Meteor Activity Outlook for June 30-July 6, 2012

The following is a slightly edited version of Bob Lunsford’s excellent weekly summary of meteor activity. The original version can be found at the American Meteor Society’s site.

Meteor season finally gets going in July for the northern hemisphere. The first half of the month will be much like June. After the 15th though, both sporadic and shower rates increase significantly. For observers in the southern hemisphere, sporadic rates will be falling but the overall activity will increase with the arrival of the Delta Aquariids.

During this period the moon reaches its full phase on Tuesday July 3rd. At this time the moon will be located opposite of the sun and will rise as the sun sets and will set as the sun rises. This weekend the waxing gibbous moon will set near the start of morning twilight. One may get in an hour of decent viewing just before dawn but this disappears on Monday as the moon will remain above the horizon the entire night. The estimated total hourly meteor rates for evening observers this week is near two for observers in the northern hemisphere and three for those south of the equator. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near four as seen from mid-northern latitudes and eight from mid-southern latitudes. The actual rates will also depend on factors such as personal light and motion perception, local weather conditions, alertness and experience in watching meteor activity. Rates are reduced during this period due to moonlight.

The radiant (the area of the sky where meteors appear to shoot from) positions and rates listed below are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning June 30/July 1. These positions do not change greatly day to day so the listed coordinates may be used during this entire period.

The list below presents a condensed version of the expected activity this week. Details of each radiant will be posted again next week when moonlight is not as bad.

June Bootids (JBO)  15:02 (226) +47   Velocity – 18km/sec
Northern Hemisphere – <1 per hour   Southern Hemisphere – <1 per hour

f-Ophiuchids (FOP)  18:16 (274) +07   Velocity – 21km/sec
Northern Hemisphere – <1 per hour   Southern Hemisphere – <1 per hour

Antihelion (ANT) 19:28 (292) -21   Velocity – 30km/sec
Northern Hemisphere – 1 per hour   Southern Hemisphere – 2 per hour

c-Andromedids (CAN)  01:36 (024) +45   Velocity – 59km/sec
Northern Hemisphere – <1 per hour   Southern Hemisphere – <1 per hour

Clear Skies!

Robert Lunsford
American Meteor Society

 

Meteor Activity Outlook for June 23-29, 2012

The following is a slightly edited version of Bob Lunsford’s excellent weekly summary of meteor activity. The original version can be found at the American Meteor Society’s site.

June is another slow month for meteor activity. There are no major showers active in June and only the Antihelion source can be counted on for continuous activity. Even the Antihelion radiant is located so far south this time of year that rates rarely exceed one per hour as seen from the mid-northern hemisphere (45 N) . Sporadic rates have reached their nadir and are now slowly rising as seen from the northern hemisphere. Sporadic rates seen from the mid-southern hemisphere (45 S) see a slow decline this month and a more moderate decline in July.

During this period the moon reaches its first quarter phase on Tuesday the 26th. At this time the moon will be located ninety degrees west of the sun and will set between midnight and 0100 for observers located in mid-northern latitudes. This weekend the waxing crescent moon will set during the late evening hours and will be long gone by the time the more active morning hours arrive. The estimated total hourly meteor rates for evening observers this week is near two for observers in the northern hemisphere and three for those south of the equator. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near ten as seen from mid-northern latitudes and fourteen from mid-southern latitudes. The actual rates will also depend on factors such as personal light and motion perception, local weather conditions, alertness and experience in watching meteor activity. Evening rates are reduced due to moonlight.

The radiant (the area of the sky where meteors appear to shoot from) positions and rates listed below are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning June 23/24. These positions do not change greatly day to day so the listed coordinates may be used during this entire period.

The following radiant is expected to be active this week:

A few June Bootids (JBO) may be seen during the evening hours this week radiating from a position near 14:56 (224) +48. This area of the sky lies in northern Bootes, seven degrees north of the fourth magnitude star Beta Bootis. This radiant is best placed as soon as it becomes dark. Hourly rates at this time are expected be less than one for those located in the northern hemisphere and near zero for observers south of the equator. With an entry velocity of 18 km/sec., the average June Bootid meteor would be of very slow speed.

