Asteroid 6478 Gault sprouted a tail.

A long known asteroid suddenly sprouted a long narrow tail. This is a 22 minute (45 secs  x 30) cropped imaged taken with the Tombaugh Reflector at Farpoint 01-10-19 about 8:00 U.T.   The tail was visible faintly in each of the 45 second images.  This asteroid may have developed the tail through an impact with another rock.   [T08] ATLAS Mauna Loa images 1-5.5 U.T. showed  a comet like tail extending from the asteroid and  comments started flowing  on  mpml  and comet ml  list servers.    A couple of months ago it went through a 2 magnitude outburst and is still at that level as of last night.  

NEO Follow-up Targets

I originally thought A/2018 V3 was an asteroid (although it may end up being a comet) with a very long perihelion distance. But I was wrong; its max distance is just 4 A.U.’s but the eccentricity is .989( 99 times longer than wide orbit) and its inclination to the solar system is 165 degrees (almost perpendicular.)
Anyway some of the objects in our NEO follow-up program are as faint or even a bit dimmer than 21.5 V magnitude. Even with the arrow pointing to the object its hard to see.  Only with consistent movement in the predicted angle is it identifiable as a target.   This image is a combination of 14 – 2minute images taken on the night of 11-14-18 and severely  cropped.   At the time the MPC listed it as 21.6 V magnitude. It would also be easier to see inverted (dark stars on  white background) .


Comet 21P Giacobini-Zinner returns

This 5 minute image of the returning comet 21P (Giacobini-Zinner) was taken Sept 16, 2018 using a Cannon EOS coupled to an Apogee 80mm F6.25 refractor.    The mount was a SST EQ-25 HPFD .   At the time of this image,  the comet was in the middle of the constellation Auriga.

Peter Birtwhistle

During a recent visit to England I had an opportunity to visit with Peter Birtwhistle at his home at Great Shefford. Peter is  one of the most prolific observers for NEO follow-up in the world.    Here we are in front of his backyard observatory (MPC J95) which houses a 16″ LX200 SCT  in the small town of Great Shefford.   He has developed his own software that allows manipulating image files to produce accurate results of NEO targets.

Peter Birtwhistle and I at his backyard observatory in Great Shefford, England.


NGC 7331

This is an image  taken just before dawn 07-11-18 with the new (to us) STL 6303E camera mounted on the Tombaugh  .7 meter Reflector at 2 bin pixels ( 18 micron).




Sun image 6-13-17

Today’s sun

There’s a small sunspot just left of top- center of the image.
Taken with an 80mm  f/6 Apogee Refractor and a Cannon EOS.
ISO 100 – 1/500th second.

Thousand oaks Mylar solar filter in front of the lens.

Possible SN In NGC6946

Patrick Wiggins in Utah last night appears to have discovered a Supernova in the Galaxy NGC6946 located in Cygnus.   I took this image at Sandlot Observatory just a few hours after he found it..  The potential SN is marked in the image and is about 13.0 R Magnitude.  Date 5-14-17

flare star

A few nights ago I was working the early morning hours doing NEO follow-up when I happened upon an interesting variable star. The star seem to brighten within a few minutes then it decayed brightness over a 1/2 hour or so to its previous level. I thought it a nice specimen of a flare star after producing a light curve through Maxim DL software for the 2 hour period. Thing is,  I can’t find it in flare star or even variable star catalogs. So It might be previously unknown. Either way I’m quite sure its a flare star (which generally are red dwarf stars with a very unpredictable rate).  I’m going to try and monitor it again but it’s possible it only flares a few times a year, or months, or days, or who knows? Without more observations we be able won’t find a frequency. Right now it’s only up high enough 2-3 hours before dawn. But as we get into early 2017 it will be up longer in the night sky. RA = 12 35 39.6 Dec 39 00 30.3.  It’s normal pre-flare magnitude is around 18.8 R. Flare peak is about 16.8 R