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“Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are all fascinating worlds that require patience and dedication to observe and record,” says Paul Abel, director of the Venus and Mercury section at the BAA. “Each has its own area of interest for imagers. For example, Venus was long regarded as the planet of mystery, shrouded by thick clouds. Spacecraft have visited the planet, and although the results are useful, it is no substitute for long-term systematic observation of the planet.
“Visual observers can monitor the subtle cloud features from which we infer Venus’s four-day atmospheric rotation. Venus shows phases as it moves around the Sun, but the theoretical phase differs from the observed phase because of the Schröter effect. Measuring the phase of Venus is useful work for visual observers.
“Imagers have taken up the challenge in recent years of producing stunning images of the planet in both infrared (IR) and ultraviolet (UV). In UV, the vague cloud markings are transformed into definite structures whose rotation can be measured. Other amateurs using IR have found hotspots on the night side of Venus – a clue, perhaps, that there may still be active volcanoes there.
“The BAA ‘Mercury and Venus’ and ‘Saturn, Uranus and Neptune’ sections can provide advice and assistance on observing these fascinating worlds and we welcome your observations regardless of your level of expertise.“