Aug 2014

Webster at Starfest 2014

Starfest has been organized by NYAA for over 30 years, and once again, the weekend weather had more clear nights than cloudy for viewing. Saturday was especially spectacular as just as the excellent talk by Cassini Image Director Carolyn Porco (standing ovation!) came to an end the skies cleared from horizon to horizon. Dew was only a serious problem on Thursday night.


On Saturday night the clear skies attracted the largest crowds to the hill where the BAS Webster 28 was located. Thanks especially to Brett T. for making the extra-ordinary effort to get Webster there, set it up, tuck it away for the night, and tinker with the electronics to get the scope working as advertised. (Still a few problems there, but Brett is making good progress!) Also spelling him as star guide were Lorraine B., Frank P. and John H.
There were many "WOW" moments which made the effort worthwhile, and while Saturn was down in the murk in the SW, other objects higher up were much more satisfying. The hit of each night's viewing was invariably the Hercules Globular Cluster especially when we used a 9 mm eyepiece (at 300 power!) to fill the entire field with the cluster. Never failed to draw a gasp of delight from everyone, even the last person in the line who had heard wows from everyone ahead of him/her. Other showpiece objects were the Ring Nebula, Dumbbell Nebula and the Veil Nebula with an O3 filter. Wisps were visible clearly in the "Witches Broom".
Image above shows a few observers (mostly BAS members) taking advantage of the 1 am clearing of the skies on Friday night/Saturday morning. Saturday night was "wall-to-wall" stars from sunset on. Image below by Robert A. shows the three brightest objects in the sky (apart from the Sun) that collected together in the dawn sky about 5:45 am. Venus is lower left, Jupiter, upper centre.

Rosetta Arrives!

The final CAT burn was flawless and Rosetta is now traveling in tandem with its comet, currently starting the first pyramid (really tetrahedron) orbit.
Images below show the nucleus of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, which is smaller than many mountains, is also much smaller than both of the Mars moons, Phobos and Deimos.

Screen shot 2014-08-06 at 2.46.30 PM

Screen shot 2014-08-06 at 2.46.41 PM

Looks like that ‘smoother’ area has some ice boulders and / or icy outcrops.
Many features look like ablation features, even though comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has only been in an orbit to allow sublimation only very recently, so could be impact features that have frozen.

More at the ESA Rosetta site