Studies by Sirko Molau and Juergen Rendtel of the IMO’s video data has revealed an active radiant located in Ophiuchus this time of year. The f-Ophiuchids (FOP) are only active from June 27th through July 1, with maximum activity occurring on June 29th. The radiant position at maximum is located at 17:46 (266) +09. This area of the sky lies in northern Ophiuchus, four degrees southeast of the second magnitude star Ras Alhague (Alpha Ophiuchi). This radiant is best placed near 0100 local daylight time (LDT), when it lies on the meridian and is located highest in the sky. Rates at this time are expected to be less than one no matter your location. With an entry velocity of 21 km/sec., the average f-Ophiuchid meteor would be of slow speed.

The large Antihelion (ANT) radiant is currently located at 19:00 (285) -22. This position lies in central Sagittarius, near the group of third and fourth magnitude stars known as  Xi, Omicron and Pi Sagittarii. Due to the large size of this radiant, Antihelion activity may also appear from eastern Scorpius, southeastern Ophiuchus, Serpens Cauda, Corona Australis, southern Aquila, western Capricornus, and Scutum as well as Sagittarius. This radiant is best placed near 0200 LDT, when it lies on the meridian and is located highest in the sky. Rates at this time should be near two per hour as seen from the northern hemisphere and three as seen from south of the equator. With an entry velocity of 30 km/sec., the average Antihelion meteor would be of slow velocity.

Another active radiant in Pisces has been found by Sirko Molau and Juergen Rendtel using the IMO’s video data. The Delta Piscids (DPI) are only active from June 20th through the 24th with maximum activity occurring on the 23th. The radiant position at maximum is located at 00:44 (011) +06. This area of the sky lies in south-central Pisces, just southwest of the fourth magnitude star Delta Piscium. This radiant is best placed just before dawn when the radiant lies highest in a dark sky. Rates, even at maximum activity, are expected to be less than one per hour no matter your location. With an entry velocity of 71 km/sec., the average delta Piscid meteor would be swift.

As seen from the mid-northern hemisphere (45N) one would expect to see approximately seven sporadic meteors per hour during the last hour before dawn as seen from rural observing sites. Evening rates would be near one per hour. As seen from the mid-southern hemisphere (45S), morning rates would be near ten per hour as seen from rural observing sites and two per hour during the evening hours. Locations between these two extremes would see activity between the listed figures. Evening rates are reduced due to moonlight.

The list below presents a condensed version of the expected activity this week.
Rates and positions are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning unless the showers are of short duration. In that case the position on the night of maximum activity is listed.

June Bootids (JBO) – 14:56 (224) +48   Velocity 18km/sec
Northern Hemisphere – <1 per hr   Southern Hemisphere – <1 per hour

f-Ophiuchids (FOP) – 17:46 (266) +09   Velocity 21km/sec
Northern Hemisphere – <1 per hr   Southern Hemisphere – <1 per hour

Antihelions (ANT) – 19:00 (285) -22   Velocity 30km/sec
Northern Hemisphere – 2 per hr Southern Hemisphere – 3 per hour

Delta Piscids (DPI) – 00:44 (011) +06 Velocity 71km/sec
Northern Hemisphere – <1 per hr Southern Hemisphere – <1 per hour

Clear Skies!
Robert Lunsford
American Meteor Society

 

June 18/19 to 29/30 Meteors

This post brings my video meteor observations up till the end of June. The end of June was hit-or-miss in Tucson. Though the monsoon was still far to the south and east, it was close enough to spread cirrus over southern Arizona from time to time. As a result, many nights were hindered by persistent cloudiness.

The only “big” event of note was a predicted increase in the rates of the June Bootids (JBO) on the evening of June 23. This shower usually produces very low rates of meteors though on occasion it can put on quite a show (1916, 1998, 2004). This year the Earth made a rather distant approach to a number of dust trails produced by Comet Pons-Winnecke in 1819, 1825, 1830 and 1836. Coincidentally, 1819 was the year of Pons-Winnecke’s discovery.

Peter Jenniskens reported on CBET 2357 that European and American observers did detect a small increase in the rates of the June Bootids. Still even at its best rates were only 5 per hour and most people would have seen much less due to the nearly Full Moon. Here in Tucson most of the activity was over by the time the sky darkened. Anyway the clouds were in force that night so I wasn’t able to detect any JBOs near the peak though I did detect a solitary JBO a night earlier.

