Former Director of of the BAA Saturn Section;

Alan W HEATH, living at Long Eaton, Nottingham, has a long history as a serious planetary observer as well as a good mentor of younger observers in GB. He has long been well known as Director of the BAA Saturn Section until quite recently he made way for David GRAHAM. We should further add that Alan HEATH's famous 30cm reflector has a much longer history.

Alan HEATH at the Greenwich
Meridian Line on 22 June 1992

It was not so long ago however when the CMO began to win Alan W HEATH's favour, but it was in July 1991 that the CMO first received his letter (see #107 on 25 July 1991) which showed his interest in Hiroshi ISHADOH's independent discovery of the White Spot on the planet Saturn in October 1990 (described in CMO #96 pp821~823, 10 Nov 1990), and ever since we have been happy to receive his observations of Mars and other information, along with which we also received several interesting photographs: When we wrote (in # 108 p927) about the late
Edward COLLINSON, Former Director of the BAA Mars Section, he was so kind as to send us readily a nice portrait of the Director at the BAA Exhibition taken on 31 May 1978. Alan HEATH is really a good photographer, and for a period we saw several nice photographs having a credit line "photo: Alan Heath" in the several issues of the JBAA; the photos showing the BAA exhibition hall, snapshots of BAA members and so on. This implied we did seldom see the photographer himself on the pages, but eventually we were directly given his portrait in 1992 which showed himstanding on the prime meridian line at Greenwich on 22 June 1992 on the occasion when he joined a BAA meeting at Lambeth (here cited as Photo 1, taken by a different camera from the one hanging from his shoulder, but this well shows the photographer Alan HEATH).


As he kept himself out of sight from the pages, Alan HEATH was modest in writing up every year the BAA Saturn Section Report in the sense that he seldom used his drawings of Saturn but instead used drawings of other observers like R McKIM, D GRAHAM, D GRAY and others, and in this way he looked to encourage and inspire the younger generation. It will be fortunate for us to be able to cite his recent drawing of Saturn (on 20 July 1995) in which the rings was hidden (see also another one cited in CMO #167 p1715).

Saturn without rings sketched by A HEATH
on 20 July 1995 at 02:30GMT by the use of 190-318x 30cm Reflector



As to photographs, we should further note that he is not an occasional photographer, but a keen natural history photographer. Alan is also an active naturalist specialising in freshwater microscopy: He is as much as at home with a microscope as with a telescope, and thus he continues to record pond life for Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. Currently he is Chairman of Long Eaton Natural History Society and Chairman of Friends of Forbes Hole, local nature reserve which he helped to save from industrial developers.


Alan HEATH thus finds all forms of natural science interesting and challenging, and he even finds time to study geology, but as we are very concerned, he is a traditional amateur astronomer in England.


In Japan, Alan was introduced long ago as a BAA Saturn observer at the same time together with another famous HEATH (M B B HEATH) by Takeshi SATO in an introductory Japanese book on planetary observation and, as far as we judge, every Japanese reader of CMO has known who A W HEATH is, including the fact that M B B HEATH was no relative of Alan. We should also note that SATO introduced the predecessor Rev T E R PHILLIPS in the same book.


Interest of Alan HEATH in astronomy started at a very early age: He learnt the constellations and main stars from navigation charts during the 'black out' time of WWII. His first astronomical observation was recorded in 1945, that being a partial eclipse of the Sun when he was 14 years old. After finishing a period of national service in the medical branch of the Royal Air Force, Alan became an active observer in 1952. It was during this year that he joined the Nottingham Astronomical Society and obtained a 5cm refractor, an instrument which he still uses for solar observation. Membership of the Nottingham Astronomical Society proved for him very valuable as it was here that the late W E FOX took him under his wing. W E FOX was then Director of the BAA Jupiter Section. A year later Alan joined the BAA. He quickly recognised the value of the Lunar and Planetary observation as well as Solar observation, and in 1954 he constructed a home made 20cm Newtonian reflector which was altazimuth mounted. It was later housed in an observatory and in regular use until 1963.

A W HEATH in 1963


The year 1963 was an epochmaking year to Alan HEATH. It was in that year that the BAA made available to him on loan a 30cm reflector which originally was made by George CALVER (1834~1924) and belonged to the Rev T E R PHILLIPS. Photos 2, 3 and 4 show those taken in 1963; Photo 2 shows the new telescope with young proud Alan, Photo 3 the A W Heath Observatory whose roof opens for access to the sky, and Photo 4 shows the inside the observatory which rotates on a circular angle iron track.

A W HEATH Observatory in 1963:
The whole building rotates on angle iron track



30cm Reflector in1963










In the same year, Alan was appointed Director of the BAA Saturn Section. He served about thirty years as Director. He wrote every year the BAA Report in the JBAA, and hence he has a lot of old acquaintances like Walter HAAS, and has trained younger generations. His telescope is still used by him actively. The mirror had been replaced by a new one (polished by H WILDEY in 1961), but the external appearance remains the same: Photos 5, 6 and 7 show the present status of the telescope and the observatory. In Photo 5 the observatory is taken from an angle different to Photo 3, while the digital numbers remains still clearly visible which read 5254'22"N, 0117'14"W and 37M. Note that the small refractor is seen attached which is for solar work. Photos 6 and 7 tell us the details of the outwards of the telescope.

Alan served the BAA as Assistant to Director of the Jupiter Section and as Secretary of the Lunar Section in addition to the Director of the Saturn Section. There was a period of six months when all three offices were held by him at the same time. He was also Acting Director of the Solar Section and committee member of the Terrestrial Planets Section. Along with others, he helped pioneer the use of colour filters visually in the BAA. He really tells us of the use of an apodising screen (CMO #130 p1204). In 1986 the BAA awarded him the Walter Goodacre Medal.

HEATH Observatory at present


Alan HEATH is now retired, while he was a primary school teacher as profession: Formerly a hairdresser in a family business, Alan had a change of career in 1970. He gained a Bachelor of Education Degree from Derby Londale College and Nottingham University and entered the teaching profession. He had already established himself as an astronomer to teach, and we imagine he thus found his natural gift for teaching. In fact we hear that he had been involved in teaching astronomy to adult students at evening classes long before that.

30cm Calver Reflector at present


To retire does not mean to be simply relaxed to him. He still pursues more vigorously any thing that he find fascinating. He is not a sports man for he says --- "I would rather do something interesting". He does however ride a bicycle and when he was teaching he rode some 20km each day to and from school. The bicycle is still used after retirement and further exercise is provided by walking a labrador dog and trips into countryside looking for wild flowers, insects and other creation of nature.


Astronomy and other scientific pursuits make his life so interesting and this has made Alan many friends throughout the world. We hope he still continue to be a whole naturalist and to be a good friend of our CMO members.

Drawing of Mars by PHILLIPS
on 18 Sept 1909 (272Ls, ω=310W, φ=20., Dia.=24")
(surely made by the 30cm Calver spec)


Before closing, we here want to cite some copies of the Mars drawings by the Rev T E R PHILLIPS when he used the 30cm reflector of which use Alan HEATH succeeded. Drawings by the Rev were not necessarily made by the 30cm Calver spec. His Observatory at Headley, Surrey to the south of London was equipped with three telescopes: a 20cm Cook refractor (on loan from the BAA) and a 45cm reflector (with a mirror belonging to the BAA) in addition to his own 30cm reflector. The drawings here cited are from the Memoirs of the BAA and we are not very sure these all were obtained by the 30cm Calver spec, but at least these are ones taken when he owned the spec and before he moved to Headley: The drawings in 1913/14 and 1915/16 might be of interest because the apparitions were aphelic (at oppositions on 5 Jan 1914 and on 10 Feb 1916). We also cite a drawing at the perihelic apparition in 1909 (surely by the 30cm Calver). He obtained these at Ashtead, Surrey.


Theodor E R PHILLIPS was born in 1868 in Leicestershire and died in 1941 near Headley, and hence Alan did not have the opportunity of meeting him: slight other coincidental fates between them may be inferred from the facts that it was the planet Saturn that PHILLIPS happened to first see (in 1892 or 93) by a small refractor to be allured to the stellar objects, that PHILLIPS was the first recipient of the Walter Goodacre Medal of the BAA (in 1930), that the Rev liked the genial air of the Surrey countryside with summer wild flowers as Alan also likes the countryside of Nottingham with wild flowers and insects and maybe birds, and so on. Note that PHILLIPS thus started late his career as an astronomer: When he was first fascinated by the sight of Saturn, he was already a young curate of parish of Holly Trinity at Taunton. He already graduated in 1891 as BA from St Edmund Hall, Oxford, and in the same year he was ordained.

