The International Occultation Timing Association Annual Meeting at Francis Scott Key Conference Center, Frederick, Maryland

July 26, 2001


US Naval Observatory

Master Clock

Washington, DC


David Dunham showing Video

frames of Meteor impacts


Paul Maley and Derald Nye




 Highlights of the 19th  2001 IOTA Annual Meeting

          Francis Scott Key Conference Center, Frederick, Maryland

                                              by Richard Nugent, Executive Secretary                                                      


The 19th annual meeting of the International Occultation Timing Association was held Saturday, July 26, 2001 at the Holiday Inn at the Francis Scott Key Conference Center, Frederick, Maryland in conjunction with the Astronomical League (AL) convention. This location was chosen since President David Dunham gave several talks to the AL attendees during the week and this gave the opportunity to expand and disseminate knowledge and information about IOTA activities to members attending the AL meeting.

Thirteen members and attendees were present at the meeting:

President David W. Dunham from Maryland,

Vice President Paul D. Maley from Texas,

Executive Secratary Richard L. Nugent from Texas,

Wayne H. Warren, Jay Miller, Harry Bates from Maryland,

Art and Barbara Lucas from Oklahoma,

Tom Williams from Texas,

Bert Stevens from New Mexico,

Phil Plante from Ohio,

Willliam Stepka from California and Derald Nye from Arizona.

 At 11:30 AM, President David Dunham opened the meeting and asked the attendees to introduce themselves. Following the introductions, David Dunham wasted no time and showed a time inserted video of the 1999 Leonid Meteor impacts he and others  obtained by video taping the dark Earth facing side of the 1st quarter Moon on the night of November 17, 1999. These videos recorded impacts of Leonid meteors on the dark side of the Moon were the first confirmed impacts in astronomical history. While visual observers/astrophotographers have seen and photographed strange brightenings and flashes on the Moon, none were ever confirmed due to their scantiness appearances. The impacts were seen as flashes lasting maybe a video frame or two (30 frames/second recording speed) and reached up to visual m=+4 or brighter. Brian Cudnick of Houston saw a visual impact that night through a Celestron 14, while Richard Nugent was standing by and he contacted Dunham to confirm by video. These remarkable videos again demonstrate that major discoveries can be obtained by occultation observers and their portable equipment.

 BUSINESS MEETING - Following the videos, A motion was made to open the IOTA Business meeting. It was seconded by Jay Miller. President Dunham gave the Financial report in the absence of Craig and Terri McManus. IOTA is in good financial shape, the balance in the checking account as of 6-30-01 is $6,233.76. The balance on 7-7-01 was $6,021.72, however this did not include a $465 deposit  that was made around 7-25-01. To save on copying and mailing costs, it was suggested that the 2nd asteroid Occultation Supplement be made available on-line.

Craig and Terri McManus have been IOTA's Treasurer for 12 years and due to their continued busy schedule (which included the expansion of the HART  time inserted video observation program), they have decided to step down as Treasurer and not seek another 3 year term. Their excellent work as IOTA Treasurer were held in high regard by the IOTA membership. Art Lucas has volunteered to assume the responsibilities as Treasurer being nominated during this election year.

ELECTIONS - Since this was an election year, Dunham displayed the proposed ballot and identified all nominees. Since IOTA is an all volunteer organization, all Officers and Occultation positions are done by those willing to do the job. Prior to the meeting, requests for volunteers were actively sought for Secretary/Treasurer and Occultation Newsletter (ON) Editor. Art Lucas volunteered to be nominated for Secretary/Treasurer replacing the McMamnus's and John Graves agreed to take over the editorship of ON.

The voting was conducted by mail in ballots and by email with all ballots being sent to Executive Secretary Richard Nugent in Texas. Nugent showed the election results to the attendees. The results were:

Candidates                                         No. votes     Write in Candidates

President: David W. Dunham                        96

Vice-President: Paul D. Maley                       96

Executive Secretary: Richard L. Nugent        96

Secretary & Treasurer: Art Lucas                 96

V.P. for Grazing Occultation Services:

                   Mitsuru Soma                           95      Richard Wilds   1 vote

V.P. for Planetary Occultation Services:

                   Jan Manek                                95      Jim Stamm         1 vote

V.P. for Lunar Occultation Services              

                   Walt “Rob” Robinson                96

Editor of Occultation Newsletter:

                   John Graves                             96  

A total of 96 votes were cast, and 95 of these votes went to vote for the "straight slate" of Officers and Occultation positions. Only one ballot was cast with write in votes, Richard Wilds to be Vice President for Grazing Occultation Services and Jim Stamm as Vice President for Planetary Occultation Services. Both Wilds and Stamm received one (1) vote each. A Motion was made to accept the slate of Officers/Nominees for the positions and this Motion was seconded. Richard Nugent then noted that the counting of the ballots was simplified since no ballots were cast from Palm Beach County, Florida. Nugent then certified the election totals and made it official. All Officers/positions in IOTA were effective immediately.

