Sunday, March 8, 2009

Saturn in opposition as Venus grows into big, slender crescent

The main planetary action in the coming days and weeks takes place at dusk and at midnight: While Saturn is now in opposition to the Sun, Venus will almost suddenly disappear from the evening sky later this month, but as a slender crescent almost one arc minute in size. The opposition of Saturn may result in noticeably brighter rings, thanks to the opposition effect. You can find some of the best amateur pictures here, while here Pic du Midi's 1-m scope images (also hailed here) abound, including some unusual IR views. And here's another transit of Titan et al. Regarding Venus's grand finale in the evening, it was possible to catch the Moon and Venus as crescents in the same FOV. Again many great views are in the Japanese archive, including several successful detections of the nightside glowing in the IR like here. None of the results seem to match what was achieved in 2007, though, although many are trying hard (or just for for pretty pictures). The size of a telescope doesn't always matter, by the way, as an analysis of mutual events of Uranus's moons in 2007 shows (40 cm as good as 10 m). Talking of occultations, here's a recent Antares graze; the video gets better towards the end.

News with an impact (or 'almost'): While the launch of the LCROSS mission has slipped to NET May 20, preparings for observations of the impacts continue, with a discussion forum for observers now in place. • Did another meteorite fall in Finland? (Some info and a map.) • Here's a long story on meteorite hunting in Texas. • And at least 16 pieces of asteroid 2008 TC3 have already been recovered. • After its Earth visit on March 2 we've found out that NEA 2009 DD45 belongs to the S class, has thus a high albedo and small diameter of 19±4 meters; still in the closest approaches list the object (here's the last dedicated MPEC) figures prominently (on this one it's missing). There are a picture, movie and more movies - and lots of coverage in the old and new media such as here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here in English and here, here, here and here in German.

In other news the Lulin show went into a brief lunar hiatus, but there are a lot of afterthoughts and even new pictures: a nice multi-day mosaic, the light curve, excellent pictures from Southern France, a recorded webcast from Israel, a best of and thoughts and pictures by Lulin's discoverer. New pictures, videos and reports have come in from March 5/6 (with M44, plus a visual report), March 4/5, March 3/4 (more, more, more, an animation and a disappointment), March 2/3 (more), March 1/2 (more, more and even unguided), Feb. 28/Mar. 1 (more, also mentioned here, more, more, more, more, more and more) and Feb. 27/28. Older but cool pictures come from Feb. 25 from Oz and Italy and Feb. 23 as well as a movie from Feb. 22. • Meanwhile yet another outburst of comet Daniel (earlier), • a "comsat cloud" and • a review of a new camera. • And an Austrian amateur is making ample use of the robotic Slooh telescopes in February as well as March from Chile (earlier, still earlier) and Tenerife.

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