Archive for the ‘Comet’ Category

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Astronomy Events – February 2016

January 31, 2016

by Adam Welbourn

As much as dark skies are what stargazers crave, and the longer the darkness the more gazing that can be done, it’s nice that afternoons are now noticeably lighter for longer!

Apart from a week or so of cold snowy weather affecting most of the northern UK it has been one of the mildest winters on record, so with the luck of some drier weather (let’s face it, we’re due) February could be a great time to get outside under the stars.

To help we’ve picked out some heavenly happenings for the upcoming month below, so peruse at your leisure and get out and enjoy the night!

Keep watching those skies…

Monday 1st February  – This morning our Moon will be seen at Last Quarter phase

If you have some binoculars you may be able to catch Comet Catalina close to Polaris the Pole Star over the first few evenings of February. It will drift away (towards the west) and decrease in magnitude as the month passes, so catch it while you can!

Saturday 6th February – Early risers with a flat enough horizon (and the luck of clear skies of course!) will be in for a treat just before dawn this morning. The sliver of crescent Moon sits over a bright Venus, with a faint Mercury just below and to the left

A beautiful celestial triangle appears just before sunrise this morning, look to the south east at 06:30 (UTC) to see the thin crescent Moon over Venus and Mercury - (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

A beautiful celestial triangle appears just before sunrise this morning, look to the south east at 06:30 (UTC) to see the thin crescent Moon over Venus and Mercury – (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Sunday 7th February Mercury is at greatest western elongation today, and may be visible just before sunrise to the left of much brighter Venus, appearing to be a faint star in comparison

Monday 8th February – Today the New Moon rises and sets with the Sun, so now is a good time to observe deep sky objects like galaxies and nebulae, or get a clearer look at objects usually blurred and faint in light polluted skies

A nice object to try and locate at this time of year is the Rosette Nebula, which contains open cluster NGC 2244. If your skies aren’t too light polluted you should be able to locate it to the left of Orion, look to the south at 21:00 UTC

The stars of the open cluster shine brightly, surrounded by the gas and dust that make up the Rosette Nebula (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

The stars of the open cluster shine brightly, surrounded by the gas and dust that make up the Rosette Nebula (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

Thursday 11th February – Today the Moon is at Perigee at a distance of 364,355 km (226,400 miles) from the Earth, the closest it will come on it’s current orbit

Monday 15th February – This morning the Moon will be seen at First Quarter phase

And to help you identify the constellations you can see throughout the month, below we’ve provided guide images for both southern and northern skies in February

Shown at 00:00 UTC on 15th February, both these images are a handy guide for the whole month. This is the view you’ll get looking South (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Shown at 00:00 UTC on 15th February, both these images are a handy guide for the whole month. This is the view you’ll get looking South (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Displaying the night sky midway through the month, this image can help you identify the constellations you’ll see in the northern sky in February (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Displaying the night sky midway through the month, this image can help you identify the constellations you’ll see in the northern sky in February (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Monday 22nd February – This evening’s Full Moon is sometimes known as the Budding Moon, Storm Moon or Snow Moon

Tuesday 23rd February – Gas giant Jupiter joins our Moon in the sky tonight, can you catch it in an image despite the brightness of its companion? They will travel together for the whole evening, appearing closest in the early hours of the 24th

Shown above at 19:30 UTC, the Moon and Jupiter cross the sky as close companions all evening (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Shown above at 19:30 UTC, the Moon and Jupiter cross the sky as close companions all evening (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Sunday 27th February – The Moon is at Apogee today at a distance of 405,380 km (251,376 miles), the furthest point its orbit will take it away from the Earth this month

Monday 28th February – Often elusive Neptune is in conjunction with the Sun today, and is actually unobservable throughout the month

As usual, if you take any photos throughout February you’d like to show us, please tweet them to us using the link below! We’d love to see your efforts and we’ll re-tweet them to your fellow sky-watchers!

Planets visible this month:

Venus
Saturn
Mars
Uranus
Jupiter
Mercury

Remember, it can take your eyes up to 20 minutes to become properly dark adapted, and anything up to an hour for a telescope to reach ambient temperature outside (to ensure the best image), so give yourself plenty of time to get set up!

