Monday 4 March 2024

Saturn passes in front of star seen from South Africa in 1920

 Occultation of a Star by Saturn on March 14th 1920 made at Rondebosch, South Africa using a 6 inch Thomas Cooke telescope by W Reid, C. L O’B Dutton and W G McIntyre.

From the report that was received from South Africa it was assumed that many observers in the north would have seen this occultation but that does not seem the be the case. Due to this exact timings were not prepared. The report says that the star was not following its predicted path although I wonder if what they were really seeing was that Saturn was not quite in its predicted place.

The time when the star was in contact with the rings was given as 8.46 South African Standard Time however this was a compromise. It was the time when the observers present were all certain that the star was behind the rings. Mr Reid thought it touched the rings 3 minutes earlier and at the time given was on the edge of Ring B.

At first their was very little loss of light, but as soon as it touched Ring B the light gradually faded for about a half a magnitude. It remained this way for a few seconds, when it fell a little further, and almost immediately the flicker took place – that is, the star suddenly almost went out, but not quite, it rose again fairly suddenly. After this its light fluctuated very considerably, but never reached more than a magnitude less than its original brightness.

The star disappeared behind the planet at 8.54 and re appeared at 10.36. The seeing on the night was very good.

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