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Sky Guide 2012  @psychohistorian.org

Sky Guide 2012

posted: 3426 days ago, on Saturday, 2010 Nov 20 at 14:00
tags: astronomy, ASSA, Sky Guide.

Wed, 2011 August 31

It's taken a month (well, ok, 21 days of work) to select and accurately draw the horizon diagrams that make up the best part of the diary section. And now it's a wrap.

Meanwhile, getting the final versions of the artwork for the various advertisers has taken some legwork, with two still outstanding.

Following discussion at Council, we've decided to sponsor the Cape Town Science Centre by donating a page to them for promotional use. May 2012 be an excellent year for them.

And so, at last, Janice at Struik has the final InDesign files and the prep to print can begin. Ink-on-paper is September 19, with the SkyGuide 2012 on the shelves on November 01.

The first annual astronomical guide book for southern Africa appeared in 1946, and was known as the Handbook. As printing technology changed, the Handbook went through various physical formats, with the longest-enduring lasting 35 years (1969-2003). In 2003 a committee was set up to redesign the publication, and it was re-baptized as the Sky Guide. I was the founding editor of the Sky Guide, producing the 20042006 editions. Anthony Jones was the Editor for 20072010, and Wayne Trow edited the 2011 edition. I've been appointed editor for the 2012 edition, and these pages will document the usually unseen process of compiling such a publication.

I can do no better than repeat what the 1946 editor wrote in the first edition:

"Suggestions of how this handbook can be improved, if its reception is sufficiently flattering to justify its publication in future years, will be very welcome."

Sat, 2011 July 30

The last of the eight new seasonal star charts are done. Phew.

What remains? A short piece on atmospheric phenomena, how to pronounce star names, and then the millions of little "horizon diagrams" to illustrate cool naked-eye sights each month.

Deadline: August 27.

Wed, 2011 May 11

Voting for the cover image for next year's SkyGuide is over. Thanks to those who let me know what they'd like to see. And I have to say, it was an EXCELLENT choice!

Tue, 2011 May 10

It's time to start thinking about next year's cover image!

Since the SkyGuide is for and about South Africa, I reckoned that we should make use of the work of South African astrophotographers. Quite frankly, Hubble pics are nice, but "ZA's got talent", right? So for 2012, a local astrophoto while grace the cover of the SkyGuide. I chose four candidate images and now its up to the readers to choose the winner.

This past week-end I attended ScopeX in Johannesburg, and took along the four images and asked folk to indicate which one caught their attention. So far, some 70 votes have been recorded. Now it's your chance. Go to the "Choose the SkyGuide 2012 Cover Image" page and let me know which one you like. [voting is closed and the page has been removed -- thanks for taking part!]

Thu, 2011 April 07

The incredibly time-consuming selection and illustration of the "horizon maps" has begun. This year's SkyGuide will have more of these cute and useful little diagrams than before, and quite some effort has gone into testing various designs and layouts. Finally a format was settled on, and the page for January has been completed.

The seasonal star charts in the SkyGuide have also been completely revised. The all-sky maps are really too small when printed on A5-sized paper, so it was decided to have full-page star charts showing a smaller region of the sky. Each season will have two charts, and they will look similar to the horizon maps. Four of the eight charts are done: below is one of the "Autumn" star charts. What do you think?

[ 10:02 ]

Sun, 2011 Mar 21

Much has been done since I last logged progress here.

One milestone was a very fruitful meeting with Janice at Struik, for some discussion on layout (see below).

Other revisions include all-new large seasonal star charts, more horizon diagrams, a section on "Astronomy as a Career", listings of star parties, and "smalls" for commercial astro-tourism ventures.

Following the feedback from ASSA members, I've asked several contributors to give their input for various sections. These include Chris Stewart on telescopes, Carol Botha on light pollution, Chris de Coning on history, and Kos Coronaios on astrophotography.

What I find most exciting is that the cover pic will be chosen by the readers! I'll put up a selection of potential images and ask readers to vote for their favourite image - the winning image will grace the cover of the 2012 edition. Voting starts in April.

