On behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada I wish to thank the twenty-four contributors, listed on the inside front cover, without whose support this Handbook would not exist. I particularly wish to acknowledge the many years that Gordon Taylor of the Royal Greenwich Observatory has provided predictions of occultations by asteroids and planets, and to welcome Dr. Robert Millis of Lowell Observatory who has taken over this section.

Due to several changes and additions, the 1986 edition has grown by 24 pages. The introduction to the section on time has been revised and expanded in response to suggestions from Dr. G. A. Wilkins, Superintendent of Her Majesty’s Nautical Almanac Office of The Royal Greenwich Observatory. Dr. John Percy has revised the left-hand pages of the section “The Sky Month By Month” to provide more information, and in a form that we hope will be more convenient to users of this Handbook. In the section “Planets, Satellites, and Asteroids” will be found several new items: a diagram providing a quick reference to planetary phenomena throughout the year; information on the 1986 transit of Mercury, by Fred Espenak; a description of an important, but not widely-appreciated relation between telescope optical design and planetary observations, by Terry Dickinson; a diagram showing the orbital geometry of several oppositions of Mars; additional information on the ring system of Saturn; and a set of diagrams giving the configuration of Saturn’s brightest satellites, by a new contributor to this Handbook, Dr. Larry Bogan of Acadia University. There are six pages on Hailey’s Comet, including four diagrams. The highly-regarded section “The Brightest Stars” has been completely revised, and is now the best such compilation in existence (users of this Handbook are indebted to Dr. Garrison for the many weeks of effort required for this revision). In response to requests, a section “Variable Galaxies” has been reintroduced (it last appeared in 1982), along with new finder charts for the quasar 3C 273.

As in past years, The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada is indebted to the Nautical Almanac Office (U.S. Naval Observatory) and its Director, Dr. P. K. Seidelmann, for essential, pre-publication material from The Astronomical Almanac. Also, I wish to thank Randall Brooks (St. Mary’s University, Halifax, N.S.) for preparing the base map for the chart of Pluto’s path. Rosemary Freeman, the Society’s capable Executive-Secretary, looks after the advertising and sales of the Observer’s Handbook. Finally, special acknowledgement is due to Acadia University and its Department of Physics for providing support in the form of some three months of the Editor’s time.

Although I hope this edition is error-free, I know from experience what a difficult goal this is, and accept responsibility for any flaws in the following pages. Please send comments and suggestions for improvements to the undersigned. Good observing quo ducit Urania in this year of the Voyager 2 encounter with Uranus, and of the passage of Halley’s Comet.

Roy L.Bishop, Editor
Avonport, Nova Scotia
Canada B0P 1B0

Whole Number: 
PDF icon ObserversHandbook-1986.pdf9.16 MB