Obs  Date(UT)      Time    TOT SPO ANT JBO DPI FOP
TUS  2010-06-30   00h19m    1   1   0   0   -   0
TUS  2010-06-29   07h38m    7   6   1   0   -   0
TUS  2010-06-28   03h29m    9   8   1   0   -   0
TUS  2010-06-27   07h50m    8   7   1   0   -   -
TUS  2010-06-26   00h00m    Clouds ...
TUS  2010-06-25   00h50m    2   2   0   0   0   -
TUS  2010-06-24   02h09m    4   2   2   0   0   -
TUS  2010-06-23   07h48m    15  11  3   1   0   -
TUS  2010-06-22   07h49m    12  12  0   -   -   -
TUS  2010-06-21   07h49m    14  12  2   -   -   -
TUS  2010-06-20   07h49m    13  12  1   -   -   -
TUS  2010-06-19   07h48m    16  13  3   -   -   -

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 - Antihelion
JBO - June Bootids
DPI - Delta Piscids
FOP - f Ophiuchids

Meteor Activity Outlook for June 19-25, 2010

The Meteor Activity Outlook is a weekly summary of expected meteor activity written by Robert Lunsford, Operations Manager of the American Meteor Society and contributor to this blog. The original unedited version of this week’s Meteor Activity Outlook can be found at the American Meteor Society’s site.

June is another slow month for meteor activity. There are no major showers active in June and only the Antihelion source can be counted on for continuous activity. Even the Antihelion is located so far south this time of year that rates rarely exceed two per hour as seen from the northern hemisphere. Sporadic rates reach their nadir in June as seen from the mid-northern hemisphere (45 N). Sporadic rates seen from the mid-southern hemisphere (45 S) continue to rise this month toward a maximum in July.

During this period the moon reaches its first quarter phase on Saturday June 19th. At this time the moon will be located ninety degrees east of the sun and will set near 0100 for observers located in mid-northern latitudes. Next week the waxing gibbous moon will set later and later, shrinking the window of opportunity to view in optimum, dark conditions. The estimated total hourly rates for evening observers this week is ~2 for those in the northern hemisphere and ~3 for those south of the equator. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be ~8 from the northern hemisphere and ~18 as seen from the southern hemisphere. The actual rates will also depend on factors such as personal light and motion perception, local weather conditions, alertness and experience in watching meteor activity.

The radiant positions and rates listed below are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning June 19/20. These positions do not change greatly day to day so the listed coordinates may be used during this entire period.

The following showers are expected to be active this week:

June Bootids (JBO)

Perhaps a few June Bootids (JBO) may be seen this week during the evening hours, radiating from a position near 14h:44m (221) +49. This area of the sky lies in northern Bootes, ten degrees northwest of the fourth magnitude star Beta Bootis. This radiant is best placed as soon as it becomes dark. Rates at this time should be less than one for those located in the northern hemisphere and near zero for observers south of the equator. Maximum activity is expected on June 27th. With an entry velocity of 18 km/sec., the average June Bootid meteor would be of very slow speed.

Antihelions (ANT)

The wide Antihelion (ANT) radiant is now centered at 18h:44m (281) -23. This area of the sky lies in western Sagittarius some four degrees northeast of the third magnitude star Kaus Borealis (Lambda Sagittarii). This radiant is best placed near 0200 local daylight time (LDT) when it lies on the meridian and is located highest in the sky. Due to the large size of this radiant, any meteor radiating from southern Ophiuchus, southern Serpens Cauda, Sagittarius, Scutum, or southwestern Aquila could be a candidate for this shower. Rates at this time should be near one per hour as seen from the northern hemisphere and two per hour as seen from south of the equator. With an entry velocity of 30 km/sec., the average Antihelion meteor would be of medium-slow speed.

Delta Piscids (DPI)

Recent studies of the IMO video database by Sirko Molau and Juergen Rendtel have revealed an active radiant in Pisces this time of year. The Delta Piscids (DPI) are only active for five nights (June 20-24) with maximum activity occurring on June 23rd. On that morning the radiant is located at 00h:44m (011) +06. This area of the sky is located in central Pisces near the fourth magnitude star Delta Piscium. This radiant is best placed during the last hour before dawn when it lies highest in a dark sky. Even at maximum activity hourly rates are expected to be less than one. This shower would be better seen from locations south of the equator where the nights are longer and the radiant would located higher in the eastern sky at the start of morning twilight. With an entry velocity of 71 km/sec., the average Delta Piscid meteor would be swift.

