[Aug. 20, 1999] There is now a detailled report on our Bulgarian adventure available - while the British SECIS experiment (that we had heard a talk about) reports a full success in Shabla (they got their equipment at the last moment) and our Bulgarian friends have already started to report on their results. As have B. Brinkmann and G. Dittie.
[Aug. 14, 1999] MEPCO'99 is history - and what a success it was. Although the participation from Western Europe was light (only about a dozen observers, mainly from Germany, plus the Netherlands and the U.K., showed up), it was all the more exciting for us to get in touch with the many active amateurs from Bulgaria, Macedonia, Yugoslavia and so forth that we would have never known without MEPCO.
The whole event - that drew heavy media attention in Varna, with reporters from 7 TV networks alone - was finally crowned by a marvellous solar eclipse under totally cloud-free skies. A first report and many links are here. I bet many who didn't come to Varna because they wanted the observe the eclipse in central Europe are now pretty envious...
Attendees of the very first MEPCO will recall Mark - he 'gave' his lecture via a video-tape. But from that show we also learned about the active observers on Tenerife and their remarkable results. After MEPCO'99 in the 'Far East' of Europe, why not go to the extreme Southwest the next time? Opinions are welcome! DF
Dear Daniel! From your message we learnt about the new situation with the three interesting offers for conferences in August 1999. We discussed it and have a proposal which, as we hope, will be suitable and acceptable for everybody.
If despite the other events there are enough people who would chose to come to MEPCO'99 in Varna in the days preceding the eclipse, then we don't change anything in our plan. But if this option will lead to a lack of enough participants in the conference, we would prefer to hold it in some other time from May to September, the most convenient periods being the end of May or the end of September. We are ready to hold it even in 2000 and again would propose the same periods of time. In any case our programme for observing the total solar eclipse opened for foreign participants will be realized and we will urgently need information for our possible guests, so that we could make reservations in time.
The idea of the Research Amateur Astronomy in the VLT Era sounds interesting, especially the the plan for observations aboard an airplane. Taking into account the usually fine weather here in August and our excellent observing sites along the line of best visibility of the total eclipse, we are sure that the German colleagues will fly here by their airplane and we will observe the spectacular phenomenon together!
Alles gute, Veselka Radeva - (The response so far was small and mixed.)
In contrast to the other meetings planned around the eclipse date (I understand there are also preparations under way for major events in France; check the Strasbourg eclipse pages for details in the future; I couldn't find any right now) which will take place a few days before or after the eclipse, the Fachgruppe Sonne event will last from Aug. 7th to the 13th, i.e. the eclipse will be smack in the middle of the interval. The heritage of the meeting from two similar ones in the past (La Paz, Mexico, 1991, and Ilomantsi, Finland, 1990) shows here.
While the ESO HQ near Munich is well within the zone of totality, the probability for acceptable skies is only of the order of 30% - and the Fachgruppe is pondering a possible escape plan. It is possible that an airplane would be on stand-by at Munich's airport to take the whole conference to any other place in Europe with better chances for clear skies for a day if needed. What that option would cost, if it is feasible at all, not even a travel industry expert present at the announcement dared to guess, however...
The Fachgruppe Sonne meeting has the title "RESEARCH AMATEUR ASTRONOMY IN THE VLT ERA" and is addressing active amateur astronomers in any field, including planets and comets. It will end just before the Cambridge comet specialist conference commences (by chance, btw; the organizers had no idea about either IWCA2 or MEPCO4) but would collide head-on with the date for MEPCO'99 discussed below, which in turn was chosen to avoid a needless competition with IWCA2. I also understand (through a third party, not through any direct e-mails!) that there is some resistance against using the August 6-8, 1999, weekend for the MEPCO, at least among prospective German participants (while I personally think the date, probably extended to Aug. 5th or 4th, is excellent).
So, Our Bulgarian friends have already started their organizational work, as Veselka Radeva told me on Aug. 20th: "We are very glad to learn that more and more people approve the idea to hold MEPCO'99 in Varna. We established a Local Organizing Committee led by our director Ivan Ivanov and including the astronomers of our observatory: Eva Bojurova, Valya Baeva (responsible for the solar eclipse observing programme), Mitko Slavov, Georgi Grahovski and Veselka Radeva. Now we are preparing an information circular and a registration form." Since reservations must be made soon, a decision on the date of MEPCO'99 is needed now. Please let me know your personal preferences and arguments for your choice!
