Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hartley still big, visual comet discovery in outburst, Eris occultation, Jupiter SEB action & more

A lot has happened in the sky in the past ten days, with the main event, of course, the visit paid to comet 103P/Hartley (2) by Deep Impact: Here are (in German) a live blog, early insights, smoother animation and yet more analysis; many more links (mostly to stuff in English) are here in the header. Seen from the Earth the comet hasn't changed much, though the tail more prominent now: selected pictures of Nov. 10 (more), Nov. 9, Nov. 8, Nov. 7 (more), Nov. 6 (more, more and an animation), Nov. 4, Nov. 3 (more) and Nov. 2. It is also clear now that there was not a single meteor from Hartley 2 - as was expected anyway - according to systematic observers. However in a bad move the Center for Astrophysics put out (and later quietly deleted, re-using the URL for something else!) a press release claiming otherwise, based on vague stories - there are still hundreds of copies of the bad text out there like this one, while e.g. Universe Today and had fallen for the nonsense ...

A double visual discovery of a comet in outburst happened in Japan in early November: In a place where one of the two observers hadn't seen anything the day before, suddenly a comet was seen (a report from the other discoverer), first causing excitement (a close bright NEA?) before the cometary nature was clear and a number and then the names were assigned when a first orbit was known. Comet C/2010 V1 (Ikeya-Murakami) has since evolved quickly, a bit like outburst comets Vales and Holmes: selected pictures of today (more), Nov. 9 (more, more; wide), Nov. 8 (more, more), Nov. 7 (more) and Nov. 6 (small; also a visual report). More stories - not all accurate! - about the new comet here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. And a particularly stupid one, mistaking an airplane trail for the comet ... • Another interesting comet discovery is C/2010 U3 (Boattini) which will reach its perihelion only in 2019 at 8 AU from the Sun!

For the first time a star occultation by dwarf planet Eris was observed by three (small) telescopes in two locations in Chile - and the preliminary analysis suggests that Eris and Pluto are about the same size, with current error bars overlapping (if the body is a sphere, 3 points = 1 1/2 chords are enough to fix the diameter). Which also means that Eris has an extremely high albedo as well as (predominantly rocky) density. The forecast(s), an early report (more), a video, early thoughts by Eris' discoverer (still earlier; more) and stories here, here, here, here, hier, hier und hier. • Perhaps the biggest TNO is still to be found as surveys in the Southern sky are taking off only now. Plus various Centaur & TNO tidbits from a recent conference. • From small bodies closer to home: another bolide caught on camera, expectations of an improved orbit for Apophis from 2013 astrometry, and a live plot of the Leonids ZHR; not much there yet.

The revival of the SEB of Jupiter seems to have begun with the appearance of an isolated small bright spot: early summary stories at Planetary Society Blog, ALPO Blog, ALPO Japan, Sky & Telescope (earlier) and SpaceWeather. You can check here what Jupiter is doing: The Nov. 9 page has the first indications, the Nov. 10 collection many more confirming images. Events are also tracked on Cloudy Nights. • A Jupiter trail with Diwali fireworks in India, and Venus + the waning lunar crescent on Nov. 5 (two more views); also Venus on Oct. 31. • Proof that you can track an exoplanet transit with a cheaaaap telescope (selling for some 50 EUR), though a good CCD camera is also required.

Many spacecraft are observing the Sun right now, including some lesser known ones like Proba 2 and Picard; we also have new results from the Sunrise balloon flight and details about SDO's operations. • There was a major flare on Nov. 6 (more, more) as well as on Nov. 3, the physics of CMEs are discussed, and in Egypt space weather experts meet. • A 12 mag. supernova and the distance to Eps Aur. • A big ESO competition for image processing buffs. • A misunderstood airplane contrail (more, more, more and more - also a similar shot by yours truly). • And Soyuz debris found in Australia.

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