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Sky Notes: 2017 December & 2018 January

(Written for 22:00 UT on 2018 January 1)

BAA Gallery Planets Mercury and Venus
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Venus with Jupiter and the Moon in the Morning Sky

Image
About this observation
Observer
John Tipping
Time of observation
17/11/2017 - 06:53
Object
Venus, Moon and Jupiter
Observing location
Anglesey, UK
Equipment
Canon 700D with 70-300mm lens set at 170mm
Exposure
1/45 sec
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Copyright of all images and other observations submitted to the BAA remains with the owner of the work. Reproduction of the work by third-parties is expressly forbidden without the consent of the copyright holder. For more information, please contact the webmaster.
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A Planetary Montage

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About this observation
Observer
Martin Lewis
Time of observation
18/01/2017 - 20:34
Object
Planets 2017
Observing location
St. Albans, UK
Equipment
444mm Dobsonian/222mm Dobsonian
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After producing a recent Uranus image in IR showing belt detail, Martin realised that he had imaged all the planets in 11 months of this year (2017) (excluding our own world) and managed to capture surface detail on all of them. 

All images were taken from St. Albans with his home built Dobsonian 444mm reflector, except for Mercury for which he used his 222mm home built Dob.

Martin comments that he is not sure he will ever repeat this feat, as it was only possible with good luck on Mercury and good fortune that there is current activity on Neptune.

Copyright of all images and other observations submitted to the BAA remains with the owner of the work. Reproduction of the work by third-parties is expressly forbidden without the consent of the copyright holder. For more information, please contact the webmaster.
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Observer’s Challenge - The Leonid meteor shower

The Leonids Solar System Orbit - NEMETODEThe Leonids attracted great interest in the late 1990s because astronomers were predicting large numbers of meteors during the nights of peak activity, giving observers the opportunity to see meteor storms as previously reported and photographed in 1966, and wonderfully described in 1833 when “the stars fell like rain”. The predictions met our expectations of highly intensive but short-lived bursts of meteor activity, and from 1998 to 2002 observers around the world were treated to spectacular displays of Leonid meteors, from rich showers of faint meteors to bright fireballs.

The parent body of the Leonid meteors is comet 55P / Tempel-Tuttle with a period of 33.2 years. As it orbits the Sun the comet distributes streams of dust particles in its wake. If the Earth encounters one of these streams it produces a meteor shower when the cometary debris is vaporised in the upper atmosphere, explaining the intensity of Leonid meteor storms observed near the comet’s perihelion passage.

Leonid meteors (radiating from the constellation of Leo) can be seen throughout November, although most are visible between the 15th and 20th, with peak activity expected on the night of the 17th. We are a few years away from the return of their parent comet so they exhibit low rates, giving a ZHR (Zenithal Hourly Rate) of about 10 at maximum under clear dark skies. This is not expected to increase significantly until the late 2020s, although the Earth encounters varying streams of Leonid meteoroids, so there’s always a chance to see a nice meteor display.

Leonid MeteorThe Leonids are the Usain Bolts of the meteor family. They are fast, following their parent comet’s retrograde orbit inclined at 162o to the ecliptic, they slam into the Earth’s atmosphere with geocentric velocities of 70 km/s, 160,000 mph! Leonid meteors are usually visible for less than a second as they zip across the sky. Bright ones often leave a glowing train.

Video networks are monitoring this year’s return of the Leonids and observers are encouraged to undertake visual watches, either individually or in groups. Conditions are very favourable with maximum occurring this weekend during New Moon. The radiant rises late in the evening, so watches after midnight will be the most productive.

Leonid Meteor

A DSLR can also be used to record meteors. A series of 30s exposures with a fast f/ratio standard or wide-angle lens is recommended; the ISO setting will depend on local sky conditions.

However you observe the Leonids, please send your results to the BAA Meteor Section, meteor@britastro.org and display them on your BAA Member Page.

