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From: TerryMosel@aol.com
Date: Tue, 30 Apr 2002 19:56:34 EDT
Subject: Comets, Planets, Mars, etc

Hi all,

1. As Comet Ikeya-Zhang continues to fade slowly in Draco in the N & NE sky, 
though still visible to the naked eye from a dark site, Comet 2002 F1 
(Utsunomiya) will appear to pass very close to Mercury on the evening of May 
3rd (Friday).

>From Armagh the minimum distance will be about 10 arcmin at 22:30 BST, but 
for anywhere in Ireland it should be less than one quarter of a degree.

This is, at the very least, a good photo opportunity even if somewhat 
challenging due to the low altitude of the event. I should point out that 
Mercury was quite easy to see
last night when I glimpsed F1 for the first time. Also, the brightness of the 
comet is currently ~1 mag ahead of predictions which should make it easier 
(around mag 5 to 6: TM). (main details from Tolis Christou, Armagh 
Observatory). (It has a short fan tail, but appears almost stellar in binocs. 

2. The conjunction of the five naked-eye planets in the NW sky is now 
approaching its best. While they are not yet at their minimum separation, 
Mercury will soon become rather faint for naked-eye viewing, so any time 
within the next week is really the best compromise. I got some nice slides of 
it about a week ago - will show them at the AGM (see below).

3. MARS!!!! I have been saying for some time that the next opposition of 
Mars, in August 2003, will be the closest for a very very long time. Some 
people were saying 'since the Pyramids were built'; others said 'for about 
6,000 years'. Well, the guru of such matters, Jean Meeus, now says it will be 
the closest for - wait for it - 73,000 years! Now is that something, or what? 
An excuse for a party, if ever there was one!

4. IAA AGM: The AGM will be on Wed 1 May, 7.30 p.m., Stranmillis College, 
Belfast. After the business, George Brannan's video of the year's 
astronomical highlights will be shown. All are welcome to attend, though 
obviously only IAA members can take part in the official business.

5. Finally, if you missed the 'Sky At Night 45th Anniversary Special' late on 
Sunday night, it will be repeated on BBC2 on Saturday, 12.00 (noon) to 12.50. 

Terry Moseley

Last Revised: 2002 May 1st
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