Comet Section - Annual Report 2000


SOHO comets are the big story of the session.  The Director discovered his first in September and by the end of the session had discovered five.  These discoveries were totally eclipsed by Michael Oates who discovered 46 in six months, mostly on archival imagery.  For this work Michael received the Keedy Award at the Exhibition Meeting.  Cliff Turk, a Section member from South Africa, was successful in his application for a Ridley grant to purchase a CCD camera.


Comet discoveries were the highest on record, with 98 found on SOHO imagery alone.  Perhaps the most interesting of the SOHO finds was 1997 K2, which was not seen elsewhere, though potentially it should have been visible in moderate aperture telescopes to Southern Hemisphere observers.  Of the other 35 comets given designations during the session, three were recoveries of periodic comets, though one was accidental, three were new discoveries by amateurs of which two were periodic and 29, of which thirteen were periodic, were new discoveries by professionals.  LINEAR found 19 with other search teams discovering the majority of the remainder.  The three periodic comets recovered at their first return received new permanent numbers.  Several further asteroidal objects in unusual orbits were also discovered.


Several binocular comets were on view in the second half of 1999, but the first six months of 2000 were very quiet and no comets were within range of Northern Hemisphere visual observers for several months.  Nearly 40 comets have been observed by members, though only a few observers follow them when fainter than 11th magnitude.  Light curves and observations of the better observed comets were displayed at the Exhibition Meeting in June and are published in the Section newsletter.  Michael Oates exhibited a laptop display of some of his SOHO comets at the Exhibition Meeting.  A very successful second International Workshop on Cometary Astronomy was held at New Hall, Cambridge in August 1999, with many well-known comet discoverers in attendance.  George Alcock attended the meeting and was given a standing ovation.


Guy Hurst has continued to publish the Section’s observations in The Astronomer magazine and they have also appeared in the International Comet Quarterly.  During the Director's absence in Antarctica from mid February to the end of March he was able to enter further archival observations to the database, which is nearing completion.  The remaining data requiring entry are observations of long period comets from 1970 to 1980.  Observations submitted to the ICQ prior to 1990 also remain to be collated.


Papers on the comets of 1994 by the Director and on comet Kohoutek 1973f by Michael Hendrie were published in the Journal.  Papers on the comets of 1995 and 1996 by the Director were accepted for publication.  The Director prepared two issues of the section newsletter ‘The Comet’s Tale’.  Exchanges of our newsletter with numerous overseas comet-observing groups continued and many contribute their observations by e-mail.  The Director helped several amateur and professional astronomers and the media with research inquiries.  The Section World Wide Web pages continue to provide up to date information and are used by many observers and professionals. 


Jonathan Shanklin



Section Officials 1999 - 2000


Director                                                  Jonathan Shanklin

Assistant Director                                    Guy Hurst

CCD Advisor                                         Nick James

Photograpic Advisor                               Michael Hendrie