Sunrise Sunday-No Comet?

   3 December:The last word on the comet – the nucleus has apparently fragmented and after perihelion all that appeared to be left was a dust cloud which looks like it was dissapating as this series of videos show.

ison1dec   1 December: Comet ISON may have been broken apart by the close perihelion and might be, as they say, ‘No mas‘. Initial reports suggest that the nucleus of the comet, the solid mass, has come apart. The last images from the SOHO satellite show what appear to be fragments and a cloud of dust trailing behind and around it. If there are any remnants there may be a chance that the debris as a group reflects enough sunlight to be visible.
   Click here to go to the NASA SOHO website for more information about Comet ISON.

Click on picture to see it screen size.

Click on picture to see it screen size.

   Saturday 30 November: Since Comet ISON or at least part of it survived perihelion (see my updated update) I figured that 2 days after perihelion the comet’s tail may be poking above the horizon. So I loaded my stuff and Tyler in the truck and drove east on 50 Highway then south on 7 Highway then east on Old 150 Highway. At a high spot in the road with a good view to the east and southeast across a plowed field I pulled over and parked. Using 10×50 binoculars and a Celestron Astroscan telescope I scanned the horizon until around 6:30, and a much more noticeably brighter sky. No comet or tail spotted but a good look at a lot of things from planets, nebulae, star clusters, the Milky Way. Sigh!! And of course Tyler having a blast running and sniffing.
   So I loaded back up and went home where I took a few pictures from the back deck – Jupiter and the Twin Stars; a ‘new Moon in an old Moon’s arms’; and the mnemonic ‘Follow the Arc to Arcturus…’ (not enough lens width to include ‘speed to Spica”.
   Tomorrow if the sky is clear I’ll set up in the same place and take pictures from that location.

   
   
   
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Comet ISON Update-Updated x2

ison1dec   1 December:The end of a comet? According to blog posts from the NASA SOHO web site Comet ISON has faded considerably and there may be nothing left but pieces of the nucleus and dust.

   29 November: Comet ISON has survived perihelion and should become visible as the second animated graphic below shows. However how bright or what it will look like we will know about in a couple of days.
   This animated graphic directly below is made from images taken by the SOHO satellite’s coronagraph, a telescope with an occulting disk at the front end to ‘eclipse’, block, the Sun. In this graphic the dark disk represents the occulting disk and the white circle is the disk of the Sun. Comet ISON appears from the right side and as it becomes blocked by the occulting disk the tail of the comet is still visible. After perihelion the comet reappears on the other side of the Sun with a more fan-shaped tail.’
   This graphic comes from the Space Weather website. Click here for more information about a coronagraph.

comet-ison

Click on graphic to see an animated full size version.

Click on graphic to see an animated full size version.

   28 November, at 23 UT (5 pm CST) Comet ISON will reach perihelion, its closest approach to the Sun. If the comet survives ‘swinging’ around the Sun and passing within less than 1 million miles from the Sun it will reappear on the Earth side of the Sun. From perihelion onward the comet will be outbound from the inner solar system and by 26 December will be at its closest to Earth – approximately 0.426 AU (63,728,693 km or 39,599,174 miles)

   Superstitious? The banner graphic at the top of the page shows Comet ISON as may appear on Friday 13 December. If my software is simulating the view correctly then the comet on that date will still be showing a tail reaching to Gemma, the ‘crown jewel’ in Corona Borealis the Northern Crown, and Comet ISON should be between 5th and 6th magnitude. At that magnitude range the comet will be visible to the naked-eye under dark skies and with optical assistance should be a great sight.

Click here to view or download the animated graphic from the Huffington Post page on Google+.

   
   
   
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Saturn – Mercury Conjunction

26nov-ani   Before sunrise Tuesday morning, 26 November, the planets Mercury and Saturn will be rising around 30 minutes or so before the Sun. The two planets will be less than 1 degree from each other. If you are able to follow these two planets for the next 2-3 days you will see that they quickly move apart. Both planets are moving eastward however Mercury, as the innermost planet, orbits around the Sun considerably faster than Saturn. This animated graphic is set to 1 frame per day and starts with the 25th and ends on the 28th. The 2nd magnitude star Zubenelgenubi in Libra the Scales is about 1-2 degrees from the two planets.

