Comet Section - Annual Report

The year under review has been another busy one for comet discoveries and recoveries. Comets 1990 i to 1990 p and 1991 a to 1991 r have been given provisional letter designations. For the statisticians, 16 of these were discoveries of new comets of which 9 were new periodic comets and 10 were recoveries of periodic comets. One of the discoveries, by Howard Brewington of Cloudcraft, New Mexico, turned out to be comet P/Metcalf which had been lost since 1906, though a good prediction for its return in 1975, had appeared in the Journal (87, 3, 1977, pp 226-239). It had apparently undergone an outburst at discovery, but subsequently held its brightness, with no anomalous fading. Five comets were jointly discovered by Carolyn & Eugene Shoemaker and David Levy in the course of the search for planet -crossing asteroids and Levy also discovered 1991 q visually. This brings the total to 22 for the Shoemakers and 12 for Levy. They also accidently recovered comet P/Hartley (1) which was 16 from its predicted position. An unexpected event during the year was a major outburst of comet Halley in February (JBAA 101, 3, 1991, p138).

Few of the comets became bright enough for easy visual observation and only comet Levy 1990 c was widely observed. A report on this comet will appear in the Journal in due course. It is disapointing that more observations of comets such as Tsuchiya-Kiuchi 1990 i, Metcalf-Brewington 1991 a and Arai 1991 b which were visible in binoculars or small telescopes have not been received. The photographers have been a little more active and a number of astrometric plates have been taken and the positions submitted to the IAU.

A successful section meeting was held in Cambridge in September, which was attended by 25 participants. A full report appeared in the Journal (101, 2, 1991, p121). Guy Hurst was appointed deputy to the director and is coordinating the reception and forwarding of visual observations to the ICQ. Denis Buczynski was appointed newsletter editor and has produced the first two of the new series which will be issued at irregular intervals. Harold Ridley was appointed photographic coordinator and produced a display of recent photographs at the Exhibition Meeting. Work on the Halley Memoir has occupied much of the Director's time. It is now with CUP, who are preparing the page proofs, with a publication target of August.

The 1991 Keedy prize is awarded to Denis Buczynski for his valuable astrometric observations, photography of comets and also for his production of the newsletter. Future awards will be made on the basis of overall contribution to the work of the section, rather than just observational work.

Jonathan Shanklin