Monday, January 31, 2011

The hunt is on for NanoSail D: some sightings, no major flares yet

The initial report of little solar sail NanoSail D's release from the FASTSAT were wrong ("Keinerlei Kontakt ..."), but a month later the nanosatellite spontaneously ejected after all and deployed its sail as planned, with the battery draining a few hours later ("Dem Nanosail ...), also as planned. Now an inert satellite experiment it's up to amateur astronomers to track its behavior and there are even prizes waiting ("Fotowettbewerb ...") for the best images submitted here. Links to successful sightings & pictures can already be found here (in the header): some trail images with no obvious large flares from Iridium-style specular reflections (although this one from Finland seems flaring) and visual reports, usually between +6 and +7 mag. It's all a question of attitude, and future surprises are possible. The satellite should reenter between late March and May; visibility predictions are offered e.g. by Heavens Above; hit "Next" repeatedly for future viewing windows. • Observing the ISS transit the Sun in the Philippines. • NLC space image sequence and brightening trend claim. • A nice solar Omega (more), the Moon in 3D and on 5 subsequent days.

A supernova of 12.9 mag. can be seen right now in NGC 2655: photometry, images, visual impression! • There is a Nova Sgr 2011 at 11 mag. • FS Aur had a little outburst: alert, observations, context. • A poster with new CHARA pics of Eps Aur from the 217th AAS Meeting, a long human interest story on the lead observer, a paper on the campaign and the star's status. • On Feb. 6 we will see the whole Sun as the STEREO s/c span a 180° angle, a coronal hole may cause aurorae in early Feb., new insights from THEMIS, a double eruption on Jan. 28, a kinky CME on Jan. 13, better TSI measurements (alt., more) and nice Big Bear images. • From the Partial Solar Eclipse a hot MeteoSat movie, more fine images here, here, here, here (bottom), here and here, another gallery, an animation, a video, TV reports from WDR (w/yours truly), SWR and Rosenheim24 and a summary. Also the 2010 TSE as a partial from Tahiti and the Dec. TLE from Scotland and in another collection.

A fireball over Southern Germany was nicely imaged and led to a meteorite hunt; reports from other fireballs here and here (more). • Details on the Draconids this year. • Comet 29P is in outburst again: pictures here, here and here. • Elenin is still faint (more). • A new comet C/2011 A3 (Gibbs) (more). • Pics of Hartley 2 (and DS objects) from Jan. 30, Jan. 28, Jan. 26 and other dates, the SOHO 'comet storm' (over) and the 30th BAA comet magazine (PDF). • The Scheila outburst seems over, many observed a star occultation by (144) Vibilia and will try to see one by TNO Quaoar early on Feb. 2. • Hi-res images of Mercury 2008-10. • Venus & the Moon on Jan. 30 (more). • Jupiter in mid-January - and the 2009 impact explained (more, more, more). • Saturn (and its mighty storm) in amateur pics of Jan. 31, Jan. 29, Jan. 28, Jan. 26 (more), Jan. 17 and earlier and on Cassini pics of Jan. 21, Jan. 15 and Dec. 24 - Saturn's march towards opposition in April is also the lonely highlight of February (mehr, mehr und mehr).

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Deep partial solar eclipse yields countless spectacular images

The partial solar eclipse of 4 January 2011 - which just missed being annular but was seen as a ring from space in Low Earth Orbit - may be one of the best-observed in history as it included densely-populated Europe. While many had to struggle with clouds, those often added to the beauty, plus the Sun could be caught in eclipse at sunrise in some European countries. The overall result is an unfathomable wealth of pictures in all kinds of places on the web: Here is a huge & growing link collection while fine images by indiduals and wire services alike have been collected e.g. here, here, here, here, here, here, hier, hier, hier, hier and here and news stories can be found here, here, here, here, hier, hier, hier, hier, hier, hier and hier (and for the record a lot of maps, graphics and previews of webcasts). Now to many individual photo galleries and reports:

In Germany yours truly chased the eclipse to Aachen with a TV crew; more pictures from the region are linked from there. Also selected pictures from Emmerich, Bochum, Oberhausen, Cologne, Bonn, Stuttgart, Rosenheim, Kaufering, Irschenberg, Munich (more, more), the Black Forest (more, more), Waiblingen, Wetzlar, Bentheim, Heidelberg, Pforzheim, Weimar, , Jena and Saxony (more, more, more and more). We also have pictures taken with a PST, photometry of clouds (more, more and a cloud picture series) and more reports from Germany here (a lot!), here, here, here, here, here and here. And from a train from Germany to Austria!

From other countries a lot of reports from Austria (more, more [more], more, more, more, more, more, more, more, more, more, more, more, more, more, more, more, more, more and more), from Switzerland (more), the Netherlands (lots more in this gallery, e.g. this, this, this, this and this sunrise shot), from Belgium (more), Spain (an 'Omega' sunrise; see here and here; more), Gran Canaria, the UK (more, more, more, more, more and more), Denmark, France, Italy, Sweden (more and more), Greece, Hungary, Romania, Israel, Egypt, Oman (with the ISS spoiling the view; discussed e.g. here and hier), Russia (more, more and more) and India (more and more). Oh, and from Finland a radio(!) picture.

And after the eclipse the Moon came back into the evening sky - and was well observed around the world one day later (more), 2 days later, 3 days later (more), 4 days later and 5 days later i.e. this evening (more) - also a collage of the 3, 4 and 5 days old Moon. • Talking about the Sun there's again excitement about a potential route to solve the coronal heating mystery, this time via spicules: press releases and stories here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. • Also the SDO is studying the inner corona, and the Calafate eclipse from last July is shown here on page 12.

In other news comet P/2010 V1 next to a globular cluster today and on Jan. 5, Hartley 2 on Jan. 1 - and early thoughts about Elenin this fall. • Asteroid/comet Scheila on Jan. 1; more stories here and here. • A call for photometry of three Vestoids (and new insights into Vesta itself). • Jupiter on Jan. 2 and Dec. 23 - and the SEB revival in one image covering Nov. 8 til Dec. 30. • Jupiter and Uranus on Jan. 3, just now joined by the Moon. • The storm on Saturn observed frequently by A. Wesley. • Moon, Venus & Mercury on Jan. 1. • And finally an animation of a persistent train of a 2011 Quadrantid; more on their peak (which didn't quite reach ZHR=100, it seems) here, here and here.