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Report of the Comet and Meteor Section 2005

Observed meteor showers

The year 2004 saw a reduction in the number of hours observation, mainly due to weather. Nevertheless, some useful results were obtained on several meteor showers.

April Lyrids: a special watch was arranged due to favourable conditions in 2004. Around 25 hours observations were reported, with best rates of around a dozen Lyrids per hour under LM=6.1 skies on the night of April 21/22. Penning, van Delft and Cooper also observed the Pi Puppids, with 9 hours observation yielding only 8 potential members. From this we concluded there was no enhanced activity in 2004. At Magda Streicher's request, she and Cooper observed the potential September Taurids. In 6 hours observation we plotted less than a handful of candidates. The December Phoenicids, for which Moon conditions were favourable in 2004, were entirely lost to cloud. The year's observation culminated with a fine Geminids display. Highest rates were observed by the Director on the morning of December 14 when he logged 56 Geminids and 30 non-Geminids between 00:00 and 01:00 UT under LM=6.0 skies.

Summary of observed fireballs

2004 saw a total of 24 fireball reports. The full details have been submitted for publication in MNASSA as a separate article.

Summary of observed comets

As cloud affected the observation of meteor showers, so too it affected the observation of comets. Nevertheless, eight individuals produced useful observations of several comets. The Director used these observations and observations of several previous comets to prepare a paper co-authored with Mike Begbie and presented at the Sixth ASSA Symposium, entitled 'An Analysis of Comet Brightness Behaviour from ASSA Observations'.

C/2001 Q4 NEAT peaked at magnitude 3.0 in May. Coincidentally C/2002 T7 LINEAR reached magnitude 3 at about the same time, and observers were treated to two naked eye comets in the evening sky during May. Both comets were well observed. C/2003 K4 LINEAR was observed from late May at tenth magnitude, and peaked at magnitude 6 in August. In December the comet was still under observation as a magnitude 7 object crossing the False Cross. C/2004 Q2 Machholz was observed from September 11 at magnitude 10, and by year end had brightened to magnitude 4 with a short tail. C/2004 R2 ASAS was observed briefly as a ninth magnitude diffuse object before it was lost in the solar glare. With a small perihelion distance of q = 0.11 AU it appears the comet did not survive perihelion passage and was lost.

All observers of meteors and comets are heartily thanked for their contributions.
 

Report of the Comet and Meteor Section 2004

Observed meteor showers

The year 2003 saw meteor observations reported by no less than 25 individuals (see Table 1), largely as a result of a number of specially organised campaigns. The year again saw less than desirable coverage due to adverse weather conditions. Nevertheless, useful work was done where weather permitted.

Beta Tucanids: A special watch was organised with Dr Peter Jenniskens in order to observe a potential outburst due to the passage of the Earth through the dust stream of comet C/1976 D1 Bradfield. Stations were set up at Bredasdorp, Stellenbosch and Cape Town, with visual observers and image intensified video at each site. All stations were badly affected by clouds, and a single Beta Tucanid was observed by Jenniskens. Members of the Weather Bureau at SANAE base in Antarctica were also enlisted as observers. They confirmed no activity from their site.

Alpha Centaurids: Tony Jones, Karen Koch and Tim Cooper observed a total of 8 hours. The shower showed its usual low activity of around 2–3 per hour.

April Lyrids: Magda Streicher continued her coverage of this shower. Cliff Turk supplemented this with observations he made in 2001.

Pi Puppids: A special watch was organised based on Peter Jennisken's notification, and based on a prediction by Jerome Valbaillon, of a possible outburst on April 23. Weather conditions were not entirely favourable, but a watch by several observers indicated no outburst, apart from a brief flurry witnessed by Mike Begbie. Since other observers at the same time witnessed no activity, Begbie's activity may have been due to a narrow, localised streamlet.

Eta Aquarids: Yet again clouds played a role in limiting the coverage of the most southern major shower. Cooper, Streicher and Penning still managed a reasonable 13.6 hours between them, with best rate observed by Penning on the morning of May 6 with 28 Eta Aquarids in one hour under limiting magnitude 5.4 conditions. During observation, Cooper detected a brief but strong meteor outburst on the morning of May 4 with a radiant at around RA 22h20m, Dec –27.5° in Piscis Australis.

Leonids: No outburst was predicted for 2003 for South Africa. Due to poor weather very few observations were made, apart from brief watches by Magda Streicher and Michael Poll, who confirmed very little activity.

Geminids: The year culminated as usual with observations of the Geminids. Trevor Gould observed for 2 hours on December 13/14, and despite a bright moon saw 11 Geminids and 4 sporadics. Tim Cooper observed on December 14/15 for 1.5 hours before moonrise, seeing 23 Geminids and 7 other meteors. The Geminids included a –4 fireball, which travelled a full 3 seconds across the sky. The event was reported also by Herman Wiechers and Michael Poll. Gerrit Penning and Mia Zeelie also observed the Geminids from Bloemfontein, including up to December 16 when rates had dropped to almost zero.

Summary of observed fireballs

2003 saw a total of 17 fireball reports, summarised in Table 2. The full details have been submitted for publication in MNASSA as a separate article

Summary of observed comets

Comet NEAT (C/2002 V1) was observed by Andre van Staden, Mike Begbie, Mauritz Geyser, Peter van Blommestein and Tim Cooper from January to March, peaking at magnitude 4. Comet Kudo-Fujikawa (C/2002 X5) was observed by Tim Cooper and Peter van Blommestein in February and March and reached magnitude 6. Comet LINEAR C/2002 (T7) was observed by Mike Begbie and Tim Cooper. The comet brightened from magnitude 10.8 in October to 9 by year-end. This comet may become quite bright in 2004. Comet Encke (2P) was observed by Mike Begbie during October and November as the comet headed towards perihelion in its 3.3 year orbit. It reached magnitude 7 before being lost in the Sun's glare. An extended period of cloud prevented observation by the Director. Comet NEAT C/2001 (Q4) was observed by Mike Begbie and Tim Cooper, finishing 2003 at magnitude 9. This comet is also expected to become quite bright in 2004.

All observers of meteors and comets are heartily thanked for their contributions.

 

Report of the Comet and Meteor Section 2003

The year 2002 was another in which several observing opportunities were lost to cloud. Nonetheless, 18 individuals contributed meteor observations totalling 93 hours (Tables 1 and 2). There were a good number of fireballs reported (Table 3), and gradually the quality of the reports is improving as people report the correct parameters. Only three comets were observed by five individuals during the year, partly due to the weather, and the lower number of bright comets observable in 2002. (continued...)

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