31 Jan 2016

February Sky Diary for observers in [Adelaide] Australia

For observers living in the southern hemisphere.
 
The phenomena of the month : February 2016.
Times are given in UT for Adelaide (138° 36' 0" E, 34° 56' 0" S, zone i). Click on the graphics to enlarge.



















Date        Hour    Description of the phenomenon

yyyy mm dd  hh:mm  
2016 02 01  03:28   LAST QUARTER OF THE MOON
2016 02 02  13:32   Opposition of the asteroid 654 Zelinda with the Sun (dist. to the Sun = 1.766 AU; magn. = 10.1)
2016 02 03  19:27   Close encounter between the Moon and Saturn (topocentric dist. center to center = 3.9°)
2016 02 05  08:36   Opposition of the asteroid 40 Harmonia with the Sun (dist. to the Sun = 2.337 AU; magn. = 9.7)
2016 02 06  00:20   Close encounter between Venus and Pluto (topocentric dist. center to center = 1.1°)
2016 02 06  19:04   End of occultation of 54 Sgr (magn. = 5.30)
2016 02 07  06:00   GREATEST WESTERN ELONGATION of Mercury (25.5°)
2016 02 08  14:39   NEW MOON
2016 02 08  14:49   Meteor shower : Alpha Centaurids (6 meteors/hour at zenith; duration = 25.0 days)
2016 02 09  16:44   Maximum of the variable star zeta Gemini
2016 02 10  17:59   Opposition of the asteroid 97 Klotho with the Sun (dist. to the Sun = 2.321 AU; magn. = 10.4)
2016 02 11  02:42   Moon at perigee (geocentric dist. = 364360 km)
2016 02 13  04:20   Opposition of the asteroid 52 Europa with the Sun (dist. to the Sun = 2.799 AU; magn. = 10.0)
2016 02 13  10:11   Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2016 02 15  07:46   FIRST QUARTER OF THE MOON
2016 02 15  11:33   Opposition of the asteroid 5 Astraea with the Sun (dist. to the Sun = 2.083 AU; magn. = 8.7)
2016 02 19  15:51   Beginning of occultation of 74 Gem (magn. = 5.04)
2016 02 19  16:46   End of occultation of 74 Gem (magn. = 5.04)
2016 02 21  17:00   Mercury at its aphelion (distance to the Sun = 0.46670 AU)
2016 02 22  11:03   Close encounter between the Moon and Regulus (topocentric dist. center to center = 1.7°)
2016 02 22  11:59   Beginning of occultation of 31 Leo (magn. = 4.39)
2016 02 22  12:24   End of occultation of 31 Leo (magn. = 4.39)
2016 02 22  18:20   FULL MOON
2016 02 23  15:07   Beginning of occultation of 59 Leo (magn. = 4.98)
2016 02 23  16:34   End of occultation of 59 Leo (magn. = 4.98)
2016 02 23  20:11   Maximum of the variable star eta Aquilae
2016 02 24  18:18   Beginning of occultation of 5-beta Vir, Zavijava, (magn. = 3.59)
2016 02 24  19:06   End of occultation of 5-beta Vir, Zavijava, (magn. = 3.59)
2016 02 27  03:28   Moon at apogee (geocentric dist. = 405383 km)
2016 02 28  15:48   CONJUNCTION between Neptune and the Sun (geoc. dist. center to center = 0.8°)

February Sky Diary US Observers in [Washington]


The phenomena of the month: February 2016. Times are given in UT for Washington (77° 6' 0" W, 38° 54' 0" N, zone R). Click on the graphics to enlarge.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Date        Hour    Description of the phenomenon

