Friday, February 13, 2015

Possible Nova in Sco - (PNV J17032620-3504140)

Following the posting on the Central Bureau's Transient Object Confirmation Page about a possible Nova in Sco (TOCP Designation: PNV J17032620-3504140) we performed some follow-up of this object remotely through a 0.50-m f/6.8 astrograph + CCD + f/4.5 focal reducer) of iTelescope network (MPC Code  Q62 - Siding Spring).

On our images taken on February 13.7, 2015 we can confirm the presence of an optical counterpart with R-CCD magnitude 8.6 at coordinates:

R.A. = 17 03 26.19, Decl.= -35 04 18.1

(equinox 2000.0; UCAC3 catalogue reference stars).

Our annotated confirmation image. Click on it for a bigger version:


An animation showing a comparison between our confirmation image and the archive POSS2/UKSTU plate (R Filter - 1991). Click here or on the thumbnail below for a bigger version:

Possible Nova in Sco - (TOCP Designation: PNV J17032620-3504140) - 2015, February 13.7 photo ezgif.com-crop_zpsorqoizoh.gif

by Ernesto Guido & Nick Howes

Friday, January 23, 2015

Close Approach of Asteroid (357439) 2004 BL86

The asteroid (357439) 2004 BL86 was discovered  (at ~ magnitude +18.6) on 2004, January 30 by Linear Survey (MPC code 704) with a 1.0-m f/2.15 reflector + CCD.

Asteroid (357439) 2004 BL86 has an estimated size of 420 m - 940 m (based on the object's absolute magnitude H=19.0) and it will have a close approach with Earth at about 3.1 LD (Lunar Distances = ~384,000 kilometers) or 0.0080 AU (1 AU = ~150 million kilometers) on 2015, January 26 at 16:20UT. This asteroid will reach the peak magnitude about +9.0 between Jan 26 & 27. Astronomers at Goldstone will try to observe it "as the radar signal-to-noise ratios will be very strong and will provide an extraordinary opportunity to study this object". 

This flyby of 2004 BL86 will be the closest by any known space rock this large until asteroid (137108) 1999 AN10 (absolute magnitude H=17.9) flies past Earth in 2027 within one lunar distance. On April 2017, another asteroid "2014 JO25" (absolute magnitude H=18.1) will pass at about 4.8 LD from Earth.

We performed some follow-up measurements of this object on 2015, January 23.4, remotely from the Q62 iTelescope network (Siding Spring, Australia) through a 0.43-m f/6.8 astrograph + CCD). Below you can see our image taken with the asteroid at about magnitude +15 and moving at ~ 10.51 "/min. The asteroid is trailed in the image due to its fast speed. At the moment of its close approach on Jan 26, around 16:20UT, (357439) 2004 BL86 will move at ~ 162 "/min (or about  2.7 deg/hour). Click on the image below to see a bigger version. (North is up, East is to the left).


Click here or on the thumbnail below to see a short animation showing the movement of (357439) 2004 BL86 (two consecutive 120-second exposure). (North is up, East is to the left)

Animation of Asteroid (357439) 2004 BL86 on January 23, 2015 photo ezgif.com-crop_zpsxljxpdkv-1-1.gif

The graphic below depicts the passage of asteroid (357439) 2004 BL86 past Earth on January 26, 2015.  The view is nearly edge-on to the Earth's orbit; the Moon's nearly circular orbit is highly foreshortened from this viewpoint. The asteroid moves from the south to the north, from below the Earth's orbit to above. Times indicated on the graphic are Universal Time. Click on the image for a bigger version.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

When 2004 BL86 will reach the peak magnitude +9 on the evening between January 26-27, it should be visible for several hours in small telescopes if you know where to look. The image below shows its path in the sky in those days. When brightest, it will be in the constellation Cancer. A more detailed map is available here.

Credit: Sky & Telescope

UPDATE - January 26, 2015

Scientists working with NASA's 70-meter Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, have released the first radar images of asteroid (357439) 2004 BL86. The images show that this asteroid has its own small moon. The signature of the satellite was seen in lightcurve data reported earlier by J. Pollock (Appalachian State University, North Carolina) and  P. Pravec (Ondrejov Observatory, Czech Republic) and then confirmed by radar.

"The primary body is approximately 325 meters across and has a small moon approximately 70 meters across. In the near-Earth population, about 16 percent of asteroids that are about 200 meters or larger are a binary (the primary asteroid with a smaller asteroid moon orbiting it) or even triple systems (two moons). The resolution on the radar images is 4 meters per pixel."

Below you can see the animation made by using 20 radar images obtained at Goldstone and showing asteroid (357439) 2004 BL86 and its moon. Click on the animation to see a bigger version.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

by Ernesto Guido, Nick Howes & Martino Nicolini

Monday, January 19, 2015

Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) puts on a show

Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) was discovered (at magnitude +14.8) by T. Lovejoy (Birkdale, Qld., Australia) on 17 August 2014 on CCD images obtained with a 20-cm f/2.1 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. It is the fifth comet discovered by Terry Lovejoy.

On 7 January 2015, comet C/2014 Q2 passed 0.469 AU (1 AU = ~150 million kilometers) from Earth and it will reach the perihelion (closest approach to the Sun) on 30 January 2015 at a distance of 1.29 AU from the Sun. Comet Lovejoy reached few days ago its peak brightness at about magnitude +3.8, as bright as it should get, making it a naked-eye object. It is currently still at about magnitude +4.3. See below an updated light-curve.

Credit: S. Yoshida

Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) puts on a great show on January’s evening sky, with its very long, structured and rapidly changing ion tail. Below an image of comet C/2014 Q2 taken on 14 January 2015. More info on the caption. Click on it or here for a bigger version

Credit: E. Guido
Credit: E. Guido

Below an image of comet C/2014 Q2 taken on 16 January 2015. Click on it for a bigger version.

Credit: Nick Howes/Tzec Muan Observatory

Below a finder chart to help you locate this comet during January 2015. The dates are in Universal Time; the ticks are at 0:00 UT. Click on it for a bigger version.

Credit: Sky & Telescope

by Ernesto Guido, Martino Nicolini & Nick Howes

Sunday, December 14, 2014

New Comet: P/2014 X1 (ELENIN)

CBET nr. 4034, issued on 2014, December 14, announces the discovery of a comet (magnitude ~18) by Leonid Elenin on three CCD images taken on 2014, December 12 with a 0.4-m f/3 astrograph at the ISON-NM Observatory near Mayhill, NM, USA. The new comet has been designated P/2014 X1 (ELENIN).

We performed follow-up measurements of this object, while it was still on the neocp. Stacking of 10 unfiltered exposures, 120-sec each, obtained remotely on 2014, December 12.4 from H06 (iTelescope network - Mayhill) through a 0.43-m f/6.8 astrograph + CCD + f/4.5 focal reducer, under bad seeing conditions, shows that this object is slightly diffuse with FWHM about 20% - 30% wider than that of nearby field stars of similar brightness.
 
Our confirmation image (click on it for a bigger version)


M.P.E.C. 2014-X66 (including pre-discovery Pan-STARRS1 and Mount Lemmon observations, found by G. V. Williams in the MPC archive from September and October) assigns the following elliptical orbital elements to comet P/2014 X1: T 2015 Jan.  7.74; e= 0.71; Peri. = 34.36; q = 1.81;  Incl.= 25.97

Congrats to Leonid for the discovery of his third comet!

by Ernesto Guido, Nick Howes & Martino Nicolini

Friday, November 21, 2014

New Comet: C/2014 W2 (PANSTARRS)

CBET nr. 4019, issued on 2014, November 21, announces the discovery of a comet (magnitude ~18.7) by PANSTARRS survey in four w-band CCD exposures taken with the 1.8-m Pan-STARRS1 telescope at Haleakala on Nov. 17. The new comet has been designated C/2014 W2 (PANSTARRS).

We performed follow-up measurements of this object, while it was still on the neocp.  Stacking of 10 unfiltered exposures, 120-sec each, obtained remotely on 2014, November 18.9 from I89 (iTelescope network - Nerpio) through a 0.43-m f/6.8 reflector + CCD, shows that this object is a comet: diffuse coma about 6" in diameter.

