Comet Section - Annual Report 1999


Comet discoveries were slightly down on 1997 - 1998, with 'only' 54 comets being assigned provisional designations. Three were recoveries of periodic comets, though one was accidental, four were new discoveries by amateurs of which one was periodic and 45, of which thirteen were periodic, were new discoveries by professionals. LINEAR found 20 and SOHO another 13, with other search teams discovering the majority of the remainder. Three comets received new permanent numbers. Two asteroidal objects in cometary orbits were discovered by LINEAR. SOHO was eventually recovered after its failure last June and despite further problems is now back in action with a total of 70 comets to its name.


Overall it has been a quiet year for observations, with no bright comets on view, though comet Lee (1999 H1) put on a good display in the southern hemisphere. Over 40 comets have been visible to members, though few observers attempt them when fainter than 11th magnitude. A major contributor of CCD observations of faint comets has been Seiichi Yoshida and his collaborator KenIchi Kadota. Light curves and observations of comets were displayed at the Exhibition Meeting in June and are published in the Section newsletter. 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 November to early March he was able to enter further archival observations to the database, which now holds over 26,000 visual magnitude observations by over 600 observers at more than 300 comet apparitions.


Papers on the comets of 1993 by the Director and on comet Bennett by Michael Hendrie were published in the Journal. Papers on the comets of 1994 by the Director and on comet Kohoutek by Michael Hendrie were accepted for publication. The Director prepared two issues of the section newsletter ‘The Comet’s Tale’ and the comet section of the 2000 Handbook. Exchanges of our newsletter with numerous overseas comet-observing groups continued and many now contribute their observations by e-mail. The Director helped several amateur and professional astronomers with research inquiries. The Section World Wide Web pages continue to provide up to date information and are used by many observers and professionals. The Director spent much time in planning for the International Workshop on Cometary Astronomy held in August 1999.


Denis Buczynski received the Steavenson Award for his astrometric work on comets and other contributions to observational astronomy.


Jonathan Shanklin



Section Officials 1998 - 99


Director Jonathan Shanklin

Assistant Director Guy Hurst

CCD Advisor Nick James

Photograpic Advisor Michael Hendrie