 IOTA OBSERVING MANUAL STATUS - Dr. Wayne Warren, Jr.  stated the IOTA Manual has now evolved to HTML format. The ultimate goal is to convert it to Microsoft Word format. Following this, it will be converted to  the popular easy to use PDF format. This procedure is not as easy as it sounds. Equations and tables do not convert and usually must be re-typed. Gene Lucas has volunteered to assist in re-typing the equations. Nugent suggested that individual chapters be assigned to members for editing and refining based upon their own individual expertise, and then IOTA market and sell the manual. Dunham mentioned that the well known astronomy publisher Willhelm-Bell is willing to publish the manual.

 PROPOSALS WITH IOTA PARTICIPATION -Dunham then briefly described proposals with IOTA Participation. One is with the SAIC for Lunar Impact Frequency & Spectrum Study. Art Lucas suggested to get confirming video lunar  impacts, observers should have two cameras set up side by side. While this method is useful in case of a camera failure, Dunham said we needed some distance between the cameras creating a parallax, to avoid any spurious observations, such as those caused by point meteors, satellites, etc. The proposal request was for $30,000, considerably less than the $60,000 average proposal.

 STSI for HST Lunar Observations (impact sites): This proposal would have the Hubble Space Telescope image the areas of  suspected impacts. Comparison of Lunar Orbiter and Clementine images could possibly identify new impact craters. It is not known if the HST has the resolution to distinguish small craters on the order in the 10 meter range, the probable size of some meteor impacts.

 HART Proposal for small colleges-video system: Richard Wilds along with Craig and Terri McManus are seeking funding to duplicate their very successful telescope/intensified video/time inserter/GPS system. Such systems can be used by small colleges for instantaneous viewing of faint objects on video monitors plus the added advantage of "real time" time insertion for occultation events. Dunham suggested we could use (and need) other proposals for eclipse/planetary occultation support.

 Solar radius from eclipses - Paul Maley attended the Pro-Am Solar Eclipse Conference in Belgium last October, 2000. An article written by attendee Jay Pasachoff in Sky and Telescope for February 2001, page 40,  basically criticizing  IOTA's solar radius efforts during eclipses. Maley suggested IOTA should write an article on the subject and update the solar radius eclipse efforts. The last such article  from IOTA appeared in 1994. One of the issues raised by Maley during the Belgium conference was that IOTA has a large backlog of unreduced eclipse data. Dunham mentioned that 3 years ago a proposal was made to NASA on the solar radius issue, however NASA questioned the accuracy of the procedure. Maley pointed out that we should have good data reductions/results before we ask people to spend big bucks and travel on these eclipse trips. Dunham said that Constantino Sigusmonde will be working with Alan Fiala on eclipse reductions so new results on the  solar radius will be expected soon.

 Overseas Expeditions: 2001 June 21 African Eclipse: Richard Nugent traveled to Zambia to attempt to video the Baily’s Beads from the northern eclipse limit. His efforts failed due to a number of problems: difficult road conditions, slower than expected travel time, many downed trees and flooded roads plus several missing roads on the USGS TPC charts. (also some roads were not where they should have been!!) The rainy season in southern Africa for 2001 lasted 6 weeks longer than normal. This caused many drenched roads along the Zambezi River that normally would have been clear. Even with 4-wheel drive Land Rovers, Nugent was cautioned by his travel group (11 persons, including 4 experienced African Safari Leaders) that  attempting the remaining 250 km journey to the northern limit was extremely risky with the road conditions. It was unknown at the time of this meeting if any persons made successful observations at the southern eclipse limit.

 Vice President Paul Maley showed a video he made of the flash spectrum taken at the center line north of Lusaka where he led a  30 person tour. The video clearly showed the spectrum of the solar corona at 2nd contact and disappearing at 3rd contact. These are similar to the flash spectrum video's taken by Isao Sato in previous eclipses near the umbral shadow limits.

