Another long distance comet has been discovered heading toward the Sun. It's called Comet Neat C/2001 Q4. NEAT is another near Earth asteroid observing team similar to LINEAR. As of September, the distance is about 11 AU from the Sun. As of last August, only 22 observations are recorded so far but this one has become another possible naked eye comet. Perihelion doesn't occur until the year 2005, on August 25th. Until then, we still have LINEAR C/2000 WM1 to contend with. It too, may become a naked eye comet. Its due to make its closest approach to the Earth, this year, on November 29th. Best observing should be before first quarter Moon (week of the 18th) and after last quarter Moon in December (week of the 9th). Even though the comet makes its close approach at the end of November, it will continue to brighten because it's getting closer to the source of its light, the Sun. It'll be well placed in the ESE sky, about 20 degrees above the horizon, in the constellation Pisces, at the end of evening twilight. Maximum brightness could reach magnitude 3.9 in December. See the issue of COMET NEWS that I passed out earlier this year, dated January 24, 2001. A long range ephemeris is included in that issue, along with a graphic plot of that ephemeris. An updated one will be available at the October 18, Macomb College meeting.
The election of officers for the year 2002 will be taking place at the Macomb meeting in October. If you feel the desire to take a really active part in the running of the society, don't be afraid to nominate yourself at that meeting. If you can't make the meeting, give our acting president, Marty Kunz, a telephone call and state your desire. You need not be present to win.
Another occultation of Saturn occurs during November's Blue Moon, the second full moon, on November 30. It's an evening event, so it should be easily visible from our part of the US. Hopefully, there will be some people taking pictures from our group. Since Saturn's so dim, you'll have to make your exposure long enough to capture that planet on your film, or CCD. The Moon will be overexposed, so you'll have to be happy with a very bright Moon.
Four CD programs have been added to the WAS program library. Instead of the usual shareware that's been available, these programs are DEMO'S. They are shorter versions of the full operating versions. They're supposed to give you a good idea of how and well they function, so that you'll be tempted to buy the full operating versions. The first program is SKYMAP PRO DEMO, version 7.0. It has many features and improved graphics. So many features that it's only available on a CD-ROM disk. It's too big to store on floppy's. The second program is VOYAGER III, version 3.23. It features pop-up windows when you click on one of the sky objects, as well as asteroid, comet, deep sky and satellite location. It too, only comes on a CD-ROM. CCD is the third program. It's a utility that allows the CCD photographer to find out if the subject, he or she, is photographing, will fit on the chip size they're using. Program number four is MEGASTAR, V4.0 DEMO. This program is sold by Willman Bell, of astro-books fame. It's another planetarium program with basic features, such as zoom, planets, asteroids, comets, pop-up windows for the deepsky objects and field circles for finder and telescope. The large catalog lists, on this version, aren't usable. All four of the CD-ROM'S are available for $2.00 each to members.
Big Dob Night, at the club's Stargate Observatory on Saturday, September 15, turned out just right weatherwise. About a dozen members and guests showed up for the event. The sky stayed clear all evening and night, giving everyone a chance to use the 22 inch 'scope, plus the observatory's 12 1/2 inch Cassagrain. A fourth magnitude sky revealed the Milky Way and half a dozen satellites, as well as four unexpected meteors. A highlight of the evening was an Iridium Satellite that flashed to -3 magnitude near Altair, about 8:40 pm and a phantom satellite that appeared just before the Iridium. There may have been more but I decided to leave about 11:30 pm.
November offers some advantages for observing that the summer months don't. Daylight savings time is gone until April, giving earlier starts to observing and the Leonid meteor shower has become an event worth traveling to, if you have the latest information on where the shower will peak. So far, it looks like one peak will favor the USA, around 5:00 AM, on the morning of the 18th. Believe it or not, 2002 may possibly bring even a greater display than has been presented, so far. The nights are cool and the bugs are gone. This year, the comet Linear WM1, will also become a popular object for amateurs.
The October computer meeting, on the 25th, will be at Gary Gathen's home in Pleasant Ridge, MI. He's located at 21 Elm Park, three blocks south of I-696 and about half a block west of Woodward Ave. The November meeting will be announced at a club meeting, since Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday. In the past, Gary has had the November meeting on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. New visitors will recieve a free planetarium program at the computer meeting. All meetings usually occur on the fourth Thursday of the month. Exceptions will be announced at the regular WAS meetings or passed along via the Boonhill.net WAS e-mail link.