President: B. G. Marsden
Vice-president: K. Aksnes
ORGANIZING COMMITTEE: A. C. Gilmore, D. W. E. Green, S. Nakano, E. Roemer, R. M. West
Members present: K. Aksnes, A. C. Gilmore, D. W. E. Green, B. G. Marsden, S. Nakano, D. J. Tholen, J. Ticha, G. V. Williams, H. Yamaoka
President Marsden welcomed the eleven other persons present and mentioned an e-mail concerning an agenda for the meeting, distributed to members prior to travel to Sydney. D. W. E. Green and G. V. Williams would serve as secretaries for the meeting.
Green, Director of the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams (CBAT) since the Manchester General Assembly, gave a triennial report on the CBAT, noting it to be an update to the annual reports that appear in the IAU Information Bulletin. Green prepared a majority of the IAU Circulars (IAUCs) during the previous triennium, with CBAT Director Emeritus B. G. Marsden preparing some, along with C. W. Hergenrother (who helped produce Circulars during the staff's absences from Cambridge in July-Aug. 2002). Green proposed that Minor Planet Center (MPC) Associate Director G. V. Williams, who has continued to serve as CBAT webmaster (and has been responsible for the Web CS dissemination of the IAUCs), be made Assistant Director of the CBAT, and this was approved unanimously.
Green noted the introduction in December 2002 of the new Central Bureau Electronic Telegrams (or CBETs), which are simple e-mail messages similar to the MPC's Minor Planet Electronic Circulars (MPECs), issued in in plain ASCII text only and thus much easier to produce than the formal TeX-arranged IAUCs. The usefulness of the new CBETs is seen in several ways: (1) they permit (and encourage) other astronomers to aid in the issuing of discovery reports in the Director's absence; (2) they permit issuance of more-time-dependent reports without waiting to fill a full page of the printed Circular; and (3) the CBETs hold the potential to (in the future) contain much more information than can be put on a single printed Circular. Since their introduction, CBETs have been taken to be preliminary announcements of reports that are later issued formally via the IAUCs. But there is some expectation that, like the MPECs, the CBETs will acquire more permanance via posting on the CBAT website, and that (for example) long lists of very faint supernovae may soon be more practically issued on CBETs, with summaries given on IAUCs. In addition to Green, Marsden and K. E. Smalley have prepared some of the CBETs.
Green noted that there is much interest in continuing the printed IAUCs because of their long history, even though subscribers to the printed IAUCs are down from a pre-Internet count of more than 700 to a little more than 200 now; there currently are some 500 electronic subscribers to the IAUCs. Williams remarked that at some point in the next decade, it might be realistic to consider ceasing to print the postcard-sized Circulars and instead to issue printed books of IAUCs at intervals of perhaps 6 or 12 months (a suggestion already made several years ago by R. West).
D. J. Tholen asked how many IAUCs were now available in electronic form, and Green answered that the gradual project of entering the old printed Circulars in computer form had reached back nearly to IAUC 1700, partly to the part-time effort of A. L. T. Green during the last three years. Marsden added that printed back issues of the IAUCs are still available (in storage at SAO) for most Circulars dating back to the early 1960s.
Green showed that some 6500 scientific e-mail messages had been sent to the CBAT in the last triennium, explaining that these included dozens of false-alarm reports, as well as queries from non-astronomers; some reports, of course, involve multiple e-mail messages regarding subsequent correspondence between reporters, the CBAT, confirmers, and referees. Green spoke about problem cases, particularly comet reports utilizing web images from the SOHO/SWAN wide-field ultraviolet camera and faint supernova candidates that are not spectroscopically confirmed (and some of which have no visible host galaxies). The faint-supernova-candidate issue was brought up with the new Working Group on Supernovae at Sydney, and the proposal is to establish a new webpage jointly by the WGS and the CBAT for quick announcement of unconfirmed supernova candidates, which will receive some kind of temporary designations there; permanent designations and announcement in the usual way (whether by IAUC or CBET or both) will occur upon confirmation, normally spectroscopically.
A new "Unconfirmed Observations" webpage (UOP) at the CBAT website was established some weeks prior to the Sydney meeting for posting of promising but unconfirmed nova and supernova candidates, particularly in response to a request by H. Yamaoka, who point out that quick follow-up is desired for nova and supernova reports; A. C. Gilmore also emphasized this point. The trial version of the UOP was announced (prior to Sydney) to the two dozen or so supernova experts on the CBAT e-mail list (who for years had been sent private e-mails concerning such unconfirmed supernova candidates) and to some nova confirmers in regular contact with the Central Bureau. There was no motion at the meeting to make the URL of this webpage publicly available, and the consensus seemed to be to keep the trial period going for some additional time.
Green observed that new comet-naming guidelines (drafted by himself, Marsden, and Williams) had been approved by the Committee on Small Bodies Nomenclature (Division III) a few months earlier and are now available at the CBAT and CSBN websites. There was some discussion at this Commission 6 meeting about unnamed comets.
Tholen asked if the CBAT were receiving any IAU support, and Marsden replied that IAU support had been 8000 CHF per triennium, although none of the promised 12000 CHF had been received this past triennium. Green added that line charges are still very necessary to pay expenses, including CBAT staff salaries.
Marsden then conducted discussion on Commission matters, first asking the membership to stand in memory of deceased member A. S. Sharov. K. Aksnes was voted in as the new Commission President, with Gilmore as the new Vice President. The Organizing Committee for the next triennium consists of Green (as CBAT Director), Marsden (as past President), S. Nakano, E. Roemer, N. Samus, and J. Ticha. G. Apostolovska and G. Kastel were transferred from consultant to membership status. D. Coletti and B. Corbin were admitted as members, S. Isobe was re-admitted, and M. Tichy was welcomed as a consultant. Marsden noted that Commission 6 is being transferred from a "committee of the IAU Executive Committee" to the newly created Division XII (Union-wide Activities). It was not expected that this would significantly affect the character of Commission 6, although the IAU has made it clear that commissions will have to "justify themselves" in the future. Aksnes would represent the commission on the Division XII Organizing Committee.
B. G. Marsden, President
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