Ordinary Meeting, 2002 April 27


Sky Notes

Mr. Shanklin opened by commenting on the increase in solar activity in recent weeks, with numerous solar flares and opportunities to observe aurora. These are frequently visible across the UK, but are often faint and low in the northern sky, and so obscured by light pollution.

The speaker went on to show an image by Maurice Gavin of the conjugation of Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Venus and Mercury. A computer simulation was used to illustrate how the conjugation would develop in the following month, highlighting in particular an opportunity on May 4th to capture Comet 2002 F1 and Mercury in the same field of view. May 14th was also highlighted as a good photographic opportunity, when the Moon would join the planetary conjugation.

The speaker encouraged members to observe Jupiter, showing the recent passage of a white oval past the Great Red Spot. It had been anticipated that there would be some interaction, whereas in fact the two passed each other peacefully. The speaker commented that you can never predict what Jupiter will do. He also encouraged observation of Saturn, but warned that the surface is generally more bland and its low altitude in the current sky gives poor seeing.

Mr. Shanklin moved on to report on the comet scene, displaying a number of images of Ikeya-Zhang which at mag. 4.5 remained a naked eye object for dark skies. A link to the Hevelius 1661 comet had been proposed, which could also be extrapolated back further to a 1273 comet. The speaker expressed the opinion that Ikeya-Zhang could be a fragment of the 1661 comet, which would reconcile a comparison of that comet to Altair with the somewhat fainter Ikeya-Zhang. For the more adventurous, Snyder-Murakami (2002 E2) and Utsunomiya (2002 F1) were recommended at around magnitude 11. The speaker showed an image of the latter by Bjørn Granslo with a broad tail visible. It was commented that amateurs still have a good chance of discovering comets in the area of the sky away from opposition, where LINEAR concentrates its observation.

Finally, the speaker mentioned the main meteor event of the following month would be the Aquarids, peaking on May 4th. They were not, however, expected to produce a spectacular rate, although the occasional fireball was possible.

Following the applause for Mr. Shanklin's informative talk, the President introduced Dr. Martin Griffiths of the University of Glamorgan, who teaches a science fiction degree.




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