The Journal of the British Astronomical Association

Volume 122, No.5: 2012 October

Summary contents page

Detailed contents: Notes and News / Articles / Observers' Forum / Reviews / Letters / Meetings

On the cover: ‘Curiosity’ has landed!
An artist’s impression of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity on the surface of Mars.The rover’s mast rises to 2.1m above ground level. It supports two remote-sensing instruments: the Mast Camera for stereo colour viewing of surrounding terrain and material collected by the arm, and the ChemCam instrument, which is a laser that vaporises material from rocks up to about 9m away and spectroscopically determines what elements the rocks are made of. Curiosity carries ten instruments in all.
Inset: Curiosity descending on its large parachute, imaged from orbit by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
See Dr Richard McKim’s note below. (NASA/JPL-Caltech).

Notes and News

Curiosity at Gale Crater (Richard McKim, Mars Section)/ From the President (Bill Leatherbarrow) / Aurora Section (Ken Kennedy) / Solar Section (Lyn Smith) / The geomagnetic storm of 2012 July 14–16 (Paul Hyde, Radio Astronomy Group)

A 360 panorama of Gale crater made with 130 images from Curiosity’s Mast Camera late in the afternoon of 2012 August 8. (NASA/JPL-Caltech).

Observing basics: V

  • An introduction to variable star observing ... Roger Pickard
  • ‘Observing basics’ is a series of articles by BAA Section Directors and other experts, designed to help you get started in observing, whether you are a newcomer to astronomy or an ‘old hand’ thinking of taking up a new area of interest. Look out for further articles in the series in future issues of the BAA Journal!


  • Gravity's Engines: The Other Side of Black Holes by Caleb Scharf,
    Allen Lane, 2012. ISBN 978-1-846-14533-9. Pp 252, £20 (hbk).
    Reviewed by Roger O’Brien
  • Stargazers' Almanac: a Monthly Guide to the Stars and Planets 2013 by Bob Mizon,
    Floris Books, 2012. ISBN 978-086315-889-6. Pp 32, £14.99 (pbk).
    Reviewed by Ann Davies
  • The Star Book - How to understand Astronomy by Peter Grego,
    David & Charles, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4463-0239-2. Pp 160, £12.99 (pbk).
    Reviewed by Bob Mizon

  • CLICK HERE to read scores more authoritative book reviews from the BAA Journal

    Refereed papers

    Short paper: Simultaneous still, video and radio detection of a bright
    Leonid fireball in 2011
    ... Nick James, Peter Meadows & Iain Grant
      The 2011 Leonid shower produced a number of bright events, but a particularly spectacular Leonid fireball was detected at 04:07:45 UTC on the morning of 2011 November 19. This fireball was recorded in video and still images at two stations in Chelmsford, Essex and was also detected by backscatter radio receivers operated by the Norman Lockyer Observatory (NLO) at various locations in England. The fireball lasted for 1.0s, reached a peak magnitude of approximately -11 and had a train that was visible in images for at least three minutes. It provided the strongest radio backscatter of the Leonid shower as recorded by the NLO receivers. In this short note we describe the equipment used to detect the fireball along with a summary of the event as recorded by each of the three detection methods.

    The opposition of Mars, 2007: Part II
    ... Richard McKim
    In Part II we discuss seasonal activity of the white crystal clouds and the polar regions. The Equatorial Cloud Band (ECB) was found to be complete in N. mid-spring from Ls= 43° (2008 Mar 10) onwards. Orographic clouds were well seen. White cloud activity was interrupted by the planetwide dust storm. The apparition was exceptionally favourable for watching the transition from N. polar hood to ground cap. The temporary thinning of the N. polar hood (due to atmospheric warming by the planetwide storm) allowed the new carbon dioxide seasonal cap to be seen from a very early date, from Ls= 312° (2007 Sep 12). The dark dune field which borders the summer cap remnant was well seen at the boundary between permanent and seasonal caps. A partial recession curve for the cap was obtained which differed little from the average result of A. Dollfus. Precise measurements of the S. polar cap’s diameter during 2007 were not possible, but the seasonal separation of Novus Mons was typical.

    The extraordinary flickering behaviour of U Geminorum ... John Toone
    This paper describes a series of historical observations which show that 19th century visual observers reported ‘flickering’ in the prototype dwarf nova U Geminorum (U Gem). The significance and reliability of these reports is evaluated alongside more recent observations by prominent variable star observers.

    Superhumps and grazing eclipses in the dwarf nova BG Arietis ... Jeremy Shears et al.
    We report unfiltered photometry of BG Arietis (= SDSS J015151.87+140047.2) in 2009 and 2010 which shows the presence of superhumps with peak-to-peak amplitude of up to 0.36 magnitudes, showing this to be an SU UMa type dwarf nova. The outburst amplitude was 5.1 mags above a mean quiescence magnitude of 19.9. The 2010 event lasted at least 20 days during which we observed a precursor outburst which was immediately followed by a superoutburst.

    Click here to obtain a PDF file of any of these articles

    Report of the Council and Accounts for the session 2011-2012



    Why not join us at a BAA meeting near you? Meetings are open to all and you will be made very welcome.   Click here for the latest Meetings Diary

    Observers' Forum

    NGC 253 imaged by Peter Howard

    Sky notes for 2012 October & November by Callum Potter

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