Feb 21/22 – 27/28 Meteors

It has been a week since I posted any nightly meteor data. Unfortunately you haven’t been missing much. Clouds have plagued more than half the nights. Plus even when it is clear, the low meteor rates seen during this time of the year means fewer meteors are detected. In fact, the past 2 nights have been nice and clear in Tucson and yet my camera only picked up 4 meteors per night.

Still Bob’s more sensitive camera has had some good night with 26 and 24 meteors being seen on the night of Feb 23/24 and 25/26, respectively.

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO ANT DLE GNO
TUS  2009-02-28  08h 45m  4   2   1   1   0
TUS  2009-02-27  09h 09m  4   3   0   1   0
SDG  2009-02-27  05h 00m  5   5   0   0   0
TUS  2009-02-26  10h 45m  13  12  1   0   0
SDG  2009-02-26  10h 53m  24  23  1   0   0
TUS  2009-02-25  00h 30m  1   1   0   0   0
SDG  2009-02-25  03h 00m  2   2   0   0   0
TUS  2009-02-24  04h 38m  7   6   1   0
SDG  2009-02-24  04h 27m  26  23  3   0
TUS  2009-02-23  06h 26m  0   0   0   0
TUS  2009-02-22  09h 45m  4   3   1   0

TUS – Camera in Tucson operated by Carl Hergenrother
SDG – Camera in San Diego operated by Bob Lunsford
TotTime – Total amount of time each camera looked for meteors
TOT – Total number of meteors detected
SPO – Sporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
ANT – Antihelions
DLE - Delta Leonids
GNO – Gamma Normids

Check Out the Moon and Venus Tonight (… and Comet Lulin) – Feb 27

Based on the number of comments I’ve been receiving, many people have been enjoying (or at least startled) by the grand display Venus has been putting on for the past few months. Tonight may be the best display yet as a very thin crescent Moon will join Venus.

This evening the Moon and Venus will be within 1.2 degrees of each other (for comparison the Moon is about 0.5 degrees across).

moonvenus_20090227

Moon and Venus in conjunction on the evening of Feb 27. Image created with Stellarium (www.stellarium.org).

While you are observing the two, there are a few fun things to watch out for. One, even though the Moon is a thin crescent, can you see a faint glow from the rest of the Moon? Your eyes aren’t deceiving you, what you are actually seeing is called Earthshine. If you were standing on the nightside of the Moon right now you would be seeing a Full Earth. Just like the Full Moon on Earth, the Full Earth is very bright. In fact, it is much brighter than the Full Moon since the Earth is bigger and more reflective. So just like on Earth where the landscape is illuminated by the Full Moon, we are seeing the same phenomenon on the Moon.

Second thing to look for, if you have a pair of binoculars or a telescope (any size will do) check out the shape of Venus. Venus is also a thin crescent and is shaped  very similar to the Moon. Below is a picture of Venus that I took through my 12″ telescope on the evening of Feb25. Venus will still look pretty much the same tonight.

The image below was taken by myself with a 12″ reflector and DMK 41AF02 camera on the evening of Feb 25.

venus_200902262

Again if anybody gets some cool pictures of the pair and would like to share them with other blog readers, post a link in the comments section and I will include them in a future posting.

As for Comet Lulin, the comet still remains bright enough to be seen without optical aid if you live at a very dark site. For the rest of us, a nice pair of binolculars will suffice. Tonight the comet is easy to see as it is located just to the west (or right) of Regulus, the brightest star in Leo. It is best to wait until after 8:30 pm when the comet has risen high enough above the eastern horizon to be seen.

lulin_0227

Sky chart showing the position of Comet Lulin and Saturn for 9:30 pm on the night of Feb 27. Chart produced with the Stellarium software (www.stellarium.org).

Where is Comet Lulin Tonight?

Comet Lulin is still bright and easy to see. It is also rising earlier and earlier every night as it speeds into the evening sky. Tonight and tomorrow, the comet will be located near the bright star of Regulus in Leo.

lulin_0226

Sky chart showing the position of Comet Lulin and Saturn for 9:30 pm on the night of Feb 26. Chart produced with the Stellarium software (www.stellarium.org).

More on Comet Lulin can be found here at the “In The Sky This Month – February 2009” post.

A higher resolution finder chart for observers with binoculars or telescopes can be found at Heavens Above.

A great series of images can be found at Spaceweather.com.

Comet Lulin at its Best Tonight

Now is the best time to observe Comet Lulin. Two nights ago, Comet Lulin was easy to find as it passed close to Saturn, last night the comet came closest to Earth (0.411 AU or 38.2 million miles or 61.2 million km), and either tonight the comet will be at its brightest.

Don’t worry if you are not able to see the comet tonight. Just because the comet is at its brightest doesn’t mean it won’t be bright enough to see for the next few nights. And if you have a nice pair of binoculars or a telescope, the comet will be visible for the next 2 months.

Now why is the comet at its brightest tonight rather than last night when it was closer to Earth? First off, most observers will have a very hard time telling that the comet is brighter than last night. Chances are the comet will only be a few percent brighter, but there is a chance it could be brighter by 10-20%. Why? It all is related to how the dust particles in the atmosphere (or coma) and the tail of the comet scatter light.

Tonight, the comet will be located directly opposite in the sky from the Sun. In fact, the angle between the observer (on Earth), the comet and the Sun (Earth-comet-sun angle or phase angle) will only be 0.1 degrees. At such small phase angles, objects often appear much brighter than at larger phase angles. The reason is relatively simple, most of the time when you observe something, whether a comet, the Moon or blades of grass, you are looking at the object from the side a bit. So some fraction of the object is in shadow. When you are looking at the object with the Sun directly behind your line-of-sight, the shadows are no longer visible because they are behind the object. In effect, you are only seeing the sunlight side of the object.

A great explanation of the opposition effect (with pictures) can be found at the Atmospheric Optics site.This is also a great site for learning about a whole bunch of neat things that can be seen in the atmosphere.

lulin_0225

Sky chart showing the position of Comet Lulin and Saturn for 9:30 pm on the night of Feb 25. Chart produced with the Stellarium software (www.stellarium.org).

More on Comet Lulin can be found here at the “In The Sky This Month – February 2009” post.

A higher resolution finder chart for observers with binoculars or telescopes can be found at Heavens Above.

A great series of images can be found at Spaceweather.com.

Comet Lulin Flys By Saturn

A quick reminder that bright Comet Lulin will be easy to locate tonight as it passes within a few degrees of Saturn. The comet is currently around 5th magnitude. This means observers at dark rural sites will be able to see the comet with their naked eyes as a faint glow. Observers in suburban and urban settings will be able to see the comet with small binoculars. Of course, if you have a telescope the view will be even better.

The comet will still be close (though moving away from) Saturn over the next few days.

If anyone gets a nice picture of the Comet and/or Saturn and wishes to share them, post a link to the image in the comments section and I’ll include them in a future posting.

lulin_02243

Sky chart showing the position of Comet Lulin and Saturn for 10 pm on the night of Feb 23. Chart produced with the Stellarium software (www.stellarium.org).

More on Comet Lulin can be found here at the “In The Sky This Month – February 2009” post.

A higher resolution finder chart for observers with binoculars or telescopes can be found at Heavens Above.

A great series of images can be found at Spaceweather.com.

Feb 19/20/21 Meteors

Tucson has been experiencing a nice stretch of clear nights the past few days. Any bouts of cirrus have been short-lived.  San Diego hasn’t been as lucky though the night of Feb 19/20 was clear.

The night of Feb 19/20 did see a few meteors that appeared to come from a common radiant. Four of the 18 meteors detected in Tucson that night and 2-4 of the 23 meteors detected in San Diego may be from a previously unknown (at least to me) radiant in the middle of Ophiuchus (rough positions, RA=257, DEC=+0, give or take a few degrees). No activity from this suspected radiant was observed on the next night.

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO ANT DLE
TUS  2009-02-21  11h 07m  12  9   3   0
SDG  2009-02-21  10h 58m  3   3   0   0
TUS  2009-02-20  10h 58m  18  18  0   0
SDG  2009-02-20  10h 31m  23  20  2   1

TUS – Camera in Tucson operated by Carl Hergenrother
SDG – Camera in San Diego operated by Bob Lunsford
TotTime – Total amount of time each camera looked for meteors
TOT – Total number of meteors detected
SPO – Sporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
ANT – Antihelions
DLE - Delta Leonids

2008 TC3 – Sudanese Fireball Meteorite Recovered

Last year on October 6, a tiny asteroid was discovered in space. Unlike all of the asteroids discovered before this one, this asteroid (named 2008 TC3) was on a collision course with Earth. Only 20 hours after discovery, the 2-meter in diameter asteroid entered the Earth’s atmosphere over northern Sudan in Africa.

The New Scientist magazine reports that researchers from the University of Khartoum (in Sudan) and NASA have found meteorites from the impact of 2008 TC3. This marks not only the first time that an object was observed in space before impacting the Earth or its atmosphere, but also the first time an object was studied in space as an asteroid and on the ground as a meteorite.

The New Scientist report can be found here.

A PDF presentation by Lindley Johnson, head of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observation program, can be found here. This presentation also includes photos of one of the meteorite. It is also a nice summary of the current state of the surveys which search for Near-Earth asteroids and comets.

Past Transient Sky posts include:

Incoming Fireball Over Sudan!!! – 2008 TC3“, “More on the Sudanese Fireball – 2008 TC3“, “Report on the Impact of 2008 TC3

Meteorites Fround From Last Friday’s Texan Daylight Fireball

For an earlier post on this fireball/meteorite see: “Feb 15 Texas Daylight Fireball

Thanks to eyewitness reports, a few great videos and some amazing weather radar images, two groups of meteorite researchers and collectors have been able to find multiple meteorites from last Friday’s daylight fireball over Texas. So far the meteorites have been found in an area near the small towns of West and Denton, Texas about 50 miles south of Dallas/Fort Worth.

Thanks to Eman for posting this update to the comment section.

“I want to confirm that several meteorites have now been recovered from this event in the vicinity of Denton, TX and the Central Texas Town of “West. TX”. Initial estimates are a strewn field a mile wide and 6-7 miles long. No major masses have been reported thus far. 20-40 stones so far, most are egg and thumbnail sized.”

The meteorites have been found by two groups. One group is being led by Ron DiIulio, director of the planetarium and astronomy lab program at the University of North Texas, and Preston Starr, the observatory manager at UNT. Local news stories describing their finds can be seen here and here.

Some of the meteorites found by the UNT team will be on display at the UNT Elm Fork Education Center on March 7. This exhibit is part of their Family Fun Science Event. There is an admission charge of $8 per child though two adults are allowed to enter for free with each child. More on this event can be found here.

The second group of meteorite finders is led by Michael Farmer, a Tucson-based meteorite collector and dealer. There is a nice video of Michael and his team discussing the hunt for this and other meteorites. According to Michael there are many other groups scouring the ground for meteorites and that number will probably only increase.

The large number of meteorites being found does not mean multiple meteoroids or small asteroids produced the fireball. The meteorites are caused by a single asteroid which broke into many pieces as it experienced the intense pressure and heat of passage through the Earth’s atmosphere at many miles per second. It is very possible that there are hundreds to thousands of small meteorites spread over an area on the order of ~100 square miles. Meteorites are named after the closest geographic feature to where they are found. It will be interesting to see what this meteorite will be called.

Feb 18/19 Meteors

Finally a nice clear night with no clouds and no bright Moon. Still with no major, or even good minor, showers active rates are still low.

From Bob’s notes: “Skies were clear all night long. Only 1 shower meteor was detected tonight, a bright magnitude -3 Antihelion.”

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO ANT DLE
TUS  2009-02-19  10h 55m  14  13  1   0
SDG  2009-02-19  11h 02m  24  23  1   0

TUS – Camera in Tucson operated by Carl Hergenrother
SDG – Camera in San Diego operated by Bob Lunsford
TotTime – Total amount of time each camera looked for meteors
TOT – Total number of meteors detected
SPO – Sporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
ANT – Antihelions
DLE - Delta Leonids

Feb 15/16/17/18 Meteors

The last few nights have been hit or miss in Tucson due to a few passing storm systems. Unfortunately the clouds didn’t bring any rain. Activity is still low which is typical for this time of year.

From Bob’s notes: “After a few days of wild weather in southern California, skies have again cleared. I had a very short session this morning with nothing exciting happening. The waning crescent moon in among the stars of Scorpius this morning was impressive.”

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO ANT DLE
TUS  2009-02-18  04h 43m  6   5   1   0
SDG  2009-02-18  01h 45m  6   6   0   0
TUS  2009-02-17  06h 07m  5   4   1   0
TUS  2009-02-16  06h 15m  10  10  0   0

TUS – Camera in Tucson operated by Carl Hergenrother
SDG – Camera in San Diego operated by Bob Lunsford
TotTime – Total amount of time each camera looked for meteors
TOT – Total number of meteors detected
SPO – Sporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
ANT – Antihelions
DLE - Delta Leonids

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