Mar 2014

Strange-Looking Comet (PanSTARRS 2012K1)

In poking around the internet looking for information about Comet PanSTARRS-2012K1, I came across the sketch below from Uwe Pilz of Leipzig Germany. He posted this on Cloudy Nights Telescope Reviews:
I sketch comets often but show these sketches seldom here, because they are not especially impressive: Comets have soft borders.
In this case I make an exception: Comet Panstarrs looks very strange. The coma is oval, die [the] axis deviates from the anti-solar direction. The tail shows some wings which are not symmetric. Part of this habitus [?] may be caused by unusual spectrum of dust particles' diameter. May be some kind of outburst or disintegration plays a role.

If you have the chance, please look at this comet. It is in Hercules [now in Corona Borealis] and can be observed easily in the morning sky.

I used my 32 cm Newtonian and changed magnification between 96x and 144x. A Swan Band filter gave no effect: It is a dust rich comet.

Uwe Pilz sketch Mar 3 Liepzig Germany

If you get a chance do have a look as it should be brighter now, aprox. a month later. -John H.

Wonderful Winter Nights

Wonderful Winter Nights -by Lorraine Rodgers

Winter stargazing is a special treat, especially for those of us who live in Grey-Bruce. Clear moonless nights seem very rare during the cold months. A few of us were able to take advantage of great sky conditions this past weekend.  

Any cold weather observing takes careful planning and preparation. Wearing enough layers is essential. The temperature fell to at least -15C with a windchill around -27C. We discovered that the newly installed radiant heater was perfect for the frequent warm-up breaks we all needed.

The heavens always offer their treasures but the winter stars are especially bright. Upon arriving at the Observatory, we were greeted with a dark sky and a bright Milky Way.  The new crescent moon graced the sky briefly. I described it as either a bowl or a smile. The zodiacal light was so obvious in the western sky, well after sunset. This was a favourite object to image.

A crescent moon only 1.9 d old. Image by John H. Canon 60Da, 400 mm f/5.6 lens, ISO 800, exp = 2.5 s.

Our observing session had a few challenges like cold noses, fingers, and toes. This also affected operation of cameras and scopes. The GoTo hand controller was slow. The roof was slow. Every metal surface was dangerously cold. There were snow drifts to wade through. But the south wall was manually opened so no issues there. This expanded our observing options quite a bit. Orion and Canis Major were perfectly framed. We explored several Messier objects in that area, as well as Jupiter and its moons. Our eventual Messier total was only a dozen but not too bad, considering the circumstances.

We all made sure to look at the supernova in M82, SN2014J. At magnitude 11 it does not look spectacular. It's more the fact that a single star exploding, can be as bright or brighter than its whole galaxy, from our point of view.

One of our number had his first chance to operate a telescope...the 12" Dob! He learned quickly and found several objects on his own.

Three of the four observers at ES Fox Observatory Sunday night. Image by John. H. Canon 60Da, 10 mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 1600, exp. = 6 s. Note: no sensor cooling required as the ambient temp was -15C.

After a long wait [for clear skies this winter!], this was a night to remember. It is recorded in my sky journal. But I began to realize that some of our members prefer to keep a different type of journal. By using all their images, they have their own type of journal -a photographic one of all the observing they have done.

And now....I'm waiting for spring and its promise of warmer nights.