To make it easier to find this list of astronomical happenings you can also locate it in the “Monthly Guide” section in the menu bar to the right. Handy! 🙂

Guide images created with Stellarium

Archive:
Astronomy Events – January 2016
Astronomy Events – December 2015
Astronomy Events – November 2015

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Astronomy Events – December 2013

November 30, 2013

by yaska77

How did this happen? One minute we were lauding the approach of Spring and a few sleeps later it’s December. The year has gone all too rapidly for my liking.  My telescope must truly think I’ve abandoned it!

But, it may get used sooner than it thinks.  At the time of writing, comet ISON had just been killed by the intense heat and forces around the Sun, after reaching its closest point of pass (perihelion) on 28th November. But then like some galactic zombie it was suddenly back. Still unsure what has actually survived, scientists who previously called the death are now confirming something has endured the close encounter with our Sun.

After disappearing from view, much to the lament of astronomers worldwide, suddenly there was a hint of a tail emerging in the images obtained by probes close to the Sun. Then, it started getting brighter…

This movie shows Comet ISON orbiting around the sun – represented by the white circle -- on Nov. 28, 2013. ISON looks smaller as it streams away, but scientists now believe its nucleus may still be intact - Credit: Image Credit:  ESA/NASA/SOHO/Jhelioviewer

This movie shows Comet ISON orbiting around the sun – represented by the white circle — on Nov. 28, 2013. ISON looks smaller as it streams away, but scientists now believe its nucleus may still be intact (click to open in new tab and start animation) – Credit: ESA/NASA/SOHO/Jhelioviewer

Scientists have been quick to suggest this could just be the death throes of the comet, but over the next couple of days we’ll know whether we’ll get some sort of show over the coming weeks! With that and all the other astral activities we’ve noted below, there certainly is a lot to get outside for!

Keep watching the skies!

Tuesday 3rd December – The New Moon rises with (and sets just after) the Sun today, so now is a good time to observe deep sky objects when the skies are unaffected by moonlight

With Orion back this time of year it’s always worth seeking out the Orion Nebula (M42). We’ve imaged this a couple of times and would love another photo-shoot!

M42 the Orion Nebula is a great sight through binoculars or a small telescope (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

M42 the Orion Nebula is a great sight through binoculars or a small telescope (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

Wednesday 4th December – The Moon is at Perigee today at a distance of 360,065 km (223,734 miles), the closest point of its orbit to the Earth

Thursday 5th December – If C/2012 S1 (ISON) has survived, this morning might be a good time to try and spot it. Shown below at 06:30 UTC, ISON should be fairly easy to locate so it’s a good chance to get a look through binoculars or a telescope

Low down to the east before sunset, we're still hopeful some of ISON will be visible for imaging! (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Low down to the east before dawn, we’re still hopeful some of ISON will be visible for imaging! (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Monday 9th December – This evening the Moon is seen at First Quarter phase

Tuesday 10th December – Planet Venus attains greatest brilliancy today (mag -4.7) so look for it low down to the SSW just after sunset

And should comet ISON still survive, you can see in the image below how far it’s traveled since our spotter’s guide on the 5th!

Rising earlier each day throughout December, we're hoping ISON has survived well enough to put on a bit of a show (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Rising earlier each day throughout December (shown at 06:30 UTC) we’re hoping ISON has survived well enough to put on a bit of a show (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Sunday 15th December – In a new feature, below we’ve provided constellation guides for southern and northern skies in December

Shown midway through the month, these images can help you identify the constellations you'll see in the Northern sky (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Displaying the night sky midway through the month, this image can help you identify the constellations you’ll see in the northern sky in December (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Shown at 00:00 UTC on 15th December, these images are a handy guide for the whole month. This is the view you'll get looking south (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Shown at 00:00 UTC on 15th December, both these images are a handy guide for the whole month. This is the view you’ll get looking south (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Tuesday 17th December The Full Moon in the sky this morning is also sometimes known as the Christmas Moon, Bitter Moon, Cold Moon or Oak Moon

