H.S.S. ASTRONOMY SECTION REPORT 2000 - 2001 SESSION
The 2000 - 2001 session, has without doubt proved to be the worst session, from the point of view of bad weather, that I can remember. I am sure that the Hon. Meteorology Secretary will confirm that rainfall in the late Autumn and Winter has been far greater than normal. Most of it seeming to fall on Friday and Saturday evenings, thus frustrating Observatory open nights! Things were so bad that I have had disappointed visitors telephoning me to complain about the weather! As if I could somehow influence it! I of course told them that they should address their complaints to the Hon. Meteorology Sec!
On the few occasions when the skies did clear, attendance at the Observatory was quite high. On one occasion about 100 visitors attended and were rewarded with fine views of both Jupiter and Saturn. Both of these planets were very favourably placed for observation this year throughout the entire session.
Jupiter showed much detail in the cloud belts and the Great Red Spot, although not very red, was quite prominent. I managed to secure a number of detailed CCD images using my 16.5-inch Cassegrain and after processing on the computer these were sent just a few hours later, via the internet, to the co-ordinator of the BAA Jupiter section in Germany! It is quite amazing how technology has changed our observing techniques in the last few years!
On the evening of January the 9th, there was a total eclipse of the Moon. As Jan. 9th fell on a Tuesday it was decided to open the Observatory to visitors and many took the opportunity to observe the eclipse. Conditions were not perfect, with thin cloud dimming the view of totality. I was unable to attend as I was chairing the AGM of the Amateur Geological Society but I did manage to nip out and secure a few photographs of the event. My thanks to Brian Bond and those demonstrators who assisted at the Observatory on that occasion.
Later in the session Venus became very prominent in the sky after sunset and was very favourably placed for observation on the rare occasions when the clouds parted.
This year we had a request from the organisers of the Hampstead and Highgate Festival, to open the Observatory to visitors on the nights of 17th and 18th of May. Although the 17th was cloudy, some 20 people turned up and were treated to a short talk and a video presentation. The 18th was fortunately clear and we were able to show visitors Mercury low in the west and one or two double stars. Well over 50 people attended, although only 25 had pre-booked. My thanks to Simon Lang and David St. George for assisting on these evenings. The organisers regarded these two evenings as a great success and have already requested that we repeat the performance next year. Visitors will pre-book at a cost of £5 per head for which they will receive a copy of our History. If all goes according to plan we should sell about 50 books!
Despite the fact that the bad weather restricted our activities donations via the fund box have been quite high, which is just as well as this Summer we will have to re-cover the west side of the annexe roof, which is beginning to leak.
As usual my thanks to all demonstrators and assistants for their continued help and to Julia for preparing the roster and keeping the books.
Doug Daniels (Astronomy Secretary)