yyyy mm dd  hh:mm  

2016 02 01  03:28   LAST QUARTER OF THE MOON
2016 02 01  10:05   Close encounter between the Moon and Mars (topocentric dist. center to center = 2.1°)
2016 02 01  22:54   Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2016 02 02  09:26   Beginning of occultation of 44-eta Lib (magn. = 5.41)
2016 02 02  10:47   End of occultation of 44-eta Lib (magn. = 5.41)
2016 02 02  13:32   Opposition of the asteroid 654 Zelinda with the Sun (dist. to the Sun = 1.766 AU; magn. = 10.1)
2016 02 03  22:46   Maximum of the variable star delta Cephei
2016 02 05  08:36   Opposition of the asteroid 40 Harmonia with the Sun (dist. to the Sun = 2.337 AU; magn. = 9.7)
2016 02 06  00:23   Close encounter between Venus and Pluto (topocentric dist. center to center = 1.1°)
2016 02 07  06:00   GREATEST WESTERN ELONGATION of Mercury (25.5°)
2016 02 08  14:39   NEW MOON
2016 02 09  07:34   Maximum of the variable star delta Cephei
2016 02 09  11:43   Maximum of the variable star eta Aquilae
2016 02 10  17:59   Opposition of the asteroid 97 Klotho with the Sun (dist. to the Sun = 2.321 AU; magn. = 10.4)
2016 02 11  02:42   Moon at perigee (geocentric dist. = 364360 km)
2016 02 13  01:30   Beginning of occultation of 98-mu Psc (magn. = 4.84)
2016 02 13  04:20   Opposition of the asteroid 52 Europa with the Sun (dist. to the Sun = 2.799 AU; magn. = 10.0)
2016 02 15  07:46   FIRST QUARTER OF THE MOON
2016 02 15  11:33   Opposition of the asteroid 5 Astraea with the Sun (dist. to the Sun = 2.083 AU; magn. = 8.7)
2016 02 16  05:54   Beginning of occultation of 77-theta1 Tau (magn. = 3.84)
2016 02 16  06:05   Beginning of occultation of 75 Tau (magn. = 4.96)
2016 02 16  06:08   Beginning of occultation of 78-theta2 Tau (magn. = 3.40)
2016 02 16  06:25   End of occultation of 75 Tau (magn. = 4.96)
2016 02 16  06:29   End of occultation of 78-theta2 Tau (magn. = 3.40)
2016 02 16  06:39   End of occultation of 77-theta1 Tau (magn. = 3.84)
2016 02 16  06:40   Beginning of occultation of HD 28527 (magn. = 4.78)
2016 02 16  07:00   Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2016 02 17  05:27   Beginning of occultation of 111 Tau (magn. = 5.00)
2016 02 17  06:26   End of occultation of 111 Tau (magn. = 5.00)
2016 02 19  03:50   Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2016 02 19  08:14   Simultaneous transits on Jupiter : two satellites and shadow of one satellite.
2016 02 20  01:09   Maximum of the variable star delta Cephei
2016 02 21  17:00   Mercury at its aphelion (distance to the Sun = 0.46670 AU)
2016 02 22  00:39   Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2016 02 22  18:20   FULL MOON
2016 02 24  01:23   Close encounter between the Moon and Jupiter (topocentric dist. center to center = 1.9°)
2016 02 24  04:47   Beginning of occultation of 84-tau Leo (magn. = 4.95)
2016 02 24  06:09   End of occultation of 84-tau Leo (magn. = 4.95)
2016 02 25  09:57   Maximum of the variable star delta Cephei
2016 02 26  09:41   Simultaneous transits on Jupiter : one satellite and shadows of two satellites.
2016 02 26  09:57   Simultaneous transits on Jupiter : two satellites and shadows of two satellites.
2016 02 27  03:28   Moon at apogee (geocentric dist. = 405383 km)
2016 02 28  15:48   CONJUNCTION between Neptune and the Sun (geoc. dist. center to center = 0.8°)

 

 

30 Jan 2016

Astro Photographer Virtual 3D image Challenge

As a keen Astro-Photographer do you enjoy a challenge, are you ready to take your splendid images of the Universe to the next level --- Virtual 3D?
 
VIRTUAL 3D REALITY HEADSETS are about to take off in a big way during 2016 and in my opinion this will be an amazing opportunity for keen Astro-photographers to reach out to a new audience and take their imagery to the next level of excellence of amazing 3D.
 
As these Virtual Reality headsets are bought by large numbers of keen amateur astronomers, there will also be a need to allow them to see the wonderful sights of the night sky in 3D from the comfort of their home. While the potential for educational outreach is likely to explode into schools & astronomical society’s world-wide later this year.
 
