The BAA had a stand at the inaugural International Astronomy Show held at the Warwickshire Exhibition Centre near Leamington Spa on May 17th and 18th.
There was a great turnout with most of the UK equipment sellers exhibiting in the hall, and a few from overseas too.
The BAA stand was manned on Friday by Ann Davies, Callum Potter, Geoffrey Johnstone, Roger Pickard and David Arditti, and on Saturday by Ann Davies, Callum Potter, David Boyd, Mike Frost and Alan Lorraine. Much thanks goes to all for making the event a big success.
Here are a few photos.
This comet is now visible in a properly dark sky low in the NW for a short period before the Moon rises on the opposite horizon. It is currently moving through Andromeda and it will come within a few degrees of M31 on April 5th. Its path is shown in this Journal article. For those lucky enough to have good weather conditions the comet is an impressive sight as noted in this report from Denis Buczynski (NE Scotland) tonight (March 28):
Comet observed in near perfect conditions here this evening, Just before moon rose I could see the comet with my naked eye and trace the tail (also naked eye) for about a degree. It was easily seen with the naked eye and it must be still around mag 3. It is a lovely looking comet, broad fan tail with one edge sharply defined and the other edge diffuse. Bright yellowy colour central condensation, which is small and sharp. Great view. If I don’t get another view of this comet, I will be well satisfied with this one. Image attached (slightly trailed as I let the EQ6 track with out any guiding. 20:41 UT 73s exposure ISO 800 Canon 1000d.
Last night (March 27), Andrew Robertson in Norfolk managed to observe it with a 6-inch refractor. He writes:
I used a 32mm Superwide Meade E/P giving x42 and a 1.6 deg FOV. I positioned the bright ’stellar’ core in the centre of the field and I could see a very faint tail extending vertically downwards (inverted image) half way to the edge of the field which equates to about 0.4 degrees in length (visually). I would say the tail appeared broader than my previous view two weeks ago on 13th March. I persevered until about 2035 hours (5 degs alt) but by then it was fading considerably. Well pleased.
So far, from SE England, I’ve only had fleeting views between small gaps in the cloud. Hopefully things will improve for those of us who haven’t yet managed a really good view of this comet. Keep sending observations to email@example.com.
More images can be found in the Comet Section gallery.
Comet C/2011 L4 PanSTARRS from NE Scotland on March 28th. Denis Buczynski.
Over the past few days the weather across the UK has been patchy but many people have been able to see this comet and we have received some excellent images. Even though the comet is fading it is becoming easier to see as it moves higher into the western sky. A chart showing its position an hour after sunset is included in this Journal article.
The comet is now high enough that it can be seen or imaged in a darker sky. This allows stars to be included in the images so it is possible to estimate the comet’s magnitude. Using a V filter Richard Miles estimated the magnitude as +0.8 on the evening of March 14 so it probably didn’t quite reach mag zero at perihelion but it wasn’t that far away from some of the more reasonable predictions from earlier in the year.
2013 March 17. 80mm ED Apo + Canon 1000D, 10s at ISO1600, Denis Buczynski
The widefield view in the twilight is still impressive and the comet’s broad dust tail is clearly visible in binoculars. Many people have now reported that the comet is an easy naked eye object if you know where to look.
2013 March 17. 1905UT. Canon 500D at ISO800. 60mm lens. Damian Peach.
The view from space is even more impressive. The comet has been visible in the STEREO-B Heliospheric Imager. This is a camera which takes 20×20 degree images of the space between the Sun and the Earth. In these images the comet has a spectacular dust tail which shows much structure. We can’t see most of this from the ground at the moment but some observers are picking up hints of it. Michael Jäger has probably obtained the best result so far as you can see in this amazing picture.
2012 March 12, 2329 UT. STEREO-B HI image. 1200s exposure, unsharp masked. The bright object top right is the Earth.
Denis Buczynski has uploaded many of the images to the Comet Section gallery. Please keep sending your observations to firstname.lastname@example.org but please could imagers follow the instructions here. Images should have names like 2011l4_20130317_1904_dgb.jpg. We receive lots of images with names like panstars.jpg and these will need to be renamed to the correct format. This requires a lot of work, particularly when we receive dozens of images a day.
Keep watching this comet. You never know what it will do next.
On March 12 we received the first UK observations of this comet. It was visible very low down in the west along with the thin crescent Moon which was less than one day old.
So far we have received positive observations from James Abott (Witham, Essex), Ian Sharp (Selsey, Sussex) and Dennis Boon. James saw the comet at 1850 UTC using 15×70 bins and estimates the coma magnitude as +1 with a 45 arcmin tail. Ian imaged the comet and has a nice photo on his website here: http://www.astro-sharp.com/images/comets/C2011L4/C2011L4-2013-03-12-19-00-IDS.jpg He comments that he had a good view in a 130mm f/7 APO and that the comet has a very bright, starlike nucleus. Dennis Boon managed to get an image of the comet and the crescent Moon in the same shot.
My attempts from Chelmsford, only a few miles south of James, were thwarted by a band of cloud which sank in the sky at the same rate the comet was setting. I did get a nice image of a 23hr old Moon though: http://www.nickdjames.com/Media/albums/Astronomy/Moon/Moon_20130312_ndj.jpg.
Tonight the Sun sets at an azimuth of around 266 deg just before 6pm. An hour later the comet will be at an azimuth of 272 deg and around 4 deg above the horizon. The 2 day old crescent Moon will be much higher and slightly to the left (270 deg azimuth, 11 deg above the horizon). Please send any more observations to email@example.com.
Update – March 14, 07:35 – The weather over much of the UK cooperated at just the right time last night and we have received many observations, both visual and imaging, of this comet. Many thanks to everyone who has submitted material. I had my first view last night. The comet is certainly not the spectacular object that we hoped it would be but it was still exciting to pick it up in the bright twilight. It should still be a good object as it moves into darker skies.
Update – March 16 – Have a look at the Comet Section page here to see the latest images.
The minor planet Ceres, currently at magnitude 8.3 comes within 0.4 degrees of the 2nd magnitude star beta Tauri (El Nath) on March 6. This is an ideal opportunity to find Ceres with binoculars. El Nath is easy to find (it is the star marking the northern horn of Taurus) and Ceres will be passing just south of it over the next few days. The image shows Ceres tonight (March 4th) with El Nath at the top left. Click on the image to get an animation of 23 x 2 minute frames (around 48 mins real time) and see if you can spot the slight motion of Ceres relative to the background stars. The field of view of this image is around 0.7 deg square, N up.
Thanks to Mike Harlow for alerting me to this appulse.
Weather permitting we are going to try to do a live webcast of the 2012 DA14 close approach tonight. This will consist of periodically updated live images from a small telescope with a field of view of around 1 degree. We’ve not had much time to test this so it may or may not work for various reasons but you might like to keep an eye on the following page:
If the weather cooperates the first live images should appear around 20:10 as the object rises above my local horizon. At that time it will be around magnitude 7.5 and moving at around 41 arcsec/sec.
19:15 – Currently the sky here in Chelmsford is totally cloud covered and so the live webcast is unlikely to show much early on. The forecast for later this evening is a bit better.
20:15 – 2012 DA14 is now clear of my horizon obstructions but it is still cloudy here. It may clear later.
22:10 – Still cloudy in Essex but Denis Buczynski has obtained a nice image from Tarbatness.
Unfortunately, the sky never cleared in Chelmsford so we had nothing to show during the webcast. We’ll try again in the future when another interesting astronomical event takes place.
We are now just a few days away from the dramatic passage of this near-Earth asteroid, which takes place on 2013 February 15 approaching to within 27,700 km of the Earth’s surface at about 19:24 UT on that day whilst travelling at 7.8 km/sec. During the last week many more observatories have imaged the object, in particular; Mount John Observatory, New Zealand (MPC Code 474); the 2.0-m Faulkes Telescope South (which is now back in business after last month’s devastating bushfires which badly affected Siding Spring and the surrounding community) (MPC Code E10); as well as the new LCOGT 1.0-m ‘B’ telescope at Cerro Tololo, Chile (MPC Code W86).
Reaching 7th magnitude, it will be the brightest-ever NEO to be observed approaching the vicinity of our planet (<0.1 AU) and will be visible with modest telescopic aid, e.g. binoculars. 2012 DA14 will pass about 10x closer to the Earth than our companion Moon. To put this in perspective, scientists at NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office in Pasadena, California estimate that an asteroid the size of 2012 DA14 flies this close every 40 years on average and that one will impact Earth, on average, about once in every 1,200 years!