26nov   Click on thumbnail to see a ‘dream’ view before sunrise on the 26th.

   
   
   
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Morning Closeness-Conjunction Style

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   Before sunrise this Monday morning, 18 November, there will be several areas of interest to view, all of which have something in common – a celestial object appearing close to another celestial object. This graphic is a somewhat distorted view of the sky above the horizon stretching from the southwest to nearly the eastern horizon and shows the sky at 630 am CST.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   In the west and setting is the waning gibbous Moon about 3-4 degrees from the reddish star Aldebaran one the eyes of Taurus the Bull. The reflected light from the just past full Moon will drown out many of the stars near Aldebaran, the stars of the open star cluster the Hyades.
   This graphic is a simulated view of the pair through 7×50 binoculars at 630 am CST.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   Over the eastern horizon you can easily see the bluish-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. Less than 2 degrees down to the left from Spica is Comet ISON. Spica, with an apparent magnitude of nearly 1.0, far outshines Comet ISON which by this morning may have reached 4th to 5th magnitude.
   This graphic is a simulated view of the pair through 7×50 binoculars at 630 am CST.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   A little lower, closer to the horizon, is another close pair of celestial objects. This is the planet Mercury and Comet Encke. As with Spica and Comet ISON there is a sharp contrast in the apparent magnitudes of Mercury and Comet Encke. Mercury which currently is at greatest western elongation shines at around -0.5 magnitude, while Comet Encke is between 4th and 5th magnitudes. Both are separated by less than 2 fegrees.
   This graphic is a simulated view of the pair through 7×50 binoculars at 630 am CST.

   
   
   
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Comet ISON Simulator

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   Here is a really neat interactive online Comet ISON simulator showing the path of Comet ISON from a space view of the inner solar system, and an Earth view – a Planetarium-like view of the horizon and starry sky where the comet is located. The simulator has a timeline along the bottom that highlights various points along the comet’s path including when it is predicted to become naked-eye visible.

Click on picture by Damian Peach to see it full size.

   The comet has brightened considerably as it approaches perihelion in less than two weeks. Here is a beautiful picture of the comet from yesterday by Damian Peach.

   Thanks to Universe Today and editor Fraiser Cain for the heads up on this Comet ISON addition to the online Solar System Scope simulator.

   
   
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

3-D Model of Comet ISON’s Path

comet path   Here is a neat 3-D paper model of the path Comet ISON follows as it makes its way through the inner solar system. Follow the comet from its inbound approach and perihelion through part of its outbound path as it leaves the inner solar system.

    Use the link below to download the 4-page PDF document from the NASA Goddard web site.

http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a010000/a011200/a011222/Paper_Model_of_Comet_ISONs_Orbit.pdf

   
   
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Leo and a Comet

Click on picture to see it full size.

Click on picture to see it full size.

   I read on the Space Weather website last night that Comet ISON was now bright enough to be seen with binoculars, but presumably still in dark skies. So around 5 am CST this morning I went outside to see if I could capture a picture of the comet. I took a series of pictures with various ISO settings (800-3200) and exposure times (6 seconds to 13 seconds). The comet was not visible in any the pictures but I did manage to catch an airplane as it flew across Leo from the tail to the head of the lion.
   How did I get that gap between the plane lights? I actually caught the plane in two consecutive pictures and then used the Freeware program, Deep Sky Stacker to register and stack these two pictures along with 8 other pictures taken at about the same time into one picture. The two ‘airplane lights’ pictures were taken with the same settings (F3.5, ISO 1600) except for the exposure times which were 13 and 15 seconds respectively.

Click on picture to see it full size.

Click on picture to see it full size.

   I did have some excitement in thinking I had a picture of the comet just above some trees. I had changed the aim of the camera upwards a little more to better get pictures of the area around Mars and Denebola. This picture is one of a series with varying ISO and shutter speed settings. The banner picture at the top of the page is the original, while this one I ‘Photoshopped’ to brighten. This picture is cropped from the original that was taken at 5:56 am CST with the camera settings of: F3.5; 10 seconds; ISO 400.

   
   
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.