|I first became interested in Astronomy at the age of 10 when my
teacher got the class to 'find out about' the planets. I never looked
Less than a year later on 25 April 1969 I had the remarkable fortune
to witness the
meteorite travelling low over the northwest horizon from my home in
Cheam, Surrey, UK (later IAU code 499), noting green and red 'sparks'
coming from the brilliant head followed by a long bright trail. Within
the hour, the story of the brilliant meteor I had been telling my parents
was confirmed when it was mentioned on the late evening TV news. Several stony
fragments were recovered from Bovedy and Sprucefield in Northern
Ireland, the largest piece (from Bovedy) weighing nearly 5kg.
I went on to University
College London to read Astronomy in 1976. There I used the facilities at
the Mill Hill Observatory (observatory code
998) including their X-Y
coordinate plate measuring
This led me to try making astrometric measurements of asteroids and
comets from images taken with a 300mm focal length f/4.5 camera mounted
on the end of the Dec axis of a 6" reflector. I was assigned observatory code 499
(Cheam), but because of the small aperture and very short focal length none of the results
were particularly useful.
Around the same time I was the Deep Sky sub-editor of The Astronomer
magazine (TA) and through the boundless energy of the main editor Guy
Hurst we were able to offer a measuring service to
many of the observers in the UK that had good telescope equipment but
lacked access to precision mechanical measuring machines.
Not quite as timely as CCD astrometry is today, observers would
expose images on film, develop the negatives and post them to me, often
by the next morning. I
would then arrange time at the Mill Hill Observatory and measure the
negatives and reduce the measurements. A single negative could take 30
minutes to 1 hour to measure and then often a longer time reducing the
X-Y co-ordinates to RA and Dec having manually identified stars and extracted their
positions and proper motions from the four volume SAO Catalogue.
A list of some of the Observatories that I helped with measuring
between 1977 and 1985 appears below: