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Sunday, February 10, 2013


A Busy Week Ahead (Comets, an Asteroid and an Occultation, Oh My!)

Comet C/2012 F6 Lemmon as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 (10:00 pm) ACDST, facing south. Similar views will be seen from other locations at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

This week is shaping up to be a busy one astronomically speaking. On Thursday the 14th and Friday the 15th the brightening comet 2012 F6 Lemmon will be close enough to the bright globular cluster 47 Tucanae for them to be both in the same binocular field. You can get a printable black and white map suitable for used with binoculars here.

Comet C/2011 L4 PanSTARRS may be visible in the evening as early as Thursday 14 February (or not). For details and guides see here.

 Asteroid 2012 DA14 as seen from Adelaide at 5:00 (5:00 am) ACDST, facing west. The crosses mark the location of the asteroid at the indicated times, and it's magnitude at selected times. at 5:30 the asteroid will be in the base of the constellation crater, the cup. Similar views will be seen from other locations at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

Asteroid 2012 DA14 zips across our morning skies on Saturday February 16. It will be bright enough to see in binoculars before astronomical twilight in Adelaide (5:19 am), and is at its brightest just after nautical twilight (5:52 am). After this the sky is too bright to see the asteroid (and it is too low).

Because the asteroid is so close, there is a big difference in it's location from different parts of Australia.  Binocular users should get charts from Heavens Above specific to their location, telescope users should get an ephemeris from the Minor Planet Centre, specific for their latitude and longitude, and use this in conjunction with charting programs. The asteroid is visibly moving (like  a very slow satellite), so should be relatively easy to spot.

The Moon at 10:49 pm ACDST in Adelaide on February 18 just before the Moon covers Jupiter. Similar views will be seen from other locations at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

On the evening of Monday, February 18, the Moon will occult (cover) Jupiter in Southern Australia (everywhere else sees it very close).  It will be quite spectacular with Jupiter's Moons being covered by the dark side of the Moon just before Jupiter.

While the sight of Jupiter winking out behind the dark edge of the Moon will be spectacular, this is far better seen in binoculars, or better in a small telescope. Detailed contact times for various locations are here.

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I tried to see Mars and Mercury together but had cloud to the west :-( I've tried to see F6 Lemmon but too much city light pollution from the south.
I hope this week is better. We've just had a spectacular lightning storm over Lake Macquarie - I always like that even if it means no night sky !
I tried really hard, but the sky glow from Sydney and Gosford combined with thin cloud made it too hard to find. From the charts it looks like what I thought was the Small Magellanic Cloud is the Tarantula Nebula....
What I did see and showed my blanket stealer was phosphorescent plankton in Lake Macquarie. Sometimes it's great to look down too.
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