Comet Lovejoy

Comet Lovejoy from Andrew's telescope.  Click for larger.  Credit: Andrew Dumont

Comet Lovejoy from Andrew’s telescope. Click for larger. Credit: Andrew Dumont

The discussion with Andrew a couple of weeks ago must have struck a chord. On one of the first decent skies either of us have seen he went and took this image of the “real” Lovejoy.

The area around Comet Lovejoy from Stellarium.

The area around Comet Lovejoy from Stellarium.

If you want to go looking this should get you close:

RA: 8h31m34sec Dec: 16o04’28”  or  Az/Alt: 143o / 57o

Magnitude: 9.45

Nice job Andrew!

Hybrid Solar Eclipse

There will be a solar eclipse tomorrow 03 November 2013. I started out trying to explain who would see what but decided it would just be best to include a map. I’ve also included what should be a live feed you can watch on Sunday (hopefully).

This is a rather rare type of solar eclipse called a Hybrid Solar eclipse. This type of eclipse shifts between a total eclipse (when the moon completely covers the sun) and an annular eclipse (when the moon appears to be smaller and you can see a ring of solar disk around the edges of the moon).

A map of the extent of path of the Hybrid eclipse.  Click.  Credit: NASA

A map of the extent of path of the Hybrid eclipse. Credit: NASA

The eclipse starts very early (about day break) for the eastern parts of North America and northern parts of South America. Central Africa will see the best eclipse but a wide swath north and south of there will get a decent look too.

Here’s that graphic above from NASA expanded with times

Since I’m in the “look quick and early” zone and with cloudy skies (and possibly snow) I will watch the best of it on the second video below.


Here’s a kind of a video version of the map:

Video source

Hopefully this video will work and if it does you should be able to watch the eclipse tomorrow live from the folks at Slooh:

Many thanks to Slooh for that excellent coverage!

Video source

Lunar Eclipse Tonight


The path of eclipse visibility. Eastern Canada will see the entire event while the rest of Canada and the USA will see moonrise with the eclipse already in progress. Observers in Europe and Africa will also see the entire event, while eastern Asia misses the end because of moonset. Credit: NASA

You may be able to see the eclipse tonight. It’s not a total eclipse and you could easily miss it. This is a Penumbral Lunar Eclipse.

The Penumbral region is the region of the shadow outside of the darkest area, think of it as shaded as opposed to shadowed, if that makes sense. NASA (back open too BTW) has the times to be looking and a nice cartoon (shown above) of where and what portion of the eclipse is visible.

What you will notice is some coloring of the moon.  The coloration change could be rater subtle so this isn’t one of those “ooohhh ahhhh” kinds of things but quite cool none-the-less.

When and Where from NASA:

The last lunar eclipse of the year is a relatively deep penumbral eclipse with a magnitude of 0.7649. It should be easily visible to the naked eye as a dusky shading in the southern half of the Moon. The times of the major phases are listed below.


Penumbral Eclipse Begins: 21:50:38 UT
Greatest Eclipse: 23:50:17 UT
Penumbral Eclipse Ends: 01:49:49 UT


Note that the beginning and end of a penumbral eclipse are not visible to the eye. In fact, no shading can be detected until about 2/3 of the Moon’s disk is immersed in the penumbra. This would put the period of nominal eclipse visibility from about 23:30 to 00:10 UT. Keep in mind that this is only an estimate. Atmospheric conditions and the observer’s visual acuity are important factors to consider. An interesting exercise is to note when penumbral shading is first and last seen.


Comet ISON

Comet Lovejoy 12 Oct 2013.  Credit: Andrew

Comet Lovejoy or ISON? 12 Oct 2013. Credit: Andrew

Andrew took this image Saturday morning. He said the sky was a little “milky” so that probably explains the chroma effect in the comet’s tail.

>>Yeah there are some live edits as the discussion continues  :mrgreen:

Ok, we have settled on ISON, so I changed the title.  Boy, what fun, I enjoyed that!

This is sort of a tale of two comets:

Originally I was thinking this was Lovejoy but after quite a bit of discussion I was convinced otherwise.

Comet ISON is getting brighter all the while. At the moment it is near the planet Mars. The comet is now in the mag 9.3 range, probably not quite bright enough for binoculars. I’m continuing to look because who knows if everything is just so, I wouldn’t rule it out.

My rule of thumb, and this seems to be pretty close for my typical sky, is a comet’s magnitude is about two more than the measured brightness when compared to a nice focused star of the same magnitude. In other words: ISON at about a mag 9.5 so looks to me about the same as a mag 11.3 star.

If you would like to see ISON which is in the same area as Lovejoy but further east, and you have a telescope, set up on the area of RA/DEC: 10h6m55s/+14deg 16’52”.

With binoculars find Mars and check the area around Az/Alt: 86 deg 15′ / + 16 deg 52′.   if you just center Mars in your binoculars that should be good enough too and if ISON is bright enough to spot at all, it should be apparent.  The same goes for Lovejoy you can also pick out the constellation Orion in this image quite easily and use that to help get you close.

Lovejoy is a bit dimmer than ISON so it will be that much trickier to see. Don’t give up, ISON has brightened by nearly a whole magnitude in the past week as nearly as I can tell and it should get a lot better.

The only thing is, for now, you will need to be looking about 03:30 to 04:00 your local time, before daylight, but not so early it will be too near the horizon.

Observe The Moon – Tonight!

Tonight is International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN) and it looks like I will have clear skies!



InOMN is an annual event dedicated to get people to ‘look up’ and take notice or our nearest neighbor. I’m looking forward to this. It’s a great excuse to spend a good bit of time looking at some of the features of the moon and there is a lot to see.

Nice thing is you don’t need anything other than your eyes to take part and if you have a pair of binoculars you raise the bar a lot. PLUS, the moon is about half full so features along the terminator (the light/dark boundary) stand out wonderfully AND (yes there’s more) the moon will be “up” before it gets dark so it is a great opportunity to get the kids out and looking too.

I get side tracked a lot so I find it helpful to go out with a plan for viewing. I like to read up on my targets to make the best use of my time and if I have company (especially kids) they get more out of it too.and one of the better tools for this is a program I’ve linked before: The Virtual Moon Atlas. It’s free and works great.

I think I’ll use my ETX-70 tonight, I can easily move it around to get away from trees (which could be an issue with the big scope).

All I need to do is find my older sunglasses. Sunglasses? Yes! The moon is so bright under magnification it’s actually difficult to look at for longer periods of time.

My main target for tonight? Craters around the south pole, a crater called Shomberger in particular (Long: 24.69 W / Lat: 76.64 S). Seems like a good match for my ETX.

Another target isn’t a crater at all, it’s a mountain. Mons Piton is a  ~ 2,250 meter mountain feature rising out of the Mar Imbrium (Long 0.92 West / Lat: 40.72 N). While I’m in the area I’ll see how many of the Cassini family of craters I can make out.

Visit “The Moon” here The Nine Planets for some great info.

Have a look if you can!

Get Ready for ISON!

Skies are supposed to be good so I’m going to try and get a look at ISON this weekend!!

If you missed the Soyuz launch yesterday you can catch the replay on the previous post. The launch occurs at 12 minutes into the video.

You can see the Soyuz docking here.


Mini-jet in Saturn’s Ring

Mini-jet in Saturn F ring, click for a zoomed in version.  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Mini-jet in Saturn F ring, click for a zoomed in version. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Here’s a Cassini image of a “mini-jet” in the F ring of Saturn. The mini-jets are thought to be caused by low-speed collisions of material in the F ring and this causes dusty material from the ring.

The mini-jets are sometimes called exotic trails (actually what I’ve always called them), to learn more about them have a look here.

This image is from the “dark side” of the rings, that is below the ring plane by about 48 degrees from a distance of about 1.4 million km (841,000 miles) on June 20, 2013.

Here’s a link to the original image at the Cassini page at JPL.

