ANALYSIS he British Astronomical Association (BAA) has Jeremy Shears been a driving force in amateur astronomy for on what the British Tover 125 years and is one of the world’s leading Astronomical amateur groups. Now it is offering the option of digital membership, providing all the benet fi s of a Association can traditional subscription – but with our Journal and oe ff r, including a Handbook delivered digitally – from just £29.50. new and cheaper People join the Association for many different reasons: some observe the sky purely for their own digital subscription. enjoyment, while others make systematic obser- vations, recognizing that astronomy is one of the few sciences where amateurs can still play a role. Members develop and share their expertise through meetings and our Journal. Scientic fi observation Since the beginning, the BAA has encouraged ama- teurs to make scientic fi ally valuable observations, often in collaboration with professional colleagues. 1 BAA member Damien Peach captured these images of the Among our members, for example, is Tom Boles, changing nature of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. who has discovered more than 150 super novae from his observatory in Suffolk (A&G 2013 54 6.9), and Comets are some of the most beautiful visitors to Damian Peach, whose planetary images are among our night skies and our Comet Section monitors their the best in the world (g fi ure 1). Others have detected passage closely. By analysing many observations fireballs on Jupiter caused by small asteroids enter - of Comet 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann, which ing its atmosphere. It is remarkable how technologi- undergoes periodic brightenings, Richard Miles cal developments allow amateurs to produce better was able to propose a 60-day rotation period for its quality images than those captured by professional nucleus and provide evidence for cryovolcanism on telescopes just a few decades ago. its rocky surface. The availability of relatively low-cost Amateurs have supported the Juno spectroscopic equipment is stimulat- ‘‘How often does one mission with Earth-based imaging. ing a surge of interest in spectroscopy get to observe the Our Jupiter Section director, John with amateur-sized telescopes and the ee ff cts of a black hole Rogers, works with professionals to BAA has a lively and highly produc- from a back garden?’’ interpret Juno imagery. Further out in tive spectroscopy community. A the solar system, an unusual storm on spectroscopy database to archive observations has Neptune was detected last year by Australian mem- been developed, with members contributing from bers Darryl Milika and Pat Nicholas, who imaged a the UK, Europe, North America and Australia. Robin bright spot in its northern hemisphere. Leadbeater provides spectroscopic classic fi ation of For more than 125 years, members of the Vari- supernova discoveries from his observatory in Cum- able Star Section have contributed to professional bria. Until recently, this was the domain of profes- research, often with simple equipment such as bin- sionals with large telescopes, but the sheer number oculars or a small telescope. Gary Poyner, observing of supernova discoveries from the synoptic surveys from Birmingham, continues this tradition and has means that amateurs now play an important role. contributed visual brightness estimates of the binary black hole OJ 287 that were analysed for a Nature A spirit of mutual help paper. Other members made photometric observa- At the core of the BAA’s mission are the observing tions of a rare outburst of the star V404 Cygni, an sections, run by experts who provide guidance on X-ray transient source believed to contain a 17-solar- various branches of astronomy. Members of the mass black hole with a red giant in a 6.5-day orbit Meteor Section, for example, observe meteor show- around it. How often does one get to observe the ers equipped with nothing more than a lawn chair, a effects of a black hole from a back garden? star chart and a pencil. But other techniques such as These are just a few examples of what the BAA is AUTHOR Jeremy Shears is vice president of using low-light video cameras have become hugely about – and with the launch of our digital subscrip- the BAA. successful in recent years – backed up by radio tion it costs just £29.50 (with discounts for those aged observations. And Bill Ward is doing pioneering over 65 or under 22) to become part of this diverse MORE INFORMATION work by capturing spectra of meteors that shed light community of enthusiasts of all levels of ability and The BAA oe ff rs a range of membership options, see http://www.britastro.org on their chemical composition. with a varied array of interests and expertise. ● 2.14 A&G • April 2018 • Vol. 59 • aandg.org Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/astrogeo/article-abstract/59/2/2.14/4935773 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 16 March 2018
Astronomy & Geophysics – Oxford University Press
Published: Apr 1, 2018
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