As seen from the mid-northern hemisphere (45N) one would expect to see approximately five sporadic meteors per hour during the last hour before dawn as seen from rural observing sites. Evening rates would be near two per hour. As seen from the mid-southern hemisphere (45S), morning rates would be near fourteen per hour as seen from rural observing sites and three per hour during the evening hours. Locations between these two extremes would see activity between the listed figures. Morning rates are slightly reduced due to moonlight.

The list below presents a condensed version of the expected activity this week. Rates and positions are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning.

Shower Name                RA     DEC   Vel     Rates
                                        km/s   NH    SH
JBO June Bootids         14h 44m  +49    18    <1     0
ANT Antihelions          18h 44m  -23    30     1     2
DPI Delta Piscids        00h 44m  +06    71    <1    <1

RA - Right Ascension
DEC - Declination
Vel - Velocity relative to Earth (in km per sec)
Rates - Rate of visible meteors per hour from a
        dark site
NH - Northern Hemisphere
SH - Southern Hemisphere

Meteors over the past few weeks (June 24/25 to July 5/6)

Meteor rates continue to remain on the low side even though we have entered the prime meteor watching month of July. The totals listed below look even lower due to the early monsoon that has hit AZ. After a week or two of clouds and the occasional t-storm, the sky has cleared though this respite will be over by the end of the week.

From Bob’s notes: “Observations on June 27th were obtained from the dark skies of the Laguna Mountains, east of San Diego. On the 28th, I recorded no activity during the last two hours before dawn. Very unusual! On July 2nd, evening observations were cut short by clouds. Although we have passed into July, meteor rates continue to be very low. We will not see a large increase until mid-month. The one Alpha Capricornid captured on the morning of the 5th was nearly of fireball brightness.”

Note that the June Bootids did not show up this year. This was expected since their were no predictions for enhanced activity this year. Between Tucson and San Diego, only a single JBO was seen. The Alpha Capricornids are already showing up though at this early stage it is possible that they are just misidentified antihelions.

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO ANT JBO CAP
TUS  2009-07-06  02h 55m  11  9   2       0
TUS  2009-07-05  05h 22m  15  13  0       2
SDG  2009-07-05  06h 58m  8   7   0       1
SDG  2009-07-04  03h 00m  5   4   1       0
TUS  2009-07-03  02h 23m  2   2   0       0
SDG  2009-07-03  02h 00m  3   3   0       0
SDG  2009-07-02  02h 00m  3   2   1   0
TUS  2009-06-30  01h 30m  5   5   0   0
SDG  2009-06-30  05h 58m  10  10  0   0
TUS  2009-06-29  02h 21m  2   1   1   0
TUS  2009-06-28  01h 00m  2   1   1   0
TUS  2009-06-27  01h 51m  9   9   0   0  
SDG  2009-06-27  04h 30m  65  58  6   1
TUS  2009-06-26  01h 55m  2   1   1   0
TUS  2009-06-25  01h 00m  2   2   0   0
TUS  2009-06-24  06h 51m  12  12  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
SPOSporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
ANT – Antihelions
JBO – June Bootids
CAP – Alpha Capricornids

June 20/21/22 Meteors

After a few weeks of no active meteor showers, the June Bootids should now be active. Last night was the 1st night of their predicted activity though none were observed. This shower is usually weak though it has produced nice displays on 4-5 times during the past 100 years.

The numbers from the past 2 nights are down a bit because only 1 camera was operational. I had some hardware issues which have now been resolved so the system will be back at 100% for tonight.

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO ANT JBO
TUS  2009-06-22  07h 40m  5   4   1   0
TUS  2009-06-21  06h 51m  8   7   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
SPOSporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
ANT – Antihelions
JBO – June Bootids

In The Sky This Month – June 2009

This feature highlights a number of meteor showers, comets and asteroids which are visible during the month of June 2009.

