Comet Lovejoy survived it’s encounter with the Sun, and is now putting on fine display in the southern hemisphere. This video was made by Australian amateur astronomer Colin Legg.
The BAA’s Denis Buczynski writes:
The ground based discovery of this Kreutz group sungrazer by Australian amateur Terry Lovejoy on 2011 November 27 has been followed closely by comet enthusiasts around the world as it headed towards perihelion passage on December 16. The spectacular views of the comet arrived at our computer screens via a medley of solar monitoring spacecraft. The comet survived its perihelion passage and has now begun its retreat from the Sun. There were some predictions, by comet experts, that the comet would disintegrate, as had been the case with many other sungrazers. Astonishing images were received showing the comet being disrupted during its close approach to the solar surface, losing it tail in the process. However the comet then appeared to brighten and another tail emerged from the brilliant cometary head. The link below will allow the reader to follow the development of the comet via the space imagery.
As the solar elongation grew the possibility of seeing a daylight comet increased. A comparison with the brilliant sungrazer C/1965 S1 Ikeya-Seki seen in daylight in 1965 is being made. The following link shows that daylight imaging has been achieved (extreme care must be taken during this type of imaging) with remarkably simple equipment and techniques:
Observers in the southern hemisphere are now beginning to see the comet rising in the early morning dawn sky. What the future developments are for this remarkable comet will be seen in images and observations made during the next few weeks. The link below shows a video of the comet and moon rising from a dark sky site in Western Australia made by Colin Legg .
The Geminid meteor shower is now underway, with peak activity expected during Wednesday, 14th December. Unfortunately, weather forecasts indicate very variable observing conditions across the British Isles and Northern Europe, so it is important to have a good geographical spread of observers to ensure adequate coverage. The waning gibbous Moon will also be rather obtrusive, so observers are advised to direct their gaze away from the Moon, or to hide the Moon behind an obstruction such as the wall of a house.
The Geminids are currently the most active of the regular annual showers, with rates outstripping those of the Perseids for a 24-hour interval centred on their 14-15 December maximum – a real treat for observers prepared to brave the cold, damp and windy weather.
This year, Geminid activity is expected to peak at about 14h on Wednesday, December 14th, when the peak Geminid Zenithal Hourly Rate may reach 140 m/h – sadly during daylight hours for observers across Europe. The maximum is broad, however, and it is important to have a spread of observers making observations throughout the nights of 13th/14th December and on 14th/15th December to ensure adequate coverage of the shower maximum. In addition, observations by BAA members in North America and the Far East will be welcomed by the Meteor Section to improve coverage of the period of peak shower activity.
The Geminid radiant (at RA 07h 32m Dec +33o, just north of Castor) rises early on and reaches a respectable altitude well before midnight, so observers who are unable to stay up late can still contribute very useful watches. On the evening of Wednesday 14th December there is the added bonus of an increased proportional abundance of bright events after maximum; past observations show that bright Geminids become more numerous some hours after the rates have peaked, a consequence of particle-sorting in the meteor stream.
Geminid meteors enter the atmosphere at a relatively slow 35 km/sec, and thanks to their robust (presumably rocky/asteroidal as opposed to dusty/cometary) nature tend to last longer than most in luminous flight. Unlike swift Perseid or Orionid meteors, which last only a couple of tenths of a second, Geminids may be visible for a second or longer, sometimes appearing to fragment into a train of ‘blobs’. Their relatively low speed and the abundance of bright events makes the Geminids a prime target for imaging.
For further information, or copies of report forms, observing notes, and details of how to carry out group meteor watches, please visit the BAA Meteor Section website at http://britastro.org/meteor
This Saturday afternoon, on 10 December, there will be a total eclipse of the Moon. Eclipses of the Moon occur when the Full Moon passes through the cone of shadow cast by the Earth into space. The eclipse first becomes total at 14:06 UT, reaches maximum at 14:32 UT, and ends at 14:57 UT. The partial eclipse ends at 16:18 UT.
Unfortunately, from the UK, the Moon will already have started leaving the umbra (the central, dark part of the Moon’s shadow) well before moonrise, and the observable part of the partial phase will last from moonrise until 16:18 UT.
From London, Moonrise is at 15:51 UT, from Norwich it is at 15:39 UT and from Sheffield at 15:46 UT. Accordingly observers in Eastern parts of the UK will be able to see just the last 30-40 minutes of the partial phase, provided they have a clear, unobstructed north-eastern horizon.
Sadly, from locations further north and west, with moonrise occurring later in the afternoon, most of the partial phase will be over before the Moon rises. Observers should go out at about the time of local Moonrise when, if the sky is clear, the partially-eclipsed Moon may be glimpsed very low down, close to the horizon, in the north-eastern sky.
One never quite knows how dark or how bright a lunar eclipse will be. Everything depends on the conditions in the Earth’s upper atmosphere through which all light falling onto the shadowed Moon has to pass. There have been eclipses when the Moon has been difficult to find even with a telescope, while at other eclipses it has remained bright red or vividly coloured.
This total lunar eclipse takes place at the Moon’s descending node in eastern Taurus, four days after apogee. The Moon’s orbital trajectory takes it through the southern half of Earth’s umbral shadow. Although the eclipse is not central, the total phase still lasts 51 minutes. Eastern Asia, Indonesia, Australia and Japan are best placed for viewing this eclipse, near midnight and with the Moon at a good altitude above the horizon.
Further information on this eclipse may be found at:
Comet P/2011w2 Rinner was discovered on 28th November by Claudine Rinner using a 0.5m telescope in Morocco, showing that amateur astronomers can make comet discoveries and that searching/blinking
ccd frames is still worthwhile.
Currently it is rather faint though, at 17th magnitude.
BAA member Denis Buczynski was able to image it in the morning of November 30th using a Celestron C14 and FLI Maxcam, from his home observatory at Tarbatness, Scotland.