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Sky Alerts

Dr Ian Musgrave  - iTelescope Science Advisor

An avid amateur astronomer, Ian writes the weekly sky updates for ABC Radio Science and is science adviser to iTelescope. When not staring at the sky he is an equally enthusiastic molecular pharmacologist at the University of Adelaide, Australia.

You can follow Ian Musgrave on his Astroblog for daily posts about astronomy, biology and life, the Universe and everything.

"Over at Astroblog I largely guide people to the view of the sky as seen with the unaided eye. But I’m also an iTelescope.Net user, and I’m very honoured to have been invited to highlight some of the interesting objects that can be seen through the iTelescopes.

While many people are familiar with the larger, more glamorous objects in the night sky that make good iTelescope targets, there are a host of lesser known, interesting objects that are well worth chasing such as fast moving Near Earth Objects, Novae and Comets."  Twitter @ianmusgrave


ALERT! NEO 2014 RC on 7-8 September, 2014

UPDATED AGAIN! JPL and MPC postions are now converging.

NEO 2014 RC as seen from Siding Springs Observatory from 1:15 am 8 September - 5:15 am (15:15 - 19:15 UT 7 September). The crosses mark the position of the asteroid every 5 minutes. Positions calculated in Horizon Track from JPL horizons data. click to embiggen.

Near Earth Asteroid  2014 RC will  come close to Earth on 18:00 UT 7 September at distance of 0.0003 AU (around 0.15 Earth-Moon distances). It has an estimated diameter of  20m. It is brightest at 17:15 UT though.

The asteroid is currently magnitude 19, and will be a reasonably mag 11.2 at closest approach, despite its small size.

However, it is only reasonably visble from the SSO scopes at its brightest.

At magnitude 13-11 60 second exposures may be reasonable in the latter stages but there will be substantial trailing, shorter exposures may be too dim.

NEO 2014 RC as seen from Siding Springs Observatory from 2:50 am 8 September - 3:50 am (16:50 - 17:50 UT 7 September). The crosses mark the position of the asteroid every 5 minutes. Positions calculated in Horizon Track from JPL horizons data. The circles mark the different location of the Asteroid im MPC (2014 RC) and JPL (2014 RA) data click to embiggen.

NEO 2014 RC is visible for a reasonable time from the southern iTelescopes as it passes from Aquarius through Sculptor and Phoenix to Eriadanus.

The asteroid is visible from start of astronomical twilight in the evening of the 7 September local time (magnitude 14) until end of astronomical twilight on the 8th (local time). It is moving very fast, and is outside the reach of  the tracking capability of the iTelescopes. You will need to use a topocentric ephemeris and camp out on the asteroid track.

There is a substantial parallax effect (> 1 degree), so unless your planetarium program is able to cope with close parallax (most can't), you will need to work from topocentric coordinates.

For topocentric ephemerides you normally would go to

 MPC Siding Spring Code Q62.

UPDATED! JPL and MPC positions converging. But the MPC and the the JPL ephemeris (which can be generated from here, see below for more details) give substantially differnt positions at the moment, I have no idea which to trust.

Always use the latest possible orbital elements and ephemeris. The positions have changed sunbstantially from last night when I first posted this. They should settel down with a longer observing arc. The planning guides to viewing YU55 here and here will help organising topocentric ephemerides for close approaching NEO's.

You will need to use unguided exposures. Choose a point where the asteroid will pass and aim at that. Remember that it takes time for the iTelescopes scopes to get to tracking position. T12 can take up to 5 minutes (depending on there being reliable stars in the field for tracking, check your logs to see what the average slew time is), so offset you initial position by around 4 minutes or so (this will be a significant distance) so the asteroid will be in field. The asteroid will cross the T12 FOV in about 5 minutes.

The JPL ephemeris can be generated from here. You will need to use the Siding Spring Lat Long

31° 16' 24" South, 149° 03' 52" East -  Elevation: 1165m

When imputing them the form has to be 31 16 24, 149 03 52, adding the degree sign crashes the input process. Here is the current ephemeris for the brightest times.

