Pearls of the Southern Skies
Ace astrophotographer Dieter Willasch combed through the best images he has acquired over the years – from here at home in Somerset West and on excursions to Sutherland and Namibia – and selected the very best. To these beautiful images I wrote extensively researched texts, giving details about observing the objects, their historical background, and updated astronomical data. In 2012 October the first edition appeared, published in German as Perlen des Südhimmels. Now, two years later, the updated English edition is available, published by Firefly Books.
by Dr. Harold G. Corwin, Jr.
"My own experience in the southern hemisphere is so far only a few weeks long. In 1978, while a post-graduate student at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, I needed data for southern galaxies for my dissertation, so flew twice to South Africa to observe at Sutherland in the Karoo. June and September gave me splendid views of the winter and spring skies, and I was delightfully overwhelmed by celestial riches whenever I could take the time to simply look at the stars and Milky Way. Borrowed binoculars helped with the big globulars, the Magellanic Clouds, and the splendid clusters and nebulae along the Milky Way itself. We in the north should be so lucky with our sky.
"I also worked on the southern extension of the rich galaxy cluster catalogue with George Abell, the Southern Galaxy Catalogue with Gerard and Antoinette de Vaucouleurs, its extension to the equator with Brian Skiff, and the ongoing NGC/IC Project (what did our astronomical ancestors actually see?) – all of these projects gave me the opportunity to become intimately familiar with the wonderful details of the southern sky.
"So, it is with more than a little satisfaction that I page slowly through Pearls of the Southern Skies and admire the skillfully combined efforts of its authors. They have collected from among their own observations dozens of the greatest wonders that the southern sky has to offer. Trying to choose favorites from among them is like being asked to choose favorite moments of our lives – there are far too many contenders.
"Gorgeous full-colour portraits of the objects are followed with a page of text giving the history and significance of each. Why does this galaxy or that cluster or this nebula deserve to be in such splendid company? What is its relationship to neighboring objects that might or might not appear in the book with it? What astrophysics stands behind the stunning images that we see in the book? What are our own chances as 21st-century observers to actually collect photons from the objects? Dieter Willasch and Auke Slotegraaf give us the answers, sometimes light-heartedly, sometimes with a gravitas suitable to an up-to-date astrophysical text – always, however, with appropriate details so that those of you in the south can go outside to observe all of these special objects for yourselves, and to understand them. We in the north fortunately have a few of them winging just above our southern horizon; for the rest, we can only sigh, read, and admire the images in the book.
"And that is exactly what this book is for. Read, learn, contemplate and enjoy the best that the southern sky has to offer."
A long list of thank-yous has been notched up. Some of the folks whose work I quoted from, or who graciously answered specific questions, include Paul Alsing, Brent Archinal, Gerd Bahr-Vollrath, Michael E Bakich, Leo Blitz, Carol Botha, Jan Brand, Steve Coe, Ian Cooper, Harold Corwin, Glen Cozens, Debra Elmegreen, Sue French, Owen Gingerich, Steve Gottlieb, Armin Hermann, Jerry Lodriguss, Tom Lorenzin, Wayne Orchiston, Brian Skiff, Wolfgang Steinicke, Magda Streicher, and Victor van Wulfen. And of course the wonderful people at Firefly Books – particularly Erin Holmes – for their magnificent editorial and administrative efforts.
nothing more to see. please move along.