Ordinary Meeting, 2004 January 10


The January Sky

Mr Mobberley opened his presentation with a summary of the discoveries made in 2003. There had been thirty-three comet discoveries, most by LINEAR and NEAT, but Vello Tabur, an amateur astronomer, had also snatched a discovery from the southern hemisphere. Five galactic novae had been discovered in 2003, by Japanese patrollers, Nick Brown in Australia and one by Bill Liller in Chile. As far as supernovae were concerned, over 300 had been discovered, with our own President, Tom Boles, discovering an incredible thirty himself. Mark Armstrong had added sixteen to his impressive tally and had secured over 80,000 images in the process. His total was now up to fifty-five discoveries, from over a third of a million images checked since 1995! Indeed, Tom and Mark were the world's leading individual (i.e. not working as a team) patrollers. Ron Arbour had discovered four of the brightest supernovae discovered in 2003: his Supernova 2003ie in NGC 4051 was the seventh brightest of 2003. Eight new UK Supernovae (five by Mark and three by Tom) had been discovered since the last BAA meeting. Mr Mobberley explained how he had secured his own first discovery on December 18th, of a nova in M31. He thanked Tom, Mark and Guy Hurst who had helped him validate the claim.

On January 14th the Moon would occult the bright double star Gamma Virginis and the speaker showed how the star would be placed with respect to the Moon's limb. With help from Jonathan Shanklin, Mr Mobberley then explained how the comets 2001 Q4 (NEAT) and 2002 T7 (LINEAR) were developing in the southern and northern skies. Mr Shanklin also showed a light curve of 2P/Encke, compiled from BAA observations. Both Q4 and T7 were brightening steadily. The paths of a number of much fainter comets, essentially CCD targets, were also described. Mr Mobberley then showed a short animation of the approach of NASA's Stardust probe to the nucleus of Comet Wild 2. The shots of the nucleus were only the third such set of images ever obtained, after Halley and Borrelly.

The planet Venus was slowly creeping into the evening sky and a chart of its movement was shown. Joining Mr Mobberley from the audience, Dr McKim then explained how the recent Martian dust storm had evolved and, following this, pictures from the NASA Spirit probe were shown.

Mr Mobberley also showed some extraordinarily high quality images of Mars and Saturn taken in mid December, by Damian Peach. The speaker thought the Saturn image must surely be the best image ever taken from the Earth's surface, and it was taken from Buckinghamshire with a Celestron 11 telescope! For amateurs with the ability to take high quality images, many spots on Saturn's globe could be recorded and followed at the present time. Moving on to Jupiter, Mr Mobberley explained the major bright and dark spots on the giant planet's disc and how they were currently being followed by advanced imagers, most using webcams.

The speaker showed that two BAA asteroids, 2602 Moore and 4084 Hollis were currently close together near the Beehive cluster M44; both would peak at around 15th mag. For binocular viewers, asteroids Ceres and Hebe were now well placed in Gemini and Canis Minor respectively.

As January turned into February the 2 kilometre diameter Apollo asteroid 6239 Minos would pass within ten million kilometres of Earth, peaking at around mag 14.3.

Finally, Mr Mobberley explained that, on November 23rd 2003, after eighteen years of trying, Andrew Elliott had managed to video tape an asteroid occulting a star, from his home at Warton in Lancashire. The asteroid was 102 Miriam (mag 12.7) and it had occulted an 11.4 mag. star in northern Orion. A copy of the video, showing the star disappear for ten seconds, re-emerge and then, some time later, separate from the star, was shown.

The President thanked Mr Mobberley for his Sky Notes and then explained that as the scheduled final speaker was unwell, Dr Hewitt would be giving a talk on his own specialist area, the Deep Sky.




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