The Geminids meteor shower is upon us; perhaps you’ve seen a few already. The peak of the shower is the 13th and 14th and I would like to suggest you look before dawn on Saturday.
The radiant of the shower, that area where the meteors seem to emanate from, is not surprisingly the constellation of Gemini. The above image is a finders map for the northern hemisphere and if you click it you will get one for the southern hemisphere, both come from Gary Kronk’s excellent site: Meteor Showers Online.
The meteor rate can be anywhere between 50 and 100 meteors an hour and normally would provide a nice show. This year we have a moon that will be nearly full (~91%) and the brightness could limit visibility. Still it’s worth a look, I’m for sure going to be out there. I think I should have a pretty good sky to look at despite an approaching storm system. I would guess anyways, temps are supposed to be in the range of minus 15 to minus 20 degrees C so skies should be clear.
I’ve been having a lot of bad luck with ISON observations. It’s been a good while since I’ve seen anything other than clouds in the sky. Oh sure there were two or three mornings with semi-clear sky conditions but even then ISON happened to be covered. Right now it is a magnitude 5.24, probably a decent binocular object.
I will keep watching and you should too because ISON should be starting to brighten quickly and could be a naked eye object in just days to a week. Don’t miss out!
Here is a screenshot from Stellarium for 18 November 2013 at 05:30 and at 45 deg north latitude, you might find it useful for a guide. Note: Higher latitudes will see objects lower in the sky and vice versa.
Here are the specific coordinates: RA/Dec 13h43m19 sec/ 12o53’26”
If you use the screenshot ISON will appear higher in the sky with respect to the stars on days preceding 18 November and lower in the sky and subsequent days.
As a bonus Mercury is approaching its Western Elongation and will reach it on 18 November, so if you have a good look at the eastern horizon you will get a chance to see it. If you can I say: lucky you! I have a mountain range in the way. When was the last time you saw Mercury? Seeing Mercury in the east is worth getting up for all by itself!
Comet ISON shines in this five-minute exposure taken at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center on Nov. 8 at 5:40 a.m. EST. The image has a field of view of roughly 1.5 degrees by 1 degree and was captured using a color CCD camera attached to a 14″ telescope located at Marshall. At the time of this picture, Comet ISON was 97 million miles from Earth, heading toward a close encounter with the sun on Nov. 28. Located in the constellation of Virgo, it is now visible in a good pair of binoculars.
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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.