Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) update

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is now putting on a great show.

The tail has now extended to about 5 degrees long and getting brighter.
It is now sporting a dust and ion tail.

See my previous Blog entry from the 6th of July.
https://www.star-gazing.co.uk/WebPage/2020-neowise-july2020

I have now added a video to help show where you can find the comet and what we might expect from it!

Just get yourself out and have a look, (When the weather allows, of course) and you might even see some noctilucent cloud (NLC) activity into the bargain.

Have fun.

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE)

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is now visible from the UK.
Unlike Comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) and C/2020 F8 (SWAN) which both failed to perform, this comet looks like it will make up for those and could be a real stunner.

A blog update and YouTube video showing how to find the comet and what we might see is here:
https://www.star-gazing.co.uk/WebPage/c2020f3-neowise-update

Spurred on by images folks across the world had posted online, I decided to make the effort to get up early and get out and see it.
I had to drive a little bit away from home at about quarter to 2, to get a low view towards the north-east, where I knew the comet would be located, below Capella in Auriga.

There was a consistent band of cloud just in the area the comet should have been. It looked like it was going to clear, so I persevered and waited.

I watched Venus rising a little bit towards the east, but the area around the location of the comet stayed consistently cloudy.
Behind me, The Moon, Jupiter and Saturn were very prominent. I was also surprised how high Mars was.
I really ought to get my self up earlier more and get out to do these planets one morning…

The sky was really starting to brighten by this time.
At about 10 past 3, it really looked like the clouds were not going to reveal the comet, so I threw my camera and binoculars into the car and headed where I thought I would get a clear view. After about 5 miles, I found a turn off with a clear view in the comets direction. A quick squint and I could easily see the comet with the naked eye, despite the brightening sky.
I scrambled to get the camera set up and focussed before rattling off a number of images.
This was a very nice looking comet, looking absolutely stunning in 10×50 binoculars and was well worth getting up for, before it started fading into dawns glow.

Here are a couple of the images I took.

The map below shows the path of the comet during July.
Click on the map for a bigger view.

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is currently below Capella in Auriga and visible low down in the north-eastern sky a little while before sunrise.

After about a week, it passes through Lynx and you should also be able to see it low in the north-western sky just after sunset, so we should have two opportunities to see it each day.
By mid July, the comet will be moving in the lower part of Ursa Major below The Plough.
By the end of July the comet will be moving through galaxy fields in the constellation of Coma Berenices.

How bright it will get, who knows? It’s a comet after all.

But do make sure that you get yourself out there to have a look at what could turn out to be a long awaited and magnificent comet.

NEOWISE-Map-Julynset.

 

 

 

 

 

Barnard’s Star – The rapidly moving star.

Barnard’s Star is a very interesting star.

It is known as The Runaway Star, and for good reason.
It’s apparent motion across the sky is relatively fast.

This is a result of it being fairly close to us and its motion changes by a degree every 351 years.

Below is an animated GIF of Barnard’s Star showing its rapid movement across the sky.

One image was taken by me in June 2012.

The other image taken by Nick Hewitt more recently.

You can see how much the star has shifted north over 8 years.

 

Look Out For Venus

My YouTube video shows you what to expect over the next few weeks as the planet moves ever closer to The Sun and lower in our evening sky.

 

Venus is looking magnificent in the evening sky at the moment as you can see from my series of images below.

My YouTube video shows you what to expect over the next few weeks as the planet edges ever closer to The Sun and gets lower in our evening sky.

Enjoy.

 

Saving Apollo 13 – 50th Anniversary Event of Launch day.

Today is the 50th Anniversary since the launch of Apollo 13.

A special event organised by Go Space Watch in Sutton Coldfield has been cancelled, so I have offered to do my Apollo 13 presentation online instead.

Details of the meeting are below:

Saturday 11th April. 7pm BST (6pm UT).
Dave Eagle – Apollo 13 50th Anniversary Presentation.

Saving Apollo 13: Houston We’ve Had a Problem.



Join to the meeting using the Zoom link below.

https://us04web.zoom.us/j/808786331?pwd=NWh3TjZ2dWt3bHU0anJIVWdhVkNKdz09
Meeting ID: 808 786 331
Password: 030400

Venus Photo-bombs The Pleiades.

