The Sky Guide - June 2010

More from Pete Lawrence on the magazine's monthly stargazing guide, plus your observations.

The Sky Guide - June 2010

Postby Admin » Mon Jun 14, 2010 1:16 pm

Observations of objects mentioned in this month's magazine.
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RE: The Sky Guide - June 2010

Postby Pete Lawrence » Mon Jun 14, 2010 1:33 pm

There have now been several Noctilucent Cloud reports from around the country and I managed to grab a view of them early on Sunday morning. My location is on the UK's south coast, so if I can see them, so should most of the country. For me they were difficult to see visually, right on the edge of the morning twilight coming up to 03:00 BST (02:00 UT). My camera did a better job. However, a more recent observation by John Rowlands who's one of the finalists for the "So you want to be a scientist?" competition run by Radio 4, suggests that the last display on June 13/14 had got a lot brighter.

You can find out more about noctilucent clouds (NLC) on page 53 of June's Sky at Night Magazine.

Here are a few shots from the morning of the 13th (observation night June 12/13). Normal clouds appear dark in these images while NLC's appear as blue-white wisps close to the horizon.

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RE: The Sky Guide - June 2010

Postby Pete Lawrence » Mon Jun 14, 2010 4:36 pm

[b]Comet C/2009 R1 McNaught[/b]

This comet is currently passing low down across the northern part of the sky, from right to left as seen from the UK. It's a tricky thing to see because of its low altitude and lack of really dark skies at this time of year. Binoculars are the best tool to spot it and it can currently (June 14) be found travelling just below the star Alpha Persei, otherwise known as Mirphak. If you're not sure how to locate Mirphak, first identify the "W" shape of Cassioepeia. The two stars marked on the chart below can then be used to point to Mirphak which should be visible to the naked eye - depending on how transparent your sky is low down in the direction shown. Binoculars show Mirphak to be surrounded by an attractive semi-circle of stars. Over the course of the next week, the comet will be travelling towards the bright star Capella which lies to the left of Mirphak by about the same width as the "W" pattern of Cassiopeia.

Through binoculars, the comet looks like a smudged star. If your skies are good, you might be able to make out its long thin ion tail. Camera's bring out the comet's best side, and reveal it to look quite green in colour. They will also bring out it's tail detail. There's currently a long thin ion tail and a short, stubby dust tail. Some recent photos of the comet are shown below but if you're looking for it visually, it looks nothing like it does in the pictures instead appearing small and faint.

Locator chart:
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RE: The Sky Guide - June 2010

Postby Pete Lawrence » Mon Jun 14, 2010 5:10 pm

Finally, the last of my 3 top sights in the June's Sky Guide was Ceres crossing M8 the Lagoon Nebula. Bad skies stopped me getting the actual crossing and neighbouring trees and bushes elevate my southern horizon quite a lot. In the end I had to drag my scope right back next to the house on our decking, and catch the pairing as it passed between a small gap between two trees! The shot below hasn't been processed much at all yet, but it dows show the Lagoon Nebula, which is located in Sagittarius, and the asteroid, or rather dwarf planet, Ceres.

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RE: The Sky Guide - June 2010

Postby Pete Lawrence » Tue Jun 15, 2010 11:13 am

[b]June 15th[/b]

Comet C/2009 R1 McNaught was seen below and left of Mirphak in Perseus this morning. The comet still looks like a fuzzy star through binoculars and it's ion tail can just be made out. Through a 4" scope (observed by my Sky at Night colleague, Paul Abel) the comet looked distinctly green in colour. Paul was also able to sketch the ion tail and the short stubby dust tail. I'll put up some more pictures of it later. I'd love to see other's photos of this object if you have any.

Post comet observing, more NLC's were seen this morning too. Much easier to see with the naked eye this time but more constrained to the north as dawn broke.

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RE: The Sky Guide - June 2010

Postby brianb » Tue Jun 15, 2010 12:03 pm

Nice NLC capture, Pete - not the greatest display ever but I'm sure we'll get more as the season progresses.

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RE: The Sky Guide - June 2010

Postby Pete Lawrence » Tue Jun 15, 2010 12:20 pm

That's the beauty of NLC displays Brian, you never know what you'll get from one night to the next. The season's only just started so its fingers crossed that they start to act up a bit. The fact remains that if I can see them on the south coast of England, then the rest of the country should also be able to see them, weather permitting. This month's magazine cover disc carries an and excellent audio slideshow about NLC's narrated by Tom McEwan which gives lots of info about how to see and observe these amazingly high altitude clouds.
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RE: The Sky Guide - June 2010

Postby brianb » Tue Jun 15, 2010 12:36 pm

[quote]weather permitting.[/quote]
That's the catch here ... for the last 3-4 weeks we seem to be getting thickening cloud in the evenings, clearing mid morning ... only 3 opportunities to do night time observing & I've been unfortunate enough to miss them all with severe headaches. The opposite applies to solar, very few days "missed" due to weather, and we've almost forgotten what rain is here. Can't last, the schools finish at the end of June & that will break the weather for sure.


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RE: The Sky Guide - June 2010

Postby Pete Lawrence » Wed Jun 16, 2010 3:50 pm

Too tired to chase NLC's last night but I did manage some shots on the comet, now to be found between Mirphak and Capella. Binoculars show it easily but it's a struggle with the naked eye due to it's low altitude and bright sky in this region. Here are two shots, one taken with a DSLR (22 x 1 minute exposures stacked) and the other with a CCD (10 minute, single exposure).

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RE: The Sky Guide - June 2010

Postby Pete Lawrence » Sun Jun 20, 2010 12:20 pm

[b]Update - June 19/20[/b]

The comet is now very close to Capella, the brightest star visible low down in the northern part of the sky. If you can get outside at around 01:30 BST and locate Capella tomorrow morning (21st June), using binoculars, place Capella in the field of view of your binoculars and look out for the smudged star above it - that's the comet.

I looked out for NLCs this morning too but for me anyway, there were none to be seen.

However, others further to the north of me have reported sightings. The reason I couldn't see them is that I'm too far south for the current crop and they don't get above my northern horizon. If the displays become more extensive then they'll spread a bit further to the south and become visible for me again. If you live north of me (and most do!) then keep a look out in the late evening when the twilight arc is visible low in the north-west or in the early hours in the north east, and see if you can spot them.
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