ALPO's recorders have amassed an enormous amount of observations over the decades, visual, photographic and CCD, and are now faced with the task of organizing it and making it accessible to other amateurs - and professionals who in increasing numbers are making use of this kind of data. The most efficient pro-am collaboration so far is the MarsWatch program in support of the Mars Pathfinder landing on July 4th.
ALPO has even begun to research its own history (which spans most of modern planetary science), and is looking both for ways to communicate efficiently with its members and to recruit new active observers - at a time when amateur astronomy has reached its highest technological level ever, the age pyramid of ALPO's most active people is rather unhealthy. With the help of the WWW new ways of outreach are possible, however, and the next 50 years look bright indeed. The MEPCO Organizing Council congratulates!
Great interest in MEPCO'99 and its connection with the Total Solar
Eclipse was evident at the meeting, and at least 1/3 of those present
spontaneously supported our tentative plans to hold MEPCO'99 in Varna, on the
weekend before the eclipse. The ALPO might even co-sponsor the event in a
yet to be determined way, at least by advertising it to its members.
We should finalize our plans for MEPCO'99 by this fall, in
order to be able to advertise the event widely!
(Reporting from Las Cruces, New Mexico, U.S.A.: Daniel Fischer)
One month later the 29th Meeting of the DPS, the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society, took place in Cambridge, Mass.: another full week (!) with hundreds of reports from all parts of the solar system. Some of the highlights have been reported in near-real time in The Cosmic Mirror; scroll down to the Updates #51 to 55!
And finally a reference to "The Benson Prize" was brought to our attention by Steven Ostro: The next 10 amateur discoverers of Near-Earth Asteroids can win $U.S. 500.- each when they report their findings to a company that wants to heighten the public interest in NEA's and plans to actively exploit them commercially. Your chance to fame and fortune... :-) The Minor Planet Center draws attention to the fact that it and not the company is the agency to confirm any discovery! So the best idea would be to report a potential NEA discovery to both organizations - and the first Benson Prize has already been won.
There are several possible places where MEPCO'99 could be held. The best is the Home of the Scientists located in a seaside resort 8 kilometres away from Varna. There are lots of halls in it convenient for conferences and discussions. It is 250-300 metres far from the sea. I'm going to send you a leaflet of this hotel so that you could discuss it with the Executive Committee of MEPCO.
Also, my colleagues and I are interested in the information about the total solar eclipse on 11 August 1999. Would it be possible for you to publish the following offer of the astronomers from the observatory in Varna:
We are preparing an observing project for the solar eclipse in 1999. We are going to arrange a few observing points along the whole Bulgarian section of the visibility line of the totality - in the city of Silistra on the Danube, in Rogozina Village near the Romanian border and in the town of Shabla on the seaside.
We will be glad if you come here and join our observing group. Contact address for additional information : e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
[April 24, updated May 2 and Sept. 1] The "official" homepage of the 1999 total solar eclipse - which has implications for the timing of MEPCO'99 - has now opened on the net: Have a close look at the weather data - which magically also favor Varna (or the coast immediately to the North of it)!
Furthermore the news are getting more concrete about the International Comet Quarterly's plans for a workshop for comet observers in Cambridge, U.K., in August of 1999 - details are discussed here. Here, too, the idea is to draw many people from far-away countries to one point in Europe, with the help of the eclipse.
One option would now be to have MEPCO'99 in the week before the eclipse, e.g. from August 5th or 6th til 8th (a weekend) - and then every participant can decide whether to return home or stay for the eclipse which is just a few km away, with excellent weather prospects. And who so desires can then travel on to participate in the comet event in the U.K., too.
[March 18, 1997] Steven Ostro has informed us on the
The average grant will be $5,000 to $10,000, although the selection committee will consider a range from $1,000 to $25,000, depending on need and expected results. The amount available is made possible by the donations of Planetary Society members.
Anyone anywhere may submit an application for a Planetary Society NEO grant. We will accept only one application per individual or group. An application may be submitted at any time. For complete information, contact:
[Feb. 27, 1997] A report on MEPCO'97 and what it was like has become available.
Thank you for your letter!
I am very glad to learn that so many of the participants in MEPCO support the idea the next conference to be carried out in Varna. We already have an experience of organizing such events (the annual conference of the International Meteor Organization for 1994 was held in Bulgaria and organized by us).
