Comet on the Run!

   Comet 2020 F3 (NEOWISE) has moved to the evening skies after its close approach to the Sun earlier this month. The comet is now outbound from the solar system and will pass by the Earth coming the closest on the 22nd – 23rd. Over the next month or so the comet will gradually move into the polar circumpolar region of the sky and will be above the horizon all night.

   On the evening of the comet’s closest approach to the Earth it will be somewhat lined up with the ‘Pointer Stars’ in the Big Dipper. However instead of going toward the North star, Polaris, go in the opposite direction to find the comet.

   Click here to go to the Sky Live web site for accurate finder charts for this comet and other comets.

   Watch this short video to follow the comet’s path:

   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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A Comet Comes This Way

   Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková is a short period comet having an orbital path that takes it from beyond the orbit of Jupiter around the Sun approximately every 5.25 years. This current apparition has the comet starting to become brighter and more visible as it approaches its closest to the Earth on February 11th. On that date it will be visible in the morning skies before sunrise at a distance of 0.084 AU (7,808,288 miles; 12,566,221 km) from the Earth with an estimated apparent magnitude of 8.0.
   Click here to read more and see some viewing graphics.
   An important caveat about comet predictions:
“A comet is like a cat. Both have tails and both do what they want.”

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Moon Meets Jupiter

Thursday and Friday, December 3rd-4th, the waning gibbous Moon will pass by the planet Jupiter. Over the next few days the Moon, as it wanes, will pass by Mars, and then Venus and Comet Catalina (C/2013 US10).

Stay tuned!

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.

A Comet, the Moon, and Mars

       And no, this is not the first line in a joke sentence ending with “walk into a bar!”
       Seriously Comet Finlay (16/P), a regular visitor to the inner solar system has been reported to have significantly brightened from 11th magnitude to between 8th and 9th magnitude. According to reports the comet is typically at around 11th magnitude as it approaches perihelion, December 27th. So at 8th or 9th magnitude this puts the comet at a brightness within the reach of large aperture binoculars – at least 10×50 or larger. 25 mm with 8" DobsonianAnd certainly within the reach of telescopes.
       On the 24th the comet will be passing very close to Mars as we view them from Earth. This is a line of sight effect not one where the comet literally and physically comes close to Mars. This should be a fine pairing of celestial objects, especially when viewed through the eyepiece of a telescope as shown in this simulated view using a 25 mm eyepiece with an 8″ Dobsonian telescope.
    finlay-ani   Prior to the 24th you can follow the comet in real time on an interactive star map at the The Sky Live web site. This is a really useful web site for tracking more than just comets. The display may be set to a Planetarium, star chart, or a Live Position mode. With the Planetarium setting you can adjust the date and time and view the comet’s motion relative to the constellation and stars in the background.
    Click on graphic to see it full size.

    Click on graphic to see it full size.

       On December 24th, shortly after sunset local time, look for the thin waxing crescent Moon to be just off to the right from Mars and the comet.

       
       
       
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    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.

Mars Gets Dusted!

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   Sunday October 19th Comet Siding Spring (C/2013 A1) will pass the planet by Mars as the comet heads inbound toward the Sun and perihelion. At the closest, 7 UT (2 am CDT), the comet comes within less than 100,000 miles (160,000 km) of Mars, and as the comet passes by Mars the comet’s dusty tail will sweep across the planet.
   Both are visible over the southwestern horizon at sunset local time and are situated near the spout of the teapot-shaped asterism in Sagittarius and embedded deep in the ‘heart’ of the Milky Way.

8" Schmidt Cassegrain: 25 mm eyepiece

8″ Schmidt Cassegrain: 25 mm eyepiece

   While the comet is not bright enough to be seen with the unaided eye it will be bright enough to be seen with telescopes as small as those with an 8″ (205 mm) mirrors. This graphic shows a simulated view of the comet (greatly exaggerated) and Mars as the two would appear looking through a 25mm eyepiece on an 8″ Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope.

   Read more about the comet and see some animations in a previous post.

