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Alex Pratt

My interest in astronomy was sparked by the American and Russian spaceflights in the 1960s, and being presented with books such as The Observer’s Book of Astronomy (Moore), A New Way to See the Stars (Rey) and Starlight Nights (Peltier).

Over the years I have enjoyed observing and photographing the Sun, Moon, meteors, comets, planets, stars and galaxies, from the days of developing and printing Ilford and Kodak negatives in a darkened kitchen through to using CCDs, webcams and DSLRs. I have seen a number of total solar eclipses from fascinating locations around the world, although my travelling companions have now retired from this pursuit.

My main interest is video astronomy, applying video techniques to record transient phenomena, conducted from my observatory, IAU code Z92. My programme includes recording meteors, asteroidal and lunar occultations, performing video astrometry of asteroids, Near Earth Objects and comets, and video photometry of eclipsing binary stars.

I am a member of IOTA-ES, attending most of their annual ESOP meetings since 1997 and I am a member of the Editorial team of the Journal for Occultation Astronomy. I proofread its contents and help to rephrase articles by authors whose first language isn't English, including translating some contributions from American into English.

I am co-owner of the UKoccultations discussion group, initiated and led by Tim Haymes, BAA Occultations Coordinator.

I have observed meteors for many years, am a member of the IMO and am Assistant Director of the BAA Meteor Section. I co-founded NEMETODE, a network of video meteor cameras in the British Isles and I co-manage the NEMETODE discussion group.

Local society membership: None

2020 Oct 21

08:50 UTC

The weather forecast of 'partly clear skies' gave me a glimmer of hope to do some video astrometry of last night's fast flyby of 2020 UA. I got my C11 on its field at around 21:00 UT when the NEO was at an altitude of 16 degrees in the east. Sky conditions were poor and I could only reach mag 13, whereas the asteroid was then mag. 14.6 and moving at 245"/min.

I waited patiently, in case I could get a clear view. By local midnight the NEO had brightened to mag. 14.0, moving at 570"/min, but the sky was fully overcast and remained so throughout the night. Yet another nice target eluded me.

2020 Sep 24

12:10 UTC

In the early hours of this morning I hoped to obtain some video astrometry of 2020 SW. Mars was a bright red beacon in the SW but lots of menacing dark clouds were moving across the sky and the intermittent gaps weren't very transparent. My C11 was on the right fields but sky conditions in the west were too poor to record the mag. 15 to 14 NEO.

In contrast, the sky to the east had some clearer spells as I watched Venus climb the sky.

2020 Aug 31

23:29 UTC

Had a busy and enjoyable weekend attending ESOP XXXIX (39th European Symposium on Occultation Projects) which had to take place online via Zoom. Attendance was consistently over 100 with a maximum number of about 114.

PDFs of the talks will be available soon, followed by videos (pending speakers' permission).

2020 Jun 14

14:51 UTC

CalSky informed me that the ISS would cross the Sun today at 13:29:30 (BST) from my location. I've recorded a few of its solar and lunar transits on previous occasions, so this time I decided to observe it first hand.

The oppressive cloud cover started to break and I set up the 5-inch f/12 Taylor-Mak with mylar filter, 90-degree star diagonal and 25mm eyepiece. This gave me a full disc view. Varying depths of cloud were racing in front of the Sun, which appeared to be spotless. Thankfully, at the appointed time I saw the familiar 'H' silhouette of the ISS take about 0.5s to shoot across the field.

It's nice to do some observing without being detached from the event by technology.

2020 May 7

22:42 UTC

Lovely views of crescent Venus in the 5-inch Taylor-Mak at x60 and x167.


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