Our confirmation image (click on it for a bigger version)


M.P.E.C. 2014-W55 (including pre-discovery Catalina Sky Survey observations, identified by T. Spahr, on Oct. 26.3, when the comet was at mag 17.7-18.0, and on Nov. 16.3 at mag 17.3-17.5) assigns the following elliptical orbital elements to comet C/2014 W2: T 2016 Mar. 19.554; e= 0.95; Peri. = 85.90; q = 2.67;  Incl.= 81.04

by Ernesto Guido, Martino Nicolini & Nick Howes

Thursday, November 13, 2014

PHILAE HAS LANDED!

On 12 November 2014, Philae landed of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Actually looks like Philae landed 3 times on the comet's surface. In fact, magnetic field data from Philae’s ROMAP instrument revealed it touched the surface on  15:33UT, 17:26 and 17:33 UTC. In the weak gravity of the comet the first bounce took about 2 hours and now the lander is thought to be about 1 km away from the original landing site.

Below you can find a selection of the most important images (click on each image for a bigger version) & info arriving from Philae and Rosetta in these exciting hours. For all our previous updates about Rosetta mission please click here.

Description for the image below by ESA: "Rosetta’s lander Philae took this parting shot of its mothership shortly after separation. The image was taken with the lander’s CIVA-P imaging system and captures  one of Rosetta's 14 metre-long solar arrays. It was stored onboard the lander until the radio link was established with Rosetta around two hours after separation, and then relayed to Earth. The lander separated from the orbiter at 09:03 GMT/10:03 CET"

Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA


Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera captured this parting shot of the Philae lander after separation.

Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA


Description for the image below by ESA: "The image shows comet 67P/CG acquired by the ROLIS instrument on the Philae lander during descent on Nov 12, 2014 14:38:41 UT from a distance of approximately 3 km from the surface. The landing site is imaged with a resolution of about 3m per pixel.The ROLIS instrument is a down-looking imager that acquires images during the descent and doubles as a multispectral close-up camera after the landing. The aim of the ROLIS experiment is to study the texture and microstructure of the comet's surface. ROLIS (ROsetta Lander Imaging System) is a descent and close-up camera on the Philae Lander."

Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/ROLIS/DLR


Amazing image of Comet 67P surface imaged by Philae just before landing

Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

The video below is showing the ESA ROSETTA control room when Philae landed. Great joy with some Italian slang :D



The image below is the FIRST EVER IMAGE FROM THE SURFACE OF A COMET!!

Description for the image below by ESA: "Rosetta’s lander Philae is safely on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, as these first two CIVA images confirm. One of the lander’s three feet can be seen in the foreground. The image is a two-image mosaic."

Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

UPDATE - November 13, 2014 @14:30UT

New images and info have been shown at ESA press conference. Because of the failure of a thruster & harpoons the lander bounced about 1 km away from the previously chosen landing site (that before the bounce was hit with great precision) and it is now almost vertical with one foot probably in the open air. Due to its new location on the comet and angle position, unfortunately Philae’s solar panels are generating much less power than had been planned, and when its batteries drain in a couple of days, it may not be able to recharge. Anyway the lander is still in contact with the Rosetta orbiter, performed its initial set of scientific observations and it's sending back data & images.

Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera witnessed Philae’s descent to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko yesterday. The animated gif below comprises images captured between 10:24 and 14:24 GMT (onboard spacecraft time). 

Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

Blue triangle indicates where Philae migh be. Red square was targeted site

Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae

First CIVA panorama
Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

UPDATE - November 20, 2014

From ESA blog. "With its batteries depleted and not enough sunlight available to recharge, Philae has fallen into 'idle mode' for a potentially long silence. In this mode, all instruments and most systems on board are shut down. Prior to falling silent, the lander was able to transmit all science data gathered during the First Science Sequence. From now on, no contact would be possible unless sufficient sunlight falls on the solar panels to generate enough power to wake it up. The possibility that this may happen was boosted this evening when mission controllers sent commands to rotate the lander's main body, to which the solar panels are fixed. This may have exposed more panel area to sunlight."

The image below is showing the moment when Philae's battery voltage was approaching the limit.