   
   
   
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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.

Mars and A Comet

Viewing Mars and the Comet from the Sun.

Viewing Mars and the Comet from the Sun.

   On 3 January of last year Australian Astronomer Robert McNaught captured images of a new comet, Comet Siding Spring (C/2013 A1), with the use of a telescope at the Siding Springs Observatory in New South Wales, Australia. As this animated graphic shows the comet’s path is from south of the ecliptic moving north across the ecliptic and past the planet Mars during October.
The View From the Comet.

The View From the Comet.


   
   Comet Siding Spring (C/2013 A1) comes the closest to Mars, about 82,000 miles (131,966 km), on October 19th at 18:28 UT (2:28 pm CDT).
The View from Earth.

If we could see the comet and Mars from Earth it might look like this.


   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   Visit the special web site from NASA about the comet.

   
   

   
   
   
   
   
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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.

A New Comet

Click on image to see full size.

Click on image to see full size.

   A newly discovered comet, Comet C/2013 R1 Lovejoy, the third one discovered by Australian Astronomer Terry Lovejoy has been confirmed. The comet is currently too dim for anything but long time exposures and larger telescopes however it may brighten to become visible (no predictions yet) around the end of November when it is closest to Earth. This is also around the perihelion passage for Comet ISON so we may have two bright comets in our skies. Or not!
   As this graphic shows the comet is currently just east of the star Saiph, the lower left star in Orion’s rectangle shape. It’s path will take it close to the star Procyon in Canis Minor and then through the center of Cancer passing close to Mars. By the last week of November the comet should be passing below the bowl of the Big Dipper.
Here is a link to a picture on the Space Weather website.

   
   
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Moon Near the Pleiades

27 November – 8 p.m. CST

   This evening the waxing gibbous Moon is within 4-5 degrees from the open star cluster the Pleiades as this graphic shows.
   The Pleiades, or the Seven Sisters, is open star cluster of several hundred (to possibly more than 1,000) stars with the brightest dozen or so visible to the naked eye at about a combined 1st magnitude brightness. This star cluster has been observed and named by many cultures around the world and was designated as M-45 by French Astronomer and comet hunter Charles Messier in his catalog of celestial objects he had ruled out as non-comets. Given its size at about 2-degrees the Pleiades are hard not to notice, even at times like this evening when the near full Moon is close. When you observe this star cluster you are looking at relatively young stars located around 300-400 light years from us. In time-exposure images there is often some nebulosity shown surrounding some of the stars. This is not remnants of the material the stars formed out of but rather is an interstellar cloud of dust and gases that the star cluster is passing through.

   Tomorrow the Moon meets Jupiter, is eclipsed, and is this year’s “Super-Mini” Moon.

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

A ‘New’ Comet

Animated Image Showing Comet Motion

    The Astronomers at the Remanzacco Observatory in Italy have just announced the discovery of a comet, C/2012 S1 (ISON), that has the potential for putting on a spectacular display between November 2013 and January 2014 for observers in the northern hemisphere. Currently the comet is beyond the orbit of Jupiter at approximately 6.25 au from the Sun, and is extremely dim with an apparent magnitude of around 18. Based on pre-discovery data from the Mount Lemmon Observatory in Tucson Arizona, the Pan-STARRS Survey in Hawaii as well as with imagery from the Remanzacco Observatory, current predictions call for the comet to pass very close to the Sun, 0.012 au, during November 2013, and then passing within 0.4 au from the Earth in January 2014. If predictions hold up the comet could become naked-eye visible reaching negative magnitude values.
    Magnitude values for celestial objects are given as either positive or negative values with brightness increasing with negative values. For example the planet Venus is currently shining at around -4, Jupiter is about -2.5, and the stars of the Big Dipper are around +2 to +3.
    Click here to go to the Remanzacco Observatory blog to read more about this discovery and see images and orbital predictions, as well as about other small solar system bodies observed by the Astronomers there.
    And as always when making predictions about comets – “Comets are like cats – they both have tails and both do what they want to do.