Saturday, February 28, 2009

Venus and A Crescent Moon


Last night the planet Venus was near the Crescent Moon. We were expecting a Cold Front to blow in but it was delayed somewhere in North Texas. So the evening was warm and sultry after a tie breaking 90 degree high temperature on this day. The Event hung over the tree tops of the Western horizon above my house. I went out around six pm and set up the camera in the driveway. Both Venus and the moon were visible as the sun was setting. As the sky became darker the Earthshine on the Moon became more visible. I was hoping the Planet would be closer to the horn of the moon for a more classic view of the the event. But the two were close enough for a stunning view this evening. Photo is one of the later shots using my digital camera with telephoto lens on a tripod, after the sky became darker and the Earthshine was more visible.

Tonight the Crescent Moon will move above the Planet Venus and will not be as close.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Saturn - missed the comet

Last night I tried to observe Lulin again. I scanned the sky for 30 minutes afte 11pm between Saturn and Regulus. All the charts had the comet just to the right of Saturn in line with Regulus. I used binoculars and my scope but I could not find the comet again. I took another look at Saturn and viewed a bright yellow orb with the rings on edge. The rings went past the orb at the center on each side of the Planet. There was one moon stationed to the left of the planet near the edge of the Ring.

Forecast calls for cloudy skies for the next couple of nights. View the comet on line at Spaceweather. com. This is the update in today's post:
For weeks, Comet Lulin has sported a wispy tail of electric-blue ionized gas emerging from the comet's head like a shock of unruly hair: image. Today, that tail is gone:
A lot is happening on Comet Lulin. Stay tuned for updates.
UPDATE: A high-contrast movie of Comet Lulin recorded on Feb. 25th by Filipe Alves of Portugal shows filamentary remnants of the ion tail still attached to the comet. Play it!
Comet Lulin Photo Gallery[Comet Hunter Telescope] [Sky maps: Feb. 25, 26]

Monday, February 23, 2009

Comet in a cloudy sky

Observed Lulin and Saturn before the clouds covered my sky!
You might figure that the sky would be cloudy on the nights that Lulin is Closest to our Planet and the comet would be very close to Saturn. Last night at 11 pm was a bust, just too cloudy.

Tonight the broken clouds were starting to cover the sky but I got a quick view of the Comet and Saturn before the clouds moved in over my backyard. I easily spotted the puff of smoke with my finders scope on my 10" Dob. The center core of the comet was brighter tonight but still just a little cloud adrift near Saturn. Saturn had 2 moons just off the edge of the right ring. I could not see a dark line breaking the center of the orb this night. The Ringed Planet looked like a yellow ball with handles.

I did have an opportunity to see the comet on live streaming video from the Coca-Cola Space Science Center observatory in Georgia. Thank you Columbus State University!

Spaceweather updated the comet information today:
Tonight, Comet Lulin is making its closest approach to Earth. At a distance of only 38 million miles, Lulin may be seen with the naked eye. It looks like a faint patch of gas next to Saturn in the constellation Leo. Point your telescope at that patch and you will see a lovely green comet. The best time to look is around 1 o'clock in the morning when the comet hangs high in the southern sky: finder chart.

Got clouds? No problem. The Coca-Cola Space Science Center in Columbus, Georgia, plans to webcast the encounter. "We're going to transmit the view through our observatory's 16-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope," says astronomy professor Rosa Williams of Columbus State University. "The webcast begins at 11:30 EST on Monday, Feb. 23rd and will continue until 5 a.m. EST on Tuesday the 24th." Tune in!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Lulin...faint patch of gas

StarLog^090221

Sky was clear with good seeing, 11pm-midnight

The Comet is moving closer to Saturn and using the ringed planet as a reference, Lulin was a little easier to spot in Binoculars. After viewing all the great photos posted over the net and several nights hunting this comet, I was disappointed in what I viewed last night from my backyard.

I used several charts to find this comet. The thin gaseous glob was not too far from Saturn. It was very dim compared to other comets I have viewed with Binoculars. I turned the chart a bit to correct for last night's sky. I did not see any green in or around the comet when I observed it through my 10" Dob.

Spaceweather had the correct description in their latest comment on Comet Lulin:
Set your alarm for 1 am. That's the best time to see Comet Lulin riding high in the southern sky pleasingly close to golden Saturn: sky map. To the unaided eye, Lulin looks like a faint patch of gas. Point your telescope at that patch and you will see a lovely green comet.

Saturn on the other hand did not disappoint... rings are still edge on with two moons off to the right of the end of the rings.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Still Looking for Lulin

Forecast is for clouds to be over us Tuesday, so I tried again last night with the Binoculars.
This night is was at the Midnight hour. All the charts indicate the comet is in a line from Spica to Saturn. Spent another thirty minutes scanning the night sky....no Lulin. I will try again tonight!

Spaceweather.com had more update information on the comet today and starting Monday an Observatory will broadcast a live view of the comet as it gets closer to Saturn.
Here is the story:
On Feb. 24th, Comet Lulin will swing past Earth only 38 million miles away. Got clouds? No problem. The Coca-Cola Space Science Center in Columbus, Georgia, plans to webcast the encounter. "We're going to transmit the view through our observatory's 16-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope," says astronomy professor Rosa Williams of Columbus State University. "The webcast begins at 11:30 EST on Monday, Feb. 23rd and will continue until 5 a.m. EST on Tuesday the 24th." Tune in!
Comet Lulin Photo Gallery[Comet Hunter Telescope] [Sky maps: Feb. 22, 23, 24, 25]

Friday, February 20, 2009

Looking for Lulin

Early this cold morning around 4AM I went out and looked for Saturn then Spica. Somewhere between them is where Lulin was supposed to be. I scanned the sky for 30 minutes with Binoculars pressed to my eyes with no luck. Might be easier to locate on the 24th, next Tuesday, when the comet will be close to Saturn. Hoping for Clear Skies!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

COMET LULIN UPDATE

The Clouds broke Tuesday and Colder air will give us a couple of nights with Clear skies. Spaceweather posted this Wednesday February 18:

Last week, observers saw little of Comet Lulin because it was lost in the glare of the passing Moon. The glare is subsiding now and Lulin is back--better than ever. Observers say it is visible to the naked-eye (magnitude +5.6) as a faint gassy patch in the constellation Virgo before dawn. Backyard telescopes reveal a full-fledged comet, vivid green, that moves as you watch it. On Feb 17th, Joe Gafford of Deer Trail, Colorado, caught a solar wind gust tearing away part of Comet Lulin's tail:

The view will improve in the nights ahead. Comet Lulin is approaching Earth for a 38-million-mile close encounter on Feb. 24th. At that time, the comet could shine two or three times brighter than it does now, and photographers will record it using cameras alone--no telescope required. Browse the gallery for a hint of things to come:

UPDATED: Comet Lulin Photo Gallery[Comet Hunter Telescope] [Sky maps: Feb. 18, 19, 20]

Monday, February 16, 2009

Fire in the Sky...local event

I missed this event! The ball of fire streaked across the sky when we were in having lunch. But Spaceweather.com posted information on the event this morning:

FIREBALL MANIA: Runners in Sunday's Austin marathon were astonished when a brilliant fireball raced across the Texas sky in broad daylight. The extremely-bright meteor descended at 11 am CST on Feb. 15th less than a day after the FAA reportedly warned U.S. pilots to watch for "falling space debris" from the recent satellite collision between Iridium 33 and Kosmos 2251. Click on the image to launch a News 8 Austin video: Click to view fireball video.
What you just saw was not satellite debris. The high speed of the fireball in the News 8 video is typical of a natural meteoroid hitting Earth's atmosphere at tens of km/s. Orbital debris, on the other hand, should crawl across the sky at a fraction of that speed. Astronomer Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office has analyzed the video and confirms "it's a natural meteor, definitely." According to Cooke's analysis, the source of the fireball was a meter-class asteroid traveling at about 20 km/s.