Thursday 19th December – Today the Moon is at Apogee at a distance of 406,265 km (252,441 miles), the farthest point out in its orbit around the Earth

Friday 20th December – Ringed planet Saturn (which was in conjunction with the Sun in early November) is visible in the south-eastern sky before sunrise during December, in the middle of the constellation Libra

Saturn's position shown at 06:00 on 20th December. You can also see how much ISON has moved over the course of the month (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Saturn’s position shown at 06:00 on 20th December. You can also see how much ISON has moved over the course of the month (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

By the new year the planet is rising four hours before the Sun

We’ve only imaged Saturn once properly before with a CCD camera (and the seeing conditions were not ideal) so we’d love another crack at this beauty!

We captured this image of Saturn using a CCD camera and then stacking the frames, from March 2011 (click to enlarge) Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

We captured this image of Saturn using a CCD camera and then stacking the frames, from March 2011 (click to enlarge) Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

Saturday 21st December – Today is Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere

Wednesday 25th December – The Moon appears at Last Quarter phase today

Sunday 29th December – Inner planet Mercury is in Superior Conjunction with the Sun, having been too close for observation since the first week of the month

If you’re up early this morning Saturn makes a very close appearance near to the waning crescent Moon. A great target for binoculars, a telescope or cameras with a good zoom!

Saturn visits the waning crescent Moon on 29th December, shown above at 05:30 UTC (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Saturn visits the waning crescent Moon on 29th December, shown above at 05:30 UTC (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Gas giant Jupiter is very bright in the evening sky for the whole of the month, its location shown below later in the evening on the 29th at 21:00 UTC

Jupiter is in the constellation Gemini for the whole month (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Jupiter can be seen in the constellation Gemini for the whole month (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

We’re hoping to point the CCD camera at it again soon as we’d love to improve on our current best image! Though our DSLR camera caught not only Jupiter and its visible bands, but four of its moons as well

Single shot image of Jupiter with three moons to the left (Callisto, Ganymede and Io) and one (Europa) to the right from 1st October (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

Single shot image of Jupiter with three moons to the left (Callisto, Ganymede and Io) and one (Europa) to the right from 1st October 2011 (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

As usual, if you take any photos throughout December you’d like to show us, please tweet them to us using the link below! We’d love to see your efforts!

Planets visible this month:

Jupiter
Venus
Neptune
Uranus
Mars
Mercury
Saturn

Remember, it can take your eyes up to 20 minutes to become properly dark adapted, and anything up to an hour for a telescope to reach ambient temperature outside (to ensure the best image), so give yourself plenty of time to get set up!

To make it easier to find this list of astronomical happenings you can also locate it in the “Monthly Guide” section in the menu bar to the right. Handy! 🙂

Guide images created with Stellarium

Archive:
Astronomy Events – November 2013
Astronomy Events – October 2013
Astronomy Events – September 2013

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Hubble eyes up comet ISON

April 24, 2013

by yaska77

Billed as possibly the “comet of the century”, C/2012 S1 ISON has recently found itself in the sights of the Hubble Space Telescope. Still too far away to be seen by the naked eye, what has been exciting astronomers about ISON is its potential to become briefly brighter than a full Moon as it makes its closest approach to the Sun around the 28th of November.

hs-2013-14-a-large_web

Even at a distance of 386 million miles from the Sun, comet ISON is being warmed causing sublimation, the creation of its tail (click to enlarge) – Credit: NASA, ESA, J.-Y. Li (Planetary Science Institute), and the Hubble Comet ISON Imaging Science Team

The comet’s dusty coma, or head of the comet, is approximately 3,100 miles across, or 1.2 times the width of Australia. A dust tail extends more than 57,000 miles, far beyond Hubble’s field of view.

More careful analysis of the image (captured on 10th April) is currently underway to improve these measurements and help predict the possible outcome of the sungrazing passage of this comet, but the formation of a tail while still so far from the Sun could mean ISON breaks up before putting on the show we all want it to!

