Saturday, February 7, 2009

Lulin's ion tail excites astrophotographers - and first naked-eye sightings around 6,0 mag.

Just before the Moon began to spoil the view for the next 10 days or so, the comet Lulin show really got exciting: its faint ion tail, which has reached some 2° in length, is experiencing fast and complex effects in the solar wind confusing inexperienced observers (though perfectly normal, which includes a major disconnection event on Feb. 4) while the comet's coma - now estimated around 6,0 mag. - has been sighted occasionally with the naked eye in recent days, e.g. in Texas and India. The picture collections like this, this and this are growing; here are selected images and reports from Feb. 7 (pic, vis), Feb. 6 (pic w/long tail, pic, vis, vis), Feb. 5 (pic at Alpha Librae, pic from here, pic, pic, pics, widefield pic, vis), Feb. 4 (pics with the with DE, dito and Feb. 4 vs. Jan. 31 pics), Feb. 3 (pics, pic, pic, vis w/naked-eye averted), Feb. 2 (pic w/tail effects, pic, widfield pic at dawn) and Feb. 1 (pic, pic, pic described here) plus more Lulin articles here, here, here, here and here. • More interesting comet pictures show 77P "facing" two galaxies and 144P in the Hyades on Feb. 2 and Jan. 31, described here.

In other news there will be a transit of Titan on Saturn's disk in the night Feb. 8/9 visible e.g. in Oz; here is an animation of an earlier such event, also seen from down under. Meanwhile the rings have opened a bit again as beautiful images from Feb. 4 (another one, explained here) and Feb. 3 (another one; no data) show. And an amateur has used the almost edge-on view to image Calypso, a small satellite of Saturn! • Amateurs were also involved in observations of a stellar occultaton by Titania of Uranus long ago. • And bright evening "star" Venus is causing UFO alerts around the world. • The penumbral lunar eclipse on Feb. 9/10 following the annular spectacular will mainly be an Asian/Oceanian event with nothing to see e.g. in Germany where it's being discussed nonetheless. So how about Clavius at 200 m/pxl?! • Several asteroid sizes have been measured by optical interferometry while a new PHA isn't exactly hazardous: According to the first orbit it has a mere impact probability of < 1 in 100 million in 2046.

• Here is a Call for Monitoring for a planetary transit of HD 80606 which has been much in the news lately: Around Valentine's Day it could experience a long primary eclipse. Meanwhile the lightcurve of Eta Carinae is doing interesting things. • Brilliant aurora images from Tromso have been published; this one is particularly stunning. And a weird distorted moonrise was imaged recently - the animation is particularly stunning. • Here is a portrait of satellite watchers, a species of amateur astronomers also known for hi-res pics of the ISS in front of or next to the Moon or even transiting Venus. Or just passing by, a frequent view. • Finally, the Chambliss Award for Amateur Achievement for 2008 has been awarded to Steve Mandel, a new sensor material could revolutionize CCD chips - and here is a great collection of digital space art, in case the real Universe isn't enough. :-)

No comments: