AFTER ALL THESE YEARS WHY DON'T THE BAA HAVE USEFUL SATURN TEMPLATES



 


The standard blanks issued by the BAA or ALPO do not permit the observer to accurately depict the Crepe ring or Cassini's division. They are consequently useless. A standard blank needs a Cassini division inner and outer edge, and the Lyot IV gap between the Crepe ring and ring B3. (If the observer cannot descry Lyot IV it can be drawn over, but it needs to be delineated because it is a permanent feature). The blank also needs an EB guide (to define the nominal EZ & EB boundaries) and a faint equator line. Without all of these guides, a Saturn sketch can easily end up with distorted perspective. *see footnote

It may interest the reader to learn that I constructed my first set of Saturn templates in the late '60's / early 70's, opposition by opposition, until I had a full set. The BAA Saturn Section Director during that time was Alan Heath, then Gilbert Satterthwaite, then Heath again. I showed both of them the thin card templates I had cut by hand. During the BAA Exhibition Meeting June 1976 I showed Heath a set cut in thin perspex. Neither had the wit to recognise the craft skills entailed in accurately cutting elliptical templates, and neither had the wit to appreciate the resource I was offering. Nobody in the BAA Saturn Section seemed interested in having them manufactured. Myself and a colleague, J.D. Greenwood, then hand filed a set in 18SWG sheet tool steel. It took weeks of painstaking work. We hardened the tool steel sheet templates and blued them, and took the full set to the next Exhibition meeting, June 1977. These templates could be used as tools to cut card blanks. Yet not a solitary member of the BAA Council, or Saturn Section, was willing to have the BAA provide funds to get cards cut.

Digital computer software of course renders such mechanical solutions unnecessary. But the problem of the standard "naive" blanks remains. No Cassini division inner & outer edge guide, no Crepe ring guide. The reason for this is simple. No one on the BAA Saturn section was allowed to see the Crepe ring other than Paul Doherty, who didn't need Heath's blanks because he was a professional lithographer. Doherty was allowed to see the Crepe ring because his telescope was bigger than everybody elses. And amazingly it was argued that because Cassini's division could not possibly be resolved to the limb, its limits had to be sketched in by hand! (When I showed Satterthwaite my observation on my template page, with the globe glowing through the division, he had a apoplectic fit).

Many decades later when Terry Platt and others began imaging Saturn using monochrome CCD cameras, the Crepe ring was revealed to all. Odly it is now regularly delinated with a hard inner edge. I have yet to see the Crepe ring with a hard inner edge. Curiously it is rarely delineated with a wide gap between it an ring B3. Do explain to me how it is now possible for all who draw Saturn's Crepe ring, to glimpse the palid glow of the ring itself, yet miss the black gap twice the width of Cassini's division between it and the inner edge of ring B? The same applies to CCD processed images. They nearly all show the Crepe ring with a clearly defined inner edge, and no Lyot IV gap. And because almost all similarly processed CCD images show the same defect, they are accepted reality.

Alan Young, the engineer and astronomer who built my duralamin dome, told me in the mid '80's that Paul Doherty's 16.5-inch Newtonian left a lot to be desired. This was before the instrument and observatory building were damaged in a storm. Significantly, supporting what Alan Young told me, Doherty, after repairing the observatory, did not choose to remount the mirror, but opted for a 10-inch Wildey Newtonian instead. Enough said. http://adsabs.harvard.edu/full/1998JBAA..108..118M

My first set of templates were prepared from a computer generated outline drawn by a prototype draughting machine controlled by a 4 bit punch tape input digital computer programmed in ALGOL68R by James S. Shepherd, at Edinburgh University. I derived the algebraic functions which described each of the ellipses, and their terminations at the limb for any tilt angle, Shepherd produced the algorithms. These algorithms were then used to write code to drive the X - Y plotter pen. The plotter drew a full set of outlines scaled to a ring A outer edge major diameter 4-inches, on 40-inch wide tractor feed 'Ozalid' lofting film (used in the aerospace sector). We were the first people on Earth to attempt such a thing, I was 24, Shepherd was 16. Needless to say, none of this pioneering work meant anything to either Heath or Satterthwaite or anybody else on the BAA Council. Heath and Satterthwaite were both University academics. With the benefit of hindsight we should have gone straight to Sky & Telescope with a paper. But we were young and assumed that anyone promoted within a worthy organisation such as the prestigious British Astronomical Association would have the requisite intellectual foresight to promote our work within the observing Section they directed.