Note: If anyone has pictures or observations of these objects/events and want to share them, send me a comment. I’ll post them here.

Planets

Mercury – Mercury will be a morning object during June. Though it will be best placed for observation around the date of June 20, it will be visible for a week after that date. In fact, the planet will be slowly brightening during the time, so later dates may be easier for observing this elusive planet. Mercury can be seen very low in ENE sky right before dawn. It is better placed (higher in the sky) for southern hemisphere observers.

Saturn – Saturn is the easiest planet to observe in June. By the end of twilight, Saturn is high in the southwest under the eastern part of the constellation of Leo.

This year Saturn is dimmer than usual. At magnitude +0.9 to +1.0, there are at least a dozen or more stars that are brighter than it. The reason is the rings of Saturn contribute a lot  to the brightness of Saturn. But this year, is a ring plane crossing year meaning that the rings are nearly edge-on. As a result, the rings are reflecting much less light in the Earth’s direction this year. Saturn’s appearance through a telescope closely matches the below image taken on April 23. In June, the rings will be even closer to edge on then they were in the image below.

The Moon will pass a relatively distant 5.8 degrees to the south of Saturn on the evening of June 27.

Jupiter and Neptune – Jupiter rises in the middle of the night. Other than Venus, it is the brightest “star” at dawn with a  magnitude of -2.5 to -2.7. Due to Jupiter’s location in the southern constellation of Capricornus , it never gets very high this year.

For those with a telescope or binoculars and a dark sky, Neptune is located within 1/2 to 3/4 degrees of Jupiter. Jupiter will be a bright magnitude -2.5 to -2.7 while Neptune will be a faint +7.9. That makes Jupiter nearly ~12,000 times brighter than Neptune. Even Jupiter’s 4 large Galilean moons are about a dozen times brighter than Neptune even though they are much smaller. The big reason for the faintness of Neptune is its distance from both the Earth and Sun. It is roughly 6 times further away from us and the Sun as Jupiter. The distance also explains its apparent small size of 2.3″. A good sized telescope will be required to see Neptune as anything other than a faint star.

Though Neptune wasn’t discovered until 1846, it was actually observed by Galileo on two occasions in 1612 and 1613. Similar to this month’s circumstances, Jupiter was passing very close to Neptune. Galileo observed and recorded Neptune as a star in the vicinity of Jupiter. There is also evidence that he noticed that Neptune had moved but didn’t follow up on it. So when you observe these 2 planets imagine what Galileo must have been thinking nearly 400 years ago.

Uranus – Uranus is located in western Pisces. It is bright enough to be seen in small binoculars at magnitude +5.8 but will still require a telescope in order to see it as anything other than a star (it’s disk is only 3.5″ across).

Venus – Venus continues to slowly climb higher every night. It is currently a morning object and is best seen an hour before sunrise low in the eastern sky. For Southern Hemisphere observers, it is near its highest above the horizon for this apparition. For Northern observers, Venus will continue to climb higher until early August.

For binocular and telescope users, Venus will start the month as a “half moon”, 25″ across and 47% illuminated. By the end of the month, it will have shrunk to 19″ across but will also have a gibbous phase illuminated at 61%.

Mars – Mars can be seen very low in the eastern sky all month long. At magnitude +1.1, it is only as bright as some of the brighter stars. Mars and Venus are located within 5 degrees of each other all month. Closest approach will occur on June 21 when Mars will pass within 2 degrees of Venus. The two will steadily move apart for the rest of the year.

Meteors

The month of June experiences no major showers and only one minor one.  June is the last relatively low activity month before the “fireworks” of summer.

Sporadic Meteors

Sporadic meteors are not part of any known meteor shower. They represent the background flux of meteors. Except for the few days per year when a major shower is active, most meteors that are observed are Sporadics. This is especially true for meteors observed during the evening. During June, 8 or so Sporadic meteors can be observed per hour from a dark moonless sky.

Major Meteor Showers

None

Minor Meteor Showers

Minor showers produce so few meteors that they are hard to notice above the background of regular meteors.