In the first week of April, Venus Photo-bombs The Pleiades Star Cluster in Taurus.

On the evening of the 2nd it will be just below The Pleiades.

On the 3rd, Venus will be at its closest to the cluster lying close to Merope.
It will be a dazzling jewel amongst the much fainter stars within the cluster.

On the 4th of April, Venus will have started moving away from the cluster as the bright planet heads eastwards.
(Or is that The Pleiades heading westwards?).

Let’s hope we get some more clear skies.

Have Fun.

 

 

 

One Million Interactions

One Million Interactions – Inspiring the next generation of space scientists.

The One Million Interactions programme is a partnership between the UK Space Agency, ESERO-UK, STEM Ambassadors and the Careers and Enterprise Company to support the UK space sector to deliver 1,000,000 interactions per year with young people. Each time you speak to one young person that counts as one interaction, so if you speak to a class of 30, that is 30 interactions. The programme will offer volunteering opportunities and bespoke training for STEM Ambassadors from the space sector.  We wish to re-engage with space employers to increase the number of volunteers and active engagement events within the Space Sector.

https://www.stem.org.uk/esero/inspiring-next-generation

If you are an Ambassador working in the space industry, or wish to engage with STEM activities with Space as a theme, we would love you to link into this initiative. 

If wish to link to this scheme please contact your regional STEM Ambassador Hub here

or E Mail Kathryn Kroon kathryn.kroon@leics-ebc.org.uk

Moon, Venus & Pleiades

There’s a nice conjunction of The Moon, Venus & Pleiades star cluster coming up.

On the evening of Thursday the 26th of March, the very thin crescent Moon will be low in the western sky as the sky darkens.

(Note: The size of The Moon has been exaggerated in these images).

The next evening (27th March) The Moon is higher in the sky.
It is now approaching Venus and The Pleiades.
Theses are themselves getting closer for a close encounter early next month.

On the evening of the 28th March the three objects are close together, making a nice triangle.
This will be a great photographic opportunity to capture the three objects in one image.

The next evening The Moon will have started to move away as the crescent thickens.

Early next month Venus photo-bombs The Pleiades.
I’ll post more details about this later.

Keep Looking Up!

Keep Safe and well.

All diagrams produced using the excellent planetarium software Stellarium.

Jupiter, Mars Saturn & The Moon

If you are blessed with clear skies (yeah right!) over the next few mornings there will be a nice display of planets and The Moon in the morning sky.
Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and The Moon are all visible low down in the south-eastern sky a little while before dawn.

You will have to get up and be out looking by about 5:30am UT to get the views shown in the diagrams below.

Tomorrow 18th March. 5:30am UT.
The Moon will be close to Jupiter and Mars.

Thursday 19th March. 5:30am UT.
The Moon has moved away below Saturn and will be visible as a thinner crescent very low to the horizon.
Jupiter and Mars have moved a little bit closer together.

Friday 20th March. 5:30am UT.
Jupiter and Mars are at conjunction. Mars, with its fast apparent motion overtakes Jupiter as it moves eastwards along the ecliptic. The two planets will still be fairly close together on the 21st, but Mars will soon move away over the next few days.
The Moon is now a lot lower down that morning and rises a little later.
So stay out there to give yourself the challenge of spotting The Moon in the brightening sky after you have spotted the conjunction.

Comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) Starts to Brighten.

Due to cloud cover I missed the Comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) passing close to The Owl Nebula a short time ago.

But the excitement is building.
This comet has started to surprise us.
In the last week or so it has brightened significantly.

I took this image of the comet on the 22nd of March 2020.
The comet has started to produce a tail.

Currently around 8th magnitude the comet is passing south of M81 and M82 in Ursa Major over the next few days.
The map below shows a close up of its path at this time. Click on the chart for a closer view.

The full path of the comet during this apparition is shown at the bottom of the page.

During the month it moves very slowly westwards through Ursa Major toward Camelopardalis.

It finally reaches that constellation , which it reaches by the end of April.

It crosses towards Perseus, which by this time, (mid May) its apparent speed will have started to accelerate and the comet should brighten even more as it approaches The Sun.
Unfortunately it is now heading towards the evening twilight as it passes through Perseus as it approaches perihelion.

