Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The State of McNaught: stagnant at 5 mag., long tail for photographers, visibility worsening

Have we seen the best of comet C/2009 R1 (McNaught) already? The first two weeks of June produced a flurry of great photographs, but this has come to an end as the window of (good) visibility is decreasing again. And a detailled analysis also raises doubts that McNaught will reach 2nd magnitude: It may stop at 3.5 to 4 mag. which is pretty bad given the poor viewing geometry. The report also hightlights the fact that the coma is very small, only a few arc minutes, and the ion tail - which photographers saw at up to 7° in length - very faint visually: In 'normal' binoculars (which this blogger has also pointed at the comet repeatedly) McNaught is just a tiny fuzzball, reminiscent of a distant globular cluster perhaps, and the same goes for small telescopes. Only in huge binoculars and big telescopes does the comet give something to the visual observer.

Here are selected pictures from the mornings of June 16, June 15 (also a drawing and another one), June 14, June 13 (also with NLCs, more wide views, more, more, more and a visual report from a large scope), June 12 (more, more, very small and a visual report), June 11 (an animation; more, more, more and more pics), June 10 (more, more), June 9 (more, more,more), June 8 (more, more, more, more, more, more), June 7 (more, more, more) and June 6 (more, more, more, more, more, more, more, more, more, more). Numerous general articles on the comet appeared e.g. here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, hier, hier und hier - some very misleading, of course, touting a "bright green comet" easy to find by just looking North ...

The June 3 Jupiter impact left not the slightest trace in the clouds of Jupiter, even with the vision of the Hubble Space Telescope, as also reported here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and hier. There are many ideas why nothing was seen after the impact which had earlier made news also here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. • Constellation-wise here are Venus & the Moon on June 15; it's now a good time for this and other planets in the evening. E.g. here are Mars on June 4, the Mars/Regulus conjunction on June 6 (more and the view from down under) and a Tethis-Dione event at Saturn on June 5. • In the distant solar system the results of the first-ever observed stellar occultation by a Kuiper Belt Object have been published and a rather big one has been discovered - while comet Hale-Bopp was detected by Herschel at 30 AU from the Sun.

In other news the first two dwarf planets are in opposition (with Ceres being much easier than Pluto, of course), and a stellar occultation by asteroid (80) Sappho has yielded nice chords. • There is some speculation that the 2011 Draconids could have an outburst, while others see a maximum ZHR of just 40 to 50 or even just 10 - nonetheless commercial tours like this and this one are being offered to watch the shower/outburst/storm. Which happens around full moon, though. • Another "meteor caused fire" nonsense evaporated quickly in Canada, also the story of NWA 5400 and NASA asking for help in finding meteorites. Plus more arguments against an impact/Dryas link and about the meteor poem (more). • Speculations and warnings regarding the future behavior of the Sun made many headlines, such as this, this, this, this, this, this and this, letting some scratch their heads over contradictions.

• There is no mid-eclipse brightening of Epsilon Aurigae so far, while something strange is happening regarding Eta Carinae's stellar wind. • Sightings of NLCs are now on the increase, with observations e.g. on June 16, June 15 (also a video), June 14 and June 13; earlier they were rare, and a claimed sighting in Austria on the 9th is thought erroneous now. • A nice sunset from the ISS made headlines, and there is an analysis of the Icelandic ash from the volcano plume. • An ISS transit and more on the Falcon 9 spiral over Oz (more, more, more). • The reentry of Hayabusa resulted in a brilliant sky show over Oz: more images here and here. • PanSTARRS is now operational and finding supernovae. • And finally a transportable 107-cm amateur scope with a convenient eyepiece position!

No comments: