Monday, October 20, 2014

Comet C2013 A1 (Siding Spring) approaches Mars - LIVE COVERAGE

Well finally the day we have all waited for has arrived. Here is our live coverage of the Comet approaching Mars just 6-7 hours before closest approach. Enjoy! [Also see here an earlier post: Where the hell is Siding Spring Anyway?]

Can you spot it?

Here is the high resolution inverse image in the V filter where its a little easier to see!

Perhaps my personal favourite!

This is a great image as it shows Comet Siding Spring dead center of the image (and dead center of the telescope mirror) with the overexposed Mars just off center and the "shadow" of the telescope truss and secondary vanes reflected in the extra light of Mars. The "Red Planet" Mars is brighter here in the R Filter.

Here is a short blinking video of the movement of both Mars and the Comet against the background stars. It consists of 5 images from the R filter and 3 from the V. Interestingly you can also see a cosmic ray hitting the CCD between the COmet and Mars in the first image of the 3 V filter images.


Image credits: P.Lake Q62 T31 120 secs

And as Comet Siding Spring moves through perihelion it continues to fade. My view is that it didn't get close enough to the sun for some serious action, I guess when all the data is in we'll know more. Certainly though, it has been variously described as once in a million year event. The MAVEN Team at NASA will be rejoiceing in all that "free data" that showed up as the team were getting ready to lauch their mission.

Thanks for joining us on this brilliant journey!

Friday, October 3, 2014 Live Hangout from SSO

In a live G+ Hangout, Pamela Gay joins us at for a live broadcast from Siding Spring Observatory on the day of the official opening of Amanda Bauer drops in for a chat. Peter Lake and Neil Shaw share their passion for astronomy.

The expert panel, Amanda Bauer, Pamela Gay and Neil Shaw.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Asteroid 2014 RC Live coverage

Update: Three pane comparision of "relative" speed across the CCD.

Update 1430 UT (12:40 am Local time) I am off to bed now as the weather is closing in. The scope will grab a few more images around the closest approach at which time it will be a long streak right across the image. I'll have some more images and some mosaics and video uploaded tomorrow. Thanks for following the action.

Update 13:35 - Starting to motor now ..... 191 arcsecs per minute. Starting to brighten up now as well. Next shot at 14:00 UT or Midnight local time, where it will be absolutely flying at 214 arsecs per minute.

Update 12:45 UT Travelling at 177 Arcsecs per minute now. Including Animation!

Update 11:30UT (09:30pm Local) Really starting to pick up speed now travelling at 97 arcsecs per minute. I'll have an animation of this one shortly and a video eventually. Check back regularly as I am updating the images quickly now each 30-40 mins.

Update 10:35UT - Another 30 Sec image you can see the "streak" of the 30 seconds of movement getting longer as it covers more sky in each 30 sec frame. Travelling here at 87 Arcsecs per minute.

Update 10PM local time: Here is the first image, this is about 2 hours back now. I'll punch them out a little quicker now. This was at 10:00 UT or 8:pm Local time. You can see the moon is seriously messing with this image but we still managed to get it. There was some thin cloud drifting through as well. More soon.

Update: 09:30pm Local time 11:29 UT. It Looks like daylight under that nearly full moon at Siding Spring. The telescope I am using is front right in this image. Its going to be a tough get only 20 degrees away from the full moon.

Asteroid 2014 RC was discovered on the 31st of August by the Catalina Sky Survey and the Panstarrs Survey on consequtive nights. The Minor Planet center took a day or so to collate the observations and confirm they were the same object, publishing the MPEC 2014 R26 on September 3rd.

It was clear from the outset that this 15-26m object was going to make a very close pass, and tonight as Daniel Ricciardo lines up on the grid in the Italian Grand Prix, the asteroid will make a very close pass at 40,000 klms over Australia and New Zealand. It is thought to be about the same size as the Chelyabinsk meteorite.

Its Father's Day here and I have had a great day, and all the teenagers have retreated to work on their STEM elements of their education. So whilst Daniel Ricciardo battles it out with the William's boys I'll be drive another advanced piece of technology, targeting something travelling MUCH, MUCH, FASTER!!!!

The first set of images are in an will be posted shortly.

The aim is to show the rapid "apparent acceleration" as it whizzes past earth. Of course the speed of the asteroid doesn't change, just its apparent relative velocity appears to increase as it passes (like watching a car travelling at 100 klms per hour approach from a distance)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Carnival of Space 365

WELCOME to Carnival of Space 365. A weekly round-up of Space and Astronomy Blogs that is in its 365 Week. Thats a whole year of weeks! What a week its been, with the Rosetta Probe getting ready for its "Philae Mignon" with Comet 67P. (See what I did there ... huh ...huh) Watching too many cooking shows? Should be doing more science!

