Last updated 2008 December 19
1982 – 2005 Director, Dr Andrew Hollis
Organised observation of the asteroids and remote planets is
one of the more recent activities of the British Astronomical Association.
Individuals have made and reported observation of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto and
these can be found in the pages of the BAA Journal but there was no attempt at
systematic group observation of these planets in the
Prior to the 1960s the asteroids were largely dismissed by astronomers as an irrelevance, and indeed a nuisance. Two things changed this attitude. The first was the prospect of sending spacecraft through the asteroid belt. The second was the realisation that the asteroids may not have been altered since they formed and hence probably illustrated composition of the original solar nebular.
During the late 1960s and the 1970s, thanks to the activities of several professional astronomers, interest in and knowledge of the asteroids improved substantially.
In 1982 a Minor Planets group was started in the Terrestrial
Once observations had been received the problem was how to reduce, analyse and report them. Several different approaches were tried initially but were not satisfactory.
At this time interest in the use of photoelectric photometry
by amateurs was growing.
The success of the photoelectric photometry of asteroids
with the buoyant interest in visual work encouraged Council to create a new
Section so, in June 1984, the Minor Planets Section was formed with Andrew
Hollis as Director and
After consultation with some professional astronomers it was decided to reduce observation in accordance with their methods, the inherent inaccuracies of visual observations being balanced by numbers (see Journal vol 96,1). This has proved very successful and we have improved our data processing in line with developments in the professional field. The Association's activities are currently unique amongst amateurs.
In early 1985 the Section's activities were expanded to
include Uranus, Neptune and Pluto (Journal 95,6). To reflect this widening the
Section's name was changed to its current one - Asteroids and Remote Planets.
The first report covering Uranus 1954-1986 was published in 1989 (Journal 99,2)
and a report on
Amateur-Profession consultation and co-operation has a high priority
in our activities. It is a pleasure to acknowledge the advice and help we have
received from leading professionals in the field. In particular we have formed
good working relationships with Professor Tom Gehrels of the University of
The photoelectric work of the Section has enabled us to provide
data for the catalogue of asteroid rotation periods held at the Jet Propulsion
To date the Section has concentrated largely on Photometry of Asteroids and the Outer Planets. This study will continue as the mainstay of Section activities for the foreseeable future and will help us to build up database on photometric properties of individual bodies at different heliocentric longitudes. Astrometric activity has not been very high though a small number of positions have been reported to the Minor Planet Center of the IAU and been published in the Minor Planet Circulars.
The highlight of the Section activities to date occurred on
The section has introduced a program for systematic
observing of the planetary satellites specifically for the mutual events of
those of Jupiter and Saturn and observations of some are already on file. This
will be further expanded as opportunities arise. We serve as a medium to
organise observation of any Solar System bodies and phenomena not covered by
existing sections. With the preparation of accurate predictions successful
observation of asteroid occultations has now been recorded in the
In recent years successful Section meetings were held at the Hampshire Astronomical Group’s Clanfield Observatory and during the BAA Winchester Weekend.
It is a pleasure to record the enthusiasm which the Association's members have brought to the Section and the goodwill shown by the professional astronomers.
Sadly Dr Andrew Hollis passed away peacefully, after a long
2005 – 2008 Director,
At the November 2005 Council meeting
Director and Officers
The section aims to foster an interest in all aspects of the study of asteroids and the remote planets. These include; visual telescopic observations, imaging (photographic, CCD, webcam), virtual observing using on-line resources, orbital motion, the impact hazard, history of discovery and observation, general understanding of the minor planets and space missions to those bodies. Responsibility for observations of Saturn and Neptune were handed over to the Saturn section in December 2005.
electronic section newsletter is issued monthly. The NEO website was relaunched
as the section website, is updated quarterly and includes information on;
asteroids, observing and imaging, meetings, space missions to minor planets,
books and observational data supplied by
members. The Minor Planet section of the BAA handbook has been expanded to
include data on; brighter asteroids, astrometry, occultations, photometry and
NEO close approaches. BAA Journal input has included reports of presentations
at Observer’s Workshops, a paper by
Current membership totals 54 having been 36 when a membership list was established in early 2006. Of these approximately 35% have submitted observations in various forms eg; CCD astrometry and photometry, images, occultation reports, video and visual astrometry and photometry
Observations and discoveries
vast majority of observations are received in electronic form. These are published
monthly on the section website and archived to hard disk and subsequently to
CD. The work of section members is regularly reported in ‘The Astronomer’
magazine. Paper reports are stored in their original form. Members are
encouraged to send their observations to world wide repositories ie; astrometry
to the Minor Planet Center, lightcurve photometry to Geneva Observatory and
Occultation reports to the European Asteroid Occultation Network.
Co-operation with other professional and amateur groups and individuals
Section members participated in the Spacewatch
Fast Moving Object (FMO) Program by on-line image analysis and discovered two
asteroids; 2005 UH5 by the Director and 2006 AT3 by
Section projects and observing programs
Section and other meetings
A very successful section meeting, hosted by
Other major meetings attended by section officers were the EUROPLANET N3
Strategic Workshop “Stellar Occultation Studies” in Paris and Meeting on
Asteroids and Comets in
Presentations made by the Director
In addition to the workshops mentioned above the Director has made
numerous presentations to local astronomical societies and been interviewed by
Assets and archives
The responsibility for these is shared between the Director and
The section has seen significant growth in both membership and active observers over the past three years. Members make a significant contribution to the understanding of asteroids particularly in the fields of astrometry and lightcurve photometry.
2008 – Director,
Richard has been an Assistant Director of the Section since its formation and is well known and respected in both the amateur and professional communities of asteroid observers. This together with his expertise, particularly in the field of photometry, makes him eminently suitable for the position of Director.
2007 Formation of the Minor Planets Group within the Terrestrial Planets Section
2009 Creation of the Minor Planets Section
2010 Change of name to