Therefore as an Astro-photographer now is a good time to plan to create data sets of 3D images for use in these virtual reality headsets, and even make a little cash by putting your 3D image sets on sale to the public.

It will also create an opportunity for someone enterprising enough to create a Face Book group dedicated to 3D Virtual Reality images of Deep Sky objects, along with the Moon planets, as a focus for people who buy the head sets to become amateur astronomers themselves.
 
3D images come in two main types, Anaglyph that uses two images of red turquoise placed on top of each other, with a slight displacement to create the 3D affect, and Stereo pares, two images of the same object placed side by side to create the 3D illusion.
 
 
These 3D stereo pair images are easy to create in a photo application such as Photoshop, and an app to allow mobile phones to show them is freely available using a standard mobile phone. The phone is placed inside the holder at the front of inexpensive headsets to create the 3D image on display. The eye viewers on the headset are adjustable to stack both images on top of each other in the field of view to give the true 3D effect.
 
As the presenter of a monthly Astronomy program I can see this topic being a keen talking point in the weeks ahead as more people take up the Amateur Astro’ 3D image challenge.
 
Clear skies everyone and I look forward to seeing your splendid 3D space images soon.
 
Richard Pearson  

Mercury & Pluto now in conjunction in the Dawn sky

 
 
IT IS ALWAYS A PLEASURE to see Tom Pickett's wonderful images of the sky taken with a nice camera from his backyard in Texas, and this image is another nice shot showing all of the planets on view in the morning sky at the moment.
 


There is in fact another planet their too, Pluto, although it is rather faint at visual Mag +14.2. Mercury and Pluto are in conjunction at the moment in the constellation Sagittarius, and Mercury lies near the star Pi Sagittarii.
 
For 31 January the ephemeris information is:
 
Mercury RA 19h 10m 16.9s DEC -20 28' 54.3" Mag 0.0 Ang Diam 7.76" phase 0.45%
Pluto RA 19h 08m 57.5s DEC -20 56' 05" Mag 14.2
Sun RA 20h 51m 54.1s DEC -17 35' 44.2" Sun rise 07:52 UT
 


 
The dawn twilight makes Pluto a problem to see, although given crisp dark skies it is their and a challenge for Astro photographers. Pluto comes to opposition on 7 July and will be better placed for observation soon.

 

29 Jan 2016

Revealed: New evidence for a 10th planet

There is growing corroborative evidence for a planet x beyond the orbit of Neptune which may be ten times larger than Earth, and which could be orbiting the sun at the edge of our solar system.
 
Researchers have discovered a dwarf planet called 2012 VP113, along with up to 900 other objects,  orbiting in a similar formation.
 
This suggests that a larger planet, dubbed a Super Earth because of its size, may be creating a shepherding effect pulling these objects around with it.
 
 
 
These are the discovery images of 2012 VP113. Three images of the night sky, each taken about two hours apart, were combined into one. The first image was artificially coloured red, second green, and third blue. 2012 VP113 moved between each image as seen by the red, green and blue dots.
 
There are three theories to explain the movement of these bodies.
 
One is a rogue planet could have been tossed out of the giant planet region and perturbed objects out of the Kuiper Belt on its way. This could have been ejected or still be in the distant solar system today.
 
The second claims a close stellar encounter could put objects into the inner Oort cloud region, while the third theory suggests inner Oort cloud objects are extra-solar planets captured by other stars that were near our sun in its birth cluster.
 
The total population of the inner Oort cloud is likely bigger than that of the Kuiper Belt and main asteroid belt.

2012 VP113 was first observed in November 2012 and announced in 2014. It is the most distant dwarf planet to be found orbiting our sun.
 
If it exists planet X would need to be approximately 280 miles wide (450km) and orbits beyond the comet-rich Kuiper Belt in a region at the very edge of the system called the Oort cloud to explain these observations.

