Aug 11

Coming up: Comet Garradd

Comet Garradd (C/2009 P1) on August 2, 2011. Image credit: Peter Lake.

Comet Garradd is now getting brighter in the night sky and you can look for the fuzzy ball going from the constellation of Pegasus into the Summer Triangle (view map @Astro Bob). At a magnitude of about 9, it should be visible in a dark place with a small telescope or even binoculars. It will peak at February at a magnitude about 6 and shall pass closest to Earth in the beginning of March 2012 when it will be seen in the Little Dipper asterism.

Comet Garradd was discovered by G. J. Garradd (Siding Spring Observatory, Australia) on four images obtained on  August 13, 2009 . He was using the 0.5-m Uppsala Schmidt telescope and a CCD camera. The magnitude was given as 17.5-17.7 and the coma was described as circular and 15" across. The first confirmation was obtained by W. Robledo (El Condor Observatory, Cordoba) on August 14, 2009.

Upcoming Highlights (from Cometography)
# The comet will reach a maximum solar elongation of 149 degrees on 2011 August 8.
# After having moved northward since September 2010, the comet will attain a declination of +19.9 degrees on 2011 September 12 and will then turn southward.
# The southward motion will only continue until 2011 October 26, when the comet attains a declination of +18.7 degrees and will then resume a northward motion.
# The comet will reach a minimum solar elongation of 45 degrees on 2011 December 5.
# The comet will be closest to Earth on 2012 March 5 (1.27 AU).
# The comet will attain its most northerly declination of +70.7 degrees on 2012 March 11 and will move steadily southward for the remainder of the year.

# The comet will reach a maximum solar elongation of 112 degrees on 2012 March 17.

Gary W. Kronk's Cometography - C/2009 P1 (Garradd)
AstroSwanny's: garradd

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Aug 11

NASA's spacecraft data suggests water flowing on Mars

Source: NASA

Flows that appear inside Mars' Newton crater.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Observations from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) have revealed possible flowing water during the warmest months on Mars.

Dark, finger-like features appear and extend down some Martian slopes during late spring through summer, fade in winter, and return during  the next spring. Repeated observations have tracked the seasonal changes in these recurring features on several steep slopes in the middle latitudes of Mars' southern hemisphere.(read more)

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Aug 11

Juno spacecraft launches to Jupiter

Source: NASA
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's solar-powered Juno spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 12:25 p.m. EDT Friday to begin a five-year journey to Jupiter.

Juno's detailed study of the largest planet in our solar system will help reveal Jupiter's origin and evolution. As the archetype of giant gas planets, Jupiter can NASA's Juno mission lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. help scientists understand the origin of our solar system and learn more about planetary systems around other stars.(read more)

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Aug 11

Sun's activity is growing

Credit: NASA SDO - YouTube

In the early hours of July 30, 2011 a fairly strong, but brief, M9-class solar flare occurred on Active Region 1261. Because it was brief it appears not to have hurled a large coronal mass ejection (CME) outwards. Additional analysis are underway.

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Aug 11

VISTA Finds 96 Star Clusters Hidden Behind Dust

Source: ESO Science Release eso1128

VISTA Finds Star Clusters Galore.
Image credits: ESO/J. Borissova.

Using data from the VISTA infrared survey telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory, an international team of astronomers has discovered 96 new open star clusters hidden by the dust in the Milky Way. These tiny and faint objects were invisible to previous surveys, but they could not escape the sensitive infrared detectors of the world’s largest survey telescope, which can peer through the dust. This is the first time so many faint and small clusters have been found at once. (read more)

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Aug 11

MESSENGER Marks Seventh Anniversary of Launch

Source: MESSENGER Mission

Image credit: NASA/MESSENGER

Seven years ago, on August 3, 2004, MESSENGER left Earth aboard a three-stage Boeing Delta II rocket to begin a journey that would take it more than 15 laps through the solar system, through six planetary flybys, and ultimately into orbit around Mercury. The spacecraft has travelled 5.247 billion miles (8.445 billion kilometers) relative to the Sun, and the team is one-third of the way through the one-year science campaign to understand the innermost planet. (read more)

To watch an animation of the Sun rise and set on Mercury, go online to http://messenger-education.org/Interactives/ANIMATIONS/Day_On_Mercury/day_on_mercury.php.