Depending on your location, you are advised to obtain your local topocentric RA and Dec coordinates from websites such as can be found at:
You will need to enter either your latitude and longitude, or the MPC Code of a nearby observatory.
I have prepared a chart for the interval 19:50-21:00 UT in anticipation of the object’s visibility soon after it rises near the eastern horizon as seen from the southern UK. A second chart covers the later period, 21:00-01:00 UT on the evening of Feb 15/16. Full observing details and a 5-minute ephemerides for UK observers are also available here. The charts are probably usable by all UK observers since the object will be conspicuous owing to the fact that it will be seen to be moving in real time. Look with binoculars or a small telescope within a degree or so of the predicted position at any given time and it should ‘jump out’ as a moving star.
The weather forecast for most of the UK is not especially favourable owing to excessive cloud but watch out for gaps which may appear especially in the Norfolk area. Observers located in north-east Scotland may be best-placed weather-wise. Currently southern Spain is predicted to have clearest skies in Europe for this event. Further weather updates will be provided.
NASA have set up a very informative webpage with useful FAQs, orbit diagrams and some videos of interviews, etc.
Richard Miles (Director, Asteroids and Remote Planets Section)
It is with the deepest sadness that I report the death just before 12.30 today of Sir Patrick Moore.
Patrick has long been an inspiration and guide for so many BAA members. He served as the Association’s President from 1982-1984, as well as directing with energy and distinction both the Mercury & Venus Section and the Lunar Section. Indeed, he performed the latter role on two occasions, from 1964-1968 and from 1971-1976. In recent years he has been an honorary Vice-President, and although he has been unable to attend our meetings, he has continued to take an active interest in the affairs of the Association that he first joined in December 1934 at the age of 11. He made a point of visiting the BAA stand at Astrofest 2012, despite not being in the best of health.
There can be few BAA members who do not owe their interest in astronomy to the influence of Patrick, either through his numerous publications or his monthly “Sky at Night” television programme. His enthusiasm was deeply infectious, and what he had to say was truly inspirational. Many of us benefited from personal contact with him – the time and energy he devoted to correspondence with all who wrote to him was quite amazing, and his hospitality at Farthings legendary.
Patrick’s passing was peaceful, at home in Selsey, where he was surrounded by those closest to him. Many of us felt that this day could never come, and that the normal laws of nature would somehow be suspended in this case. Sadly and inevitably, that was not be be, and we shall all miss a presence that has enriched British astronomy, and the lives of most of us, for as long as we can remember.
In due course we shall have occasion to pay full and proper tribute to the man and his achievements. The grief we feel at this moment is bitter, but Patrick’s legacy is immense – and that is something from which we shall all continue to benefit in the future.
BAA member Nick James reports they were fortunate to see the total eclipse on 2012 November 13 (morning of 14 in Australia) from Palm Cove, where visibility of totality was a very close run thing. The location and sky were very dramatic.
Here are some initial pictures of the eclipse from Nick – all frame grabs from various HD videos.
Our analysis of the fireball continues. In the light of current speculation we provide the following information based on our early results.
Currently, our first pair of images of the object are from southern Norway when the fireball was high over the North Sea. We have used an accurately timed shutter gap to determine that the velocity at this point was 12.0 km/s and the height was around 60km descending. This velocity is in excess of Earth’s escape velocity and so rules out a man-made satellite re-entry. Therefore, it is most probable that this object was natural and that atmospheric entry was well to the east of our first images.
In this regard we would be very interested to hear from observers in Denmark, north-eastern Germany, southern Sweden and northern Poland who witnessed the fireball at 23:55 CEST on Friday 21 September. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have used the known exposure duration of an image from the west coast of Ireland to estimate the velocity of the two brightest components as they moved out over the Atlantic. We get velocities of 7.8 and 8.5 km/s and a height of 62 km ascending. These velocities and the track orientation and position are not at all consistent with ongoing speculation that there is a connection between this fireball and a fireball seen in south-eastern Canada/north-eastern USA 155 minutes later.
Further information will be posted as it becomes available.
John Mason & Nick James.