Spring Comet C/2007 N3 Lulin in Leo

March 16, 2009
Comet C/2007 N3 Lulin became a fine Spring comet in February and March for UK observers. At around magnitude 6, perhaps a touch brighter, Lulin is not a true naked eye comet, but it is large and bright in any telescope or binoculars. Following solar conjunction at the end of 2008, Lulin has raced from Scorpio, through Libra, Virgo and then into Leo, skirting just south of Saturn around 23rd/24th February. Its orbit is very close to the ecliptic, which is why it has traced its path through the Zodiacal constellations.

Here is a sequence showing Lulin on the early evening of 3rd March as it edged towards the western boundaries of Leo at around 5° per day. The sequence comprises 25 two-minute exposures, taken with my LX90 @ f/3.3 using a Starlight Xpress SXV-M7C (giving a field of view of 34'x26'). You can see a satellite streak across the field midway through the sequence.



Here's the same data, but stacked in AstroArt 4 to reveal the large coma and tail. Can't really see much of the anti-tail unfortunately.




There's lots more info about this comet on the web, but in particular I found this Gary Kronk's site useful. As I post this, Lulin is now well on its way through Gemini, fading by the day.
 

Comet 144P Kushida in Taurus

January 31, 2009
At the start of the year, Comet 144P Kushida had just glided eastwards from Aries into Taurus. At magnitude 10.7 and no discernible tail, it glows eerily to the north west of the mag 7.4 star GSC 1234-545, which by comparisonshines brightly towards the bottom of the picture.



This picture 'freezes' the motion of the comet against the background stars by using some image processing trickery. First of all I used AstroArt to stack the images in AstroArt so as to correlate the stars, which results ...
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Pristine craters Messier and Messier A

January 30, 2009
Lying within Mare Fedunditatis (Sea of Fertility), the two craters Messier and Messier A can be seen at the centre of this image (Messier is the left one). Taken around midnight on 13th January 2009, with the moon around 16 days old, the characteristic ejecta plume shows well emanating towards the south west of the pair.

They are referred to as pristine craters because they exhibit none of the usual signs of deterioration, such as slumping crater walls, other crater impacts or basaltic lava fl...
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Saturn edge-on in the Winter Sky

January 21, 2009
If you look towards the east late at night at the moment you'll see Leo rising with Saturn some 10° below Leo's hindquarters. Around magnitude 0.8, Saturn is nowhere near its brightest, all because the rings are presented almost edge on to us. Twice every 29.5 years Saturn's rings appear edge on to the Earth due to the inclination of Saturn's orbit relative to the Earth. On 13th January I caught my first images of Saturn this season, combining some short exposure sequences of the planet with...
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Near and far

January 10, 2009

My main interests in astro-imaging are deep-sky objects, particularly galaxies. You obviously need a dark sky for this, and the moon is usually a nuisance to me. However, with the moon high in the sky on these recent freezing nights, I felt the urge do some lunar imaging. I've not used my webcam for some months now, and with Saturn also rising earlier each night, I decided it was high time to dust off the webcam (an old Philips ToUcam Pro).

Yesterday (the 9th January) around 4pm but already -2...


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New supernova SN2008in explodes in M61

January 3, 2009
Supernova 2008in was discovered on 26th December by Koichi Itagaki in the spiral galaxy M61 in Virgo. It is a type IIP supernova. Type II supernovae are formed from the core-collapse and explosion of massive stars (i.e. greater than 9 solar masses). Type IIP are designated as such because they reach maximum brightness, dim slightly, and then stay at almost the same brightness "plateau" for many days before fading (hence the name type IIP, i.e. II-Plateau). Other type II supernovae reach maxim...
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Mirach's Ghost

January 1, 2009
Most evenings when I start my imaging session, my set-up process involves selecting a bright star in my planetarium programme (Cartes du Ciel), slewing the scope to the star, ensuring it is centred and then 'syncing' the scope. The other evening, I subconsciously selected a star in Andromeda high in the south and started the guide camera. With the star bright and dead centre, I noticed a faint smudge some 7' north west in the autoguider window.

A quick glance at Cartes du Ciel and I saw I'd se...
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Projects for 2009

January 1, 2009
It was a cold but dull New Year's Eve, no chance of leaving my equipment imaging whilst we partied. So what do I want to have achieved this time next year? After a bit of thought, here's a list of 10 projects for 2009. Let's see how many I complete over the coming months. Happy New Year!

1. Capture Saturn's rings edge on

I've been constructing a montage of Saturn over the last few years as the rings close. In 2009 the rings finally close and I can add to that montage. In addition, as Saturn is ...

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How did Messier miss this?

December 31, 2008
There are, I'm sure, plenty of contenders for the biggest and brightest object not included by Charles Messier in his famous catalogue of faint fuzzy objects which might have been mistaken for comets. Lying around 4° west of the nose of Leo, NGC 2903 must surely be near the top of the list. At around magnitude 10 (according to SEDS) and 13.3' along its major axis, this is a large and bright Sb+ spiral galaxy some 20.5 million light years from us.

Despite NGC 2903 being missed by Messier, Gian...
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136199 Eris - definitely located this time!

December 30, 2008

In late November and early December I imaged the dwarf planet Eris on several nights. Using Cartes du Ciel to help me pinpoint where she should be and the apparent movement of a faint object over the different nights I was fairly confident I had located the magnitude 18.7 dwarf planet. Here's my earlier post.

On the 28th December I tried again. With clearer skies I was able to image for longer to improve the signal-to-noise ratio. I'd also downloaded the Hubble Guide Star Catalogue to allow Ca...


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About Me


Mark Ashley Avid amateur astro-imager and sportsman. I own an 8" Meade LX90 housed in a modest roll-off roof observatory in rural Dorset in the south-west of England. I've been astro-imaging since 2004 and particularly enjoy imaging galaxies.

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