Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Inferior conjunction of Venus - superior pictures of its slender crescent

With is inferior conjunction just three days away, Venus has been at its best in recent weeks: presenting a continuously growing slender crescent while racing towards the Sun as seen from Earth. Excellent - or unusual - photos of March 23, March 22, March 21 (more, more and more), March 20 (more), March 19, March 18 and March 17. The crescent could also be imaged without a telescope using simple compact cameras. Now the challenge is to spot Venus as the morning and evening star on the same day as it passes far north of the Sun. • Meanwhile Jupiter has emerged from the Sun: pictures from Oz from March 23 (more), March 21 and March 19. • On Saturn, Hubble on 24 Feb. observed four moons in front of the disk (also here and here, plus explanation how it was animated and why the pics were taken at all; more coverage here, here, here, here and here). Also another transit of Titan and its shadow on March 12, the planet in general and well images on March 21 (very colorful), March 20 and March 16.

In cometary and other small-body news comet 19P is showing a weird coma/tail as pictures of March 20 and March 21 show. • New comet Itagaki in a March 21 animation and on March 17 (more and more), March 16, March 15 and in picture collections here and here. • Comet Lulin's light curve and observations of March 21 (more, more and more, March 20 (more, March 19, March 17 (more), March 16 (more, more and more) and March 15 plus in a March 3 movie. • Comet 67P with a little tail (earlier), 116P also with a tail - and multi-comet panels from the same night, showing 14 comets on March 17 and 10 comets on March 18 and March 20. Plus a Kreutz crash on March 21. • The disk of dwarf planet Ceres has been resolved by two amateurs, C. Go on March 3-9 and B. G√§hrken on March 21. • More on the Baltic bolide meteorite recovery here, here and here and in German TV news here (5½ min) and here (8 min). • Non-impacting visitors were 2009 DO111 (more, more and more) and 2009 FH (more, more, more, more and more) while the small size of 2009 DD45 was hardly reported.

In other news the role of amateur variable star observations for professional astronomy was emphasized once more. • We also have an introduction into astronomy with binoculars and an urban observers survival guide in three parts. • Aurorae, meanwhile, can also be "observed" via webcast. • On March 16 a little coronal mass ejection was observed on the otherwise inactive Sun. • Here is an impressive picture of a Capetown fire with Sco overhead (more on that fire). • Einstein@home is entering a new phase, hunting for rare pulsar binaries. • The launch of Discovery to mission STS-119 happened at just the right dusk time for marvellous light effects: For sampling of amateur pictures of the launch and plume in sunlight see the green box in Cosmic Mirror #326 - and the plume also shows up brilliantly on the SRB camera videos (e.g. at 4:33). Just before Discovery docked to the ISS, the pair could be photographed from the NL and near Bonn. Later one amateur may have imaged an astronaut during the March 21 EVA; other hi-res ISS pics after truss S6 installation here and here. In the sky the ISS is now very bright and easy to photograph. • Finally some other satellite trails: more flashes from Iridium 33 wreckage, double Iridium flares - and Kepler passing Saturn.

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