28 Nov 2015

Comet US10 Catalina disrupted in solar fly by












mag1Comet Catalina taken on 24 November (Left) of Michael T. Cretacean of Poland. GSO 8" @ f/3.8 reflector & Canon EOS-100D camera (16x30 sec. at ISO 1600) cropped

It shows that some disruption has occurred to the comet’s nucleus during its perihelion passage on 15 November. Catalina now has two tails on show. It will be interesting to see your own images of the comet now that it is begun to make its appearance in the Dawn sky.

Top right: Image of Catalina on 9 November.

It’s magnitude is now +6 and it is expected to grow brighter to Mag +5.5 on 15 January 2016 so binoculars will be needed to show the comet as a nice sight in the dawn sky.

19 Nov 2015

The Birth of Monsters: VISTA pinpoints earliest giant galaxies

Massive galaxies discovered in the early UniverseESO’s VISTA survey telescope has spied a horde of previously hidden massive galaxies that existed when the Universe was in its infancy. By discovering and studying more of these galaxies than ever before, astronomers have, for the first time, found out exactly when such monster galaxies first appeared.

Just counting the number of galaxies in a patch of sky provides a way to test astronomers’ theories of galaxy formation and evolution. However, such a simple task becomes increasingly hard as astronomers attempt to count the more distant and fainter galaxies. It is further complicated by the fact that the brightest and easiest galaxies to observe — the most massive galaxies in the Universe — are rarer the further astronomers peer into the Universe’s past, whilst the more numerous less bright galaxies are even more difficult to find.

A team of astronomers, led by Karina Caputi of the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute at the University of Groningen, has now unearthed many distant galaxies that had escaped earlier scrutiny. They used images from the UltraVISTA survey, one of six projects using VISTA to survey the sky at near-infrared wavelengths, and made a census of faint galaxies when the age of the Universe was between just 0.75 and 2.1 billion years old.

Massive galaxies discovered in the early UniverseUltraVISTA has been imaging the same patch of sky, nearly four times the size of a full Moon, since December 2009. This is the largest patch of sky ever imaged to these depths at infrared wavelengths. The team combined these UltraVISTA observations with those from the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope, which probes the cosmos at even longer, mid-infrared wavelengths.

15 Nov 2015

Comet Catalina passes through Perihelion

2013US10_151001_1200Today Catalina is at perihelion (closest approach to the Sun) at a distance of 76.5 million miles from the Sun. At perihelion, it will have a velocity of 75 miles/s (104,000 mph) with respect to the Sun which is slightly greater than the Sun's escape velocity at that distance. It crosses the celestial equator on 17 December 2015 becoming a northern hemisphere object. On 17 January 2016 the comet will pass 67,000,000 miles from Earth and could still be around magnitude 5 while located in the constellation of Ursa Major.

C/2013 US10 is dynamically new. It came from the Oort cloud with a loosely bound chaotic orbit that was easily perturbed by galactic tides and passing stars. Before entering the planetary region Catalina had an orbital period of several million years. After leaving the planetary region it will be on an ejection trajectory.

15 Nov


Solar activity is quiet now so the solar wind should not effect Catalina. Its Magnitude was steadily brightening up through September 2015, then slowed as some form of disruption occurred on the comet. Here is a graph from Seiichi Yoshida’s website which indicates that maximum brightness (Mag +5) is expected about 28 February. On this date comet Catalina lies in the constellation Camelopardalis 11.25 degrees to the left of Alpha Persei (Mirphac).

Information from amateur observations & the Wikipedia\Seiichi Yoshida’s websites.

7 Nov 2015

RUSSIAN Manned Spaceflight: Vostok 2

Int. Designation: 1961 tau 1
7    August 1961
Launch Site:  Pad 1, Site 5, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan: Landed Landing Site: 724 km southeast of Moscow, near to the village of Krasny Kut, close to where Gagarin had landed.
Launch Vehicle: R7 (8K72K. serial #E103-17); spacecraft serial number (11F63/3KA) #4
Duration: 1 day 1 hr. 18 min
Call sign: Oryel (Eagle)

Objective: Seventeen-orbit manned mission - 24 hours
Flight Crew: TITOV, Gherman Stepanovich, 25, Soviet Air Force, pilot

Untitled-Scanned-02Titov was in his flight cabin at 09:30 hours and waited for the planned lift-off at 11:00 hours Baikonur time. Vostok 2 was inserted into a 64.9° inclination orbit, with an apogee of 232 km (144 miles). Soon afterwards, Titov began to feel sick, as weightlessness impaired the otolithic functions of his inner ear. His nausea became quite uncomfortable and meant that several experiments planned for the 24-hour mission could not be operated. The cosmonaut did, however, manage to sleep and found it quite disconcerting to wake with his arms outstretched, almost touching the controls. He later operated those same controls to perform manual changes to the spacecraft's orientation, using the attitude control system thrusters. Despite all this, however, he enjoyed the view through a porthole which magnified the Earth.

Vostok 2's descent module also did not separate cleanly from the retro section but the connections were finally severed to allow a safe entry. Titov became the first cosmonaut officially to land separately from his spacecraft, as Gagarin's planned exit had remained a secret to ensure that the pioneering Vostok flight could enter the international record books. The relatively enormous leap from Gagarin's flight to a 24-hour flight for Vostok 2 was dictated by the need to land in the prime recovery zone, which was overflown only every 16-17 orbits, or 24 hours.

