Sunday, April 19, 2009

Daytime Astronomy

Great trick: find where an iridium flare will be, make sure you are outside with your partner or friend at the right moment, and 'make it appear'. Say 'watch this', point and listen to the gasp. I did this once. Fun.

Ok, that wasn't during the day. But I suppose it could be done. How do I know?

Back in my earlier days of astronomy, obsessed as I was, I would show my friends things that they didn't expect. Venus is easily spotted when it's at a large elongation (far from the sun as seen from Earth) during the day. Most people just won't believe what they are seeing. Yes, a planet in broad daylight.

But wait, there's more. Sirius. I often find it before sunset to start aligning my telescope. You can find Sirius during the day too. I've even seen Betelgeuse before sunset. You'll need at least setting circles to do this though.

You can, though, see Jupiter during the day fairly easily. But just like Venus and Sirius, you have to know exactly where to look. The first time I saw Jupiter in broad daylight it looked like a balloon. As it probably will today when YOU look at it! I'm making this easy. Ok, I'm not, the alignment is.

Go outside with a pair of binoculars. Find the moon and scan just one degree down or south. That's not a balloon, it's Jupiter.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Comet 6P/d'Arrest

This periodic comet was discovered in Pisces by Heinrich Ludwig d'Arrest (Leipzig, Germany) on 1851 June 28. It has an orbital period of 6.51 years, and is in the Jupiter family of comets.

It had been one of the targets of the CONTOUR spacecraft, which NASA lost contact with after a the firing of it's solid rocket engine.

Comet 144P/Kushida

Here is another reprocessed image. Imaging details are on the image. You can always click it to make it bigger.

Yoshio Kushida discovered this comet on January 8, 1994. He used Technical Pan 6415 patrol film shot with a 0.10-m (4 inch) f/4.0 telescope. A 4 inch telescope!

It has an orbital period of 7.366 years. The closest it ever gets to the sun is about half way between the Earth and Mars. It's furthest point is a bit beyond Jupiter. It reached Perihelion (closest to the Sun) in late January.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Comet C/2006 W3 (Christensen)

I had this image up on my other site and have since reprocessed it. Much better.

This comet was discovered on November 18, 2006 by E. J. Christensen with the Catalina Sky Survey. At the time of this image, it was about 3.7 AU from the sun; beyond the orbit of Mars. It will be closest to the sun, at perihelion, in summer 2009, when it will be about 3.3 AU from the Sun. Not much closer.

After that it will head south and out of the solar system, never to return.
I'll surely be taking more images it it approaches perihelion.