[ 15:40 ]

To-do list

  1. Horizon maps for the Almanac section
  2. Seasonal star charts
  3. Earth (add Atmospheric phenomena)
  4. Stars (add How to Pronounce Star Names)
  5. ASSA AGM and Centre details
  6. Adverts (full-page)
  7. Smalls adverts

Pull-blocks redone slightly.

Tables redone slightly, with a key line to set them off from the body copy.

Tue, 2010 Dec 28

Added deep sky tables to the Almanac section.

[ 07:10 - 08:25, 16:30 - 17:45, 22:30 - 00:30 ]

Mon, 2010 Dec 27

Oops, forgot a few days entries.

In Almanac section, have added culmination dates for the constellations.

Redone Sun section, added two photos.

Redone Moon section, added a photo.

Ramadan & Shawwal predictions done.

Planets: added new orbit diagram.

Removed the Solar System data table; using the space for longer write-up about atmospheric phenomena.

Asteroids section done.

Comet section done.

Meteors section done.

Stars & Constellations mostly done; still add "how to pronounce" section.

Added orbit diagram for Sirius.

Basic layout of deep sky section done. Still don't know what to do about the deep sky star charts. Can use all four, or just one of two with a write-up, and cycle the diagrams in the next edition.

Meteor shower timetable added to the Almanac section.

[ 10:00 - 13:30, 15:00 - 19:10 ]

Wed, 2010 Dec 22

Fixing mistakes pointed out by Maciej's proof reading of the Diary pages.

[ 11:15 - 15:00]

Sat, 2010 Dec 18

Drawings of the phases of the interesting planets; now doing October; November; December... done!

[ 11:45 - 14:30, 16:00 - 18:00 ]

Fri, 2010 Dec 17

Drawings of the phases of the interesting planets; Feb, Mar & Apr done.

[ 07:10 - 10:00 ]

More phases; May and June done.

[ 12:40 - 15:00 ]

More phases; July, August, and September done.

[ 20:00 - 23:10 ]

Thu, 2010 Dec 16

Planet year summary writeup for Uranus and Neptune done.

Moving around some planet pages; fixing solar system infographic, to make space for Ceres graphic etc.

[ 08:30 - 10:40 ]

Cleaning up solar system distance infographic.


Two pages from the planet section

Last two pages of the planet section

[ 21:00 - 21:30 ]

Added January diagram of the planet phases for the month

[ 21:30 - 23:00 ]

Wed, 2010 Dec 15

... Monthly planet visibility write-ups...

... done!

[ 09:00 - 12:10, 16:00 - 16:20 ]

Reading feedback from the questionnaire sent out to ASSA members about earlier SkyGuides. Let's see!

[ 16:20 ]

11.6% response rate so far, which is good for a mail survey.

The monthly diary - and particularly the diagrams showing the positions in the sky of interesting events - is very popular. Several requests for monthly night sky maps, and for a one-page lunar phase calendar for the year.

"Add a bit about astrophotography" was one request, and "graph for the equation of time" was another.

Also: "Some guide to pronunciations of star names, etc. There is so much discrepancy on this subject!" - this is just up my alley :-)

Gotta love this: "YES! Its the best one Ive ever used, I feel more confident I will not miss anything for the year."

And finally (so far): "Information on how to select the correct telescope for viewing."

[ 17:20 ]

Writing up the planetary movements for the "Planets" pages. Dull stuff. Layout of this section complete (except for the little bit of text for Uranus and Neptune). This section looks cool! News stuff includes two photos (solar halo, ISS), a new improvied infographic on the distances of the planets, an infographic of the constellations through which the planets move, an extensive solar system fact sheet, an plan sketch of the June 06 transit of Venus (which Jo'burg will miss by about 33 seconds!), a diagram of Ceres' magnitude, and a finder chart for Ceres.

In total, the Planet section is 12 pages long.

[ 11:50 - 01:45 ]

Tue, 2010 Dec 14

Monthly planet visibility write-ups. This takes long!

[ 09:00 - 10:35, 12:30 - 15:00 ]

Fri, 2010 Dec 10

Ceres star chart. Tracing takes forever, but the results are top-notch.

