Communications Homepage for the
Meetings of European Planetary and Cometary Observers

Last updated: September 13th, 1999

This homepage allows us to 'continue' our highly successful international meetings in cyberspace, between the actual conferences, which take place in the summer or fall of every odd year (i.e. 1999, 2001 etc.). News about the upcoming meeting will be provided here as it becomes available, links related to and results from previous MEPCO's are provided - and, most importantly, a list of e-mail addresses and URLs will be kept up-todate (with your help). Have fun!

News about MEPCO

[Sept. 13, 1999] "Planetary Astronomy as a Field of Cooperation between Amateur and Professional Astronomers: an European Perspective" is the title of a special workshop at the beginning of the 31st Annual Meeting of the Division of Planetary Sciences of the AAS in Padova, Italy, on October 10th, 1999 - amateurs can attend for free!

Bulgarian MEPCO crowned by stunning eclipse under prefect skies

[Aug. 28, 1999] One of the MEPCO participants, Eric Strach, writes about the meeting in his eclipse story for the BAA. Also more and more reports from our Bulgarian friends are appearing - and the first analysis of observation by the Varna SOLARIS group!

[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...

Details announced, venue changed for MEPCO'99

[May 4, 1999] A rough timeline for the Varna meeting, a new venue (the meeting will take place in Varna itself) and the bank account numbers have been provided to me: All this information is now included in the invitation page!

Let's have MEPCO 2001 ... on Tenerife!

[Jan. 17, 1998] Mark Kidger of the Instituto de Astrofisika de Canarias on the island of Tenerife (off the Northwestern coast of Africa) is quite interested in organzing MEPCO 2001 there! I talked to him during a conference in the U.S. last week: If the institute becomes a co-sponsor of this MEPCO, we could have the rooms that are right now being prepared for the big Hale-Bopp conference for free! And the best time to travel to Tenerife, Mark told me, is about September - just the time of year on which we have more or less settled for our MEPCO's anyway.

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

[Dec. 18, 1997] The first announcement of MEPCO'99 has been posted! Much more local information will be available by coming spring - but registration is already possible. Ideas for the best promotion of the event are most welcome!
[Oct. 28, 1997] Regarding the urgently needed decision on the best date for MEPCO'99, please read the detailed arguments from the webmaster. Thank you!
[Oct. 8, 1997; updated Oct. 28] New: The Astronomical Observatory and Planetarium Nicolas Copernicus in Varna has now a homepage! And: A decision on the best date for MEPCO'99 is really urgent now.

Varna proposes moving MEPCO'99 weeks/months away from eclipse

[Sept. 16th, 1997] The following is the response from the Varna organizing committee to my posting from Sept. 15th:

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 - again: the decision is yours! (The response so far was small and mixed.)

Yet another Aug.'99 conference announced!

[Sept. 15th, 1997] Can you believe it? After the announcements of the 2nd Int'l Workshop on Cometary Astronomy in Cambridge, England, on Aug. 14-16, 1999, and the express wish of many MEPCO'97 participants to have our next MEPCO also around the date of the Aug. 11 eclipse (see the discussion about the best date in this news entry below), the Fachgruppe Sonne of Germany's Vereinigung der Sternfreunde surprisingly announced this September 12th their plans for a Solar Eclipse August 1999 Conference to be held - probably - at the European Southern Observatory's Garching Headquarters.

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, what do we do? 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!

A.L.P.O. celebrates 50th anniversary!

[July 1st, 1997; updated Sept. 1st] From June 25th to 29th, 1997, the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers celebrated its 50th birthday with a major conference in Las Cruces, New Mexico - and many of the founders of this international (but US-based) organization were present, including the legendary Walter Haas, who started the A.L.P.O. in March of 1947!

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.

More details about the Varna option for MEPCO'99

[May 2, 1997] The following e-mail arrived today from Veselka Radeva in Bulgaria:

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 astro@ms3.tu-varna.acad.bg

[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 PLANETARY SOCIETY Near-Earth Object Grant Program

The Planetary Society announces a Near-Earth Object (NEO) Grant Program which seeks to encourage the discovery and exploration of NEOs by supporting observation projects and related research around the world. The Society intends these grants to accelerate the NEO discovery rate, to improve and increase observations, and to encourage international cooperation in this field.

