A preliminary analysis of the fireball track based on detailed analysis of photographs submitted to the BAA Meteor Section and collected by John Mason is shown in the attached picture. This is based on an analysis by Nick James. We are very grateful to the photographers who have provided their images and associated data. Further investigation is underway to accurately determine the height and velocity at various points along the track based on the known exposure times of photographs.
If you have not yet submitted your observations of this event please send them as soon as possible to the Director of the Meteor Section at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This text is taken from BAA e-bulletin 698 written by John Mason.
Hundreds of eyewitness reports are coming in of a brilliant fragmenting fireball, visible at about 22:55 BST (21:55 UT) on Friday, 21st September 2012. This is clearly one of the most dramatic events reported to the BAA Meteor Section in recent years. On Friday evening, there was scattered and more continuous cloud cover over much of South-East England, but the rest of the UK and Ireland were largely very clear, with transparent starry skies. This, coupled with the fact that many people were out on a Friday evening and the truly spectacular nature of the fireball itself, are clearly the main factors in it being reported by so many thousands of people over such a very wide area. This extends northwards and westwards from a line roughly linking Norfolk in the East to Devon in the South-West, with the majority of sightings so far received coming from Wales, the North-West, Central and North of England, Scotland and much of Ireland. When first seen the fireball appeared as a single very brilliant object but it then fragmented into a very large number of bright secondary fireballs, all travelling along roughly parallel paths across the sky. One highly unusual feature of this fireball is the length of time for which it was visible due to its apparent very slow speed of movement across the sky. This has led some people to speculate that the fireball was due to the re-entry of a large fragment of space debris. However, there are several aspects of the event, at this very early phase of the investigation, that do not appear to fit with this hypothesis and it would be unwise to rule out other possibilities at this stage. The undersigned has received many reports of the fireball, but these extracts from the following two more detailed accounts (which have, of necessity, been shortened here) give a very good general idea of the nature of this most unusual event. From David Stewart, Observing Coordinator of the Irish Astronomical Association (IAA), observing from Delamont Country Park, one mile south of Killyleagh in County Down. "At 22:54 BST, a group of 12 IAA members spotted an amazing group of fireballs rising from trees at the eastern horizon to the right of Jupiter as seen from the main car park. It was immediately thought they might be fireworks but they continued to rise at a steady pace and fan out slightly as they approached us from distance with their numbers increasing and their brilliant intensity remaining unchanged. We estimated approximately 20-30 fireballs were seen following the same east to west trajectory each with an estimated brightness between mag. -5 to -7 and each left a medium trail as they travelled almost directly overhead. No noise was heard except for the excited astronomers. A larger group of 4 or 5 fireballs were at the front of the group and differences in size were apparent but each burned with a similar brightness and a distinct orange hue. We were able to observe the fireballs for 2mins from the trees in the east to the trees in western horizon and we had particularly good views in that direction. As the fireballs approached the western horizon their numbers dwindled, possibly due to burning up and atmospheric extinction, at least 2 or 3 were seen disappearing behind trees. They were travelling at a speed somewhat faster than the ISS but not as fast as a typical meteorite on entry into the Earth's atmosphere." And from Paul Buglass, reporting on behalf of 10+ members of the York Astronomical Society (YAS) who were observing at the YAS Observatory, 4 miles west of York. Conditions were totally clear, and a very transparent night. "At approximately 10:56ish (BST), a group of us were talking outside and I noticed a very bright light low down over York (due East) . very bright with a slight green tint.. It seemed to be moving very slowly, flickering slightly, and at first I thought it was a low flying aircraft . then I thought perhaps it was a helicopter. It still hadn't moved much, but as the seconds ticked by it slowly started to show more movement to the left and slightly gain elevation .As its angular velocity increased, the bright green light started to show a slight tail as it passed through the bottom of Auriga, and then as its apparent angular speed increased more, a longer trail of darker red/orange trail formed, with bits coming off, as it approached the Plough. It then started to lose more distinct fragments