June Bootids (JBO)

The June Bootids are usually a very minor shower with very low rates, if any meteors,  seen in most years. On occasion the shower has put on good displays with as many as 50-100+ meteors per hour seen in 1998. Other years of enhanced activity include 1916, 1921, 1927 and 2004 when up to 30 meteors per hour were seen. The next predicted year for enhanced activity is next June in 2010. Though the shower is expected to be minor this year, the models aren’t perfect and anything can happen. Though active from June 22 to July 2, the peak night is June 27.

The parent of the June Bootids is the Jupiter family comet 7P/Pons-Winnecke. This comet was first seen by Jean-Louis Pons of Marsielles, France on 1819 June 12. Though it was recognized as a short period comet, a rarity at the time, it was lost until rediscovered by Friedrich Winnecke (Bonn, Germany) in 1858. Since then the comet has been observed at nearly every return including 3 returns when the comet passed exceptionally close to Earth (0.14 AU in 1921, 0.04 AU in 1927, and 0.11 AU in 1939). During the 1927 close approach the comet was bright enough to be an easy naked eye object. Since then the orbit of the comet has changed and moved further from the Sun and Earth. As a result, close approaches to Earth will not be possible until the comet’s orbit moves back closer to Earth’s around 2045.

Comets

Naked Eye Comets (V < 6.0)

None

Binocular Comets (V = 6.0 – 8.0)

Comet C/2008 Q3 (Garradd)

This is the surprise comet of the summer. From time to time what appears to be a faint run-of-the-mill comet will undergo an outburst and brighten substantially. This is the case with Comet Garradd which was discovered by Gordon Garradd of the Siding Spring Survey (Australia). He used the 0.5-m Uppsala schmidt telescope to discover this comet back on 2008 August 27.

The comet was a faint 19th magnitude at discovery. With perihelion expected on 2009 June 23 at 1.80 AU from the Sun, it was expected to brighten but only to about 12th-14th magnitude. Two weeks ago the comet was sitting at 15th magnitude. Bright enough for CCD imaging but too faint for nearly all visual observers. On April 20th Micheal Jager imaged the comet and found it too be much brighter. Over the next few days, visual observers were able to confirm the outburst and estimated the comet to be as bright as magnitude 8.9.

Now more than a month after its outburst, the comet continues to brighten and has recently been estimated at magnitude 7.2. With perihelion this month, the comet should be as bright as it gets though one never knows with outburst comets.

At the start of the month, the comet is located in the far southern constellation of Circinus. As a result, it is only observable from the Southern Hemisphere. This quickly changes as the comet rockets to the north and becomes visible for most northern observers by mid-month. The comet travels from Circinus through Centaurus and Hydra before ending the month in Corvus.

A finder chart for Comet Garradd can be found at Comet Chasing.

A nice collection of images can be found at the VdS-Fachgruppe Kometen (Comet Section of Germany) and Seiichi Yoshida’s Comet Homepage.

Small Telescope Comets (V = 8.0 – 10.0)

Comet C/2008 T2 (Cardinal)

Rob Cardinal, an astronomer at the University of Calgary in Canada, discovered this comet last October. The comet was discovered as part of a survey at  the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory for new Near-Earth asteroids at high declinations. In fact the comet was found within 10 degrees of the North celestial pole. At the time of discovery, the comet was ~14th magnitude.

At perihelion on June 13th, the comet will pass within 1.20 AU of the Sun. The comet is currently magnitude 8.5 as it moves south from Gemini into Canis Minor in the evening sky. For northern observers, this comet is getting hard to see and requires a clear and dark western horizon right after dusk. It is easier to see for southern observers where it will be located higher in the sky. After the first week or 2 of June, the comet will no longer be observable from the Northern Hemisphere.

A finder chart for Comet Cardinal can be found at Comet Chasing.

A nice collection of images can be found at the VdS-Fachgruppe Kometen (Comet Section of Germany) and Seiichi Yoshida’s Comet Homepage.

Comet C/2006 W3 (Christensen)

This comet was discovered over 2 years ago on 2006 November 18 by Eric Christensen of the Catalina Sky Survey north of Tucson. At the time the comet was located at 8.7 AU from the Sun which is nearly the distance of Saturn. The comet continues to move closer to the Sun and Earth and is currently 3.8 AU from the Sun and 3.4 AU from the Earth.

The comet is currently around magnitude 8.8 and will slowly brighten during the month.  It is moving near the border of Lacerta and Pegasus.  The comet is best seen in the early morning.