 2001 September 8 Titania Occultation: The occultation by Uranus's moon Titania of a m = 7.5 star has a 1,578 km path width from northern South America/Panama across the Atlantic to Europe. The event was found by Jean Meeus a few years ago, sent to Sky and Telescope, but they didn't publish it. It was "rediscovered" this year  but too late to get into Sky and Telescope.  A maximum 76 second duration is expected.

 University of Arizona astronomers have several light curve predictions for the event depending on Titania's atmosphere. The  atmosphere could produce a dimming of 1 to 13 seconds depending upon its composition and thickness. Maley is planning on attempting this event from Caracas, Venuzuela. As of the meeting, the Lunar and Planetary Lab (LPL) in Houston doesn't have a definite planned trip to South America to observe the event.

 The brightest asteroid event for North America this year will cause a dilemma for USA occultation observers also desiring to attempt the Titania event. This is the very favorable asteroid event of 9 Metis just 17 hours prior to the Titania event. On 7 September 2001, 9 Metis will occult the bright double star ZC 983, m = +6.0. The position angle and distance of the this close double will project on the Earth's surface two parallel paths in the Pacific Northwest.

Dunham also showed another favorable event of 129 Antigone occulting SAO 165635, m = +8.37 on 9 September at 4:17 UT.  Along with 366 Vincentina and 164 Eva, the rare possibility of seeing two or maybe three occultations in one night exists for observers in central Baja/Mexico.

 Other upcoming events:

 2001 December 14 - Costa Rica Annular Eclipse: Paul Maley and Richard Nugent plan to observe from the southern limit near Jaco Beach, while David Dunham, Wayne Warren and Derald Nye plan to observe from the northern limit. Weather prospects are favorable as the eclipse occurs at the start of the dry season, however the altitude of the Sun will be low at 11 degrees. Observers from Guatamala may join the effort. Mention was made to standardize the eclipse video observations, in particular using solar filters that transmit the same wavelength. Observations with different brands of solar filters could cause a unknown effect on the visibility of the Baily's Beads that could lead to spurious results.

 2002 April 7 - 55 Pandora - occulting Pollux over Japan. Diameter 0.04", 67 km path. With such a small path and uncertainties, Maley mentioned even Japanese observers have a small chance of seeing this one.

 2002 June 10 annular eclipse - The path is almost entirely over the Pacific Ocean. The northern limit crosses the North Mariana Islands and this is where Paul Maley and Lynn Palmer plan to observe it. Richard Nugent is considering attempting the southern limit from the Coral Reefs of the Palau Islands.

 2002 July 1 Pluto Occultation -  current path over northern Europe.

 2002 December 4 total eclipse - over southern Africa. This is during the rainy season, so no definite plans are in place to observe this total eclipse.

 2003 May 31 annular eclipse - This unfavorable eclipse has the Sun only reach an altitude of 2.9 degrees in Iceland.

 2003 November 23 total eclipse -  This eclipse occurs over Antarctica and Paul Maley reports the cost of a 3 week expedition could  well exceed $12,000, possibly much, much more.

 2004 June 8 Venus Transit - Maley mentioned this event, however Dunham can't think of any scientific value for IOTA for this event, even though it is a extremely rare event (similar to the simultaneous Jupiter/Venus occultations over Ascension Island in 1998)

 OTHER BUSINESS: 2002 IOTA Meeting - The Astronomical League Convention (ALCON) has offered IOTA to join them in Salt Lake City in July, 2002. Dunham reported he expects to be busy with the CONTOUR Satellite mission. It is expected to rendezvous with a comet nucleus around that time.

 Paul Maley showed the video taken by Richard Dietz of the Africa eclipse in which he accidentally recorded the Baily's Beads from the center line in Zambia under nearly ideal conditions.

 Dunham then showed a video of the graze of 85 Ceti from July 15, 2001 taken by Brad Timerson near Dreston, N.Y. This remarkable graze has 18 events, possibly an IOTA record for a single observing station. This was followed by a compilation video of many events over the past year showing grazes, and asteroid occultations. Such a video is a good sample of IOTA activities that it could be duplicated for demonstration/proposal efforts.

With this the end of the formal business meeting, a Motion to adjourn was made and seconded. The meeting formally ended at 1:25 PM. Several attendees continued their discussions and headed out for lunch.

IOTA's Annual Meetings


The International Occultation Timing Association is the primary scientific organization  that predicts, observes and analyses lunar and asteroid occultations and solar eclipses.  IOTA astronomers have organized teams of observers worldwide to travel to observe  grazing occultations of stars by the Moon, eclipses of stars by asteroids and solar eclipses since 1962.