meetings may be different from those required to do to face to face ones.

I am also concerned that the lack of star parties and people being able to get away may mean that we will get less material for DSO in the medium term and that the increase in imaging during lockdown may also mean some directional changes being accelerated in the hobby. As I write this of course almost everybody is focusing their observing on C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE), the best comet in the northern hemisphere for decades. Unfortunately, there have also been a couple of bright supernovae in the Coma/Virgo region just as they disappear into the summer twilight. I am also starting to wonder if the online world which was already starting to play a major role in amateur astronomy will now increase its weight and we will see more and more astronomy done online via forums, virtual talks and Facebook etc. I personally think this would be a bad thing as physical meetings are where you make friends and discuss things. If this is the case then do we have to look at things the Webb Society can do online to make us more relevant to today's new astronomers?

The second volume of the Open Star Cluster Atlas is now out and can be ordered via the Society website. I had hoped to merge volume 1 and 2 but this now appears impractical and Mike Swan is hoping to do this himself with some additional material and look for a commercial publisher. As suspected the Practical Astronomy Show (PAS) has now also been cancelled and they have decided that 2021 is sufficiently uncertain in terms of Covid-19 that they have moved to 2022 for the next one. There is some hope that we might be able to do something at the Kelling Star Party in October 2020 if that occurs. However, if you are thinking of getting any books from Cambridge University Press (CUP) or Willmann-Bell (WB) then the society can do a very good price on them!

On the software front I hear rumours that work is starting on SkySafari 7 so maybe that will come out later this year. There have been no updates to the Nexus DSC yet this year but I understand he is working on a new hardware board as it sold so well he no longer has stocks of the old ones. Stellarium continues its pace of releases with the 020.2 out now. This seems to be an increasingly popular program, although for serious deep sky work I am not sure it counts. I do note that almost everything on the forums in the software world now is how do I control my telescope/camera with software, and please I don't want to pay for it!

Anyway stay safe and hopefully this will be mostly over for 2021 and we can get back to shows and star parties.

Owen Brazell - Editor of The Deep-Sky Observer