downstream, with a orange almost ember like appearance, then the main bright white/green head puffed explosively and lost many more orange fragments which trailed off downstream as it passed through the Plough.. It continued West in a very flat trajectory, gradually losing the bright head as it moved to the West, and . faded to about 6 or 7 glowing orange points . The direction it was finally lost from view was directly under Hercules.. Total observation time was possibly 60+ seconds from first sighting low in the East to fading from view in the West." Most of the reports received so far are either quite brief or contain a lot of descriptive information about the fireball's changing visual appearance, BUT we urgently need more positional information relating to the fireball's trajectory across the night sky. Photographs which show background stars, and even video clips or still images from mobile phones could prove very useful in this regard. PLEASE could local society secretaries or other officers who receive this e-bulletin circulate it to all of their members and any other interested parties. Clearly this was a very major fireball event and any BAA members who saw it, or who may have been contacted by non-astronomers who witnessed it, are asked to collect as much information about the sighting as possible and send it either to the Meteor Section Director at email@example.com or to firstname.lastname@example.org. Useful information will include the name and location of the observer, the precise time of the event, the altitude and azimuth of the start and end points of the visible track, the position of the observed track against the background stars, and a description of the fireball's visual appearance, colour, etc. together with any unusual features. This e-bulletin issued by: John W. Mason, Director, BAA Meteor Section 2012 September 22
Tom Boles made his 150th supernova discovery on 2012/08/18.104 in NGC 1213, magnitude 17.7
Designated 2012eg it has proved to be of type IIP.
Here is Tom’s discovery image:
Dublin based David Grennan has discovered his second supernova on an image of galaxy IC2166/UGC3463 (PGC19064) taken on 2012/08/22.009.
Designated PSNJ06265101+5905026, it was confirmed by Tom Boles. Spectra confirmed it to be of type 1c.
Denis Buczynski was able to make an observation too:
Neptune comes to opposition on August 24 in the constellation of Aquarius and lies just over a degree to the east of 38 Aquarii. At opposition, its magnitude will be +7.8 and so it can be seen with just a pair of binoculars or a very mall telescope. A chart for finding Neptune can be found in the BAA Handbook.
Observers with larger instruments may be able to see the planet’s disk which is only 2”.4 across.
Its largest satellite is Triton. Although this is only about 13 magnitude, it should be seen visually in large amateur telescopes or via digital imaging techniques such as shown in the attached image taken by Maurice Gavin on 2010 August 30.
By Mike Foulkes, Saturn Section Director
Always the summer’s main attraction for meteor observers, this August’s display of the Perseid meteors should be quite favourable given that the peak occurs just a few days before new Moon. Consequently, there will be only slight interference from the waning crescent Moon (on the Taurus/Gemini border) just before dawn.
It is hoped that observers will make every effort to cover the peak of the shower well this year. Meteor observing is a particularly good activity for local societies and the BAA Meteor Section welcomes reports from such groups.
Experienced observers have already reported early activity from the Perseid shower. Peter Meadows and Nick James managed to capture a nice bright Perseid (displaying in-flight and terminal bursts) with their video imaging systems on Saturday, 4th August at 23:56 UT. (See pictures)
When to Observe
Perseid rates normally take a marked ‘kick’ upwards around August 8, and with the Moon now on the wane, watches may be carried out in darkening skies from now right through until the end of the shower’s normal period of activity on August 20, a few days after New Moon. It is hoped that, weather permitting, observers will cover shower activity throughout this period, even on nights away from the maximum.
The Perseids are expected to peak around 10h UT on Sunday, August 12, making the late evening and pre-dawn hours of August 11/12 and the following night of August 12/13 probably the most productive for observers in the UK this year. Good observed rates may also be expected in the early morning hours on August 10/11 and 13/14 as the shower radiant (RA 03h 04m Dec +58o) climbs high into the eastern sky. Perseid shower activity will be starting to decline by the time darkness falls on August 14.
All else being equal, the best observed rates are found when the Perseid radiant – near the ‘Sword Handle’ star cluster on the Perseus-Cassiopeia border – is highest in the sky during the pre-dawn hours. However, even in the early evening (when there will be absolutely no interference from moonlight), the radiant is already at quite a favourable elevation above the horizon.