At this time it will be visible fairly low down in the north western sky, above and to the right of Venus just after sunset.
How bright it could be at this time remains to be seen. It has the potential to become a naked eye object.
But we all know just how unpredictable comets can be.

Here’s one of my old images of Hale-Bopp put into a Stellarium view of the sky on the 18th of May 2020 at about 22:30 UT.
We can only keep our fingers crossed that it does give us a very nice display like this (or maybe better?) in the evenings fading light.
Of course I have used an extreme amount of artistic license here. But hey, we can always dream.

The comet reaches perihelion on the 31st of May, when we will definitely be lost from view in the northern hemisphere.

The map below shows the full path of the comet during the apparition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Sky Diary now online

My Sky Diary of events is now available electronically using a TeamUp calendar shown below.

If you would like to set up the calendar up on your mobile device, download the TeamUp App from the Web Site:
https://www.teamup.com

Once the app is installed, add my Star-Gazing Sky Diary calendar using the URL below.
https://teamup.com/ks5286ge5j8tq9jcn7

Any mistakes are entirely my own.
Please do let me know if I have missed anything out on the calendar.

 

Letchworth and District Astronomical Society – 26th February 2020.

Tomorrow evening (26th February) I will be presenting to Letchworth and District Astronomical Society.

http://www.ldas.org.uk

 

I’m looking forward to showing them all about the fantastic Rosetta and Philae mission to Comet 67P.
It’s been a long time since I’ve talked to Letchworth, so am looking forward to meeting them all.
I hope they enjoy feeling and getting a whiff of Comet 67P and finding out all about the latest results.
 
Their meeting starts at 7:30pm.
Venue.
Standalone Farm
Wilbury Road
Letchworth, SG6 4JN

Comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) passes The Owl Nebula and M108

See my blog entry on the comet with maps of its full path here:
https://www.star-gazing.co.uk/WebPage/comet-c2019y4-2020

On the 24th and 25th of February Comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) passes about 1 degree of The Owl Nebula M97.

On the 26th it also passes close to the galaxy M108, as it makes its way into the bowl of The Plough near Merak.

Use the map at the bottom of this blog entry to find the comet.

The image below by Michael Jäger of Weißenkirchen, Austria, was taken as the comet was approaching the Owl nebula on the 21st of February.

The galaxy is currently at 12th magnitude, so will require a reasonably large scope and dark skies.

It should be relatively easy to capture in photographs as it makes a great photo opportunity.

So we have three days chances of at least seeing something.
That’s if these winds and clouds ever give us a break.

The map was generated using C2A planetarium software.

Affinity Photo Astrophotography Image Processing Guide

I am very pleased to announce that my new Star-Gazing Guide to Affinity Photo Astrophotography Image Processing is now available to order.

Click here to visit my Secure Online Shop to order a copy.

Affinity Photo guide is 70 pages long and usually costs £9:50.
This includes postage and Packing (UK Only).
Oversees visitors, please contact me for postage costs.

LAUNCH SALE.
This new guide is available at launch cost of £8:00 until the end of February. Saving £1:50 on full price.

My Photoshop Astrophotography Image Processing Guide is also available for £9:50.

Deep Sky Stacker and Moon Imaging Guides (40 & 48 pages) are also available. They cost £8:00 each, including  postage (UK Only).
Please contact me if overseas for postage costs.

All of my guides can be ordered from my secure online shop:
Click here to visit my new Secure Online Shop to order.

Raunds Community Library Apollo 13 Event

As part of the Apollo 50 celebrations, I am helping to organise an Apollo 13 Event at Raunds Community Library.

This will be held on Saturday the 7th March.

Free Space Craft morning for the Children’s Club.

Plus spectacular family Planetarium Shows.
10:30, 11:15, 12:00 & 12:45.

Tickets will be available from the library from tomorrow.
Planetarium tickets are £3:00 or two for £5:00.

Learn all about what went wrong with the Apollo 13 mission which happened 50 years ago next month and experience the spectacular full-dome Apollo mission show Capcom Go!

Love your Local Library.

 

Rugby & District Astronomical Society – 16th February

Tonight I will be re-visiting my friends at Rugby & District Astronomical Society to give another presentation.

Out of the Darkness: Pluto, New Horizons & Arrokoth.

We will cover Pluto’s discovery, it’s subsequent demotion from planetary status and the results from the New Horizons flyby.

