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).

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