Alex Pratt

Alex has been a BAA member for many years. His main interest is video astronomy, applying video techniques to record transitory phenomena such as asteroidal and lunar occultations, meteor showers, and performing video astrometry of asteroids, Near Earth Objects and comets.  He is co-founder of NEMETODE, a network of video meteor cameras in the British Isles.

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BAA Gallery Deep Sky Nebulae
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Messier 76 - the Little Dumbbell

Image
About this observation
Observer
Kevin Gurney
Time of observation
06/11/2017 - 23:00
Object
M76
Observing location
Sheffield, UK
Equipment
Altair Astro 10" Ritchey-Chretien truss tube
ATIK 460EX Mono
Exposure
Blue:10x120" binned 2x2: Green10x120" binned 2x2: Red 10x120" binned 2x2: Ha 10x420" unbinned: O3 10x420" unbinned
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Copyright of all images and other observations submitted to the BAA remains with the owner of the work. Reproduction of the work by third-parties is expressly forbidden without the consent of the copyright holder. For more information, please contact the webmaster.
BAA Articles

The Moon and Mars meet up on November 15

Mars is now slowly dragging itself over the eastern morning horizon a bit earlier each week as it makes its way towards opposition next July, and this week it meets up with the Moon going in the opposite direction. On the morning of 2017 November 15 (Wednesday) Mars and the Moon create a splendid photo opportunity as they come within 3 degrees of each other in the south-eastern morning sky. The Moon will be a thin waning crescent (New Moon is 3 days later on the November 18) while Mars will be at magnitude +1.8 and sporting a small diameter of 4 arc seconds. At a distance apart on the sky of just 3 degrees they will both fit comfortable in the field of view of a typical pair of medium power binoculars (say 15x70s). From London they will be around 12 degrees above the horizon at 05:00UT under a dark sky (but closer to only 8 degrees up from Glasgow).

Mars rises on this date around 03:30 and the Moon a few minutes earlier. Sunrise is at 07:15 and the start of astronomical twilight at 05:17.

The chart below shows the pair at 05:00. The star to the south-east of the Moon is magnitude 4.4 theta Virginis.

If you have a brilliant eastern horizon and it just happens to be clear (unlikely I know) you may want to also watch Jupiter climb over the horizon at 05:45 (magnitude -1.7), closely followed by brilliant Venus (magnitude -3.9). This pair of planets were closest together on the morning of November 13 at less than half a degree apart but are still within 2 degrees of each other on the 15th..Do take care if you are searching with any optical aid, as the Sun will be rising shortly after 07:00.

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BAA Gallery Picture of the Week
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Aurora Over the Graveyard

Image
About this observation
Observer
Alan Tough
Time of observation
07/11/2017 - 22:31
Object
Aurora
Observing location
Duffus, Scotland
Equipment
Canon EOS 5D Mark III DSLR
Sigma EX DG 20 mm lens
Exposure
8 Seconds @ f/3.5 and ISO-2500
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Alan reports that he was returning home, from photographing the amazing auroral display of November 07-08 at Hopeman Beach, when he noticed the northern sky completely filled with bright rays. The only clear spot he could find to take a photo was the graveyard on the outskirts of Duffus village.  Having taken this extraordinary shot the auroral activity quietened down again.

Copyright of all images and other observations submitted to the BAA remains with the owner of the work. Reproduction of the work by third-parties is expressly forbidden without the consent of the copyright holder. For more information, please contact the webmaster.
BAA Gallery Deep Sky Nebulae
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Mel 15 in the Heart Nebula

Image
About this observation
Observer
Kevin Gurney
Time of observation
29/10/2017 - 23:00
Object
Melotte 15
Observing location
Sheffield, UK
Equipment
Altair Astro 10" RC
ATIK 460EX Mono camera
Exposure
10 x 600 secs Ha; 10 x 600 secs O3' 10 x 600 secs S2
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Copyright of all images and other observations submitted to the BAA remains with the owner of the work. Reproduction of the work by third-parties is expressly forbidden without the consent of the copyright holder. For more information, please contact the webmaster.

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