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Dr Ian Musgrave  - iTelescope Science Advisor

An avid amateur astronomer, Ian writes the weekly sky updates for ABC Radio Science and is science adviser to iTelescope. When not staring at the sky he is an equally enthusiastic molecular pharmacologist at the University of Adelaide, Australia.

You can follow Ian Musgrave on his Astroblog for daily posts about astronomy, biology and life, the Universe and everything.

"Over at Astroblog I largely guide people to the view of the sky as seen with the unaided eye. But I’m also an iTelescope.Net user, and I’m very honoured to have been invited to highlight some of the interesting objects that can be seen through the iTelescopes.

While many people are familiar with the larger, more glamorous objects in the night sky that make good iTelescope targets, there are a host of lesser known, interesting objects that are well worth chasing such as fast moving Near Earth Objects, Novae and Comets."  Twitter @ianmusgrave

Entries in cluster (14)


ALERT! Comet C/2017 T1 Heinze near M44 for Christmas

Comet C/2017 T1 Heinze as seen at 2:22 pm Local time for Mayhill, NewMexico, when it is at transit. The Comet is near M44, the Beehive cluster. The large square is the field of view of T14, and the small square the field of view of T5. Click to embiggen.

Comet C/2017 T1 Heinze is currently in cancer and will pass close to M44, (the Beehive Cluster) on Christmas Day.

From the northern hemisphere it is in range of the scopes from around 10:00 pm local time until astronomical twilight in the morning. It is highest at transit (2:22 am).

For Southern scopes it is in range from 1 am local time until astronomical twilight in the morning, being highest at 3:45 am local time. The Northern scopes have the best view

Imaging the comet and M44 will need wide field imagers like T12, T14 or T20, or assembly of mosaics with narrower field scopes. Getting the balance between the “bright” (magnitude 5-6) stars of the Beehive and the fainter magnitude 11 comet. You may need to shoot short exposures of the cluster and longer exposures of the comet then assemble them into one picture.

Comet C/2017 T1 Heinze as seen at 3:45 pm Local time for SSO, when it is at transit. The large square is the field of view of T12. Click to embiggen.








The MPC one line ephemeris is:

CK17T010  2018 02 21.7136  0.580751  1.000503   96.9069  102.3228   96.8246  20170904  12.5  4.0      C/2017 T1 (Heinze)


Mars Amongst the Clusters (Part II)

The track of Mars of the next few days as it passes some iconic clusters. The track is as seen from SSO at astronomical twilight. The large rectangle is the field of view of T12, the small that of T9.

The 5th and 6th sees Mars close to the magnitude 6  globular cluster M28, on the 8th it is closest to the 9th magnitue globular cluster NGC 6638 and on the 9th and 10th it is closest to the iconic magnitude 5 globular cluster M22.

The clusters and Mars are high enough from SSO to image from Astronomical twilight in the evening for around 3 hours. From Mayhill and T14 there is only a brief period around astronomical twilight where they are able to be imaged.

There will be several challenges imaging these clusters and Mars. Mars's brightness will prevent long exposures, and the waxing Moon is close by, a mere 6 degrees on the 9th, making even narrow-band imaging a challenge. However, the challenge will be worth it.

Quick and dirty image of Mars and M28 from tonight on T12 (30 seconds luminance)


July Highlights: Comets C/2013 X1, 252P, C/2014 S2, 9P/Temple 1

New Moon is 4 July,  First Quarter 12 July,  Full Moon 20 July and Last Quarter Moon 25 July.

Comet C/2013 X1 (PANSTARRS) passes close to some nice objects in late June early July. Detailed charts and ephemeris are here. In late July the comet has no really interesting encounters, but is withing T12 distance of the faint galaxies IC4464 (M 1.8) o the 22nd and IC 4458 (23rd). On the 30th the comet is 17' from mag 12 galaxy IC 4430

The path of Comet 252P in Ophiuchus. The large rectangle is the field of view of T14/20, the small that of T5. Click to embiggen.

Comet 252P has faded substantially, and is now moving slowly. Current magnitudes are uncertain, the most recent reports are from June 5 and 6, suggesting it is either 12.6 or 11.7. It will certainly fade substantially over the course of July, possibly below magnitude 13.

The comet remains in Ophiuchus this month, passing two bright globular clusters, M12 and M10. On 16 July the comet passes within 2 degrees of M10, a mag 6.1 globular cluster. On 31 July the comet passes 2 degrees 14' from M12, a mag 6.6 globular cluster. The large disparity in magnitudes will make imaging difficult.

The waxing Moon is within 30 degrees of the comet from 13-17 July.

The comet is visible after astronomical twilight from SSO and the northern hemisphere scopes until the early morning, with transit mid evening. The table below shows rise set and transit times from Mayhill New Mexico, and the comets altitude at 21:00. Transit and altitude at SSO is similar.

