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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

Wednesday
Nov082017

November Highlights: C/2017 O1, C/2016 R2, C/2015 V2, 62P

Full Moon 4 November, Last Quarter 11 November, New Moon is 18 November and First Quarter at 27 November.

Comet C/2017 O1 ASSAN from Mayhill during November. The large rectangle is the field of view of T14, the small rectangle that of T5. Click to embiggen and print.

Comet C/2017 O1 ASSAN is the brightest comet in the skies at the moment. Only visible from the northern hemisphere scopes it is visible from astronomical twilight to astronomical twilight being highest at around 1:20 am local time at the beginning of the month and around 23:00 by the end of the month. Its magnitude has been variously reported to be between 8.8 and 10, still brighter than predicted. Comet C/2017 O1 ASSAN is dimming after perihelion, but will remain above magnitude 12 for some time.

 The comet passes through Camoleopardis into Cepheus, but does not really have any interesting encounters.

 The MPC one line ephemeris is:

 CK17O010  2017 10 14.7849  1.498711  0.996568   20.9079   25.8102   39.8491  20170904  11.0  4.0      C/2017 O1 (ASASSN)

 Comet C/2016 R2 PanSTARRS as seen at 1:20 Local time for Mayhill. The Comet is currently near Orion's belt. The large square is the field of view of T14, and the small square the field of view of T5. Click to embiggen.

 Comet C/2016 R2 PanSTARRS is currently near Orion’s Belt. It is visible from both Northern and southern scopes from about an hour after astronomical twilight, being highest around 2:30 am local time at the beginning of the month to 1:20 am by the end of the month. The Northern scopes have the best view. Currently around magnitude 12, it should brighten to magnitude 11. This month it has no interesting encounters, although it is traveling through rich star fields.

The MPC one line ephemeris is:

 CK16R020  2018 05 09.5796  2.602313  0.996530   33.1930   80.5696   58.2198  20170904   7.0  4.0      C/2016 R2 (PANSTARRS)

 

Comet C/2015 V2 Johnson as seen at 4:00 AEDST from SSO. The Comet is currently near the Pavo/Telescopium border, and is visible only from the SSO scopes. The large rectangle is the field of view of T12 the small that of T09.  Click to embiggen.

Currently around magnitude 11, dimming to magnitude 12 by the end of the month, it is traversing the Pavo/Telescopium border and is best seen in the early evening, just after astronomical twilight. There is only about an hour window before it is too low for the scopes to image.

On the 18th the comet is 16’ from the 12th magnitude galaxy NGC 6699. It is 3 degrees from the magnitude 5.3 globular cluster NGC 6752 on the 23rd. On the 24th it will be 0.2 degrees from the magnitude 11 galaxy NGC 6753, this should be a good imaging opportunity. .

The MPC one line ephemeris is:

CK15V020  2017 06 12.3402  1.636978  1.001691  164.8964   69.8492   49.8774  20170904   5.0  4.0      C/2015 V2 (Johnson)

Path of 62P/Tsuchinshan and 24P/Schaumasse as seen from Mayhill New Mexico at Astronomical twilight in the morning. The large rectangle is the field of view of T14, the smaller T5. Click to embiggen.

 62P/Tsuchinshan is currently around magnitude 11.3 and should remain around magnitude 11 for the rest of the month. It is 0.8 degrees from the galaxy M95 (M 9.8) on the 10th, on the 11th it is 0.6 degrees from the galaxy M96 (M 9.3) and 0.2 degrees from galaxy M105 (M 9.5). On the  22nd it is 0.3 degrees from iota Leonis.

The comet is only visible from the northern telescopes, as it travels through Leo and into Virgo. It is high enough for the iTelescopes from about 2 hours before astronomical twilight.

 The MPC one line ephemeris for 62P/Tsuchinshan is:

0062P         2017 11 16.1224  1.383816  0.597503   30.3510   90.2440    9.7080  20170904   8.0 10.0    62P/Tsuchinshan

 24P/Schaumasse is currently around magnitude 10 and remains this bright for most of the month. It is only visible from the northern telescopes, as it travels through Leo and into Virgo. It is high enough for the iTelescopes from about 1 hour before astronomical twilight.

