The Journal of the British Astronomical Association

Volume 115, No.5: 2005 October


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

Cover photos: Colour and light in nature

Images from Dr Bill Livingston's 2004 George Alcock Memorial Lecture (see page 247).
Top left: Drawing of a spectre shadow by A. Heim; Right: Spectre shadow on fog at Kitt Peak. (W. Livingston) Bottom: Sunrise shadow(s) of Mt Everest. (W. Berg)

Notes and News

Supernova in M51 (Stewart Moore) / From the President (Tom Boles ) / A Giacobinid shower in 2005 October? (John Mason) / New Honorary Members / Aurora Section (Ron Livesey) / Aware for M6 Toll lighting (Bob Mizon)/ Solar Section (Mike Beales)

The 2004 George Alcock Memorial Lecture

Glorious visions: colour and light in nature ... Bill Livingston As a youthful member of a natural science club my interest in insects was at a high when I spied, for the first time, a giant wasp. Its wing span was maybe 5cm. Was this a holdover from the age of the dinosaurs? Was this a discovery? Later I learned (alas) it was a not so rare Tarantula Hawk.
Three attributes are required of the skilled observer: An open mind, sharp eyesight, and a knowledge of what our predecessors have already found. Obviously as a lad I lacked the latter. George Alcock, the BAA's exemplary observer, excelled in all three. His mind was open especially to the night (and day) sky, he could resolve close double stars with his unaided eyes, and to avoid having to refer to star charts, and thus compromise his dark adaptation, he savant-like memorised the brightness and positions of 40,000 stars. Exercising these traits, plus patience, Alcock overcame the English weather to visually discover five comets and five novae. Herein we follow Alcock's spirit to present what we believe to be new and unusual observations of atmospheric optics. (3pp)

Refereed papers

The Bury St Edmunds Athenaeum Observatory ... Martin Mobberley & Kenneth Goward The Bury St Edmunds Athenĉum (illustrated) is a distinguished Grade I listed building located at the south end of the town's Angel car park, adjacent to the famous Angel Hotel and overlooking the historic Abbey Gateway; this gateway leads to the renowned Abbey Gardens and ruins. The whole town is steeped in history but the structure that will be of most interest to astronomers is the green dome sitting atop the Athenĉum, behind the flagpole. It is unmistakeably an astronomical dome, even to the casual onlooker, but to the astronomical historian it is nothing less than a remarkably preserved treasure trove. The astronomy historian Allan Chapman described it as 'an almost unique Victorian astronomy time capsule' in a communication to one of the authors (KJG). But what, precisely, inspired its construction? The answer appears to be the coming together of a spectacular comet, a lecture from the Astronomer Royal and a dynamic scientific society led by one Lord Arthur Charles Hervey.. (10pp)

A solar observatory ... Brian Mitchell

The construction and use of a dedicated solar observatory using a heliostat and a 152mm paraboloid mirror is described. (5pp)

Astronomical references in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles ... Darren Beard

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles were originally compiled on the orders of King Alfred the Great in about 890 AD. They were then maintained and added to by mainly anonymous scribes until 1154 AD. They are an important historical resource for a number of different lines of research. Astronomically, they provide details of events with at least approximately the correct dates. Using modern calculations, details concerning the lunar and solar eclipses and some of the comets mentioned can be determined and are presented in this paper. (4pp)

Annual Report of Council and Accounts, 2004-2005

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


In Association with

(Here is an easy way to obtain your astronomy books, and help the BAA at the same time. Any books or other goods, including videos, electronic equipment, computer software and music, ordered from Amazon after following a link from this site - not just books reviewed here - will generate a small commission for the BAA.)

  • Atlas of the Moon by Antonin Rukl
    Sky Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1-931559-07-4. Pp 224, £25.24 (hbk)
    Reviewed by Colin Ebdon
  • Visual astronomy under dark skies by Antony Cooke
    Springer-Verlag, 2005. ISBN 1-85233-901-2. Pp ix + 180, £24.95 (pbk)
    Reviewed by Stewart Moore

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  • A forgotten Grubb telescope ... Wayne Orchiston
  • Robert Burns and the aurora ... R. J. Livesey
  • The status of Pluto ... James Abbott
  • The McClean star spectroscope: a mystery ... Brian Manning
  • Modelling the transit of Venus at Horsham ... Tom Patrick
  • How bright is the sky beyond our solar system? ... Abdul Ahad

  • Meeting reports

  • Ordinary Meeting and Christmas Lecture, 2004 December 18 ... Dominic Ford

  • Observers' Forum

  • M33 - the Pinwheel galaxy ... Stewart Moore
  • Red planet rising ... Martin Mobberley
  • Porrima at periastron ... Damian Peach
  • The tenth planet? ... Tom Boles

  • Sky notes for 2005 October & November

      by Neil Bone

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