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Comet C\2010G2 Hill

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Time of observation
17/12/2011 - 16:03
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Comet C\2010S1 Linear

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Time of observation
17/12/2011 - 16:02
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Geminid meteor shower nearing peak

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

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Some pictures of the total lunar eclipse

A good number of people were successful in witnessing the final phases of the total lunar eclipse from the UK. Here are a few taken by members of the BAA.

 

 

 

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Lunar Eclipse from West Suffolk by Martin Mobberley

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Martin Mobberley
Time of observation
12/12/2011 - 13:21
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This was the best image we received of the recent lunar eclipse. Thank you Martin! Image details are on the image.
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Comet 2009p1 Garradd

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Time of observation
11/12/2011 - 22:38
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Total Lunar Eclipse – Saturday 10th December

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.

Eclipsed Moon on 21st February 2008 by Ian Halsey

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:
http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/OH/OH2011.html#LE2011Dec10T

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cOMET 176P Linear

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Time of observation
05/12/2011 - 16:34
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Comet 244P Scotti

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Time of observation
05/12/2011 - 16:32
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Comet C/2010g2 Hill

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Time of observation
05/12/2011 - 16:28
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