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Saturn section.

At the beginning of 2009, John Sussenbach was appointed as an Assistant Director to the Section. Since his appointment, John has been maintaining the Section website and has also started preparing the 2005-2006 Saturn apparition report.

The apparition report for 2006-2007 has been completed and submitted to the Papers Secretary for review and publication in the Journal. Work is now underway on the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 reports.

The 2008-2009 apparition has proved to be an interesting one for Saturn observers. The south face of the rings was on view but inclined at a very shallow angle with respect to the Earth. At the end of 2008, the inclination was only approximately -0.8[degrees]. Many observers made an effort to record this narrow appearance of the rings even though the planet was visible only in the morning sky. Over this period, Cassini's Division became very difficult or impossible to observe.

The inclination of the rings with respect to the Earth then began to increase and reached a maximum of approximately 4[degrees] at the end of May. Despite this small increase in inclination, the rings appeared faint to many observers during the late spring. This was due to the small inclination angle with respect to the Sun (approximately -1[degrees]).

At the time of writing this report (2009 July) the inclination of the rings with respect to both the Earth and Sun is rapidly decreasing towards the edge-on phase. The rings will be edge-on to the Sun on August 10 and subsequently edge-on to the Earth during early September. Alas the conditions for observing both of these events are very unfavourable at they occur close to the time when Saturn is in conjunction with the Sun as seen from Earth.

The planet itself showed a number of interesting features. There was a noticeable colour contrast between the two major belts. The broad North Equatorial Belt appeared bluish in colour, whereas the South Equatorial Belt had a warm tone.

Spots were recorded at a number of latitudes. By far the most prominent was the very bright white spot in the Northern Equatorial Zone. This spot was recorded with telescopes with apertures down to 200mm. Sufficient observations were made to enable drifts to be derived for all of these spots.

The reduced brightness of the rings made it easier for the inner satellites including Enceladus and Mimas to be seen. Conditions were also suitable for the occurrence of transits, eclipses and occultations of the satellites from Titan inwards. Observers located in the Far East, Australia and the USA were able to observe many of the Titan events but the timings of these events were generally unfavourable for observers located in the UK and Europe. However the transits of Rhea, Dione and Tethys and their respective shadows were visible from many locations and a large number of observations (both visual and digital) of these events was received.

All of the above events generated much interest and as a result, a large number of digital and visual observations has been submitted to the Section this year. To date, observations have been received from: Paul G. Abel (UK), Gianluigi Adamoli (Italy), Tomio Akutsu (Philippines), David Arditti (UK), Kevin Bailey (UK), Clive Brook (UK), Stefan Buda (Australia), Paulo Casquinha (Portugal), Jaume Castella (Spain), Peter Edwards (UK), Mike Foulkes (UK), Alan Friedman (UK), Chris Go (Philippines), David Graham (UK), David Gray (UK), Alan W. Heath (UK), Rik Hill (USA), Simon Kidd (UK), Peter Lawrence (UK), Bill Leatherbarrow (UK), Martin Lewis (UK), Ray Line (UK), Paul Maxson (USA), Richard McKim (UK), Peter Meadows (UK), Cliff Meredith (UK), Adrian Orr (UK), Damian Peach (UK), Ian Phelps (UK), Andrew Robertson (UK), Ed Sampson (UK), Ian Sharp (UK), John S. Sussenbach (the Netherlands), David Tyler (UK), Anthony Wesley (Australia).

Last year saw increased interest in the observation of Uranus and Neptune with several of the observers listed above submitting observations for one or both of these planets. It is intended to produce regular observational reports on these two planets. John Sussenbach has produced a report on the Uranus observing campaign made by Dutch observers in 2006 which is featured in David Arditti's article in the current Journal.

A selection of the many observations of Saturn, Uranus and Neptune received during 2008-2009 is shown on the Section website.

The Director again supported the 'Back to Basics' meetings held during the session (in York and Canterbury). A new BAA Observing Guide is being produced which includes an updated section on observing Saturn. A large Section display was produced for this year's Exhibition Meeting which was held at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London. A few images of this display are also shown on the Section website.

Mike Foulkes, Director
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Title Annotation:Section
Author:Foulkes, Mike
Publication:Journal of the British Astronomical Association
Date:Oct 1, 2009
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