The MPC one line ephemeris for 24P/Schaumasse is:

0024P         2017 11 16.9245  1.206340  0.704606   58.0562   79.6298   11.7346  20170904   6.5 14.0    24P/Schaumasse

 On 3 November 44 Nysa is at opposition at magnitude 9.6 in Cetus. On the 8th 28 Doris is at opposition near the Cetus/Aries border at magnitude 10.9. On the 17th 42 Isis is at opposition at magnitude 10.4 in Taurus.

Iconic deep sky objects that are in a good position for imaging for the northern telescopes include the Andromeda galaxy which transits at 22h 4m 5s and the California nebula which transits at 1h 28m 10s. For the SSO telescopes 47 Tucana transits at 21h 33m 2s.

Wednesday
Oct252017

ALERT! A potential Interstellar comet C/2107 U1, Observations urgently requested

Location of comet C/2017 U1 as seen from SSO at transit (23:00 AEDST). The comet is moving quickly through Pisces.

There has been a lot of speculation that rouge comets ejected from other solar systems might pass through ours, but until now there have been no good candidates.

Comet C/2017 U1 (PANSTARRS) is currently our best candidate for an interstellar interloper with an e of ~1.2.

To quote M.P.E.C. 2017-U181

Further observations of this object are very much desired. Unless there are serious problems with much of the astrometry listed below, strongly hyperbolic orbits are the only viable solutions. Although it is probably not too sensible to compute meaningful original and future barycentric orbits, given the very short arc of observations, the orbit below has e ~ 1.2 for both values. If further observations confirm the unusual nature of this orbit, this object may be the first clear case of an interstellar comet.

Telescope view from SSO when the comet transists (around 23:00 AEST) with various illustrative FOV's, the large Square is T31, the rectangle is T11 and T5, the small square is T17. Click to embiggen (the magnitude on the chart is wrong I had to guess H and G parameters).

The good news is the comet is well placed for both northern and southern iTelescopes, it is quite high above the horizon at transit (23:00 local time SSO around 22:48 local time Mayhill) with the northern scopes having the best view. There is also a good window of observing opportunity around transit.

The bad news is that at magnitude 20 and fading, it will be a challenge to image, requiring deep sky instruments and long exposures.

Current orbital parameters and ephemerides are below, if you have a charting program you can use this to generate accurate positions.

Orbital elements:
    C/2017 U1 (PANSTARRS)
Epoch 2017 Sept. 4.0 TT = JDT 2458000.5
T 2017 Sept.  9.41719 TT                                MPCW
q   0.2515404            (2000.0)            P               Q
z  -0.7541603      Peri.  241.01670     -0.63536548     +0.68733697
 +/-0.0181483      Node    24.61531     +0.49903801     +0.71329677
e   1.1897018      Incl.  122.32770     -0.58929769     -0.13702411
From 34 observations 2017 Oct. 18-24, mean residual 0".5.

 

Ephemeris for SSO, RA Dec is for 23:00 local time

Date           Rise          Ast Twi E  Altitude       Transit      Set          Ast Twi B  Top R.A.          Top Dec 
26 Oct 2017 17:12:38 21:10:55 +50° 06' 24" 22:59:02 04:56:13 04:49:21 00h 03m 38.5s +04° 59' 13" 
27 Oct 2017 17:03:01 21:12:09 +49° 54' 00" 22:49:16 04:45:20 04:47:56 23h 57m 45.6s +05° 06' 50" 
28 Oct 2017 16:54:12 21:13:23 +49° 36' 00" 22:40:19 04:35:26 04:46:31 23h 52m 41.7s +05° 13' 29" 
29 Oct 2017 16:46:02 21:14:39 +49° 13' 49" 22:32:02 04:26:21 04:45:07 23h 48m 18.5s +05° 19' 22" 
30 Oct 2017 16:38:26 21:15:55 +48° 48' 27" 22:24:18 04:17:56 04:43:44 23h 44m 29.3s +05° 24' 40" 
31 Oct 2017 16:31:18 21:17:11 +48° 20' 36" 22:17:02 04:10:05 04:42:22 23h 41m 08.7s +05° 29' 30" 
01 Nov 2017 16:24:34 21:18:28 +47° 50' 50" 22:10:11 04:02:42 04:41:00 23h 38m 12.4s +05° 33' 58" 
02 Nov 2017 16:18:10 21:19:46 +47° 19' 33" 22:03:40 03:55:44 04:39:40 23h 35m 37.0s +05° 38' 07" 
03 Nov 2017 16:12:04 21:21:04 +46° 47' 01" 21:57:27 03:49:06 04:38:21 23h 33m 19.7s +05° 42' 02" 
04 Nov 2017 16:06:14 21:22:23 +46° 13' 29" 21:51:30 03:42:46 04:37:02 23h 31m 18.0s +05° 45' 45" 

Ephemeris for Mayhill RA Dec is at 22:48 local time

 

Date            Ast Twi E   Rise       Altitude       Transit     Set          Ast Twi B Top R.A.           Top Dec 
25 Oct 2017 19:40:13 16:36:07 +62° 02' 40" 22:48:48 05:12:06 05:51:31 00h 05m 44.0s +04° 56' 10" 
26 Oct 2017 19:39:17 16:25:27 +62° 05' 36" 22:38:44 05:01:41 05:52:14 23h 59m 33.0s +05° 04' 10" 
27 Oct 2017 19:38:23 16:15:44 +61° 57' 26" 22:29:32 04:52:12 05:52:59 23h 54m 14.4s +05° 11' 07" 
28 Oct 2017 19:37:30 16:06:48 +61° 40' 55" 22:21:02 04:43:29 05:53:43 23h 49m 39.0s +05° 17' 15" 
29 Oct 2017 19:36:38 15:58:31 +61° 18' 04" 22:13:08 04:35:25 05:54:27 23h 45m 39.5s +05° 22' 45" 
30 Oct 2017 19:35:48 15:50:46 +60° 50' 25" 22:05:43 04:27:53 05:55:12 23h 42m 10.2s +05° 27' 44" 
31 Oct 2017 19:34:59 15:43:28 +60° 19' 07" 21:58:45 04:20:48 05:55:56 23h 39m 06.5s +05° 32' 19" 
01 Nov 2017 19:34:11 15:36:35 +59° 45' 02" 21:52:07 04:14:07 05:56:41 23h 36m 24.8s +05° 36' 35" 
02 Nov 2017 19:33:25 15:30:01 +59° 08' 47" 21:45:49 04:07:46 05:57:26 23h 34m 01.9s +05° 40' 34" 
03 Nov 2017 19:32:40 15:23:45 +58° 30' 53" 21:39:47 04:01:42 05:58:11 23h 31m 55.5s +05° 44' 22" 

Sunday
Oct152017

ALERT! Comet C/2017 O1 ASASSNat closest approach to Earth (and a rare opportunity)

Comet C/2017 O1, discovered by the ASASSN supernova survey, as seen from the Mayhill New Mexico  scopes at transit (4:06 am, local time Mayhill).

Comet C/2017 is a surprisingly bright comet which was discovered by the ASASSN supernova survey. It is currently around magnitude 8.3, reasonably bright but well below its predicted magnitude of 7.5 at maximum.

The comet will be closest to Earth on the 18th, but will not get significantly brighter. However, this is a opportunity for an interesting and unique opportunity. Stereo imaging of the comet.

Simon White has done the work of sorting this out. I quote his recent Facebook post.

"The local constraints are as follows (based on iTelescope’s observatories in New Mexico and Nerpio):

➤ In the USA, 2017 O1 will be rising in the 18 October evening sky. At 2200 in New Mexico, it will have reached 27° and will continue to rise with Camelopardalis (confirmed - IFM).

➤ In Europe, 2017 O1 is high, almost at zenith, in the pre-dawn sky of 19 October, so elevation is not a constraint. At 2200 18 October in New Mexico, clocks in Spain will be at 0600 19 October, in the last hour before dawn.

I have booked time on telescopes in New Mexico and Nerpio, with the intention of taking 60 minutes of 120 second exposures from 2200 to 2300 (New Mexico) and 0600 to 0700 (Spain).

As always, there is a risk that local conditions - the weather - will intervene to spoil this enterprise. If you have any plans to image 2017 O1 overnight 18-19 October, please try and do so within these time intervals - UT 0400 to 0500 on 19 October. As long as the time stamp of one of your stacked frames overlaps one of mine, we can collaborate on a stereoscopic image. Do please get in touch through this post if you’re interested."

You can see the post here. More Information here with great 3D images.

Comet C/2017 O1, as seen from the Mayhil New Mexico  scopes at transit (4:06 am, llocal tme Mayhill). The small rectangles are the field of view of T5, T3 and T11, the learge that of T14/T20. Click to embigen. T7 an T18 are good matches for the narrow field imagers. Click to embiggen.

Currently The comet is in Camoleopardis, heading towards Ursa Minor. It is currently only seen in the Northern scopes, from aroun 10 pm local time until astronomical twilight in the morning, transiting around 4 am local time.

MPEC one line ephemeris:
    CK17O010  2017 10 14.7849  1.498711  0.996568   20.9079   25.8102   39.8491  20170904  11.0  4.0      C/2017 O1 (ASASSN)

Wednesday
Oct112017

ALERT! Close Approach of Near Earth Asteroid 2012 TC4, 11-12 October

left - Path of Asteroid 2012 TC4 as seen from Mayhill NM on the evening of October 11 at the start of astronomical twilight. Position ticks are every 15 minutes, click to embiggen.

The 22 meter wide asteroid 2012 TC4  will pass within 0.13 Lunar Distances (0.00034 AU) of Earth on the evening of October 11-12, being closest at October 12, 5:42 UT.

Imaging this asteroid will be a significant challenge, it will be moving an astonishing 22.4" a second near closest approach. The asteroid wll be around magnitude 13.5 when visible from iTelescope scopes, so while not bright it is not dim enough to be a problem with 60 second exposures.

The asteroid is effectively visible only from the northen scopes (unless you want to have a go at it from SSO when it is mag 20). As well, after astronomical twilight for the northen scopes, the asteroid rapidy drops below the iTelescopes limit of travel, so there is approximately only three hours for imaging.

You won't see it at closest approach, that occurs when the asteroid has set from the point of view of the New Mexico and Spanish scopes. But it will be moving at a fair clip even before this, so still a challenging capture. 

left - High power view showing the fields of view of T14/T20 (large rectangle). The tick marks are 15 minutes apart. The track is the geocentric position, which is very removed from the Topocentric position, indicated by the labelled dot (click to embiggen, but use a proper topocentric ephemeris or the 2012 TC4 comet/NEA dialog, rather than this chart, for indicative purposes only).

None of the iTelescope scopes can track this asteroid, and it is moving so fast you will need a wide field instrument. T14 is nice wide-field instrument that performs well, but you can't drive it faster than sidereal rate. T20 is also wide-field, although slightlynarrower than T14.

As the asteroid is quite close to Earth, there will be a significant parallax error between geocentric ephemeris and the position as seen from Mayhill (see chart above for an example), most astromomy programs will give misleading positions when an asteroid approaches this close to Earth.

Use a proper topometric ephemeris instead (eg using the MPEC ephemeris generator, if you enter the observatory code for Mayhill - H06,  into the box in the ephemeris generator, and make sure the Epoch is set to October 11, 2017, choose 500 dates to output and an inteval of 5 or 15 nimutes and it will create a topocentric ephemeris for Mayhill). The position of 2012 TC4 is being continually refined, so use the latest elements.

If you take this approach, remember that it takes time for the iTelescope  scopes to get to tracking position. T14 can take up to 5 minutes (depending on there being reliable stars in the field for tracking), so offset you inital position by around 4 minutes or so (this will be a significant distance) so the asteroid will be in field. I used this technique to image 2011 MN on T12, which was moving at about 10" per second.

The planning guides to viewing a previous close approach asteroid, YU55, here gives step by step instructions for this approach.

If you use the one line MPEC elements and the comet/NEA option for the iTelescope systems (for the iTelescope 05/04 instruments, you can choose the track option so the instrument will track the asteroid) this will be less hassle, but at the risk that the positioning may be off for such a close object.

While this is challenging, iTelescope users have captured rapidly moving faint asteroids before, 2010 TD4 and 2011 MD.

