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The Journal of the British Astronomical Association, 2020 February

Volume 130, Number 1

A quest to find a portable telescope fit for air travel, a tour of the planetary nebulae of Orion, citizen science with Chris Lintott and a significant paper on historic naked-eye sunspot observations.

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Selected highlights from this Journal:

Refereed Papers

Naked-eye sunspot observations: a critical review of pre-telescopic western reports
A search of published literature reveals 54 western reports of candidate naked-eye sunspot observations made before sunspots were first viewed by telescope in 1610. Most have not had critical scrutiny. Criteria for assessing the reports are presented and each report is reviewed accordingly. Brief extracts from original texts are provided, with translations and full documentation of sources. The review identifies 20 cases that are either misdated or attributable to other phenomena, 15 cases that lack evidence, and six cases that are no more than plausible sunspots. A total of 13 reports are assessed as probable sunspot observations, of which 11 can be dated to within a year. Of these, auroral records suggest that up to six may be associated with possible geomagnetic storms. An apparent match in the timing of seven western observations with sunspot records from East Asia is identified and its implications are discussed.
John Simpson
The 2018–’19 eastern & western elongations of Venus
Presented here is a report covering observations of Venus during the 2018–’19 eastern and western elongations. Part I concerns observations made by Section members during the eastern elongation, while Part II deals with the western elongation. Images and drawings submitted to the Section are presented for analysis and various aspects of the planet’s appearance during the period considered are commented upon.
Paul G. Abel
The quest for an airline-portable telescope for visual astronomy
This paper describes how a small refractor can readily be taken on observing trips abroad as airline cabin baggage.
Jeremy Shears
Imaging Mars from Curaçao in 2018
During the 2018 apparition we imaged Mars on the island of Curaçao (E. S.) and from the Netherlands (J. S.), using Celestron C8 and C14 Schmidt–Cassegrain telescopes, respectively. Since the altitude of Mars was the highest on Curaçao and this Caribbean island often has excellent seeing conditions, the most detailed information was collected there. Starting at the end of 2018 May, a big dust storm developed, which at the end of 2018 June covered almost the entire martian surface. In 2018 September the storm had vanished again.
Eric Sussenbach & John Sussenbach