Credit: ESA

Description for the image below by ESA: "These incredible images show the breathtaking journey of Rosetta’s Philae lander as it approached and then rebounded from its first touchdown on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on 12 November 2014. The mosaic comprises a series of images captured by Rosetta’s OSIRIS camera over a 30 minute period spanning the first touchdown. The time of each of image is marked on the corresponding insets and is in GMT. A comparison of the touchdown area shortly before and after first contact with the surface is also provided. (Touchdown occurred at 15:34 GMT spacecraft time (with the signal received on Earth at 16:03 GMT); the image marked 'touchdown point' was taken afterwards, at 15:43 GMT, but clearly shows the evidence of the touchdown event when comparing with an image taken previously.) The images were taken with Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera when the spacecraft was 17.5 km from the comet centre, or roughly 15.5 km from the surface. They have a resolution of 28 cm/pixel and the enlarged insets are 17 x 17 m. From left to right, the images show Philae descending towards and across the comet before touchdown. The image taken after touchdown, at 15:43 GMT, confirms that the lander was moving east, as first suggested by the data returned by the CONSERT experiment, and at a speed of about 0.5 m/s. The final location of Philae is still not known, but after touching down and bouncing again at 17:25 GMT, it reached there at 17:32 GMT. The imaging team is confident that combining the CONSERT ranging data with OSIRIS and navcam images from the orbiter and images from near the surface and on it from Philae’s ROLIS and CIVA cameras will soon reveal the lander’s whereabouts.

Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

In the meantime Rosetta spacecraft will continue its exploration of Comet 67P/Churymov–Gerasimenko during the coming year as this comet come closer to our Sun. The image below shows Rosetta’s orbit, focusing on the manoeuvres after 12 November 2014.

Credit: ESA

In fact below you can see a new image taken by NAVCAM (Rosetta's navigation camera) on November 17, 2014 at a distance of 42 km from comet 67P and showing traces of activity stemming from the comet's neck.

Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

by Ernesto Guido

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Possible Supernova in M61 (NGC 4303)

Following the posting on the Central Bureau's Transient Object Confirmation Page about a possible Supernova in the barred spiral galaxy Messier 61 (or NGC 4303 - TOCP Designation: PSN J12215757+0428185) we performed some follow-up of this object through a 0.10-m f/5.0 astrograph + CCD from MPC Code H06 (iTelescope, New Mexico). 

On our images taken on October 30.5, 2014 we can confirm the presence of an optical counterpart with unfiltered CCD magnitude 13.2 and at coordinates:

R.A. = 12 21 57.61, Decl.= +04 28 17.8

(equinox 2000.0; UCAC-3 catalogue reference stars).
 
 Our confirmation image (click on it for a bigger version)


An animation showing a comparison between our confirmation image and the archive POSS2/UKSTU plate (IR Filter - 1991). Click here or on the thumbnail below for a bigger version:

Supernova in M61 - 30 October 2014 photo M61_animation__annotatedT14_H06_October_30_2014_zpsmyjgqb5y.gif


UPDATE - October 31, 2014

ATel #6648 issued on 31 Oct 2014 confirms PSN J12215757+0428185 as a Type Ia-pec Supernova. Spectroscopic classification has been obtained by "The Asiago Transient Classification Program" with the Asiago 1.82 m Copernico Telescope (+AFOSC; range 340-1000 nm; resolution 1.2 nm) and 1.22 m Galileo Telescope (+Boller&Chivens; range 360-790 nm; resolution 0.8 nm). According to the Asiago team: "Heliocentric radial velocity of the host galaxy M61 from Bingelli et al. 1985, AJ 90, 1681 via NED. Distance modulus (Virgo + GA + Shapley) m-M = 30.67[0.15] mag, suggesting an absolute mag M~-17.4. The spectrum shows a blue continuum with relatively weak and narrow Si II 635.5-nm absorption. Fe III lines at 430 and 500 nm are visible, suggesting that the object might be a member of the Type-Iax class of supernovae". Click on the image below to see a bigger version of spectrum obtained at Asiago.

Credit: The Asiago Transient Classification Program

This SN will have an official designation as soon as CBAT will issue its circular. Including this one, the total number of supernovae observed in M61 arrives to 7.

UPDATE - November 01, 2014

Cbet 4011 with the official designation for the SN in M61 has been issued: SUPERNOVA 2014dt IN M61 = PSN J12215757+0428185. Below you can see our confirmation image updated with official designation in the caption. Click on it for a bigger version. 


by Ernesto Guido, Martino Nicolini & Nick Howes