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:

NEO Grant Program; Phone: 818-793-5100; FAX: 818-793-5528
E-MAIL: tps@mars.planetary.org WWW: http://planetary.org/tps/

[Feb. 27, 1997] A report on MEPCO'97 and what it was like has become available.

MEPCO'99 - is Varna another Violau?

[Feb. 21, 1997] An E-Mail dated Feb. 19 has been received by Veselka Radeva from Varna, Bulgaria, in which the facilities there are described:

Dear Daniel!

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,
Veselka Radeva

What do you think? Please mail me your comments!

Furthermore, two MEPCO'97 papers by Uwe Schmidtmann have become available on the net, dealing with logarithmic scaling and rotational shift differencing of comet coma CCD images.

3rd MEPCO another major success

[Feb. 17 + 18, 1997] Some 40 observers from seven countries have followed the invitation to MEPCO'97 and could once more enjoy the unique atmosphere of the Bruder-Klaus-Heim in Violau which is so inspiring for bringing on an exchange of ideas and results. Again the Dachgarten was crowded to capacity with computers, CCD and even thermography equipment, all available poster space was filled, and many oral papers and workshops captivated the audience.

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.

Links related to MEPCO presentations

(additions welcome!)

Exchange of observations pages:

Mars: 1996/97 Amateur-Professional Marswatch project | 1996/97 Mars Images from HST

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

News of particular amateur interest:

Astronomical Headlines from the IAU Central Bureau for Astron. Telegrams

Latest News and Notices from the BAA (Updates log)

New homepage of the German Vereinigung der Sternfreunde

Weekly News Bulletin from Sky & Telescope

Astronomical and Space News in general:

Space Online from Florida Today

Astronomy NewsTracker from Excite

The Cosmic Mirror by Daniel Fischer

Special for MEPCO'97 - weird Stuff about Comet Hale-Bopp:

NEW: The Washington Post on "The Vatican Priest Letter"...,
a shockingly long list of good, bad and very bad links on Hale-Bopp ...,
the Art Bell show's spin on Hale-Bopp's 'mysteries ...,
UFO abduction propagandist W. Strieber's Hale-Boppisms ...,
what parapsychologists 'see' on the comet ...,
and what the UFO-Nachrichten wrote...

On the serious side: the Hale-Bopp Project - Group Innsbruck (plus many more links)

Special for MEPCO'99 - Total Solar Eclipse 11 Aug. 1999 info:

The "official" homepage of the eclipse, at NASA GSFC; another page

Homepage of 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

E-Mail to MEPCO people & their URLs

(additions & corrections, please!)

(For German amateur astronomers check this special directory,
everyone else can possibly be found by WhoWhere!)

B: Bernd Brinkmann - Homepage

Bruder-Klaus-Heim Violau - Homepage

D: Georg Dittie - Homepage

E: Trevor Emmett

F: Daniel Fischer - Homepage

G: Gernot Groemer - Homepage

H: Dieter Heinlein

Britta Hentschel

Klaus Heppe (alternate)

Rudolf Hillebrecht

Konrad Horn

Kurt Huebner

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

Georg Schiessl

San Gersole Planetary Group (A. Leo / G. Quarra / D. Sarocchi; alternate) - Homepage (SGPG)

Uwe Schmidtmann - Homepage

Robert Schwebel - Homepage

Frank Sohl

Ronald Stoyan - Homepage (Deep Sky Section of the VdS)

By the way... Our MEPCO has nothing to do with the "other" MEPCO's in the Universe such as the Matsushita Electric Philippines Corporation, the Maine Electric Power Company, the Midwest Engineered Products Corporation, the MEPCO Teraflex 3 or the Mepco Schlenk Engineering College in Tamil Nadu, India - although we love all sponsors! :-)

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