Ephemeris of comet 252P LINEAR

Date Rise Ast Twi E Altitude Transit Set Ast Twi B
01 Jul 2016 15:53:21 20:55:47 +54° 45' 34" 21:55:43 04:02:10 03:16:03
06 Jul 2016 15:37:31 20:54:20 +55° 05' 45" 21:37:06 03:40:38 03:19:10
11 Jul 2016 15:22:13 20:51:58 +54° 51' 52" 21:19:07 03:19:49 03:22:53
16 Jul 2016 15:07:26 20:48:45 +54° 07' 53" 21:01:43 02:59:41 03:27:04
21 Jul 2016 14:53:06 20:44:45 +52° 58' 31" 20:44:51 02:40:11 03:31:36
26 Jul 2016 14:39:09 20:40:02 +51° 28' 28" 20:28:29 02:21:17 03:36:24
31 Jul 2016 14:25:32 20:34:42 +49° 42' 03" 20:12:33 02:02:57 03:41:20
05 Aug 2016 14:12:13 20:28:50 +47° 43' 02" 19:57:01 01:45:08 03:46:20
10 Aug 2016 13:59:09 20:22:31 +45° 34' 32" 19:41:53 01:27:49 03:51:18
15 Aug 2016 13:46:20 20:15:49 +43° 19' 01" 19:27:04 01:10:57 03:56:10


MPEC one line ephemeris for Comet  P252/ LINEAR

0252P         2016 03 15.2712  0.996072  0.673276  343.3147  190.9519   10.4231  20160402  17.5  4.0   252P/LINEAR

Chart showing comet C/2014 S2 PanSTARRS in the tail of Leo as seen from Mayhill New Mexico. The large rectangle is the field of view of T14/20, the small that of T5. Click to embiggen.

Comet C/2014 S2 PanSTARRS is dimming and the last reported magnitude was arround 12.

Visible from both northern and SSO scopes at the moment, it is only visible fo about an hour after astronomical twilight before it is too low for scope travel.

The comet passes within T14/20 distance of a number of faint galaxies, but their size and faintness, along with the comets faintness may make imaging  suboptimal.

Ephemeris of comet C/2014 S2 PANSTARRS

Date Rise Ast Twi E Altitude Transit Set Ast Twi B
01 Jul 2016 09:30:54 20:55:47 +33° 42' 27" 16:39:23 23:47:16 03:16:03
04 Jul 2016 09:24:10 20:55:01 +31° 16' 52" 16:29:38 23:34:32 03:17:51
07 Jul 2016 09:17:22 20:53:56 +28° 51' 45" 16:19:56 23:21:58 03:19:52
10 Jul 2016 09:10:29 20:52:31 +26° 27' 09" 16:10:16 23:09:32 03:22:06
13 Jul 2016 09:03:32 20:50:47 +24° 03' 06" 16:00:39 22:57:15 03:24:30
16 Jul 2016 08:56:32 20:48:45 +21° 39' 37" 15:51:04 22:45:06 03:27:04
19 Jul 2016 08:49:28 20:46:26 +19° 16' 43" 15:41:30 22:33:04 03:29:45
22 Jul 2016 08:42:22 20:43:51 +16° 54' 26" 15:31:59 22:21:09 03:32:33
25 Jul 2016 08:35:12 20:41:02 +14° 32' 49" 15:22:28 22:09:19 03:35:25
28 Jul 2016 08:27:59 20:37:58 +12° 11' 56" 15:12:59 21:57:35 03:38:22


MPEC one line ephemeris for Comet C/2014 S2 PanSTARRS

CK14S020  2015 12 09.8726  2.100871  0.988230   87.8307    8.1188   64.6757  20160731  10.0  4.0      C/2014 S2 (PANSTARRS)

The path of Comet 9P in Virgo. The large rectangle is the field of view of T12, the small that of T9. Click to embiggen.

Comet 9P/Temple 1 is in a good position for observation in Virgo, and is visible from both northern and southern scopes during the early evening, although the SSO scopes are favoured with around a 2 and a half hour window before the comet is too low for the scopes travel.

However, the comet is is substantially dimmer than ephemeris predictions of 10.9, and the most recent estimate of 11.6 may represent a transient outburst, and the comet may be rather disappointing this year.

From the 4th to 6th the comet is within 13' of two faint magnitude 11 galaxies, on the 9th it is 33' from the magnitude 9.9 galaxy NGC 4753

Ephemeris of comet 9P Tempel

Date Rise Ast Twi E Altitude Transit Set Ast Twi B
01 Jul 2016 11:53:55 20:55:47 +36° 41' 41" 17:58:36 00:05:53 03:16:03
04 Jul 2016 11:50:22 20:55:01 +34° 47' 28" 17:52:16 23:53:42 03:17:51
07 Jul 2016 11:47:03 20:53:56 +32° 55' 03" 17:46:08 23:44:45 03:19:52
10 Jul 2016 11:43:56 20:52:31 +31° 04' 27" 17:40:11 23:35:58 03:22:06
13 Jul 2016 11:41:00 20:50:47 +29° 15' 45" 17:34:24 23:27:20 03:24:30
16 Jul 2016 11:38:16 20:48:45 +27° 28' 59" 17:28:48 23:18:52 03:27:04
19 Jul 2016 11:35:43 20:46:26 +25° 44' 11" 17:23:22 23:10:34 03:29:45
22 Jul 2016 11:33:20 20:43:51 +24° 01' 27" 17:18:06 23:02:25 03:32:33
25 Jul 2016 11:31:07 20:41:02 +22° 20' 51" 17:13:00 22:54:25 03:35:25
28 Jul 2016 11:29:04 20:37:58 +20° 42' 28" 17:08:03 22:46:35 03:38:22