28 Jan 2016

Last chance to see conjunction of Uranus & Vesta


The constellation Pisces is now setting in the west soon as it becomes dark, and this gives star gazers the opportunity to see the planet Uranus and asteroid Vesta together in the sky. They still make a nice photo opportunity for keen photographers despite their relative faintness.
Uranus: RA 01h 03m 47.4s Dec +06° 07’ 27” is the brighter of the two is at Mag 5.9 and shows a small green/bluish disk 3.4 arc seconds in size.  Of course with the aid of photography there is always the chance that you will capture either of the planet’s two moons Miranda & Ariel, below is an ephemeris of their positions.
Vesta: RA 01h 03m 58.9s DEC +00° 13’ 23” is of Mag +8.2
Click on the images here to enlarge 
 

26 Jan 2016

Comet Catalina sails past the Pole star


Comet Catalina US10 is now whizzing past the north pole of the night sky, it is still nicely visible with binoculars, however it magnitude will fade below +6 at the end of the month. The photograph here is by John Hunter who lives in Liverpool (UK), and shows Catalina on the night of 15 January as it moved close to the bright star Alkaid in the tail of the Ursa Major.
 

Have you seen Gallus the celestial Rooster?

 

The rich southern skies as seen from the Philippines make the region a nice place in which to live for amateur astronomers. The whole of Eridanus (The River) is now on prominent display, along with the delightful small constellations of Coluba, Caelum, Pictor and the once great ocean vessel Argo Navis.
 
This has since been split up into three constellations of Carina (the Keel), Vela (the sails) and Puppis (the poop). Yet who would have thought that there is a rooster in the sky.
 
Gallus (the Rooster) was introduced on a star globe by Petrus Pancius he made in 1612. The Rooster was picked up by Jacob Bartsch who included it on charts in his usus astronomicus planisphaerii sellati published in 1624.  In later years astronomers had seen the stars of Gallus as the flag atop of the mast of Argo Navis.
 
The International Astronomical Union decided not to recognise Gallus as a true constellation so sadly it was lost from all future star atlases.
 
Gallus lies to the lower left of Canis Major, and today its stars form part of Puppis. It does not appear to be a large star group and the shape of the Rooster is left to the imagination. I thought that it would be interesting if your members could try and view The Rooster in the night sky and perhaps draw or even image the star group out of interest on the next clear evening.
 

22 Jan 2016

New program now in production 'The Story of the Reflector'

A big welcome to all of my new followers here on Face Book, you are all very welcome .
 
Considering that Sir Isaac Newton's first reflector telescope was demonstrated to the Royal Society in London just 346 years ago, we have come along way in the advancement of the Reflector. The early pioneers constructed bigger and better telescopes before the age of digital photography and fast computers. The telescope behind me is the European Southern Observatory's 'Extremely Large Telescope.' If all goes to plan it will be operational by 2026.
 
 
Join me in February for a one-hour special program as we look at the History of the Reflector from its humble beginnings; I shall be recording the show this weekend so I'll see you very soon.

Learn about the planets with these FREE ESO factsheets

Learning about our Solar System has never been easier. Download these colourful factsheets from the European Southern Observatory, and watch our relevant Astronomy & Space programs ... enjoy the beauty of space.
 

21 Jan 2016

Where to look for comet Panstarrs X1


Comet C/2013 Panstarrs X1 lies just below the main square of Pegasus and is moving southward all the time.
 
It dramatically went into outburst 2 weeks ago and increased in brightness by 5 magnitudes to Mag 8.4. My friend Neil Norman of the face book group 'Comet Watch' informs me that it is now belived to be a comet from the Kuiper Belt.

Neil Norman informs me that: "Observations on 16/01/16 indicate m1 = 8.5 , and tonight m1=9.5  but this is no doubt because of moon interference. Taking this into account you should be looking for m1 = 8.5,Dia = 6',DC = 5." 
 
Panstarrs X1 is really worth observing over the coming evenings as other outbursts may follow.
 
 It is a another green coloured comet which is presently shining at Mag 8.4, and lends itself well to photography. It is visible with binoculars.

The first star chart [Right] shows the position of Panstarrs X1 in the night sky between 21 - 28 January.
This second chart (Below) shows the precise position of comet Panstarrs X1 from 21 - 28 January as it moves over a distance of a little over 1 degree of the sky (Twice the angula diameter of the Full Moon). Click on the images for a larger view.



