The Journal of the British Astronomical Association

Volume 113, No.4: 2003 August


On this page: Notes and News / Articles / Observers' Forum / Letters / Reviews / Meetings / BAA Update

On the cover

Top row: Drawings of Mars by the Mars Section Director, Richard McKim, in May and June 2003. Full details and article available here.

The main image is a computer simulation of how the Beagle 2 craft will appear on the surface of Mars in December this year if all goes well. (All rights reserved Beagle 2)

Notes and News

From the President (Guy Hurst) / Mars in 2003: Second interim report (Richard McKim) / Solar Section (Geoff Elston) / Aurora Section (R. J. Livesey) / Campaign for Dark Skies (Bob Mizon et al.) I: Fighting light pollution in the corridors of power; II: Campaigning worldwide for dark skies; III: Local successes from Aberdeen to Bath

Main articles

Mars at its nearest: E. A. L. Attkins on Madeira, 1924... Richard McKim

Many astronomers have travelled south to view Mars at its best. This is the story of the expedition by BAA Mars Section member Ernest Attkins, who travelled to the island of Madeira to view the planet in 1924, during the closest opposition of the 20th century.
For northern temperate astronomers generally, and for UK observers especially, the very closest oppositions of Mars are always a disappointment on account of the planet's extreme southern declination and consequent low altitude and poor seeing conditions. Such was the case with the recent perihelic opposition of 2001, when most of the observations received by the Section were made in more southern latitudes. Indeed, in 1907 the planet's declination was so far south that no observations were contributed from the UK to the then Director, E. M. Antoniadi. The only solution for British astronomers has been to 'go south'. (5 pp)

The 'bicoloured aspect' of Saturn's A ring: shedding new light on an old mystery
Thomas Dobbins, Alan Heath & Valeri Dikarev

Colour anomalies in the rings of Saturn reported by generations of visual observers have been widely dismissed as optical illusions or spurious atmospheric or instrumental effects. However, CCD images of the phenomenon secured during the 2001/2002 apparition of Saturn dispel many of the sceptics' arguments. Possible causative mechanisms and future observing programmes are discussed. (7pp)

Observations of the superoutburst of BC UMa in February 2003 ... David Boyd

CCD observations of the 2003 February superoutburst of BC UMa followed nine superhump cycles from which the superhump period has been determined as P_sh= 0.064542d+/-0.000019d. This is consistent with the value from the 2000 superoutburst. The observations also support an increase in the superhump period equivalent to Pdot= (5.8+/-1.7) x 10^-5, which is consistent with that seen in systems with similar periods. (4 pp) The aurora 2001 ... R. J. Livesey
This report summarises observations of the aurora relating to the northern hemisphere collected by members and correspondents of the Aurora Section in 2001. (5 pp)

Venus and the Journal of André Gide ... Robert Steele & Peter Fawcett

The naked eye planets are personified in the classical mythology that steeped the roots of western culture, but planetary phenomena have remained as a source of inspiration to writers down the centuries. (Illustration from 'Splendour of the Heavens', Phillips & Steavenson, Hutchinson, 1923) (3 pp) Why there cannot be two successive pure total solar eclipses ... Darren Beard
It is stated in most books on eclipses that it is impossible for there to be two successive pure total solar eclipses, as opposed to annular(total (hybrid) eclipses. However, an explanation is rarely given for this fact. This paper presents a mathematical argument which attempts to explain this limitation. Several other facts concerning solar eclipses also emerge from the argument. (5 pp)

(Copies of any of these articles may be ordered from the BAA office.)


In Association with

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  • Observing Comets (Patrick Moore' Nick James & Gerald North
    Springer-Verlag, 2003. ISBN 1-85233-557-2. Pp x + 234 + CD ROM, £26.00 (pbk)
    reviewed by Guy Hurst
  • Asteroids III (Space Science Series)by William F. Bottke Jr., Alberto Cellino, Paolo Paolicchi & Richard P. Binzel (Eds)
    The University of Arizona Press, 2002. ISBN 0-8165-2281-2. Pp xviii + 785, $110.00 (hbk).
    reviewed by Richard Miles

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  • Light levels at the 2002 December 4 eclipse ... Nick James & John Mason
  • Manuscript saved from destruction ... Ron Livesey
  • Subvisual Mercury ... David Frydman
  • Read the letters here

    Observers' Forum

  • The transit of Mercury, 2003 May 7 ... Peter Paice, Gerald North, Ray Emery & Martin Mobberley
  • The BAA Picture of the Week ... Callum Potter
  • Variations in the brightness of Uranus in 2002 ... Andrew Hollis
  • The annular solar eclipse of 2003 May 31 ... John Rogers, Tony Rickwood, Douglas Arnold, Martin Mobberley & Melvyn Taylor

  • Meeting reports

  • Ordinary Meeting, 2002 November 30 ... Dominic Ford

  • BAA Update

  • Meeting of the Deep Sky Section, 2003 March 8 ... Lee Macdonald
  • New Honorary Members
  • Prestigious award for BAA member
    BAA member Mario Frassati of Crescentino (VC), Italy, Coordinator of the Mercury programme of the Planetary Section of the Unione Astrofili Italiani (UAI), is the 2003 recipient of the Walter H. Haas Award of the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers (ALPO) (USA). The award, instituted in 1986 by Walter Haas who founded ALPO in 1947, is given solely for amateur astronomy and takes the form of an engraved plaque. It is bestowed for excellence in observational studies of solar system objects. Mario was chosen on the basis of his long continued direct visual examination of the albedo appearance of Mercury. His results are encapsulated in a new optical map of the regolith albedo of the planet (JBAA 112(3), 125-129, 2002), a work now recognised by professional workers. Currently he is seeking to correlate the white spots reported by visual observers of the planet, with the ejecta blankets of bright rayed craters (JBAA 112(4), 158-159, 2002)).

    We extend our warm congratulations to Mario. His contributions highlight the very principle upon which the BAA was founded. It is also worthy of notice that it was a countryman of his, Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli (1835-1910), who in 1889 became the first to map Mercury, though on a false premise. Previous recipients of the Haas Award include Charles Capen, Tom Cave, Dr Jean Dragesco, Dr Donald Parker and Alan W. Heath, former Director of the BAA Saturn Section. Richard Baum

  • Sky notes for 2003 August and September

      by Neil Bone

    Diffuse planetary nebula the 'Helix', NGC 7273, is always low and difficult in British skies. CCD image by Nik Szymanek.

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