The Fireball mania started on Friday the 13th, around 10 pm EST, when people in central Kentucky heard loud booms, felt their houses shake, and saw a fireball streaking through the sky: reports. "The world appeared to explode--in green!" said one eyewitness. Once again, this appears to be a natural event caused by a meteoroid. Iridium 33 and Kosmos 2251 collided at a speed of about 10 km/s or 22,000 mph. None of the surviving fragments should have been big enough to shake houses in Kentucky. Furthermore, US Space Command, which monitors objects in Earth orbit, has not announced a reentry over Kentucky on Feb. 13th.

Readers, if you witnessed or photographed either of these fireballs, please submit a report.

On February 16, 2009 there were 1025 PHAs (potentially hazardous asteroids) on the watch list.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GALILEO

This was posted by Spaceweather Today:
On February 15, 1564, Galileo Galilei was born in Pisa, Italy. Galileo is an important person in the history of space weather. Contrary to popular belief, he didn't discover sunspots, but he was one of the first to observe them using a telescope.
In Galileo's day, many people believed sunspots were satellites of the sun. Galileo proved otherwise. By drawing sunspots every day, he discovered that the sun spins and that sunspots are located on (or very near) the sun's surface. Galileo thought sunspots might be clouds.
Now we know what sunspots really are: huge islands of magnetism. Magnetic fields generated by the sun's inner dynamo poke through the sun's surface, forming dark areas typically a few times wider than Earth. The behemoths Galileo sketched in 1613 were as wide as Jupiter.
If Galileo were alive today, the 445-year-old scientist would make very little progress on the problem of sunspots. This is a year of deep solar minimum. So far, 85% of the days in 2009 have brought blank suns--no sunspots, no flares, no great magnetic storms, in short, no way to celebrate Galileo's birthday! To the sunspots we wish many happy returns.

more Sunspots sketched by Galileo 1613

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Bad Asteroid...Bright Comet

As the clouds cover the morning skies over my backyard,the net is filled with news and great pictures of the now naked eye Comet, Lulin.

Spaceweather.com had this story on their page:
Comet Lulin is now visible to the naked eye from dark-sky sites. "This morning, I noticed a faint smudge above Zubenelgenubi," reports Jeff Barton from the Comanche Springs Astronomy Campus in West Texas. "I then trained my 9x63 binoculars on the fuzzy patch. Yep, nailed it! I was thrilled to finally bag Comet Lulin without optical aid."

Asteroids are always being observed and tracked. A news story of note from Univers Today this morning: New Potentially Hazardous Asteroid Discovered.
PHAs are growing in number.
The count: on February 8, 2009 there were 1024 potentially hazardous asteroids.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Comet in a cloudy sky

The days and nights are getting warmer since the dry colder air has left us and moved east. The Forecast: CLOUDS are filtering into the night sky.

Comet Lulin is still in an early morning target in Libra. Tomorrow morning before dawn it will be visible over our backyard and Spaceweather.com says: Comet Lulin is having a close encounter with Zubenelgenubi, a naked-eye double star in the constellation Libra. Zubenelgenubi is not only fun to say (zuBEN-el-JA-newbee), but also a handy guide to the comet. Point your binoculars at the star and voilà!--Lulin materializes in the field of view. The best time to look is just before dawn on Friday, Feb 6th: sky map.

The Spaceweather page has an UPDATED: Comet Lulin Photo Gallery[Comet Hunter Telescope] [sky map] [ephemeris]

Lets hope the CLOUDS break and sky is CLEAR Friday morning.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Saturn edge on

StarLog ^ 093101
Clear sky and good seeing
Set up the 10” Dob in front drive
9:30 the Planet was still among the the trees

Last night I observed the Ringed Planet again. Just below Leo around 11:20 pm. A dark line broke the center of the globe and the rings extended left and right. There were two moons visible. The brighter one was near the edge of the ring on the right. The other was to the left and farther out and dimmer.