When to See the International Space Station

BRITISH Astronaut Tim Peak is creating a sensation here in the UK as he continues his 6 month tour of duty on the International Space Station. Due to its size and large solar panels it can reach magnitude -1 as it passes low across the night sky.
 
The next opportunity for amateur astronomers here in the UK to see the ISS will be early on the morning of 22 January when the station makes two passes from South-East to North West, reaching a maximum altitude in the South-East as it pass through Leo, the celestial Lion.
 
Here is a sky chart along with the times that the International Space Station is on view so that you can be prepared to take photographs of the occasion. All times are in (Universal Time) UT.
 
 
22 Jan 04h:39m:33s    Mag 2.8     Az 130     Alt 7     Rang 1721     RA 16h11m Dec -16.9     Dir 219
22 Jan 06h:12m:12s    Mag 0.6     Az 210     Alt 11   Rang 1421     RA 12h04m Dec -21.2     Dir 266


Times calculated with Cartez Du Ceil

New Charts to help find comet Catalina 21 - 26 January

Click on the charts to enlarge the view
 


Jupiter | How to find the Great Red Spot

Jupiter is now prominently on display for amateur astronomers. A telescope of 2 inch aperture will show the main cloud bands along with the planet's four Galilean Moons. However, for useful work a reflector of 6 inch aperture is the minimum size that will allow you to begin making transit timings of the cloud features as they cross the planet’s central meridian.
 

The planet spins rapidly in 9h 50m at the equator so cloud features can be seen transiting the central meridian twice a day, although at around opposition one of these timings will occur in daylight when Jupiter is below the observer’s horizon.

Undoubtedly the feature that most amateurs want to see is the Great Red Spot, a 75mm (3 inch refractor) or a 15 Cm (6 inch) reflector will show it, while telescopes of larger aperture are ideal.

The Great Red Spot lies in the south Equatorial belt, however, do bear in mind that astronomical telescopes turn the image of the planet (and everything else), upside down, so that the GRS will be seen in the upper of the two Equatorial cloud bands as seen through the eyepiece. The photo here is right-side-up.

The longitude of the Great Red Spot changes steadily over time, and as the most recent data shows it is presently centred on 240°. This allows us to predict the dates & times when the GRS is best seen as it transits across the planet’s meridian.

Here are the most recent Times when the GRS will be on view, as an exercise, see if you can observe the Great Red Spot on the next clear evening.
 
Click on the graphics to enlarge

20 Jan 2016

Cosmology | 1. Measuring the Cats Eye Nebulae

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxfT1v7XNpMOV0RFQ2VLRVd1aHc/view?usp=sharing
This Educational Exercise is provided by the European Southern Observatory for students, and It comes with teachers notes.
 
Click on the image to open the file.
 
There are other exercises in the series so watch this space ....
 
Please let me know how you get on with the exercises.
 
Best wishes
Richard Pearson.

19 Jan 2016

Flower blooms on the Space Station

On Jan. 16, 2016, Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly shared photographs of a blooming zinnia flower in the Veggie plant growth system aboard the International Space Station. Kelly wrote, "Yes, there are other life forms in space! #SpaceFlower #YearInSpace"
 
 
This flowering crop experiment began on Nov. 16, 2015, when NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren activated the Veggie system and its rooting "pillows" containing zinnia seeds. The challenging process of growing the zinnias provided an exceptional opportunity for scientists back on Earth to better understand how plants grow in microgravity, and for astronauts to practice doing what they’ll be tasked with on a deep space mission: autonomous gardening. In late December, Kelly found that the plants "weren't looking too good," and told the ground team, “You know, I think if we’re going to Mars, and we were growing stuff, we would be responsible for deciding when the stuff needed water. Kind of like in my backyard, I look at it and say ‘Oh, maybe I should water the grass today.’ I think this is how this should be handled.”
 
The Veggie team on Earth created what was dubbed “The Zinnia Care Guide for the On-Orbit Gardener,” and gave basic guidelines for care while putting judgment capabilities into the hands of the astronaut who had the plants right in front of him. Rather than pages and pages of detailed procedures that most science operations follow, the care guide was a one-page, streamlined resource to support Kelly as an autonomous gardener. Soon, the flowers were on the rebound, and on Jan. 12, pictures showed the first peeks of petals beginning to sprout on a few buds.
 