Added to this are the latest results from the flyby of another Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69Arrokoth” on New Years Day 2019.

Click the name of the group below to visit their Web page:
Rugby & District Astronomical Society
Their meeting starts at 19:30.

The venue for the meeting is:
Church Lawford Village Hall
School Street,
Church Lawford,
Warwickshire.
CV23 9EE

Venus Passes Neptune – 27th January 2020

On Monday the 27th of January Venus passes just 4 arc minutes south of Neptune in the evening sky.

Venus is moving much faster than Neptune, so you may be able to see the movement over an hour or so, if you observe carefully.

Images taken at intervals will certainly reveal the changing angle and distance between the two planets during the early evening.

The map below shows the movement of the two on the 27th & 28th of January.
The positions of the planets are marked at 0h UT.

The planets are fairly close to the bright 4th magnitude star phi (φ) Aquarii, which Venus passes on morning of the 28th.
By the time the sky is dark enough on the 28th, Venus already well clear on the other side of the star.

Use this to help identify the distant ice giant during the encounter.
The map was created using C2A planetarium software.

Let us hope for some clear skies after the rain which is predicted for the UK tomorrow.

Comet C/2017 T2 passes the Sword Handle

Comet C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) is approaching the Double Cluster (Or The Sword Handle) in Perseus over the next few days.

See my blog entry below for more details of the comet.
https://www.star-gazing.co.uk/WebPage/comet-c2017t2

Comet C/2017 T2 will be at it’s closest to the clusters on the 27th of January, when it will be closest to NGC 884.

It takes quite a few days to pass the clusters, so hopefully we’ll get some clear skies around this time to capture the comet close to them.

Have fun.

The map below shows the position of the comet at 0h on the dates shown.
Map generated using C2A Planetarium Software

Comet C/2017 T2 PANSTARRS

Comet C/2017 T2 PANSTARRS is getting brighter.

It will come to perihelion in early May, when it will be in the constellation of Camelopardalis.

It will be at its brightest around this time and moving fairly fast. It was predicted to become as bright as magnitude +8.5. However, the brightness comets can achieve are always fairly difficult to predict, it certainly seems to be exceeding expectations and has already reached a magnitude of +10.8.

Below is an image I took of the comet on the 29th of November.
(Notice the track of the small asteroid moving just above the comet at the time).

If this brightening continues, it may (or may not) get a lot brighter than +8.5.
So how bright could it become?

The only way to know for sure is to get out and keep having a look at it.

It is certainly a very nice comet already with a distinct dusty tail visible.

This comet is going to favour northern hemisphere observers and is heading north.
It will also maintain a high northerly altitude throughout its apparition, taking us right the way into the Summer.

The maps below show the path it will take amongst the stars.

It is currently in the head of Perseus. As it tracks across its path, it passes a few notably bright objects.
These should make for very nice images with the objects being so close together on the following dates:

The Sword Handle Double Cluster in Perseus.
Between the 25th of January and the 2nd of February.

Open Cluster NGC 886 and The Heart & Soul Nebulae.
13th March and a week either side for the larger nebulae.

Gamma Camelopardalis.
11th & 12th of April.

A nice cluster of galaxies including NGC 2633 and 2643.
15th & 16th of May.

Galaxies M81 and M82.
23rd to the 25th of April.

Galaxy IC2574.
25th & 26th of April.

Dubhe.
4th & 5th of June.

Phecda.
15th & 16th of June.

M106.
24th & 25th of June.

NGC 4490.
1st July.

Coma Berenices Star Cluster.
17th, 18th and 19th of July.

Maps.
(Click on map for bigger view).

 

 

 

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse – 10th January.

The day of the penumbral lunar eclipse was bright and sunny, so it looked quite hopeful that it would be clear to catch the penumbral lunar eclipse that evening.

As the sky darkened, some thin cloud built up. So in anticipation I set up the 190 Mak-Newt and let it cool down before The Moon poked its nose above the neighbours rooftops.

As soon as it cleared the roof, The Moon mostly stayed clear of cloud for the early part of the eclipse.

So it was on.

I managed to capture a few images with my Nikon DSLR, but the thin cloud was gradually getting thicker as the eclipse progressed.

Here’s The Moon taken at mid-eclipse at 19:10 UT.

Towards the end of the eclipse a nice lunar halo formed, but by the time I got my other camera out to capture an image, it had faded.

I took 5 images in total.

So I made an animation from them to show the progression of the shadow across the Moons disk.

My animation of the Earth's shadow playing across The Moon's surface. Pity the latter images were ruined by thin cloud. But at least I got to see it.

Posted by Dave Eagle on Friday, 10 January 2020

Pale Blue Dot – 30th Anniversary Celebration

The 14th of February marks the 30th anniversary of Voyager 1’s Pale Blue Dot Image.

The image below is the image in question, showing the distant speck of light, which is The Earth floating in a shaft of sunlight.

This iconic image illustrates the unique astronomical perspective on Earth: when observing our home planet from space, national boundaries disappear and the fragility of Earth becomes evident. This perspective is pertinent to remind ourselves to treat each other with kindness and take care of our home planet together.

Looking at events unfolding across the world, the awareness of our impact on the environment is becoming more and more marked.

The anniversary will be celebrated on the by a number of events organised across the world between the 13th and 20th of February.
To see what it is all about and how to get involved, see the Pale Blue Dot Web page:

https://www.iau-100.org/pale-blue-dot

What a Stupid Hobby.

So, the social media frenzy starts again!
We have had an ideal Christmas and New Year break for doing astronomy. Lots of spare time, and no Moon to blot things out. But it wasn’t to be. Of course, the always unpredictable (or should that be predictable?) UK weather has decided that we couldn’t see anything at all up in the sky over the holiday period.

Now everyone is now starting to go back to work. They have much less time to do the hobby and the bright Moon is back blotting out the fainter objects. People’s astronomy kit, a lot of it brand new after their Christmas presents were opened, itching to have first light on at least something.

As a result lots of people are wondering why they have all this lovely equipment standing around gathering dust.
Like many hobbies the equipment can cost a lot of money, depending on how deeply you get involved, and it is a real waste if it stands in the corner of the room and doesn’t get used.

There is a long-standing joke in astronomy that any newly delivered piece of astronomy equipment becomes a cloud magnet, attracting clouds for weeks after it arrives.

“What a stupid Hobby. I’m giving it up” is the main cry heard. “I’m selling all my gear”.
But what are they really saying?

Any hobby has its frustrations.
Take ballooning for example. Fantastic if you do that sort of thing, but, as anyone knows who has booked a balloon flight, it does require fair weather for a smooth flight. That leads to many days of frustration I’m sure. But when they do get good weather and launch they enjoy the flight and the hobby.

Astronomy is the same.
Yes, it can be extremely frustrating, especially if the weather prevents you seeing something that only happens very rarely.

Like me, if you have a real passion for the subject you persevere with it. You take the ups and the downs. Anyone who has learnt a musical instrument will know just how difficult and frustrating that can be. But those who have a real passion for it will battle their way through the pain barrier and master their chosen weapon.

Astronomy is very much the same. Yes, it can feel like the elements are conspiring against you. Yes, it does feel that your equipment is feeling very much unloved, sitting gathering dust week after week.

But, when the weather is fine, the skies clear and the stars are out in all their glory, there is nothing to beat it.
It takes you away from all of life’s stresses as you peer across the universe and enjoy everything it and your dusted-off equipment can offer.

So please do persevere with it because astronomy really will be much the worse for your departure.
If you do give it up, maybe the interest was definitely there, but certainly not that passion that really does help carry you through the pain.

Starlink – What’s all the fuss about?

Tonight there will be an opportunity to see the last set of launched Starlink satellites passing over the UK skies.

The last couple of launches have stirred up the astronomical community, amateurs and professionals alike.
See my blog entry made after the first launch:
https://www.star-gazing.co.uk/WebPage/starlink-spectacle

And my images of the constellation from the second launch:
https://www.star-gazing.co.uk/WebPage/starlink-latest-launch-visibility

There are tens of thousands of these satellites planned. Another 60 are due to be launched next week.

The Heaven-Above Web site shows me that there is a visibility of the latest cluster of satellites visible tonight.