ISON was discovered in September 2012 by the Russian-led International Scientific Optical Network using a 16-inch telescope.

Source: Hubblesite.org

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Astronomy Events – April 2013

March 31, 2013

by yaska77

Unfortunately for us, since we told you about the visit of comet PANSTARRS our own skies have seen nothing but clouds! It’s been great seeing all the photos on Twitter, but we’re gutted we’ve not had chance to image it ourselves.

Still, to be a stargazer you have to keep your chin up, so we’ve listed some interesting happenings for April to whet your interest so get out there and keep your eyes on the skies!

Wednesday 3rd April – Today is a last quarter Moon

Monday 8th April – The thin waning crescent Moon will be close to Mercury just before dawn this morning, however the planet will be lost in the brightening sky

Wednesday 10th April – The New Moon this morning rises and sets with the Sun, so it is a good time to observe deep sky objects with the glare from the Moon absent

Saturn can be a great sight through a small telescope or good binoculars, we’re hoping to image it again soon as our only successful previous attempt was a while ago!

saturn-stacked-sky-watching-co-uk

Still one of the most amazing sights to see with your own eyes, Saturn and its rings look spectacular through a scope, look South East around 22:30 UTC/23:30 BST (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

Sunday 14th April – The waxing crescent Moon will appear quite close to the gas giant Jupiter this evening, you’ll be able to find both between the “horns” of constellation Taurus the Bull (see below)

Moon and Jupiter in Taurus (08042013) 20.00UTC Sky-Watching.co.uk

If you look due West at 20:00 UTC (21:00 BST) on 14th April you’ll see the Moon and Jupiter between the horns of the constellation Taurus (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Monday 15th April – Today the Moon is at Apogee at a distance of 404,865 km (251,571 miles), the farthest point in its orbit to the Earth

Wednesday 17th April – The planet Mars is in conjunction with the Sun, so is unobservable for the month

Early morning at the moment comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) is located just to the bottom right of the constellation Cassiopeia (the W to the North). We’re still hopeful of catching a glimpse of this so far elusive celestial object!

Comet PANSTARRS 17042013 0230UTC Sky-Watching.co.uk

Now its brightness is diminishing comet PANSTARRS may prove difficult to spot, but it’s still there! Shown 17th April at 02:30 UTC/03:30 BST (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Now circumpolar from the UK since the beginning of the month (meaning it doesn’t set), if it follows predictions PANSTARRS may still be naked eye visible if your skies are dark enough

Thursday 18th April – Tonight’s Moon is seen in the First Quarter phase

Sunday 21st April – For information about the Lyrid meteor shower which peaks over the next few evenings, click here

Thursday 25th April – The Full Moon tonight is also sometimes known as the Awakening Moon, Seed Moon or Wildcat Moon, which can be seen close by Saturn all evening

At around 20:00 UTC (21:00 BST) the Moon will be mid-way through a very slight penumbral eclipse, seen as a slight dimming of the Moon’s northern edge caused as it skims the bottom of the Earth’s shadow

Moon and Saturn (25042013) 23.00UTC Sky-Watching.co.uk

A Full Moon can wash out most of the stars in the sky around it, but the brightness of Saturn should still make it visible, and look out for the very partial eclipse around 20:00 UTC (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Saturday 27th April – Today the Moon is at Perigee at a distance of 362,265 km (225,101 miles), the closest point of its orbit to the Earth

Sunday 28th April – The planet Saturn is at opposition in Libra, meaning that it’s in an opposite position to the Sun in the sky, so is observable from dusk until dawn! This is also the time of year it appears at its brightest

Tuesday 30th April – Venus returns to our evenings skies (albiet briefly) to the west just after sunset, but may be tricky to spot in the twilight

Planets visible this month:

Jupiter
Saturn
Venus

Remember, it can take your eyes up to 20 minutes to become properly dark adapted, and anything up to an hour for a telescope to reach ambient temperature outside (to ensure the best image), so give yourself plenty of time to get set up!