The comet will reach perihelion at a still rather distant 3.12 AU from the Sun on 2009 July 6. At that time, the comet will be 8th magnitude and visible in many smaller backyard telescopes and even binoculars from dark sites. Christensen should remain bright enough to see in modest sized backyard telescopes for all of 2009.

On the morning of April 21, I was able to observe this comet with both 30×125 binoculars and a 12″ dobsonian. The comet was much easier to see in the 12″. Observation was made under a moderately light polluted sky with a limiting mag of ~+5.5.

A finder chart for Comet Christensen can be found at Comet Chasing and Aktuelle Kometen (in German).

A nice collection of images can be found at the VdS-Fachgruppe Kometen (Comet Section of Germany) and Seiichi Yoshida’s Comet Homepage.

Comet C/2009 G1 (STEREO)

Jiangao Ruan of China found this comet on images taken by the SECCHI HI-1B instrument onboard one of the STEREO spacecraft. The comet was first visible on images taken on April 3 UT. Similar to SOHO (a spacecraft that was used to co-discover Comet C/2009 F6 (Yi-Swan)), the two STEREO spacecraft study the Sun and its immediate environment.

With perihelion on April 16 at 1.13 AU from the Sun, the comet is now moving away from the Sun. It is also moving away from the Earth and should slowly fade during the course of the month.

The comet starts the month the far southern constellation of Phoenix and will only travel further south reaching Pictor by month’s end . It was never an easy object for northern observers and is now only observable from southern latitudes.

A finder chart for Comet Christensen can be found at Comet Chasing and Aktuelle Kometen (in German).

A nice collection of images can be found at the VdS-Fachgruppe Kometen (Comet Section of Germany) and Seiichi Yoshida’s Comet Homepage.

22P/Kopff

All of the above comets are long-period comets which will not return to the inner Solar System in thousands to millions of years. Comet Kopff is a frequent visitor with an orbital period of 6.4 years. Discovered on 1906 August 20 by August Kopff of Germany, the comet has been observed during every subsequent return except one.

The comet reached perihelion at 1.58 AU from the Sun on May 25. Though now moving away from the Sun, the comet still moving closer to Earth and will be located 0.78 AU from us at the end of the month. Recent observations place the comet at magnitude 9.0 which is about as bright as it will get this apparition. The comet starts June in Capricornus north of Jupiter. For most of the month, Kopff is movng eastward through Aquarius.

A finder chart for Comet Kopff can be found at Comet Chasing.

A nice collection of images can be found at the VdS-Fachgruppe Kometen (Comet Section of Germany) and Seiichi Yoshida’s Comet Homepage.

Asteroids

Binocular and Small Telescope Asteroids (V < 10.0)

(1) Ceres

Ceres is the biggest asteroid in the Main Belt with a diameter of 585 miles or 975 km. It is so big that it is now considered a Dwarf Planet. Classified as a carbonaceous (carbon-rich) Cg-type asteroid, there are suggestions that it may be rich in volatile material such as water. Some even propose that an ocean exists below its surface. Ceres is one of two targets for NASA’s Dawn spacecraft which is scheduled to visit it in 2015. This month Ceres fades from from magnitude 8.4 to 8.7 as it moves through eastern Leo in the evening sky. If you are observing Saturn with a telescope or pair of binoculars, try your hand at finding Ceres with one of the finder charts linked below.

A finder chart (needs to be flipped upside down for Northern Hemisphere observers) can be found at the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand. Finder chart for Ceres from Heavens Above.

(7) Iris

Iris is an inner Main-Belt asteroid that can occassionally get as bright as any asteroid. This year, Iris will not get as bright but will still become a binocular object (albeit a difficult one) at opposition on July 4 at magnitude 8.7. During June, it is located in the constellation of Sagittarius at magnitude 9.7 at the start of the month and magnitude 8.8 at the end.

With a size of 240 x 200 x 200 km, Iris is the 5th largest stoney S-type asteroid. It was discovered in 1847 by John Russel Hind, the 1st of 10 asteroids he discovered.

A finder chart (needs to be flipped upside down for Northern Hemisphere observers) can be found at the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand. Finder chart for Ceres from Heavens Above.