Oct 2014

"Solar Ecliptical Fun" [slogan © Jana Gayle]


For the 2 dozen or so people who came out to Sauble Beach to watch the Oct 23 partial solar eclipse, the event started off with the sun in clear blue sky. And even when clouds near the horizon interfered with the view, it did not detract from the enjoyment of the event. Two H-alpha scopes, two small reflectors and a 4-inch TeleVue refractor provided lots of variety in the closeup views but the giant sunspot was visible to the naked eye (protected by proper filters of course). That giant sunspot provided a bonus that made this eclipse particularly memorable. It appeared over the eastern limb a week ago and is currently “aimed” right at Earth . The veteran solar observers among the viewers, some going back 40 years, were amazed at the size of this group. APOD for Oct 22 had a video showing sunspot group AR 2192 crackling with flares like lightning bolts seen in Earth's clouds from the ISS. AR 2192 was reported to be 10 times the size of Jupiter which is itself 11 times larger than Earth! Incredible! Even more interesting was the observation by some that the sunspots looked like ET. One observer whimsically observed that if you looked at it upside down, it looked like a running chicken. (Names have not been divulged to relieve those folks from scorn...)

Images shown here were taken by John H. through a 4-inch TeleVue refractor, at about 80x using an afocal system (a 26 mm Plossl eyepiece). Exposure times around 1/320 s ISO 200 with a Canon 60Da camera. The last image was taken about 25 minutes before sunset and shows the dispersion of light by the atmosphere causing reddish and greenish fringes to the edges of the sun and moon's disk. Enjoy!




October Fireballs!

Several BAS members have reported fireballs and bright meteors during their observing sessions at the Fox and elsewhere. I even got a phone call from a pure stranger recounting a bright fireball he and his father (at a different location) observed on Oct 12. If one goes back in the records (see UWO Meteor Group, in particular) there appear to be larger than random numbers of bright fireballs in the fall months. The famous Peekskill fireball happened on Oct 9, 1992 and the Grimsby fireball on Sep 25, 2009, both which dropped meteorites on the ground.

The fact that there are several meteor showers active in Oct may be a contributing factor. On OCt 21 we expect the peak of the Orionid shower and early in Nov, the N. and S, Taurids are active. These showers all have broad activity profiles and contribute to the fireball show through late Sep and Oct.

More information can be found in this good article from Universe Today:
Fireballs of October

Images below are two separate photos of a Perseid fireball in August 1992 taken by Doug Cunningham (lower shot) and me (B&W image) from Lion's Head and Shallow Lake, respectively. You can see that the star background is different in each shot. The brightest star in the colour image is Capella in Auriga. Two shots like this can be used to triangulate on the trail and determine its height accurately. This fireball, like the majority from well-known meteor showers, did not drop any meteorites.

John H.

2 fireballs

Comet PanSTARRS is back!

PanSTARRS K1, the Comet that Keeps Going and Going and Going
by BOB KING on SEPTEMBER 29, 2014 FROM UNIVERSE TODAY www.universetoday.com
See complete article with pictures here: Comet C/2012K1

Thank you K1 PanSTARRS for hanging in there!  Some comets crumble and fade away. Others linger a few months and move on. But after looping across the night sky for more than a year, this one is nowhere near quitting. Matter of fact, the best is yet to come.
This new visitor from the Oort Cloud making its first passage through the inner solar system, C/2012 K1 was discovered in May 2012 by the
Pan-STARRS 1 survey telescope atop Mt. Haleakala in Hawaii at magnitude 19.7. Faint! On its the inbound journey from the Oort Cloud, C/2012 K1 approached with an orbit estimated in the millions of years. Perturbed by its interactions with the planets, its new orbit has been reduced to a mere  ~400,000 years.  That makes the many observing opportunities PanSTARRS K1 has provided that much more appreciated. No one alive now will ever see the comet again once this performance is over.
Many amateur astronomers first picked up the comet’s trail in the spring of 2013 when it had brightened to around magnitude 13.5. My observing notes from June 2, 2013, read:
“Very small, about 20 arc seconds in diameter. Pretty faint at ~13.5 and moderately condensed but not too difficult at 142x . Well placed in Hercules.” Let’s just say it was a faint, fuzzy blob.
K1 PanSTARRS slowly brightened in Serpens last fall until it was lost in evening twilight. Come January this year it returned to the morning sky a little closer to Earth and Sun and a magnitude brighter. As winter snow gave way to frogs and flowers,
the comet rocketed across Corona Borealis, Bootes and Ursa Major. Its fat, well-condensed coma towed a pair of tails and grew bright enough to spot in binoculars at magnitude 8.5 in late May.
By July, it hid away in the solar glare a second time only to come back swinging in September’s pre-dawn sky.  Now in the constellation Hydra and even closer to Earth, C/2012 K1 has further brightened to magnitude 7.5. Though low in the southeast at dawn, I was pleasantly surprised to see it several mornings ago. Through my 15-inch (37-cm) reflector at 64x I saw a fluffy, bright coma punctuated by a brighter, not-quite-stellar nucleus and a faint tail extending 1/4º to the northeast.

comet 2012K1 for Oct

Mid-northern observers can watch the comet’s antics through mid-October. From then on, K1 will only be accessible from the far southern U.S. and points south as it makes the rounds of Pictor, Dorado and Horologium. After all this time you might think the comet is ready to depart Earth’s vicinity. Not even. C/2012 K1 will finally make its closest approach to our planet on Halloween (88.6 million miles – 143 million km) when it could easily shine at magnitude 6.5, making it very nearly a naked-eye comet.
PanSTARRS K1’s not giving up anytime soon. Southern skywatchers will keep it in view through the spring of 2015 before it returns to the deep chill from whence it came. After delighting skywatchers for nearly two years, it’ll be hard to let this one go.
About Bob King
I'm a long-time amateur astronomer and member of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO). My observing passions include everything from auroras to Z Cam stars. Every day the universe offers up something both beautiful and thought-provoking. I also write a daily astronomy blog called Astro Bob.