******************************************************************************************************* Date__(UT)__HR:MN R.A._(ICRF/J2000.0)_DEC APmag delta deldot S-O-T /r S-T-O *******************************************************************************************************

 2014-Sep-07 14:00  m  23 05 40.40 -27 29 12.6  12.80 0.00098618354309  -9.8617067 158.5461 /L  21.4330
 2014-Sep-07 14:15  t   23 08 20.88 -28 13 57.1  12.69 0.00092700172968  -9.8107937 157.7736 /L  22.2062
 2014-Sep-07 14:30  m  23 11 26.01 -29 04 14.4  12.57 0.00086814519887  -9.7532934 156.8862 /L  23.0941
 2014-Sep-07 14:45  m  23 15 01.94 -30 01 09.7  12.45 0.00080965956160  -9.6870991 155.8582 /L  24.1227
 2014-Sep-07 15:00  m  23 19 16.99 -31 06 05.3  12.33 0.00075160560961  -9.6092133 154.6561 /L  25.3253
 2014-Sep-07 15:15  m  23 24 22.56 -32 20 45.2  12.20 0.00069406590587  -9.5153055 153.2357 /L  26.7462
 2014-Sep-07 15:30  m  23 30 34.82 -33 47 22.4  12.06 0.00063715475652  -9.3990076 151.5378 /L  28.4446
 2014-Sep-07 15:45  m  23 38 17.29 -35 28 45.8  11.92 0.00058103363336  -9.2507680 149.4820 /L  30.5010
 2014-Sep-07 16:00  m  23 48 05.45 -37 28 27.1  11.77 0.00052593555736  -9.0559518 146.9573 /L  33.0261
 2014-Sep-07 16:15  m  00 00 54.81 -39 50 39.4  11.63 0.00047220443938  -8.7916557 143.8086 /L  36.1753
 2014-Sep-07 16:30  m  00 18 15.99 -42 39 46.7  11.49 0.00042035947923  -8.4213950 139.8172 /L  40.1671
 2014-Sep-07 16:45  m  00 42 42.49 -45 58 20.8  11.36 0.00037120056808  -7.8866305 134.6762 /L  45.3086
 2014-Sep-07 17:00  m  01 18 37.88 -49 40 28.8  11.27 0.00032597479235  -7.0952183 127.9694 /L  52.0158
 2014-Sep-07 17:15  m  02 12 57.52 -53 14 12.0  11.24 0.00028660796405  -5.9137019 119.1911 /L  60.7944
 2014-Sep-07 17:30  m  03 32 08.38 -55 08 40.8  11.35 0.00025590660833  -4.1926727 107.9047 /L  72.0813
 2014-Sep-07 17:45  m  05 08 03.25 -52 58 54.4  11.67 0.00023735963613  -1.8843332  94.1767 /L  85.8097
 2014-Sep-07 18:00  m  06 33 44.03 -45 55 12.4  12.30 0.00023394768992   0.7691758  79.1136 /L 100.8732
 2014-Sep-07 18:15  m  07 34 41.80 -36 15 15.7  13.25 0.00024629558786   3.2689450  64.6494 /L 115.3377
 2014-Sep-07 18:30  m  08 15 15.63 -26 44 21.8    14. 0.00027218402669   5.2355403  52.3521 /L 127.6354
 2014-Sep-07 18:45  m  08 42 46.64 -18 41 26.5    16. 0.00030809892763   6.6153112  42.6975 /L 137.2904

August-September Highlights: C/2013 A1, C/2014 E2, C/2012 X1 and C/2012 K1, 

New Moon is 26 August, First Quarter is 2 September, Full Moon 9 September, Last Quarter 16 September and New Moon is 24 September.

Chart showing the location  of C/2013 A1 Siding Spring as seen from SSO, Southern Hemisphere. The Large rectangle is the field of view of T12. (click to embiggen).

C/2013 A1 Siding Spring is currently around magnitude 9, about a magnitude below predicted, and brightening.

It is high enough to be imaged from 10 pm on from the SSO scopes, and this will improve as the weeks go on.

The stand out encounter is between 28-31 August when the brightening comet meets the Small Magellanic cloud.

On 29 August the comet passes over the magnitude 6.8 globular cluster NGC 362 at around 2 am. From 28 August the comet is within T12 range of the actual SMC, although the comet is at its deepest in the cloud on the 29th around astronomical twilight.

On the 31st the comet is 37' from the heart of the amazing globular cluster 47 Tucana. This will be a great composition in T12 (and mosaics in more narrow field instruments will be nice too). These encounters all occur while the Moon is early waxing, so should be no issue with Moonlight interference.

On 13 September the brightening comet meets the magnitude 8 galaxy NGC 6744, then on 20 September it is close to the  magnitude 8 globular cluster NGC 6584. On the 26th September it is within 0.8 degrees of the magnitude 8.6 globular cluster  NGC 6496.

It you are willing to make mosaics, on the 14-15 the comet is within 3 degrees of mag 5.3 globular cluster NGC 6752, then on the 20th it is 5 degrees from NGC 6397, another mag 5.3 globular cluster.

As marvelous as this all is, this is the prelude to C/2013 A1 Siding Spring passing through the cluster rich tail of Scorpios and meeting with Mars in October.