5 Nov 2015



The Crescent Moon & the bright morning planets

12191298_1678036045816943_8654622193783204323_oSome astronomical events can be quite spectacular, and make great photo opportunities for Astro photographers if they get to know about them in advance. Planning is important so all of the elements fall nicely into place to make that truly assume photo.

Clear skies permitting over the next two mornings, the crescent Moon will be seen close to all three bright planets, a prelude of what's to come in December. 

The lovely image was taken by David Blanchflower (Newcastle Upon-Tyne. UK) : Venus, Jupiter, and the Moon (through clouds). 06:04 UT 6 November 2015. Canon 1200D. 55mm zoom. Handheld.


On the morning of 6th November the crescent Moon will be 2ºN of Jupiter, and on the morning of 7th November the Moon is 2ºN of Mars and 1.2º N of Venus, for some amateur astronomers it will be a trial run for next month's double occultation event.


At 03am on 6 December the Moon will pass in front of Mars – the Red planet-- hiding it from view, an event known as an occultation. This rare event is visible from Central & East Africa, South Arabian Peninsula, the Southern tip of India, Indonesia and Australia.

Then at 07am on 7 December the Moon will occult the brilliant planet Venus. This event is visible from North & Central America, and the Caribbean.

Sadly in other area of the Earth the Moon is below the horizon when the occultations take place. Nevertheless there are going to be some great photos of these events in face book groups, something for you to look forwards to. Clear skies. R.P.

4 Nov 2015

December 2015 Visibility of the bright planets

stellarium-000At the beginning of December Venus lies about 5 degrees above and to the left of Spica, the brightest star in Virgo (The Virgin). Shining at mag -4.2 it cannot be mistaken as it is so brilliant.

Venus is the second planet in order of distance from the Sun, inside the Earth's orbit, so that it shows a series of phases just like our moon. Even a small telescope will show the the phases of Venus.

The time of Dichotomy (half phase) occurred on 26 November 2015, so that the planet is now moving away from the Earth towards Superior Conjunction (Full phase) which will be on 6 January 2016.

The angular size of Venus during this period changes from 17 arc seconds at the beginning of December 2015, to 15 arc seconds at Superior conjunction when the planet is at the far side of it's orbital path around the Sun.

Venus is therefore getting lower & lower in the SE sky, moving into the adjacent constellation of Libra (The scales) on 11 December 2015 towards invisibility in the daytime sky.

Venus is 0.6ºS of the Moon on 12 December, and 0.1ºS of Saturn on 9 January 2016.



There are 11 lunar occultations – Photo opportunities -- to look forward to during the remainder of this month, four visible from Greenwich (London), one from Edinburgh (UK), and five from Sydney & Melbourne Australia. All times are GMT (Universal time).

The PA Is the ‘position angle’ of the star, measured to the celestial East (anticlockwise) from the northernmost point of the Moon’s limb.

GREENWICH E 0.0° N 51.5°

18 Nov 18 Aqr            Mag +5.5 DD Time 18h 43.3m PA 131°
19 Nov HIP 110009   Mag +5.8 DD Time 17h 28.6m PA 45°
27 Nov 111 Tau         Mag +5.0 RD Time 06h 51.4m PA 249°
28 Nov HIP 29616     Mag +5.9 RD Time 02h 21.7m PA 289°

EDINBURGH W 3.2° N 56.0°

29 Nov Gem        Mag +3.6 DB Time 04h 57.8m PA 171°
29 Nov Gem        Mag +3.6 RD Time 05h 20.9m PA 209°

SYDNEY E 151.2° S 33.9°

13 Nov φ Oph         Mag +4.3 DD Time 09h 28.4m PA 98°
23 Nov ο Psc          Mag +4.3 DD Time 12h 41.5m PA 50°
23 Nov ο Psc          Mag +4.3 DD Time 13h 54.9m PA 266°
21 Nov XZ Psc       Mag +5.8 DD Time 14h 4.9m PA 107°
29 Nov 74 Gem      Mag +5.0 RD Time 13h 0.3m PA 304°

MELBOURNE E 145.1° S 37.9°

13 Nov φ Oph        Mag +4.3 DD Time 09h 25.3m PA 104°
23 Nov ο Psc         Mag +4.3 DD Time 12h 25.7m PA 52°
23 Nov ο Psc         Mag +4.3 DD Time 13h 40.6m PA 262°
21 Nov XZ Psc      Mag +5.8 DD Time 13h 56.3m PA 114°
29 Nov 74 Gem     Mag +5.0 RD Time 13h 1.8m PA 298

3 Nov 2015

Comet C/2013 (Catalina US10)


Ephemeris: Nov 13/14
RA 14h 22.3m
Dec -19º 49'
Mag +5.8

This image of the Mag +6.8 comet was taken on 10 October. I refer to it as ‘The Christmas Comet’ since it will be a lovely sight in the night sky visible from the northern hemisphere over the Christmas season.

© 2015 Gerald Rhemann

Top Image Data: 2015 October 10 18.15 UT, LRGB 12/5/5/5 min., ASA 12"f/3.6 Astrograph, FLI ML 8300, Farm Tivoli,Namibia, Remote.

Bottom image

© 2015 Jose J. Chambo, cometografia.es2013US10_151001_1200

1 Oct 2015
1SSD Field 4X3.2 degrees.
Orientation North top., West right of image.

Discovery Date: October 31, 2013. Magnitude +18.6 mag. Discoverer

R. A. Kowalski (Catalina Sky Survey).