Fig 3: Drawing of Mars by PHILLIPS on 27 Nov 1913 (001Ls, ω=339W, φ=12N)
Fig 4: Drawing of Mars by PHILLIPS on 03 Jan 1914 (019Ls, ω=319W, φ=07N)


Fig 5: Drawing of Mars by PHILLIPS on 17 Jan 1914 (026Ls, ω=174W, φ=04N)

Fig 6: Drawing of Mars by PHILLIPS on 09 Feb 1916 (055Ls, ω=175W, φ=20N )


PHILLIPS joined the BAA in 1896 (just one hundred years ago!), and observed systematically Jupiter and Mars by a 22.5cm spec on an altazimuth mount. In 1901 he was appointed Director of the BAA Jupiter Section, and kept the office until 1934. In 1916 he became the Rector of Headley, and had an observatory near the Rectory in which the three telescopes were contained. The study of Jupiter was carried out at this place until 1939. Takeshi SATO appreciates him as a "Father of the Jupiter Observation". E W FOX writes that "as a planetary draughtsman he was probably unsurpassed". Besides the planetary work, PHILLIPS also studied the variable stars and observed the double stars. He also served the RAS as well as the BAA.


The Rev PHILLIPS was known as an inspiring person, and each year on a Saturday afternoon in June, the Rev PHILLIPS and Mrs PHILLIPS had the "annual visitations" from his guests at the Headley Observatory: The atmosphere of the Rectory and the milieu of the Observatory must have been impressive to the participants in the season. On Saturday evening, however contrarily to us, he must have not been able to spend much time in observing the planets or inviting guests, even if the sky fine, because he must have prepared his sermons in church on the following Sunday morning. In 1940, he suddenly became poor in health, and at the beginning of 1941 he retired and moved to Walton on the Hill near Headley (the spire was seen from Walton on the Hill). About three months before he passed away, he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Science from the University of Oxford. He lies buried in the churchyard at Headley where he spent many years.


We are not informed of what the observatory became of and how his 30cm reflector was handed to the BAA and eventually to Alan HEATH, but the telescope which had mostly been used for Jupiter, now became used mainly for Saturn. We should further say that both of the Rev PHILLIPS and Alan HEATH observed (and observes) the red planet, and thus we have a friendly feeling to the telescope which can be said to have witnessed the planet Mars for nearly one hundred years.


Alan HEATH, on the occasion when fragments of Shoemaker-Levy 9 hit the surface of Jupiter in July 1994, observed of course the phenomenon by the use of the Phillips 30cm reflector and, actually seeing the spectacle, must have thrown his thoughts back to the eyes of the Rev PHILLIPS. Alan wrote afterwards in a short note (in Proceedings of the Meeting on P/Comet SL-9 Impact with Jupiter, edited by S KIMURA, published by Committee for JAAC) that "How both would dearly have loved to see this." Here "both" implies the Rev PHILLIPS and W E FOX. Really Alan took out a 7.5cm refractor which had originally belonged to W E FOX, and pointed also the telescope to the troubled but specutacular Jovian surface.

The Photo here is Comet Hyakutake (C/1992 B2) taken by Alan HEATH on 29 march 1996 at 20:40GMT by the use of a 200mm lens at f/5/6 for one minute on Tri-X


The present writer is much indebted to A HEATH and T SATO for information and several documents. As to the life of the Rev T E R PHILLIPS, the article in JBAA 79(1968)1 given by W E FOX was referred to, which was addressed as a commemoration of the centenary of the birth of the Rev PHILLIPS. The drawings by the Rev PHILLIPS are cited from the Reports of the Mars Section in Memoirs of the BAA vol 20 part 2 (1915) and vol 21 (1920), the former treating the 1909 apparition and the latter the 1913/14 and 1915/16 apparitions (both written by E M ANTONIADI).

(Masatsugu MINAMI)

This was published in 1996 in CMO #176 (25 June 1996 issue).

The Calver telescope was returned later to the BAA, and Alan HEATH newly built an observatory which housed a Cave 25cm Reflector. Here is his portrait (taken in September 1997) with a 20cm SCT (see CMO #196 on 25 October 1997). See also

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