FORUM

If the BAA value planetary observers because of the scientific contribution they can make, why do they reject unusual observations?

In the '70's & early '80's I was an active member of the BAA Mercury & Venus section, the Mars section and the Saturn section. Most of the observations I submitted, made with my own 3"f/16 refractor and a 6"f/13.5 Cooke, were routine. But occasionally I would see something unexpected, usually during periods of abnormally good seeing.

The first was a pre Mariner observation of diffuse honeycomb mottling on the Venus terminator, seen near inferior conjunction when the phase was about 25% and Venus was high up in a late afternoon sky. I later repeated the observation with the 6" Cooke @ x500. Hedley Robinson, the then section director cautioned me and advised he could not publish such observations. Mariner subsequently imaged hexagonal mottling in the upper atmosphere.

The second instance was a series of observations of Saturn in 1972-73 at maximum ring face opening. Using the 6" Cooke I recorded not only radial banding in rings A & B, but notches in the outer edge of the Cassini division along the preceding ansa. I actually followed these features as the ring revolved; likewise the radial bands. Gilbert Satterthwaite simply failed to acknowledge these particular observations and later admitted to "loosing" them. Vincio Barocas rubbished them as inventions of a febrile imagination. After all how could spoke like structures possibly survive differential rotation?

Later, at the 1980 BAA Exhibition meeting, Alan Heath was trying to cobble together a Saturn Section Memoir, telling the rest of the astronomical world somewhat belatedly that observations of the radial bands "discovered" by Voyager had been made by amateurs prior to its flyby. He asked me for copies of my observations. I asked didn't he think it was shutting the stable door after the horse had bolted? His reaction quite amazed me. My observations, he retorted, were not published at the time because they could not be believed. Presumably, post Voyager, they had suddenly become believable?

The third instance was an observation of fog clearing in the Ophir valley on Mars. Again using the 6" Cooke @x400 during the 1973 opposition. Collinson actually binned those observations.

McKim, the current Mars section director is no different in his attitude. See for example his tortuous denial of Mellish's observations of craters on Mars made with the Yerkes refractor earlier in the C20th.

As far as all these section directors were concerned, if they hadn't seen anything like it, then neither could anyone else.

At the 1984 BAA Exhibition meeting, an old friend of mine, Rob Carter, who was then working on a book for Commodore 64 users, approached Maurice Gavin. During the ensuing conversation Rob mentioned my name. Gavin, not knowing who Rob was, retorted, "Ah, the man who sees too much." This pretty fairly sums up the BAA. They welcome your observations, provided they don't tell them anything new.

Why do they cleave to this attitude? Simple - they're all jobs-worths, determined to get to the top of the pile and stay there. The last thing they want is someone coming along who, without even realising it, shows them up for the talentless charlatans they are.

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