To make it easier to find this list of astronomical happenings you can also locate it in the “Monthly Guide” section in the menu bar to the right. Handy! 🙂

Guide images created with Stellarium

Archive:
Astronomy Events – March 2013
Astronomy Events – February 2013
Astronomy Events – January 2013

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Astronomy Events – March 2013

February 28, 2013

by yaska77

Well here we are at March already!  Spring is approaching, the days are getting longer and we’re hoping the weather also improves! This month we have the potential of a comet being visible to the naked eye, so read through below for details.

There should be something for everyone to enjoy so keep your eyes on the skies! 🙂

Monday 4th March – Today is a last quarter Moon and Mercury is in Inferior Conjunction so is not currently visible until towards the end of the month

Tuesday 5th March – The Moon is at Perigee today at a distance of 369,955 km (229,879 miles), the closest point in its orbit to the Earth

Monday 11th March – This evening it’s a New Moon which rises and sets just before the Sun, making it a good time to observe deep sky objects without interference from the Moon’s glare

One such object that looks great through binoculars or a small telescope is M44, the Beehive Cluster (also known as Praesepe)

M44 Beehive Cluster 11032013 2100UTC Sky-Watching.co.uk

Look high to the South around 21:00 UTC and you should be able to spot it! (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

We imaged the Beehive Cluster when Mars was passing in front of it in October 2011, and it looked great! If you’re going to try image this object yourself, why not tweet your results to us on Twitter!

mars-and-the-beehive-cluster

The Beehive Cluster is one of the nearest open clusters to our Solar System, approximately 577 light years away (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

Wednesday 13th March – Discovered in June 2011, Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) reaches Perihelion (its closest approach to the Sun) on 10th March. However, as it is close to our star on this date our best chance of spotting it is from 12th March onwards as it moves away into twilight skies

On 13th March it will appear below the crescent Moon soon after sunset

Friday 15th March – Appearing slightly higher in the sky than on the 13th, the position of Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) is shown below. Should it have developed a tail it will point towards the Moon, and if predictions prove true should be visible to the naked eye!

Comet PANSTARRS 15032013 1900UTC Sky-Watching.co.uk

Shown above at 19:00 UTC close to the Western horizon on 15th March, comet PANSTARRS will appear higher each day, but will also diminish in brightness (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Sunday 17th March – Tonight’s Moon is seen in the First Quarter phase

Tuesday 19th MarchToday the Moon is at Apogee at a distance of 404,260 km (251196 miles), the farthest point in its orbit to the Earth

Wednesday 20th March – Today is the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere

Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) should be visible in slightly darker skies after 19:30 UTC, and we are praying for good weather (and to find a flat Western horizon with less light pollution) so we can try and image it! Exciting!

Comet PANSTARRS 20032013 1930UTC Sky-Watching.co.uk

If you look from the middle of the W shaped constellation Cassiopeia and through the Andromeda galaxy you should find the comet just above the horizon, as shown above at 19:30 UTC (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

By the end of the month (and into April) it will appear just below the Andromeda galaxy

Wednesday 27th MarchThe Full Moon this evening is also sometimes called the Fish Moon, Sleepy Moon or Chaste Moon

Thursday 28th March – The planet Venus is in Superior Conjunction, and Uranus is in conjunction with the Sun

Sunday 31st March – British Summer Time (BST) begins, with the clocks going forward one hour at 01:00 UTC (becoming 02:00 BST).  The Moon is also at Perigee for the second time this month today at a distance of 367,495 km (228,351 miles), and Mercury is at its greatest Western Elongation meaning it may be visible in the Eastern sky before sunrise

Planets visible this month:

Mercury
Jupiter
Saturn

Remember, it can take your eyes up to 20 minutes to become properly dark adapted, and anything up to an hour for a telescope to reach ambient temperature outside (to ensure the best image), so give yourself plenty of time to get set up!

To make it easier to find this list of astronomical happenings you can also locate it in the “Monthly Guide” section in the menu bar to the right. Handy! 🙂

Guide images created with Stellarium

Archive:
Astronomy Events – February 2013
Astronomy Events – January 2013
Astronomy Events – December 2012

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