Friday, February 17, 2012

Comets make news: Garradd's weird tails, more amateur discoveries - and Lovejoy heads north

Well, nerd news rather, as none of the interesting comets making headlines in speciality media are bright enough for general (or even general amateur astronomical) interest - not even C/2009 P1 (Garradd) which is now at its best and even circumpolar for Northerners. With three tails, a regular dust and plasma tail in one and a dust anti-tail in the opposite direction, but only 6.5 mag. The highlight so far was certainly the close passage to Messier 92, and astrophotographers were hard to stop: selected pictures of Feb. 14, Feb. 12 (more, more), Feb. 4, Feb. 3 (also an APOD; more, more, more, more, more, more, more, more, more, more and more), Feb. 2 (more, more, highly processed, more and more), Feb. 1 (b/w) and Jan. 31 - and a paper on Garradd's chemistry.

In other comet news there were several amateur discoveries, C/2012 B3 (La Sagra) (more), C/2012 CH17 (MOSS) and C/2012 C2 (Bruenjes): the discoverer's report about the 3rd comet and pictures here, here, here, here, here and here. • Other recent comet discoveries were C/2012 C1 (McNaught), P/2011 VJ5 (Lemmon) and P/2012 C3 (PanSTARRS); also the recovery of P/2003 T12 (SOHO). • Finally comet Lovejoy is heading north again, with a deep picture of Feb. 12 from Oz showing a 7° tail in Lepus - observers on the N hemisphere could now get lucky, too; though the comet has nothing of its former beauty of Dec. 2011 left.

Several bolides made headlines in the U.S.: in Texas on Feb. 1 (further analysis here, here, here, here and here), Virginia & al. on Feb. 3 and Feb. 13 in the Carolinas (TV clips, more, more, more and a joke ...). • Also the NASA fireball network, and one of the fresh Mars meteorites has come to the U.K.. • During its close approach to Earth (433) Eros 'passed' some satellites; more pictures here and here and coverage here, here, here, here and here (funny lede). • Also a Kalliope mutual events campaign, detailled NEA discovery stats, the discovery of 2012 BX34 and the NEOShield study (mehr).

Elsewhere in the solar system the unique binary KBO 2007 TY430, the orbits of big KBOs, southern KBOs and a great 5-minute talk on where Pluto fits into the solar system. • Mars pictures of Feb. 7, Feb. 4 ... 7, Feb. 4 and Feb. 1, two new small satellites of Jupiter and Venus, Jupiter & the Moon in the coming days. • Regarding the Sun a paper on the latitude dependence of the maximum duration of a total solar eclipse, observations by CRATER of the recent flares, X flares vs. time over solar cylces, 10 years of RHESSI flare monitoring and insights on flare physics, the solar B field, H2 in sunspots, the solar climate role (minimal) and storm risks.

Elsewhere in the Universe a 1923 nova in M 31 erupts again (more) and a big conference poster on the Eps Aur campaign. • Stories on the U.S. Naval Obs. and the leap second indecision - section 3.4 of the Dec. 2011 R.A.S. Council Meeting Minutes is also interesting here as apparently U.K. hope was lost at that time (later the leap second won and the U.K. was credited for that). • Finally a surprise aurora Feb. 14 in Minn. and Alaska, a TV feature on aurora chasers in the U.K., an aurora video from Oz (Jan. 22; still) and more space timelapse movies here, here and here (the latter from the ISS and w/aurora).

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