Comet Section - Annual Report 1995

It is a little difficult to compare the past session with previous ones as the IAU changed the system for giving provisional designations to comet discoveries and recoveries from 1995 January 1. Comets now have a similar provisional designation to asteroid discoveries, and periodic comets with well defined orbits are not given a provisional designation at all. 1994 closed with 23 comet discoveries or recoveries receiving provisional designations and the last comet to receive a letter designation was 1994 w, P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3. Eleven of the comets were new discoveries of which five were periodic. The first half of 1995 has been a very barren period with only one discovery (periodic) and two recoveries receiving provisional designations.

Several of the comets have been visible to members, and many observations have been received; these have been published in The Astronomer magazine by Guy Hurst and also in the International Comet Quarterly; full reports will appear in the Journal in due course.

Further papers on the analysis of comet observations and on the comets of 1990, both by the Director, were accepted for publication in the Journal. A display of light curves of recent comets, was presented at the exhibition meeting in June. The text of a section observing guide was completed and this will be published early in the next session.

James Lancashire produced two issues of the section newsletter 'The Comets Tail' during the session and also helped organise the joint "Comet Crash" meeting. Exchanges of our newsletter with several European comet observing groups continued. Sadly Harold Ridley, a long time member and contributor to the section, died during the session; a full obituary appears elsewhere in the Journal. The Director was again out of the country, working at the British Antarctic Survey's Faraday station from the mid December to early April and during this time James Lancashire looked after the section. Whilst the Director was away he was able to finish typing up the pre 1975 observations from the section archives for submission to the ICQ and re-reduced many of the magnitude estimates.

The comet section's Keedy prize for 1993 was awarded to Attilla Kosa-Kiss and that for 1994 to James Lancashire. Thanks are due to David Keedy for making this award possible.

Jonathan Shanklin