OK ... I know its not going to wrap it in bacon.... lets move on.

Astronomy is going off this week, lots of stuff happening!

Dr. Paul Spudis comments on Buzz Aldrin's case for the immediate adoption of a new national goal in space – a human mission to Mars.

The Lunar PLanetary Institute covers a new study in Nature that describes the effects of asteroid bombardment on the early Earth

We take a close look at the surface of Mercury with PlanetMappers as the MESSENGER Spacecraft makes its closest approach to the planet so far.

Also from the team at Cosmoquest - What's the forecast for this year's Perseid Meteor shower, and how can you contribute to citizen science and observations of meteors and fireballs?

Perhaps at this point I can put in a little plug for the brilliant the new App "Fireballs in the Sky" developed by the team at Curtin University. You can measure and report meteors and bolides with your phone as they happen.

Spacewriter talks about "Telescopes to Tanzania", a project of Astronomers Without Borders. There is alot of great work going on in Africa with astronomy right now!

Carolyn Collins Petersen, space/astronomy expert at, takes a look at a few of the many excellent space and astronomy education resources available to educators and outreach professionals.

NASA announced the winners of the high stakes science instrument competition to fly aboard the Mars 2020 rover at a briefing held today, Thursday, July 31, at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Scientists analyzing the reams of data from NASA’s Cassini orbiter at Saturn have discovered 101 geysers erupting from the intriguing icy moon Enceladus and that the spewing material of liquid water likely originates from an underground sea located beneath the tiny moons ice shell, according to newly published research.

Success and validation that aligns with what is believed about EmDrive means powerful mainly static thrust. It would be an alternative way to achieve effects that would mimic antigravity. It would enable super efficient planes, better flying cars, and cloud city like applications in a full expression of a mature EmDrive. In the nearer term it would be better satellite propulsion. A US scientist, Guido Fetta, has built his own propellant-less microwave thruster, and managed to persuade Nasa to test it out. The test results were presented on July 30 at the 50th Joint Propulsion Conference in Cleveland, Ohio. Astonishingly enough, they are positive. Read all about it here including similar experiments in China ......

Next Big Future also reports on producing black light power using Hydrinos.

See what happens when two passions collide. A crafty spacer explores an idea and lives to tell the tale!

I think she nailed it!! - Editor

A look at the density perturbations in the early universe from which galaxies and others structures formed, with a visual explanation of the effect of gravity on these perturbations.

Thanks for joining us this week at the AARTScope Blog where we keep creating the sense of anticipation and discovery that keeps people asking questions. I'll leave you with my image of the Saturn Occultation last night!

So that about wraps it up for this weeks Carnival of Space. For image Credits see the original blogs. The Carnival of Space is a community of interest blog carnival bringing together the best and brightest Astronomy & Space Blogs at a single point in space and time (commonly referred to as a web address) each week. Previous episodes can be found here. If you run an astronomy or space science blog you can contact carnivalofspace @ to be added to the editorial circulation list.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Don't under-estimate Australia in the World Cup!


Well who would have thunk it? Netherlands, which was thought to be Australia's best chance of winning a world cup match has come out with a dream start thrashing Spain 5-1. Tip #3 below has been turnned on its head - but we now know exactly what to do. Australia's sterling effort to reverse it's shell shocked start in the Chile game has attracted acclaim. Now for the next move! Lets hope they can mirror the Men's Hocket success overnight.

In Australia there is a term called "block burster burnout" whereby in a "blockbuster" between two top teams, the victor climbs a massive hill to exact revenge only to crash to a lesser team the following week. This is most notably observed in the AFL where Geelong is often vulnerable the week after they play Hawthorne. One commentator has already observed that Netherlands could not possibly play any better than their dream "grudge match" against the winners of the last world cup. Can they back it up? If they give away a penalty to Australia with their muscular defence like they did against Spain, Australia won't need a second invitation to apply maximum pressure. There have already been some massive upsets - don't rule out one more!

Breaking with tradition and leaving the astronomy to one side today, I'll take a risk and give some HOT TIPS for the world cup.

DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE Australia in the world cup! We might be 59th in the world and bumped to 62 just as the cup starts, but Australia is a sports mad nation that will play above its weight, as we do in Astronomy, Medical research, and many other persuits.

TIP #1: Ange Postecoglou is a master coach. Any coach who is 2-0 down with ten minutes to go and still leads the Brisbane Roar to win a flag is a potent force. He has the respect of the players, he is now on the world stage, his moment has come!