With cloudless skies, and in a dark viewing site, observers can expect to see between 50 and 70 meteors each hour near the peak. Even in light polluted towns or cities observed rates may still be around ten an hour in the early morning hours when the radiant is high.
The BAA’s visual meteor report forms, available as downloads in both PDF and Excel formats, enable observers to record the time of occurrence, apparent magnitude, shower membership (or if sporadic), constellation in which seen, and details of any persistent train or other characteristics, for each meteor seen. Watches should ideally be of an hour’s duration or longer (in multiples of 30 minutes). Observers should also carefully record the observing conditions and the stellar limiting magnitude.
Visual observers are invited to submit their observations electronically, using the new BAA report forms, to email@example.com.
The Perseids are well known for the abundance of fast, bright meteors close to their maximum. Perseid meteoroids enter the atmosphere at a velocity of 60 km/sec, and the resulting meteors often leave behind persistent ionisation trains.
The large numbers of bright events in the five-day interval centred on Perseid maximum makes this an excellent target for digital imaging, considering the low level of interference from moonlight this year. Conventional film is now the medium of choice for very few observers, with most having made the transition to digital SLR cameras.
With a tripod-mounted camera, lens (usually a wide-angle) at full aperture and a high ISO setting, the observer hopes that a bright meteor will flash through the field of view while the shutter is open. Digital SLRs (DSLRs) are very efficient at collecting background light from the sky, particularly at a setting of ISO 1600, so exposures should generally be kept relatively short – no more than five minutes’ duration in a really dark, rural location, and probably only 10 to 30 seconds from a more typical observing site. With some DSLRs, the camera can be operated using a programmable timer attached to the shutter control to take repeated exposures one after the other for as long as required, provided the battery is fully-charged beforehand.
Such a set up, under good sky conditions, can capture meteors of magnitude 1 and brighter. Ideal aiming directions are about 20-30 degrees to one side of the radiant at 50 degrees altitude above the horizon – Cygnus in the early evening, the Square of Pegasus later in the night, or towards the north celestial pole, for best results.
Images of meteor tails may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Image labels should include the name of the imager and the date and time (UT) of the exposure.
Written by John Mason – Section Direcor, Meteor Section
On 15th July, there could be seen an occultation, a grazing occultation, or a conjunction of the Moon and Jupiter depending on your location in the British Isles.
John Vetterlein in Orkney was able to capture a nice range of photos of the conjunction.
You can see more of John’s photos on his own Blog
On Sunday morning, 2012 July 15, observers in southern Britain will have the chance to see a rare and splendid sight: Jupiter and its moons gliding behind the rugged horizon of the Moon’s north pole. This is one of a series of lunar occultations of Jupiter, and the only one which will be visible in a dark or twilight sky from the UK. The northern limit crosses England, giving a grazing occultation along a broad band from East Anglia to SE Wales and Cornwall. Times will vary considerably from place to place, but the full event spans approx. 01:51 to 02:22 UT (02:51 to 03:22 BST) (from disappearance of the first satellite to reappearance of the last satellite at Greenwich).
Full details of the grazing occultation were published by Jan Meeus in the Journal of the BAA, vol.122, p.31 (2012 Feb.).
The full occultation is visible for observers all over Europe except Scandinavia, and details are posted at:
Imaging the event will be a challenge, as the movement will be too fast for normal planetary imaging techniques, and it will be at low altitude in the dawn sky. Short monochrome exposures with a red or infrared filter would optimise the sharpness and brightness of Jupiter. These could then be combined with colour channels from longer exposures just before or after the occultation, to produce L(IR)RGB images. If you produce images, please record how they were made. Drawings will also be welcome.
BAA Jupiter Section Director
Martin Mobberley was able to capture this new nova in Sagittarius via iTelescope.net on July 8th.
The field was only about 22 degrees high, even from New Mexico, at the time.
At Dec -27 it’s difficult (near impossible) to observe from the UK. It’s not really possible to estimate the brightness from this image as the star is saturated but visual observers were reporting a brightness of around mag. 8.
The BAA’s summer meeting held on Saturday 7th July was a sell out, with all 130 places taken. The audience enjoyed a range of talks themed around the Solar System.
Maurice Gavin made this short video of the lunchtime solar viewing activities.