The participants will be accommodated (full board) in a three stars hotel with a conference hall and enough rooms for discussions and poster presentations. Slide projectors, overhead projectors, video equipment, computers, access to Internet and all that is needed will be provided, we fortunately have these things in our observatory! About your security here - life is extremely difficult here now indeed but I assure you that in Bulgaria you can feel not less secure than in Germany.
The usual participation fee for MEPCO will cover all expenses! Very suitable is the time from June to the end of September for the sea. It is possible to make an excursion to some of our ancient historical towns on the Black Sea coast travelling by a small ship or a hydroplane and even to have a day with discussions on board the ship.
If the Organizing Committee decides the next MEPCO to be held in Varna, please let me know so that I could prepare detailed information. The astronomers of the Varna Observatory, the Bulgarian Comet Group, the Comet Group in the Institute of Astronomy in the Bulgarian Academy of Science will be happy to meet the planet and comet observers in Varna, Bulgaria.
All best wishes,
Among the highlights were the keynote lecture by Steven Ostro of JPL on his radar imaging of asteroids (illustrated by dramatic video animations), the latest results in high resolution planetary imaging by our Italian friends, and the first results in lunar amateur thermography by Georg Dittie.
The Proceedings of MEPCO'95 and '97 will be combined: At the moment there are about 16 contributions (10 of them full articles) in the editor's hand: Keep them coming to me by e-mail or - preferably - snailmail (Daniel Fischer, Im Kottsiefen 10, D-53639 Koenigswinter, Germany) as Word files on disk; the deadline is July 1997 for printing in September (to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the first MEPCO).
Bad weather unfortunately restricted observations at the bigger-than-ever observatory at Violau to a few glimpses of Mars' polar cap, but the performance of Violau's Blaskapelle (conducted by Peter Heinle) made up for the loss. At the end of the meeting there was no question that the MEPCO series must continue, and should do so in a 2-year cycle and only when it's warmer. It is to be decided, however, whether MEPCO'99 will be held again in Violau or will start to 'travel' (an invitation from Bulgaria is already in). A general proximity to (but not coincidence with) the 1999 Total Solar Eclipse could be an advantage.
P.S.: The culinaristic aspects of our previous conference, MEPCO'95, have been documented in great detail by our then-keynote speaker, Heidi Hammel, in her legendary Starkbierzeit im [sic] Muenchen report. The astronomical achievements are described in a German report. The "Proceedings" of the annual German-language Planet & Comet Conferences in Violau, from which the MEPCO's initially spawned, are always produced in near-real time, BTW: If you can read German, check out also Violau Today, the conference newspaper.
Jupiter: International Jupiter Watch Atmosphere Discipline
Comets: Recent News and Observations | Recent Comet Brightness Estimates
Hale-Bopp: JPL Home Page - What's New? | ESO pages
Meteors: International Meteor Organization
Latest News and Notices from the BAA (Updates log)
New homepage of the German Vereinigung der Sternfreunde
Weekly News Bulletin from Sky & Telescope
Astronomy NewsTracker from Excite
The Cosmic Mirror by Daniel Fischer
On the serious side: the Hale-Bopp Project - Group Innsbruck (plus many more links)
the Eclipse by the German Fachgruppe Sonne der VdS
Total Eclipses in Germany
Eclipse 99 in Austria homepage | Cornwall eclipse (cool eclipse applet!) | Strasbourg eclipse page
Fred Espenak's World Eclipse Homepage
(additions & corrections, please!)
Bruder-Klaus-Heim Violau - Homepage
D: Georg Dittie - Homepage
E: Trevor Emmett
F: Daniel Fischer - Homepage
G: Gernot Groemer - Homepage
H: Dieter Heinlein
Klaus Heppe (alternate)
K: Erich Karkoschka
M: Michael Moeller
N: Detlef Niechoy - Homepage
O: Steven Ostro - Homepage (Asteroid Radar Research)
P: Polish Amateur Astronomical Society
R: Herbert Raab - Homepage (Linzer Astronomische Gemeinschaft)
S: Damiano Sarocchi
San Gersole Planetary Group (A. Leo / G. Quarra / D. Sarocchi; alternate) - Homepage (SGPG)
Uwe Schmidtmann - Homepage
Robert Schwebel - Homepage
Ronald Stoyan - Homepage (Deep Sky Section of the VdS)
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