The first satellite starts passing across the UK sky just after 4:30pm.
It appears just north of Saturn, passes north of The crescent Moon, into Aquarius, Pisces and towards Cetus and Taurus.
Its magnitude is calculated at +3.9. But it would be a good idea to observe exactly how bright it actually appears and if it flares at any point as it catches the Sun.
At this point it disappears into The Earth’s shadow a short time before it sets.
The map of this pass from Heavens-above is shown below (Click on the image for a bigger view):

But that’s not all.
Once this satellite passes across there will be an ongoing procession of Starlink satellites, each separated by only a few minutes.
This stream of satellites will last until 20:11 UT.

The height above the southern horizon of the Starlink satellite track will gradually increase as the evening progresses, each satellite following the previous one at a very slightly higher altitude.

By the time satellite 1046 passes over at 18:20, this satellite will be 83 degrees high, passing north of Pegasus and Andromeda. It will fade quicker into The Earth’s shadow as it enters Perseus. The magnitude of this satellite is predicted to be +3.9

By the time the final satellite 1050 passes us at 20:11.
It is only visible very briefly, disappearing very quickly into the Earth’s shadow over in the western sky close to Delphinus.

If you do get the chance to view them, I would be interested in hearing your thoughts about them.

If the weather prevents you from seeing this particular sighting, there are a few more opportunities over the next few days.
Visit Heavens-Above for more details.

It will be interesting to see what impact these will have.

The new ones to be launched next week will definitely be much brighter.

Dimming of Betelgeuse – Supernova or not?

When I’m doing my planetarium shows, the children really love the fact that Betelgeuse is so huge if it were in the same position as our Sun, it would swallow many of the inner planets, including Earth, Mars and almost Jupiter.

For more details of my exciting school visits, click here:
https://www.star-gazing.co.uk/WebPage/school_visits.

However, Betelgeuse has recently been attracting attention due to its behaviour. This has bought to the attention of the public that celestial objects aren’t quite as constant as they appear at first glance, but do change. Sometimes sometimes quite quickly and dramatically.
Many social media feeds are buzzing with excitement.

See my original post about this by clicking the link below:
https://www.star-gazing.co.uk/WebPage/betelgeuse-fades

Yes, this bright super red giant naked eye star has dimmed in brightness, but we have known for years that it does do this on a fairly regular basis. It is a variable star.
What makes this a little bit more intriguing is that it hasn’t been quite this dim for more than 40 years.

On the 20th of December 2019, the weather finally allowed me a chance to have a quick look at Orion and try and work out roughly how bright it actually was.

Here’s my image with Betelgeuse marked. It is the bright star in the right shoulder (left hand as seen from Earth) of the constellation of Orion, the Hunter.

Betelgeuse was definitely fainter than Rigel.
I would say that it was on par, or even slightly fainter than Aldebaran in Taurus.

So I guess this makes the magnitude of Betelgeuse that evening about +1.0.

Betelgeuse is normally brighter at about +0.4. So this marks quite a significant drop in brightness.

I did notice that the nearby star Procyon, in Canis Minor, at magnitude +0.3 was also brighter than Betelgeuse.

Having been looking up and admiring Orion since a child, the Hunter did indeed look distinctly different, just  from standing in the garden staring at it. Or was it just interpretation and expectations from the knowledge I had?

Being a known variable star, observers have been monitoring the brightness of Betelgeuse for years.
The light curve below has been published by the AAVSO:
https://www.aavso.org/vsots_alphaori

Betelgeuse is at the very end of its life, and if you listen to Brian Cox, you will know that it due to end its life in a supernova event, where it will literally tear itself apart when the stars fuel has run out and it can no longer support its own weight. It will collapse onto itself, the resounding “bounce-back” resulting in a brilliant “explosion” of light.

Is this fading of the star a prequel to the supernova event?
When is it likely to happen?
Are we really likely to see Betelgeuse brighten dramatically very soon?

To be perfectly frank, astronomers really do not really know.
It could be tomorrow, or it could be in 50,000 or even 100,000 years time.
So the statistical likelihood of this event occurring during your ~90 (give or a take a few years) year lifetime is extremely small.

The last supernova that we viewed from fairly close quarters was in 1987.
This was a naked eye supernova called 1987A, but was only visible from the southern hemisphere.
That supernova was located in the Large Magellanic Cloud and lies around 168,000 light years away from Earth.