I have vivid memories of Satterthwaite being invited as a BAA speaker at an Alston Hall Weekend Course, organised annually by Professor Vincio Barocas. It was autumn 1973, and I showed Satterthwaite pastel colour hand drawn observations of Saturn made using my templates (at the time the only other amateur astronomer in the BAA making colour drawings of Saturn at the eyepiece, was Paul Doherty). Saturn's ring was at full south face opening that year. I had prepared two drawings per observation, one for my records, one for the BAA Saturn Section. He just looked at them as though they were the product of a deranged mind. That evening Professor Vincio Barocas organised an observing session with the 15-inch f/12 Grubb refractor in the Wilfred Hall Observatory which is situated in the grounds of Alston Hall and currently "administered" by that accursed polytechnic "UCLAN". I made a drawing in Satterthwaite's presence, in poor seeing, (the dome was overcrowded), which depicted all I had been able to descry. Needless to say he did not see anything like what I had drawn, and dismissed the observation as the product of an overheated imagination at one end of the telescope and an overheated image at the other! He and all his cronies argued that it was impossible to see colour on Saturn at high power because the surface brightness was too low!

Such was the state of the BAA planet sections in those days. You were only allowed to draw what they permitted you to see! I was rebuked by Professor Barocas for drawing radial bands over the A & C rings (the so-called 'Spokes'). How could such structures possibly exist? They would be destroyed by differential rotation before they could form. I was repeatedly told, "They cannot possibly exist, therefore you could not possibly have seen them." They were all the product of my imagination. It brings to mind the attitude of some of those shown Jupiter by Galileo in April 1610 - Jove could not possibly have satellites, therefore if his telescope showed Jupiter with satellites his telescope must be creating them - they must be an illusion. The difference being that they were bureaucrats, theologians and philosophers, not as in the case of Professor Vincio Barocas, a professional astronomer, albeit one of no especial merit.

Well I and others saw them, before Voyager "discovered" them 6 years later. I was criticised by Maurice Gavin and his cronies as, "The man who sees too much", but always behind my back. There are those in the BAA, many now with one foot in the grave, who still feel the same way. I take immense satisfaction the fulness of time has proved them wrong. I have also yet to see any ground based amateur telescopic CCD Saturn image that reveals radial banding. Yet amazingly, all the prior objections to what I could see have now evaporated like the mist at dawn because those who lack the requisite artistic and observing skill and draughtsmanship may capture most, if not all, using digital "lucky imaging" instead. Not that they now think perhaps I did see these details all along. Oh no, my perception must have been deceived. I've even had Patrick Moore tell me to my face that I couldn't possibly have seen 'Spokes' in Saturn's rings because it needed a spacecraft to detect them! That was at the 1980 Exhibition meeting. Priceless! And this from the man who had witnessed me grow a beard on the two week Monté Umbé Total Solar Eclipse cruise in June-July 1973; the same man who then had invited me as a guest to his house in Selsey in April 1975, yet who at that same Exhibition Meeting 5 years later, remarked upon seeing me, "Oh you've grown a beard". Needless to say he wasn't best pleased when I remarked he was not very observant!

