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


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.


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


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/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.


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

Friday, October 24, 2014

Close Approach of Asteroid 2014 SC324

The asteroid 2014 SC324 was discovered (at ~ magnitude +21.4) on 2014, September 30.2 by Mt. Lemmon Survey (MPC code G96) with a 1.5-m reflector + CCD. 

2014 SC324 has an estimated size of 40 m - 90 m (based on the object's absolute magnitude H=24.1) and it will have a close approach with Earth at about 1.5 LD (Lunar Distances = ~384,000 kilometers) or 0.0038 AU (1 AU = ~150 million kilometers) at 1921 UT on 2014, October 24. This asteroid will reach the peak magnitude about +13.6 at close approach.

We performed some follow-up measurements of this object on 2014, October 24.3 remotely from the H06 iTelescope network (New Mexico, Mayhill) through a 0.25-m f/3.4 astrograph + CCD and a 0.1-m f/5.0 astrograph + CCD. Below you can see our image taken with the asteroid at about magnitude +13.6 and moving at ~ 135 "/min (the asteroid is trailed in the image due to its fast speed). At the moment of its close approach on Oct 24 at 1921 UT, 2014 SC324 will move at ~ 221 "/min. Click on the image below to see a bigger version. North is up, East is to the left. 

Below you can see a short animation showing the movement of 2014 SC324 (five consecutive 60-second exposure). Click here or on the thumbnail below to see the animation (North is up, East is to the left):

Animation of asteroid 2014 SC324 - 24 October 2014 photo animation_zpssn2djfdx.gif

UPDATE - October 30, 2014

Below you can see the Goldstone Radar Images of asteroid 2014 SC324 obtained on October 25, 2014 at 11:46UT. Click on the image below to see a bigger version. While for more info click here

Credit: Goldstone/California Institute of Technology

by Ernesto Guido, Nick Howes & Martino Nicolini

Comet C/2013 A1 & Mars - Images & Results

Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) was discovered by Australian observer R. H. McNaught with the 0.5-m Uppsala Schmidt telescope on 2013, Jan. 03 (discovery magnitude +18.6).  After its discovery, due to the uncertainty within the orbital calculations, there was thought to be a chance of a collision with Mars, but this possibility was excluded when its orbit was determined more accurately. Instead C/2013 A1 passed the planet Mars very closely on 2014, 19 October at 18:29UT. According to JPL website (With an observation arc of 733 days) the comet passed at a Nominal Distance of about 139,500 kilometers or 0.00094 AU (1 AU = ~150 million kilometers) from the Red Planet, that's closer than any previous known comet flyby of Earth or Mars. 

You can read more info about this comet and its discovery circumstances on our previous post dated back to 2013, March 04.

Astronomers, amateur astronomers and NASA's fleet of orbiters and rovers at Mars were all ready to observe this event. Below you can see a short selection of some of the most significant/preliminary results and images obtained from the observation of this flyby. Click on each image for a bigger version.

Below a wide-field image obtained by N. Howes & R. Wodaski taken few hours before the close passage on October 19.

Image credit: Nick Howes and Ron Wodaski - Tzec Maun Foundation

"Researchers used the panoramic camera (Pancam) on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity to capture this view of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring as it passed near Mars on Oct. 19, 2014. This image is from a 50-second exposure taken about two-and-a-half hours before the closest approach of the comet's nucleus to Mars. The sky was still relatively dark, before Martian dawn. At the time of closest approach, the morning sky was too bright for observation of the comet. A Martian dust storm to the west of Opportunity hampered visibility somewhat on Oct. 19, compared to the sky over Opportunity a week earlier." - For more info about Opportunity's image click here.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./ASU/TAMU

"These images were taken of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Oct. 19, 2014, during the comet's close flyby of Mars and the spacecraft. Comet Siding Spring is on its first trip this close to the sun from the Oort Cloud at the outer fringe of the solar system. This is the first resolved imaging of the nucleus of a long-period comet. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter acquired images of this comet from a minimum distance of about 86,000 miles (138,000 kilometers), yielding a scale of about 150 yards (138 meters) per pixel. Telescopic observers had modeled the size of the nucleus as about half a mile, or one kilometer, wide. However, the best HiRISE images show only two to three pixels across the brightest feature, probably the nucleus, suggesting a size less than half that estimate." - For more info about HiRISE's image click here.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

"NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft obtained this ultraviolet image of hydrogen surrounding comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring on Oct. 17, 2014, two days before the comet's closest approach to Mars. The Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) instrument imaged the comet at a distance of 5.3 million miles (8.5 million kilometers).The image shows sunlight that has been scattered by atomic hydrogen, shown as blue in this false-color representation. Comets are surrounded by a huge cloud of atomic hydrogen because water (H2O) vaporizes from the icy nucleus, and solar ultraviolet light breaks it apart into hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen atoms scatter solar ultraviolet light, and it was this light that was imaged by the IUVS. Two observations were combined to create this image, after removing the foreground signal that results from sunlight being scattered from hydrogen surrounding Mars." - For more info about MAVEN's image click here.

Image credit: NASA/Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics/Univ. of Colorado

All other results and news about this event will be posted here as soon as they are available!

by Ernesto Guido

Monday, October 13, 2014

New fragmentation event in C/2011 J2 (LINEAR)

Starting from 2014, Sept 26.9 we are constantly monitoring comet C/2011 J2 (LINEAR) and his fragment B through a 2.0-m f/10.0 Ritchey-Chretien + CCD (La Palma-Liverpool Telescope). The video below shows an animation we made using our recent obs of this comet. Time span is 9 days (from 1 Oct. to 9 Oct). The projected velocity of the fragment is of about 0.3 arcsec/day.

While performing follow-up of component B of comet C/2011 J2 on 2014, Oct 09.9  we detected a possible new diffuse fragment located in the very near proximity of main component A. Nothing was visible on our images taken on Oct. 07.9. Below you can see our Oct. 09.9 image of the new fragment (division by azimutal median filter applied). Click here or on the image below for a bigger version.

We imaged again C/2011 J2 on Oct. 11.9 with the same setup and we confirmed the presence of a new fragment located 1.5" in PA 59 from the main component A. Below you can see our Oct. 11.9 image of the new fragment (stack of 10x20sec raw images, no filters applied). Click here or on the image below for a bigger version. 

While the new fragment is already visible in the raw images, it is even more clearly highlighted by using an appropriate filter. So below you can see the same image as above with a division by azimutal median filter applied. Click here & here or on the images below for a bigger version.

This filter creates an artificial coma, based on the photometry of the original image, and divide the original image itself in order to highlight the internal zones of different brightness that  are very close to the inner core and that would normally be hidden from the diffuse glow of the comet. Precise astrometry/photometry is difficult to obtain due to the extreme proximity and diffuse appearance of new fragment to main component A. New fragment on 2014, Oct 11.9 is definitely brighter than fragment B.

by Ernesto Guido, Nick Howes & Martino Nicolini