See the newly launched Cygnus Spacecraft in flight:

Do you want to see the Cygnus spacecraft in flight? You can go to Heaven’s Above PLUS(!) you can see if you will be able to observe the Juno spacecraft flyby of Earth on its way to Jupiter and of course the ISS sightings and other spacecraft.

For those who downloaded Stellarium from a few posts back you can set that up for the appropriate time and really narrow down where to look. I’ve been doing that lately with the morning passes of the ISS and it works very well.

BTW: You will need to configure Heaven’s Above. It’s easy and safe, I’ve been registered for nearly 10 years and NEVER got any unwanted email, hmmm, to be honest no email at all. So don’t worry about such things.

Nova Delphini 2013

Nova Delphini 2013 on August 16, 2013 Image: Andrew Dumont

Nova Delphini 2013 on August 16, 2013 Image: Andrew Dumont

A new “star” popped up late last week.  I didn’t get an opportunity to take a look until night before last. I was glad I did too!

First things first, this Nova was discovered by Koichi Itagaki (Teppo-cho, Yamagata, Japan), reported by S. Nakano (Sumoto, Japan) on August 14, 2013. Initially it was pretty bright at a mag. 6.8. By the time I got skies it was in the mag 4.5 range.

The moon isn’t helping because it is washing Nova Delphini out a little but this is still a BINOCULAR target! I’ve seen it in both the scope and binoculars.

If you have fair skies you can take a look (provided you can see the stars Deneb and Vega in the northern hemisphere). I’ve included telescope coordinates for those with telescopes.

If you don’t have a scope or don’t have the faintest idea how to use the one you might have access to other than set it up and point it. Here’s how to find it:

Two methods:

The first is how I found it with binoculars you can refer to a finders chart, and by the way the location marked is only approximate however the coordinates are correct.

Find Vega / Find Deneb both are easy and bright, now find Altair. Draw a line from Altair (the moon works too) to Deneb look along that line until you are across from Vega. It is the bright spot apart from those larger stars.

Another way is to to use a compass and orient yourself at:

Azimuth = 105°17′  and
Altitude 59°25′ .

That will put you right near it.

I did not get a camera on it due to less than desirable atmospheric sky conditions and a barn fire about a mile away (no animals were hurt) puring out smoke, but my brother Andrew, despite his own very milky skies did and the image above is his. Thanks bro!

Here is a very nice image from Efrain Morales via Flickr taken on August 16, 2013.

Like I said the moon is bothering things some, but if you get a chance try taking a look.

The Perseids!

The radiant for the Perseids.  Click for a expanded chart you can use to locate the constellation Perseus.  Credit:

The radiant for the Perseids. Click for a expanded chart you can use to locate the constellation Perseus. Credit:

One of the best meteor showers of the year is about to reach its peak. The Perseids is a shower not to be missed.

Meteor showers, in a nutshell, come from the debris trail of comets. As a comet moves through its orbit, it can shed bits of debris for various reasons from dust size on up. In particular when a comet gets close enough to the sun for it to warm slightly and become “active” and the volatiles and dust are streamed away creating the familiar comet tail from the comet tail. What remains is a rather persistent trail of debris. We see meteor showers when the Earth passes through these debris trails.

Not all debris trails are created equal in the amount of debris they contain as you might expect, nor does the Earth always hit the debris trail fully. Therefore some showers are better than others and sometimes a particular shower can vary from year to year.

A couple more things, meteor showers are generally named for the area they seem to come or radiate from (or near), hence the term “the radiant”.

We should define the terms meteor and meteorites. We get a little sloppy and use the two interchangeably, a meteor makes the streak we can see (aka falling star) and a meteorite is a meteor that makes it to the ground. By the way a meteoroid is the little (or big) chunk of iron or rock orbiting around in space. Don’t worry that much about it though not many will ‘call you out’ on it, I certainly won’t.

So the progression is: A meteoroid hits the atmosphere and creates a bright streak and becomes a meteor, most burn up, those that don’t and survive to the ground is a meteorite.

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