Betelgeuse is only about 700 light years away, so is a lot closer.
If it did go supernova, it would appear much, much brighter in our sky.
If it did “pop” today, the speed of light dictates that it would take another 700 years before we see the supernova.
But, let’s suppose Betelgeuse actually went supernova just over 699 years ago.
If that is the case, the light is already well on its way and could reach us within the next year.

When the event happens, we will witness Betelgeuse brighten enormously, and extremely quickly.
At its brightest it would be as bright as the Full Moon.
All that light will be contained within a minuscule point of light, making Orion looking very strange indeed.
Betelgeuse would be a fantastically brilliant star in Orion’s right shoulder, making astronomical observations very difficult for a number of months. The bright light will make the sky background extremely bright when above the horizon, blotting out many fainter objects.
The supernova will be so bright, that it will be visible during the day.

After many weeks outshining all the other stars in the sky, the supernova’s light will start to fade.
Over time the light will fade so much, it will drop below naked eye visibility.

From then on our view of Orion will change forever, The Mighty Hunter effectively will effectively lose his right shoulder as we will now longer be able to see Betelgeuse with the naked eye.

But what a legacy Betelgeuse will leave behind. The fading supernova and its remnant should keep astronomers busy for many, many years to come as they observe the repercussions of the stars demise and the expanding shock-wave and cloud of debris emanating from the position of this ex-star.

But Hey! Don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen!
But wouldn’t it be fantastic if it did?
We just love all the intrigue and speculation.
That’s what makes this wonderful hobby so fantastic.

Betelgeuse Fades – But not likely to go supernova.

When the weather gives you a chance, get out and have a look at the bright red giant star Betelgeuse in the right shoulder of Orion.

It looks like it may have dimmed quiet a bit.

Betelgeuse can be quite variable, and has a complex light curve.

It has done something like this before.
But it is the faintest the star has been for 25 years.

If you listen to Brian Cox, he will tell you that Betelgeuse is likely to go supernova at any time.
But is it just about to? Probably not!

See more details on these Web sites:
https://www.iflscience.com/space/betelgeuse-is-fainting-but-its-not-about-to-explode-probably

https://astroblogger.blogspot.com/2019/12/betelgeuse-fades.html

So go out and have a look and see if you can see any difference from the last time you saw it.

Betelgeuse Fades.

Comet 289P (Blanpain).

Comet 289P (Blanpain) is heading northwards and should become a better placed object for us in the UK during December and January.

It will at it’s brightest on the on the 10th of January when it could potentially become a predicted brightness of magnitude +4.8 on the 10th of January. This makes it potentially visible to the naked eye (Fingers crossed).
But don’t forget just how unpredictable comets can be in the way that they behave.

Update 5th December 2019.
This comet is now only likely to only reach a maximum brightness of around 15th magnitude now.
Oh well! However, I’ll leave this as it stands anyway.

289P is currently in Aquarius and has a 5.36 year orbital period. It is currently a very faint magnitude 19.9, so will be very difficult to spot visually, but could be captured photographically if you have good equipment, technique and fairly dark skies. This task will get easier as it gets higher in our skies and brightens.

It starts moving faster and brightens rapidly as it approaches The Sun.

The comet reaches perihelion (closest to the Sun) on the 20th of December, still in Aquarius.

Towards the end of the year, it moves quickly through Pisces and onward into The Square of Pegasus where we will find it in the new year.

It continues heading northwards.
By the end of the first week of the new year, the comet should be found amongst the stars of Andromeda.
It approaches within a few degrees of The Andromeda Galaxy on the 8th of January.

On the 10th of January it should reach peak brightness of a predicted magnitude +4.8 when it will be about 0.1 Astronomical Units from Earth.

The week after sees the comet moving through the stars of Cassiopeia, passing fairly close to a few nice star clusters, The Owl Cluster NGC 457, being one of them, on the 12th January.
It will also pass close to Delta Cas and M103 over the next day.

A few days later we will find the comet within the constellation of Camelopardalis, but should be starting to slow down and fading rapidly.

The comet  reaches the head of Ursa Major by the end of January.

Happy hunting.
Let’s hope it gives us a flipping good show.

 

Starlink – Latest launch visibility.

On November the 11th,  Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched the second cluster of Starlink satellites.

This launch saw another 60 satellites go into orbit, making it “largest commercial telecommunications satellite constellation in orbit”.