At the 1980 BAA Exhibition Meeting Alan Heath convened an informal Saturn Section member's meeting to discuss a forthcoming Section Memoir, entitled, "Saturn's Radial Bands - an observational history". Heath had destroyed the copies of the drawings I had sent him and Gilbert Satterthwaite between 1971 and 1976. None of my observations had been included in the section reports for those oppositions because most depicted radial banding. I had even timed the rotation period of bands above ring A (not B where Voyager's bands were found), using a bifilar micrometer, to be approximately 12 hours. The bands appeared to me to hover above ring A2, and to rotate with it. Heath had refused to publish my observations or findings because, and I quote, ...."They were not believed at the the time". But since they had now been "confirmed" by Voyager, he wanted fresh copies of all my observations so they could be included in a Section Memoir, to be compiled by Paul Doherty. How could a spacecraft confirm observations that had never been published? Here was a director of an astronomical organisation with an international standing, acting as censor and adjudicator. The only observations he was prepared to include in his annual section reports were those he approved of and accepted. Any observation he could not confirm himself (I was not alone in making these kinds of observations at the time), or that could not be confirmed by his cronies, was not only ignored, they were destroyed as a matter of course. I was absolutely disgusted with the wretched man, and have never spoken to him since.

Heath and Satterthwaite were not alone in this Procrustean approach to observational conformity. Collinson, the then Mars Section Director disposed of all of my Mars observations. When Dr. Richard McKim took over from him in the early 80's he kindly explained what Collinson had done, and asked for duplicates. I was happy to send Richard McKim duplicates, because he had suffered the same experience. Another was John Herbert Hedley Robinson, Director of the then BAA Mercury & Venus Section. In the Spring of 1975 I observed Venus with my 3-inch refractor in violet light (W47B filter), and could not help noticing a mottled or speckled pattern along the terminator. It was a waning crescent, the seeing was almost perfect, and I was able to increase magnification to over 180x. I was gently advised it was best not to depict this amount of detail on a drawing of Venus, where most observers could see next to nothing. Three years later Pioneer produced images showing hexagonal mottling of the upper atmosphere.


PS There is far too much credence leant to CCD astrophotography in the hobby these days. UNLESS you draw what you "see" you never truly "see" it. I've had amateur astronomers show me wonderful digital photographs of Mars, yet all they seem to notice is the SPC & maybe Syrtis Major. Most know nothing of the albedo features or their nomenclature. What is the point of amassing images of things you're not really interested in doing anything with? There are too many websites brimful of digital images. Vast repositories of images - impressive images - majestic images - a tour dé force of digital astrophotography. All of them devoid of purpose. All of them devoid of insight. Most of them requiring analysis. Monument to the "unseeing" lens.

I just wonder how much longer I will have to live before, once more, I start meeting amateur astronomers who actually observe things because they want to learn more about them. Rather than take snapshots of them (granted it can be several accumulated hours of a snap shot) to pin up on a virtual notice board, in a virtual Pantechnicon. Observers who desire to learn more about celestial objects from their own peculiar telescopic perspective, rather than the perspective of a rival in a camera club.

*footnote I bet you've never seen a sketch of Saturn where the SEB is delineated running in a plane tilted opposite to the plane of the rings? There is a classic drawing made by Dennis Gregory Buczynski in the BAA Saturn Section archive, prepared by him for their 1979 Exhibition Meeting (I did not attend that year - I was living in California). Whereas the south pole is drawn tilted towards the observer in an exaggerated manner ( the tilt was less than 5°, a triple ring plane passage occurred one year later) yet the SEB is drawn tilted away from the equatorial zone! Alan Heath included the drawing in the Saturn Section display by all accounts, until someone pointed out the geometric impossibility of such an appearance. Later that year Lancaster & Morecambe Astronomical Society presented him their "Golden Waste Paper Basket" award for his tribute of M.C. Escher.

Think about my comment, "If you don't draw what you 'see' you never truly 'see' it." If you're an artist and a draughtsman, and a skilled one at that. I'll wager you get people telling you, "I wish I was born with a talent like yours?" People are lazy. They imagine artists are born with a paintbrush in their hand. They think that draughtsman possess innate talent. They refuse to accept it is a skill that has to be learnt and refined by dedication and practice. And rather than make the effort to acquire the skill they attribute it to natural, "God given" ability, give up at the first attempt, and turn to CCD cameras instead. They then spend the rest of their observing career bogged down in the minutiaé of digital astrophotography, and learn little about astronomy thereafter.


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