Image Credit: NASA

The flight of Mercury Atlas 6 with John Glen

Launch date: 20 February 1962 from Pad 14 at Cape Canaveral

This was one of the most heroic space missions in history. For a start, the Atlas booster was not very reliable, and blew up on the first unmanned Mercury orbital flight attempt in March 1961. The next two unmanned orbital missions, who actually reached orbit, were only partially successful. Mercury Atlas 6 was originally another unmanned test before the decision was made to man it with Glenn.
The mission was originally scheduled for December 1961, before being rescheduled first for 13 January 1962, then 16 January. On 27 January, Glenn lay in the capsule for almost six hours before the launch attempt was scrubbed. The launch was rescheduled for 1 February, then 15 February, and finally 20 February when, after a further 3 hours 44 min in the capsule and six launch holds, Glenn was at last committed to launch. The Atlas thundered away on the pad, reached full thrust and, at 09:27 hours local time, finally became airborne. Glenn, his heart beating at a reasonable 110 beats per minute, announced the start of the mission in the now customary style, confirming that the spacecraft clock had started. Observers watched nervously as the Atlas 109D reached the point at which MA3 had exploded in March 1961.
 
The vehicle went through Max Q - the point of maximum dynamic pressure on the vehicle-at T + 100 seconds and the two outboard engines cut off at T + 2 minutes 14 seconds. Glenn was subjected to 7.7 G acceleration during the five minute ascent, which ended at orbital velocity of 17,544 mph. Orbital inclination was 32.5° and maximum altitude was 165 miles. The capsule, Friendship 7, turned around and Glenn saw his Atlas tumbling about 30 m (98 ft) away. The view took his breath away as he looked back at the Cape, travelling backwards towards Africa on the first of his three planned orbits. Because his orbital status gave him "go for at least seven orbits", according to flight controllers, this has sometimes been misinterpreted to mean that this was the plan.
Glenn experienced problems with the automatic orientation system and continually had to manually correct a yaw motion. He also saw strange "fireflies" on the outside of the spacecraft, the source of which could not be explained at the time. The mission was proceeding tolerably well, until mission controllers received a signal with the disastrous news that the heat shield on Friendship 7 might be loose. If this was so, then Glenn would be killed during re-entry.
 

After the three retro’s had fired as Glenn was completing his third orbit, mid-way between Hawaii and Los Angeles (giving him the impression that he was heading back to the former rather than towards the latter), he was recommended to keep the retro-pack attached through the re-entry, although he was not told why. His heart rate peaked at 132. The change to the flight plan resulted in a more spectacular re-entry than envisaged, as first the straps holding the retro-pack and then the retro-pack itself were burnt away during the 1,650°C peak re-entry temperatures, at a speed of about 14,912mph and an altitude of 25 miles.
 

After a nerve-tingling wait during which communications were cut off by incandescent gases surrounding the craft, Glenn's hale and hearty voice was at last heard. The heat shield had not been loose after all. The main chute came out at 3,291 km (10,800 ft) altitude and Friendship 7 descended into the Atlantic Ocean, 6 miles from the recovery ship, the USS  Noa, northwest of San Juan, Puerto Rico, but 40 miles away from the prime ship, USS Randolph. The capsule with the astronaut inside was picked up, and Glenn injured his hand slightly when he blew the hatch. The flight time of 4 hours 55 minutes 23 seconds made this the shortest US manned orbital flight.

20 January Occultation of Aldebaran by the Moon

The star Aldebaran α Tauri will be occulted by the Moon on Wednesday morning as seen from Hawaii, N Mexico, USA, Canada, S Greenland, and Western Europe. Times vary according to your location.
 
[Top Disappearance]
click on the image to enlarge.
 

For Los Angeles in the US Disappearance is 01h 04m with Reappearance at 02h 13m. For New York Disappearance is 02h 32m with Reappearance listed as 03h 24m. For Nottingham here in the UK Disappearance is at 03h 24m with Reappearance at 03h 56m.
 
[Bottom Reappearance]

All times are in UT (Universal Time)