The MPC one line ephemeris is

CK13A010  2014 10 25.3042  1.398732  1.000417    2.4224  300.9763  129.0433  20141209   6.0  4.0      C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring)

Chart of C/2014 E2 from Mayhill during August-September. The large rectangle is the field of view of T14. Click to embiggen.

C/2014 E2 (Jacques) has been putting on quite a nice little display. The comet is now around magnitude 6.4 with a nicely developed coma and thin but spectacular ion tail.

After it's spectacular encounters earlier in August, it finished August in a spectacular fashion too.

On August the 30th comet C/2014 E2 passes through the Elephant Trunk Nebula, IC 1369. While extensive the nebula is relatively faint, and will require some exposure juggling to bring out the comet and the nebula to their best. The colourful nebula will make deep colour imaging attractive.

The comet then passes close to some cluster rich sections of Cygnus. On September 6 it passes within T14 range of a number of complex nebula (including IC1311 and the gamma Cygnus nebual) and faint open clusters.

On September 15 the comet is one degree from the open cluster Stock 1, then on the 19th it passes through the outer reaches of the diffuse open cluster Brocchi's cluster. This will make a nice composition, probably also a mosaic. 

The comet also comes relatively close to several dim clusters along the way, so imaging the comet will often have an interesting backdrop.

The MPC one line ephemeris is

CK14E020  2014 07 02.5184  0.663957  0.999145  344.0479   56.3952  156.3925  20141209  11.0  4.0      C/2014 E2 (Jacques)

C/2012 X1 LINEAR is around magnitude 10, and fading slowly. Visible in the evening to early morning sky for the SSO scopes, it moves from Grus to Indus with no interesting encounters. 

CK12X010  2014 02 21.6239  1.598693  0.989755  132.0988  113.1459   44.3660  20141209   8.0  4.0      C/2012 X1 (LINEAR)

Comet C/2012 K1 PanSTARRS returns to the southern morning skies in September, but it is only high enough for the SSO scopes from September 23. It is brightening slowly towards a predicted maximum of around 6 in October.

CK12K010  2014 08 27.6553  1.054542  1.000172  203.1082  317.7384  142.4285  20141209   4.5  4.0      C/2012 K1 (PANSTARRS)

On September 39 Laetita is 0.4 degrees from the Omega Nebula, and on September 26 29 Amphrite is 0.6 degrees from the globular cluster NGC 6528.


C/2013 V5 Oukaimeden near the Rosette Nebula (morning August 23-25)

C/2013 V5 Oukaimeden near the Rosette Nebula as seen from the SSO scopes from 23 August on. The large rectangle is the field of view of T12 (click to embiggen).

C/2013 V5 Oukaimeden is currently visible from both the northern and southern iTelescopes, but in the northern scopes it is just at the limit of lowest travel at the start of astronomical twilight, while in the Southern scopes it is well above the horizon (around 27 degrees) at the start of Astronomical twilight.

The comet is around magnitude 9, and on the mornings of August 23 and 24 it is within T12 distance of the Rosette Nebula, which will make for a splendid composition.

C/2013 V5 Oukaimeden as seen from the SSO scopes from 23 August on. (click to embiggen).

The comet will rapidly brighten, possibly reaching a peak magnitude of 5.5. It quickly becomes too low for the northern scopes, but remains within the SSO sights until mid September. At this time it should be around magnitude 6.

After the 25th, it only has a few encounters with bright objects. The most notable being the magnitude 6.5 open cluster NGC 2530, when the comet is around magnitude 6.5 as well on the 9th of September.

The current MPC one line ephemeris is

CK13V050  2014 09 28.2244  0.625504  0.998675  314.5738  278.6157  154.8845  20141209   9.0  4.0      C/2013 V5 (Oukaimeden)





Another potential bright comet for 2015, C/2014 Q1 PanSTARRS

Chart of comet C/2014 Q1 PanSTARRS in July as seen from the Southern Hemisphere (click to embiggen).

Another new comet that has the potential to be quite bright is C/2014 Q1 PanSTARRS. It comes within around 0.3 AU of the sun (although the orbit needs further refinement, it is close enough to get brigh, but far enough to be unlikley to disintegrate).

While the comet may become as bright as magnitude 3 at closest approach, this is a very unfavourable apparition from the point of view of the Earth.

Prior to closest approach the northern hemisphere has a very restricted view, at closest approach in July the comet is hidden by the Sun.

After closest approach the comet is only readily visible from the Southern Hemisphere. For iTelescopes, the comet is only accessible in late July when it will have faded to magnitude 6 or less (still impressive in the scopes, if all goes well, but you know what they say about comets).

The current MPC one line ephemeris is

 CK14Q010  2015 07 02.3553  0.348075  1.000000  117.3089    9.9740   41.5510             8.0  4.0      C/2014 Q1 (PANSTARRS)