TIP #2: The hungry will always beat the comfortable and entitled! (who are often carried off on a stretcher after someone breathed on them). Australia were the first team to arrive in Brazil, they have been training hard and are a very fit side. The older players playing on past glories and valuable experience have been moved aside to media commentary assigments and been replaced by the young and hungry. Everyone on the park knows if they don't perform it will be their last match.

TIP #3: Australia will know exactly what the need to do before they even take the field. Spain plays Netherlands 2 hours before Australia's first match. So within three hours we will likely know the battle lines of the so called "group of death". Spain will beat Netherlands 2-0 and go straight to the top of the group, unlikely to be headed. If Netherlands can't beat Australia they are gone. Which makes the Australia - Chile match the defining match. Australia will double down and go for broke!

TIP #4: Matt Ryan will frustrate some very good strikers, and may be one of the best keepers of the tournament. Mark Schwarzer kept Australia in the hunt in 2006, and if he has been replaced after his sensational form in the English Premier League - then this kid is good!

TIP #5: Australia's answer to the barmy army, the Socceroos fan base have already been spotted around Rio De Janeiro, school students and soccer clubs have been flown in for training sessions with their new heros, the aussies have been training in front of big crowds.

The only tip I have ever made previously was that: Australia has never lost a world cup match that Archie Thompson played in. A tip which will sadly stand the test of time. Despite getting us to 3 world cups, he never got game time, despite holding the world record for 13 goals in an International Match. If Thompson was on the park with Postecoglou at the helm, I would be even more confident. However, he will be there in spirit encouraging the younger players.

As we can't be robbed by an Italian play actor taking a dive in the penalty box with three minutes to go, I expect this time a little luck may go our way, Matt Ryan will keep with a clean sheet until we meet Spain.

Go Aussies - don't under estimate them. (.....and you already know not to understaimate us in the Hockey!)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko - First amateur images 2014

As the European Space Agency's Rosetta Mission ramps up in a busy week of astronomy, Observatory W96 and Observers A. Maury, J.-G Bosch, J.-F. Soulier were the first amateurs to report positions of 69P (this apparition) to the MPC. Amateur images of Comet 67P have also been acquired by the Professional-Amateur Collaboration in Astronomy (PACA) for comet 67P led by Dr Padma Yanamandra-Fisher in partnership with Amateur Astronmers. The PACA group uses social media to connect amateur and professional astronomers to provide observation follow-up, monitoring and collaboration on science missions.

Comet 67P is about to be visited by the Rosetta Probe and ESA released their first photos, 2 weeks ago, of the comet starting to come to life as it heads on in towards the sun. The Rosetta mission is to follow the comet round the sun during the part of its orbit where the ices and dusts begin to discharge and form the tail. In november 2014, Rosetta will deliver a landed named Philae that will touch down on the nucleus of the comet to sample the particles as they become active.

Pictured here at a very faint magnitude 21.2 you can see Comet 67P, and the position of the Rosetta spacecraft is also marked (even though it is way too faint to see). ESA this week began a number of engine burns to slow the spacecraft as it approaches the comet.

The star field is quite crowded, and one of the most interesting parts of the video is the amount of "traffic" in this part of the sky. There were about 6 clearly identifiable asteroids in the full field of view, I have labelled a couple of the closer ones for reference. One asteroid in the field of view caught my eye as it seemed to dip in brightness, so it has been noted for further follow up as it approaches opposition in July.

Capturing the comet at such a faint magnitude required a deep "stacking" of images to account for the movement of the comet. "Stacking" is a process used to add a number of images together to improve the signal to noise ratio of the target. The comet was travelling so slowly relative to our point of view that I was able to resolve it with 12x300 second images. These images were then stacked in three groups of 4 at the movement of the comet - 0.16arc"/min at a position angle of 226 degrees. My images were quickly followed up by Rolando Ligustri, Bacci Paolo Backman. The astrometry (positional information) was included in MPEC 2014-K54

Previously in 2012, amateurs using the the Faulkes Telescopes had photographed 67P at aphelion (its furtherest point from the sun), also a remarkable effort!. In January 2014 the large telescopes in Chile, European Southern Observatory (ESO) and the Very Large Telescope (VLT) recovered 67P and have been following it regularly, this was the first occasion that amateurs had obtained images on this apparition.

For more information about the program check out the Year of Southern Comets article at PACA has a Facebook and Flikr group for members and a website under construction, it is open to any amateur astronomers who have their own telescope, are familiar with photometry and astrometry, are members of, or have access to other telescope facilities and are prepared to work as a team on the science effort.

The Rosetta Spacecraft was named after the Rosetta Stone which assisted historians and archeologists decipher the Egyptian hieroglyphs, scientists hope that in the same way the data gathered will assist in our understanding of the early solar system.


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