Current ephemeris for 2012 TC4 inn UT

Date       UT      R.A. (J2000) Decl.    Delta     r                  El.      Ph.      V     Sky Motion Object        Sun   Moon                Uncertainty info
            h m s                                                                                          "/min    P.A.        Azi.    Alt.  Alt.  Phase Dist. Alt.    3-sig/" P.A.
... Suppressed ...
2017 10 12 003000 22 00 45.5 -20 11 34   0.00092 0.999  126.2  53.7  13.5  272.99    223.3    313  +20   +00   0.56   136  -38         1 075.9 
2017 10 12 004500 21 57 14.7 -21 03 16   0.00088 0.999  125.1  54.9  13.4  299.12    223.9    317  +22   -03   0.56   137  -38         1 077.5 
2017 10 12 010000 21 53 19.4 -21 59 24   0.00084 0.999  123.9  56.1  13.3  328.60    224.6    321  +24   -07   0.56   138  -37         1 079.3 
2017 10 12 011500 21 48 55.8 -23 00 27   0.00080 0.998  122.5  57.5  13.3  361.98    225.3    326  +26   -10   0.56   139  -37         1 081.3 
2017 10 12 013000 21 43 59.0 -24 06 59   0.00076 0.998  121.0  59.0  13.2  399.89    226.0    331  +27   -13   0.55   140  -36         1 083.8 
2017 10 12 014500 21 38 23.4 -25 19 35   0.00072 0.998  119.3  60.7  13.2  443.06    226.8    336  +28   -16   0.55   142  -35         1 086.7
2017 10 12 020000 21 32 02.0 -26 38 55   0.00069 0.998  117.4  62.5  13.1  492.34    227.7    342  +28   -19   0.55   143  -34         1 270.2 
2017 10 12 021500 21 24 45.9 -28 05 38   0.00065 0.998  115.4  64.6  13.0  548.70    228.6    348  +28   -22   0.55   145  -32         1 274.5 
2017 10 12 023000 21 16 24.2 -29 40 23   0.00061 0.998  113.0  66.9  13.0  613.17    229.8    354  +27   -25   0.55   147  -31         1 279.7 
2017 10 12 024500 21 06 42.9 -31 23 44   0.00058 0.998  110.4  69.5  13.0  686.88    231.1    000  +26   -29   0.55   149  -29         1 286.4
2017 10 12 030000 20 55 24.7 -33 16 00   0.00055 0.998  107.5  72.5  12.9  770.89    232.7    006  +24   -32   0.55   150  -27         1 294.7 
2017 10 12 031500 20 42 07.4 -35 17 02   0.00052 0.998  104.2  75.8  12.9  866.01    234.7    012  +21   -35   0.55   152  -25         1 305.0 
2017 10 12 033000 20 26 23.7 -37 25 57   0.00049 0.998  100.5  79.5  12.9  972.54    237.0    018  +17   -38   0.54   154  -23         1 317.3 
2017 10 12 034500 20 07 40.0 -39 40 33   0.00046 0.998   96.4  83.6  12.9 1089.79    240.0    023  +13   -41   0.54   155  -21         1 331.1 
Below telescope travel
2017 10 12 040000 19 45 18.0 -41 56 38 0.00043 0.998 91.7 88.3 13.0 1215.40 243.7 028 +07 -44 0.54 156 -19 1 345.2 2017 10 12 041500 19 18 38.7 -44 07 16 0.00041 0.998 86.5 93.4 13.1 1344.71 248.2 033 +01 -46 0.54 155 -16 1 358.2 ... Suppressed ... 2017 10 12 111500 11 24 02.6 -03 13 02 0.0010 0.997 26.8 153.2 20.8 238.23 314.0 275 +01 -23 0.51 064 +64 8 302.1 2017 10 12 113000 11 21 16.1 -02 33 03 0.0010 0.997 27.6 152.3 20.7 223.34 313.7 276 +05 -20 0.51 063 +67 7 302.7 2017 10 12 114500 11 18 39.1 -01 55 46 0.0011 0.997 28.4 151.6 20.6 209.86 313.4 278 +09 -17 0.51 062 +69 7 303.1 2017 10 12 120000 11 16 10.6 -01 20 54 0.0011 0.997 29.1 150.8 20.5 197.60 313.0 280 +13 -14 0.50 061 +72 7 303.5 2017 10 12 121500 11 13 49.9 -00 48 16 0.0011 0.997 29.9 150.1 20.4 186.41 312.7 282 +17 -11 0.50 061 +74 6 303.9 2017 10 12 123000 11 11 36.4 -00 17 39 0.0012 0.997 30.5 149.4 20.4 176.16 312.3 285 +21 -08 0.50 060 +75 6 304.2 2017 10 12 124500 11 09 29.3 +00 11 06 0.0012 0.997 31.2 148.8 20.3 166.74 312.0 287 +25 -05 0.50 059 +76 6 304.4 2017 10 12 130000 11 07 28.3 +00 38 10 0.0012 0.997 31.8 148.2 20.3 158.04 311.6 289 +28 -01 0.50 058 +76 6 304.6