See my blog entry below about the first launch:
https://www.star-gazing.co.uk/WebPage/starlink-spectacle

So we now have 120 of these in orbit. SpaceX plan to perform at least another 22 launches to reach a point where it will be able to offer global Internet access. It aims to achieve this by the end of next year. This will be 1,300 in orbit. The plan is to launch at least 10 times this amount in the future, so I was keen to get out and see how bright this new batch of satellites were, and how much impact they might be having in our skies this time.

Unfortunately, it has been cloudy or foggy each time the cluster was predicted to pass over my location, until this morning.

Predictions of passes can be obtained from the very useful Web page heavens-above.com
https://www.heavens-above.com

The main cluster wasn’t expected until around 6:15am, but I went out with my camera to set up well before time to set up the camera and take some test shots. Some bright Starlink satellites were already visible with the naked eye crossing the sky almost overhead, passing very close to The Plough.

Test shots done, I waited a few more minutes and watched a few ahead of the pack race through the field of view. As the minutes ticked away, the time of the main cluster approached. The increase in rate was very rapid and noticeable.

One after another the stream of moving lights moved across the sky fairly close together. The satellites were easily second magnitude, so were as bright as most of the stars within The Plough. They approached from the west, becoming visible as they moved into sunlight, close to Capella. They were at their brightest as they passed overhead near The Plough.

My image of the Starlink Satellites taken this morning.
The satellite tracks are shown close together.

Here’s my animation made from the individual images.
Each image was 7 seconds long, so satellite trails show movement in seven seconds.

The satellites brightness faded as they quickly moved towards the eastern horizon passing through Corona Borealis. They did not flare in the same way as I observed the the first cluster to do so. Maybe that’s because these were observed much later after launch. They were stringing out away from one another and getting into higher orbits when I observed them.

I have heard that some ground-based radio meteor detectors have picked up a lot of interference as they pass over.

Want to get out and observe them yourself?
There are two passes in the morning, ~4:50 and ~6:25 UT.
The times will change and as they spread out in their orbits will be further apart from one another over time.
They will also hopefully fade.

The first cluster of satellites seem to have faded from view since they were launched, but the jury is still out on that one.

So will these new satellites fade and their interference become less over time? Or will they continue to cause us problems on the ground, either as us amateurs or even the professionals? I guess we will soon find out.

 

 

Lincoln Astronomical Society – 3rd December 2019

On Tuesday the 3rd of December, The Flat Tim and Dave roadshow will be bringing fun and games for all ages once again for my very last evening presentation of the year.

This time it’s another visit to a very friendly and fun group, Lincoln Astronomical Society.

I shall be inflicting on them my ever popular audience-participation presentation:
“Celebrate Tim Peake’s Principia Mission”.

CelebrateTim

I am looking forward to meeting up with this group yet again and having lots of pre-Christmas fun with the audience participation bits. I’m sure that they will really enjoy the fun evening @Flat_Tim and I have planned for them.

All are very welcome, especially children as this presentation is aimed at all kids with any level of knowledge, at all ages from 10 – 110.
So bring along your children, grandchildren, parents and grandparents to find out what Tim got up to during his 6-month stay in The International Space Station, enjoy the presentation and say “Hello”.
If you don’t want to talk to me then at least come along and speak to @Flat_Tim as he can get very flat if no-one notices him.

The meeting starts at 7.30pm.

Lincoln Astronomical Society meetings are held at their observatory and lecture facility at:
23 Westcliffe Street Lincoln.
Click on the link above for a map.

Sky Diary for December 2019

My very last free monthly sky diary for December 2019 showing the events of the night sky visible from the UK is now available in a printable pdf version for download.
Click here, or on the image below to download the pdf.

After 32 years of doing my sky diary, I will stop producing this after this month.
It’s been a sad, and big decision for me to do this, but it is getting difficult to fit it in with my many other commitments.

However, it’s all not bad news.
All my sky diary events are currently and will in future be added to the UK Cloud Magnets online calendar.
I will still keep this as up to date as I can and add new information as I hear about it.
Click here to view the UK Cloud Magnets online calendar.

I will also be updating my blog (www.star-gazing.co.uk/Blog.html) with any new information on sky calendar events as appropriate.

Keep Looking Up!