Astro News Briefs: August 15–21

AAVSO Fall Meeting

August 19, 2005 | As part of its fall meeting to be held October 14–15 at the Sheraton Newton Hotel in Newton, Massachusetts, the American Association of Variable Star Observers will be conducting a two-day visual-observing workshop. Speakers include Sky & Telescope contributing editor David Levy.

Day one will be devoted to advanced techniques and tips for visual observers. Topics include using your eyes as a photometer, and observing faint variables in light-polluted skies.

The Saturday workshop, which will be open to the public and free of charge, will concentrate on sessions for new observers and for the general astronomy public. Topics include binocular observing and observing tips, techniques, and tools for the beginning observer.

Spaces remain for presenters. If you wish to speak at the conference, please contact Mike Simonsen at or ping the AAVSO directly at

John N. Bahcall (1935–2005)

August 19, 2005 | Astrophysicist John N. Bahcall, a tireless advocate for the Hubble Space Telescope, died in New York City on August 17th. A former president of the American Astronomical Society and recipient of the National Medal of Science, Bahcall was perhaps best known as the chairman of a landmark study that created a roadmap for astronomy and astrophysics in the 1990s. Among his many scientific achievements, he developed key components of the theory of solar neutrinos. Experiments conducted to test his ideas eventually led to the realization that these elementary particles have mass, contrary to what physicists had thought.

A detailed obituary appears on the Web site of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, which Bahcall joined in 1968.

SOHO Nabs Its 1,000th Comet

August 19, 2005 | Barely seven months after a German amateur astronomer found the 900th comet in images obtained by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft, a high-school teacher in Italy has turned up SOHO No. 1,000. Toni Scarmato found No. 999 too; both comets appeared in the same image! SOHO is a joint project of NASA and the European Space Agency. Roughly half of all comets for which orbits have ever been computed have been found in its coronagraphic images of the Sun. Many of these discoveries were made by amateurs searching through SOHO images on the Internet, as described in Sky & Telescope's August 2005 cover story. More details appear on NASA's Web site.