Chart done.

[ 12:20 - 14:20 ]

Thu, 2010 Dec 09

Checking up on where Makemake & co will be in 2012.

Write-up about the 2012 transit of Venus.

New solar system infographic

Yesterday's planet-sizes infographic

Plot of magnitude of dwarf planet Ceres; drawing finder chart for Ceres during its Nov/Dec max brightness period.

Monthly planet visibility narrative.

[ 08:00 - 12:25, 15:30 - ]

Wed, 2010 Dec 08

Star charts for Uranus and Neptune. Redesigned planet pages. New planet/dwarf planet size illustration. Added Callisto max separation from Jupiter to Diary pages. Found nice new spot for all-year rise-set graph.

[ 12:45 - 13:30, 15:00 - 17:00, 18:15 - 22:45 ]

First two planetary pages done (including the cool new diagram).

[ 11:50 ]

Figuring out a new planet diagram to show the motions of the planets throughout the year. Gonna look cool, I reckon.

[ 08:15 - 11:50 ]

Tue, 2010 Dec 07

Planet motions and appulses for the year.

Re-doing retrograde diagram.

[ 08:00 - 10:00 ]

Mon, 2010 Dec 06

Compiling full-year rise/set graph, with twilights.

[ 09:30 - 12:15, 12:40 - 15:30]

Graph done.

[ 16:30 ]

Moon rise/set tables now.

[ 16:30 - 18:20 ]

Moon tables done.

[ 18:20 ]

Sun, 2010 Dec 05

Diary section: All 12 rise/set diagrams done. Three more deeptime graphs to do, then this chunk is off my plate.

This will be followed by
(a)moon rise/set for 5 cities,
(b)meteor shower/deepsky/constellation monthly highlights,
(c) monthly planet visibility write-ups
(d)phase diagrams of the visible planets

The most work will then follow: making those little illustrations (about 7 per month!) of cool configurations to see in the sky. This means first identifying the interesting moments, then illustrating them. Thank the gods I've got lots of TV series to watch in parallel to keep my brain alive...

[ 09:10 - 12:00, 14:20 - 16:15 ]

All rise/set and deeptime graphs in the diary section completed. Now checking them for errors.

[ 19:15 - 22:00 ]

Errors checking done. Two mis-labels corrected.

[ 22:00 ]

Fri, 2010 Dec 03

Rise/set & deeptime layout; 31-day months done; Feb done. Now starting on the 30-day months.

[ 18:45 - 20:00 ]

Rise/set & deeptime layout; now up to August. (Doing all the months with 31 days first, makes scaling easier)

[ 10:10 - 12:25, 13:50 - 16:34 ]

Thu, 2010 Dec 02

January & March diary re-layout done. New rise/set graph and deeptime graph scales established. Looks better than first attempt, I reckon.

[ 14:45 - 17:00, 23:25 - 01:00 ]

Revision of text - submitted to ASSA Section Directors for their comments/corrections.

[ 11:20 - 12:20 ]

Layout of new diary

[ 10:15 - 11:20 ]

New diary values calculated - now with more events than ever before!

[ 08:45 - 10:15 ]

Wed, 2010 Dec 01

Beginning of the restructing of the layout to impliment changes discussed yesterday.

[ 10:50 - 12:10, 13:50 - 14:15 ]

Tue, 2010 Nov 30

Beginning of the restructing of the layout to impliment changes discussed this morning.

[ 19:00 - 19:45 ]

Meeting with Maciej (Assistant Ed.) for thorough discussion of updates and changes. Excellent progress. Why can't all meetings be *this* productive?

[ 09:30 - 16:30 ]

Monday, 2010 Nov 29

Calculating and formatting Moon rise and set, for five cities.

[ 19:30 - 21:45]

Calculating and formatting Sun rise and set, for five cities.


[ 16:50 - 19:30 ]

Calculating Jovian moon events; compiling table of events visible in daylight only in ZA.