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Aug 11

The Sky by Eye from Durrus Co Cork Ireland plus What's Up for August 2011 - Windy Worlds plus Juno to Jupiter


A drawing of the night sky in Durrus Co Cork n Persei to a Cyg

August 17th /18th    2010

Time : 23:45 UT - 00:45 UT

August 2010 I was staying in a cute house  close to the village of Durrus in Co Cork. This little place is the gateway to exploring the outstanding Sheeps Head peninsula.  The night sky down there was seriously beautiful to the eye; one did not need a telescope to enjoy it.


Earlier in the evening I had a look into Sagittarius before it got too low, then as the night followed on I was inspired to do a naked eye drawing of the sky above my head.




To give me the best option for a sketch I retreated to the back garden, away from the car park lights. I turned off the lights in the house; the village light pollution was minimal. Dark adaption came to me in about 25 minutes, and death would come to anybody who turned on a light.

Bliss greeted my eyes as the wonders of the summer sky opened up for me, the seeing was good.
We had brought along comfy canvas beach chairs, one of these was fine to sink into and observe.  My tools for the drawing were a sheet of black paper, a clip board, a white gel pen, finely grated white pastel, blending stick ,cotton wool,  and a red head light.

My working area was the star n Persei and from that visualy  along the galaxy  to a Cyg. I carefully added the stars in each visible  constellation .  Larger brighter dots according to magnitude and so on and so forth till I had a star map on my paper which mirrored the sky above my head and toward the North East. The Double Cluster and Andromeda were crystal clear naked eye objects, not usual from my home garden at all. The placement of these objects was very helpful in lining up significant stars like alpha Cyg ie Deneb in the constellation Cygnus and all the stars that made  paths in the sky to each other.

A small wad of cotton wool loaded carefully with finely grated white pastel was how I added the magnificent Milky Way and all its visible star laden tendrils. When my drawing was almost finished a long trailing Perseid shot from n Persei, went flying past Cassiopeia and ended its journey just short of   delta Cep . At its leading end for a nano second I noticed a sickle shaped flick of white. This meteor and its unusual flick was added into my drawing . It was a few weeks before I could look this up and discover that some Perseids produce visible bow shocks in front of themselves as they enter our atmosphere.  However so far I have only come across records of Perseids bow shocks that were caught on film, so would love to know if anyone has seen one by eye while observing. skysketcher@gmail.com

Deirdre Kelleghan

What's Up for August 2011 Windy Worlds and JUNO to Jupiter

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Aug 11

Herschel Telescope detects oxygen molecules in Space

Source: ESA/Herschel and NASA/Herschel

Herschel found oxygen molecules in the Orion nebula.
Image credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech.

ESA’s Herschel space observatory has found molecules of oxygen in a nearby star-forming cloud. This is the first undisputed detection of oxygen molecules in space. It concludes a long search but also leaves questions unanswered.

The oxygen molecules have been found in the nearby Orion star-forming complex. While atomic oxygen has been long known in warm regions of space, previous missions looking for the molecular variety – two atoms of oxygen bonded together – came up largely empty-handed.(read more)

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Aug 11

Dawn's smooth orbital insertion at Vesta

Source: NASA Science News

Dawn's image of Vesta on July 24, 2011.
Image credits: NASA/Dawn.

When a NASA spacecraft goes into orbit around a new world for the first time, the control room is usually packed to capacity with scientists, engineers, and dignitaries ready to leap and shout when the retro-rockets fire. It's a big, noisy event.

July 15, 2011, was one of those days. NASA's Dawn spacecraft approached Vesta and became the first probe from Earth to orbit a main belt asteroid. Dawn's cameras revealed a desolate world of transcendent beauty, thrilling everyone who worked on the project.

Needless to say, the control room was .... silent?

This was because with Dawn all could be fuel controlled previously. (read more)

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Aug 11

Segue 1 - The heart of darkness

Source: W.M. Keck Observatory

Segue 1 galaxy. We are not joking!
Image credit: Keck/Marla Geha

Astronomers using the 10-meter Keck II telescope in Hawaii have confirmed in a new paper that a troupe of about 1000 small, dim stars just outside the Milky Way comprise the darkest known galaxy, as well as something else: a treasure trove of ancient stars.

By “dark” astronomers are not referring to how much light the galaxy, called Segue 1, puts out, but the fact that the dwarf galaxy appears to have 3,400 times more mass than can be accounted for by its visible stars. In other words, Segue 1 is mostly an enormous cloud of dark matter decorated with a sprinkling of stars. (read more)

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