MPEC one line ephemeris for Comet 9P/Temple 1

0009P         2016 08 02.5832  1.542540  0.509587  179.2062   68.7495   10.4740  20160731   5.5 10.0     9P/Tempel

Comet 81P Wild is was last recorded magnitude 11.5 and is in Leo, however, it is too close to the horizon at astronomical twilight to be picked up by any of the scopes.


ALERT! Comet C/2013 X1 PanSTARRS in the tail of Scorpius (24 June - 14 July 2016)

Chart of comet C/2013 X1 from 24 June to 1 July as seen from SSO at 1:20 pm (around the time it transits the meridian). The large rectangle is the field of view of T12 the small T9. Click to embiggen.

Comet C/2013 X1 (PANSTARRS)  was closest to the earth on June 21, so should be at it's brightest over the next few days. Unfortunately it is too close to the Moon until June 24th to be easily seen.

The comet will be visible from the SSO scopes. It does not rise far enough above the horizon for the and northern hemisphere for the northrn scopes to see it.

In the SSO scopes it is in reach of the scopes travel from 10:00 pm to astronomical twilight in the morning in June, below is a more detailed rise, set and transit ephemeris fom SSO.

Ephemeris of comet C/2013 X1 PANSTARRS

Date Distance Ast Twi E Rise Transit Set Ast Twi B
24 Jun 2016 0.6441 18:36:22 16:01:41 01:09:50 09:55:29 05:35:59
28 Jun 2016 0.6754 18:37:32 14:27:49 23:24:43 08:41:51 05:36:32
02 Jul 2016 0.7345 18:38:54 13:21:48 22:10:52 07:17:47 05:36:47
06 Jul 2016 0.8155 18:40:25 12:37:44 21:11:21 05:59:34 05:36:43
10 Jul 2016 0.9126 18:42:04 12:06:00 20:24:16 04:54:20 05:36:20
14 Jul 2016 1.0210 18:43:49 11:40:51 19:46:19 04:01:28 05:35:36
18 Jul 2016 1.1372 18:45:39 11:19:23 19:14:41 03:18:08 05:34:31
22 Jul 2016 1.2585 18:47:32 11:00:08 18:47:26 02:41:49 05:33:05
26 Jul 2016 1.3832 18:49:29 10:42:18 18:23:18 02:10:35 05:31:17
30 Jul 2016 1.5099 18:51:28 10:25:26 18:01:26 01:43:08 05:29:09


The most recent reports had it around magnitude 6.2, just below unaided eye visibility and should be readily imaged with short exposures. Over the next three weeks it will fade, and may have fallen to magnitude 7 (still visible in good binoculars) by the middle of July. However, from the 14th the combination of waxing Moon and fading comet will mean the comet will be extremely difficult to image. From the 14th-16th the waxing Moon wil be less than 30 degrees away from the comet. Full Moon is on the 20th.These dates will require narrow band imaging.  After this the comet is clear of the Moon in the evening.

Comet C/2013 X1 is showing a nice double tail in deep telescopic imaging, and there was a recent spectacular tail dissociation event as well.

Chart of comet C/2013 X1 from 1 July  to 14 July as seen from SSO at 1:20 pm. The large rectangle is the field of view of T12 the small T9. Click to embiggen.

The comet is currently in the constellation Telescopium (the telescope). Being close to earth  0.64 AU) it is moving rapidly night to night for the next few weeks, passing through Ara the Altar, Norma the compass and Lupus the wolf from the end of June to mid July.

The highlight will be from the 28th June to 6th July when the comet passes through the cluster and nebula rich regions between the tail of Scorpius and Ara and Norma. This s a target rich area with many open clusters and dust clouds to add interest to imaging.

On the 29th the comet is 4 degrees from the bright globular clouster NGC 6397 (mag 5.3) . You will need to use your mosaic skills to get both in a decent framing.A guide to amking mosaics is here.

On the 30th the comet is 55' from the 7.8 mag globular cluster NGC 6352. On the 2nd of July  the comet is 2 degrees from the open cluster NGC 6250 (Mag 5.9) and on the 3rd the comet is close to several open clusters, including NGC 6200 (34', mag 7.4) and NGC 6.93 (1 degree 25', mag 5.2). On the 6th the comet is in the same FOV as the boundary of a dark dust lane which should make for an interesting composition.

MPEC one line ephemeris for Comet C/2013 X1

CK13X010  2016 04 20.7207  1.314278  1.001016  164.4536  130.9566  163.2314  20160731  10.5  2.0      C/2013 X1 (PANSTARRS)