[ 11:00 - 12:20, 14:45 - 16:50 ]

Planet RA/Dec formatting, into monthly pages. Thank heavens for JPL's HORIZONS website :-)


[ 07:50 - 10:00 ]

Sunday, 2010 Nov 28

Busy with December rise/set and deep time graphs

Checking out new layout option on the monthly pages.

[ 08:30 - 09:05, 13:15 - 16:00, 17:45 - 19:25]

Saturday, 2010 Nov 27

Busy with December rise/set and deep time graphs

Busy with September rise/set and deep time graphs

Busy with August rise/set and deep time graphs

Busy with July rise/set and deep time graphs

[ 19:45 - 22:45 ]

Friday, 2010 Nov 26

Still adjusting layout of diary pages in InDesign...

Adding the monthly deep time and rise/set graphs and ... This takes forever!

January, March, & May done, now doing July...

[ 12:45 - 13:35, 14:45 - 19:15 ]

Thursday, 2010 Nov 25

Formatting data for monthly sky diary pages; adjusting layout of diary pages in InDesign.

I'm wondering if the deep time graph in the diary is necessary?

hmm, new deeptime graph looks so pretty; it will stay.

Moving the planet rise/set graph to the monthly view page (instead of one big graph later in the book) - see the screenshot:

[ 10:00 - 12:00, 16:15 - 18:30, 21:45 - 00:40 ]

Wednesday, 2010 Nov 24

Implimenting suggestions from the printer about page sizes. Then back to the monthly sky diary.

[ 07:20 - 10:30, 23:00 - 00:10 ]

Tuesday, 2010 Nov 23

Scanning for cool monthly sky diary events: main calendar of events computed and checked.

[ 08:10 - 10:45, 11:15 - 12:00, 17:25 - 18:00]

Digging through pre-2006 archives for InDesign files; keen to test last night's ideas.

[ 07:05 - 08:05 ]

Monday, 2010 Nov 22

Galilean moons: searching for interesting configurations during 2012

[ 10:30 - 12:00, 15:45 - 16:45 ]

Getting document settings from the printers tomorrow; rehabilitation and new document design can then begin.

Re-examining the table of contents - what can be added? left out?

Diary pages re-arranged. Saturn and Mars moon diagram gone: serious observers of these will have detailed ephemerides anyway. Instead, there will be a full page of those cool little sky diagrams, which are great, easy ways to access the night sky. Boring Sun,Moon,planet tables will have to stay. The wavy Jupiter moon diagrams are also gone, but the table of eclipses, occultations etc. will stay.

[ 20:15 - 22:15 ]

Sunday, 2010 Nov 21

Galilean moons: searching for interesting configurations during 2012

Finding some interesting configs of the moons (e.g. 12/01/18 at 10:00 UT,12/01/21 at 23:00 UT,12/01/22 at 00:00 UT,12/01/25 at 13:00 UT,12/01/25 at 14:00 UT,12/01/29 at 03:00 UT,12/07/26 at 19:00 UT,12/07/30 at 08:00 UT,12/07/30 at 09:00 UT,12/08/02 at 22:00 UT,12/08/17 at 01:00 UT,12/08/17 at 02:00 UT) but for most its either during daylight or Jupiter below the horizon from ZA :-(

[ 10:15 - 12:15 ]

Saturday, 2010 Nov 20

Collected computer hardware and software. Rehabilitating the open files.

[ t = 1.5 hours ]

Generating solar system ephemerides.

Galilean moons: searching for interesting configurations during 2012

[ 14:10 - 16:15 ]

Friday, 2010 Nov 19

E-mail from the Editorial Board:

"You are now officially the Editor of Sky Guide Africa South."

Picking up the threads, emailing. Drafted a questionnaire asking for user experience feedback. Scheduled editorial board meeting; must still make contact with publisher - that's for Monday. Arranged to collect computer hardware and - importantly - the InDesign open files.

[ t = 2 hours ]

Best practices

Diary - events - SkyCalc

Diary - deeptime - DOCdb.net

Diary - rise/set - make hi-res master graph first, and chunk it into sections


  1. Brief history of the Handbook
  2. Sky Guide @ASSA

nothing more to see. please move along.

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