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Archive for the 'Observations' category

Astronomy highlights in summer 2020

May 27 2020, Marcus Schenk

Bright comets, fantastic meteors in August and multiple planets at opposition mean that the night sky in summer 2020 is full of astronomical treats.

As early as June, there will be two interesting comets to be seen, namely C/2020 F8 SWAN and C/2017 T2 PanSTARRS. The former is gradually moving from the southern night sky to the northern sky and the latter is maintaining its altitude as a circumpolar object. T2 PanSTARRS is great for telescope viewing – and you can even find it in a great position, right next to a well-known star. More on this later.

We wish you many exciting hours of viewing.

June

1 June SWAN comet

Spring 2020 was rich in comets, one of the most attractive and brightest of these being the comet C/2020 F8 SWAN. It remained in the southern sky in spring, climbed above the horizon at the end of May and can now be found in the northern sky.

4 June Mercury at greatest eastern elongation

Mercury reaches its greatest eastern elongation which, in this configuration, is 23 degrees. It can be seen in the evening sky just above the north-western horizon. When viewed through a telescope, you can see the planet almost half-illuminated.

5 June Penumbral lunar eclipse

This evening, as much as around 50% of the Moon plunges into the Earth’s penumbral shadow. The resulting penumbral eclipse is interesting astronomically but not spectacular visually, as the Moon is only obscured minimally.

We are unable to track the beginning at 19:45 CEST (17:45 UT) because the Moon is still below the horizon. At 21:24 CEST, at the time of its maximum eclipse, it is visible just above the south-eastern horizon. From now on, we can track its further progression until the Moon leaves the penumbral shadow at 23:04 CEST.

5 June PanStarrs comet

Another interesting comet which certainly warrants a quality photo is C/2017 T2 PanSTARRS. It was discovered on 01/10/2017 and has since been travelling around the Sun on a parabolic trajectory.

It is currently at magnitude 8 and is also visible with small telescopes and large binoculars. On 5 June, it will be visible at a distance of 1 degree from the bright star Dubhe (Alpha Ursae Majoris) in the Plough. It will therefore be very easy to find using any telescope and a wide-angle eyepiece or using a large telescope.

9 June Conjunction between Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon

There is rarely a more beautiful sight than this. At the start of the second half of the night, the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn are rising together over the south-eastern horizon. There are only 3 and 4 degrees between both planets and our satellite and together they make an attractive trio. To the right of this we find the constellation Sagittarius with its summer deep sky objects and, to the left, Capricorn.

13 June Conjunction between the Moon and Mars

From around 3:00 CEST (1:00 UT) we experience a conjunction between Mars and the Moon at an altitude of only 10 degrees above the horizon. A stunning sight, but who is this mysterious visitor? Almost invisible, Neptune joins them and can be found no more than 1.5 degrees above Mars with the help of binoculars.

19 June The Moon occults Venus

It is a rare event when the Moon slips in front of Venus today and occults it. However, this event is taking place during the day. But does this mean that you cannot somehow observe it? You can, but this event is more for experienced observers. At 9:55 CEST the Moon, with its narrow crescent shape, slips in front of Venus. Caution: The Sun is around 20 degrees to the east! Never look directly at the Sun with your eyes or using an optical instrument.

27 June June Bootids

The June Bootids meteor shower originates from the constellation Bootes. The number of falling meteors is small but variable. There have been years in which no meteors have been seen, however rates of 100 per hour have been seen on occasion. Because these meteors cause excitement, it is worth taking a closer look.

July

5 July Conjunction between Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon

Once night has fallen, the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn rise, drawing everyone’s gaze towards them at magnitudes of -2.7 and 0.1. Tonight the fully-illuminated Moon joins them, as the Moon was full only yesterday.

8 July Venus at greatest magnitude

Venus is currently located in the constellation Taurus or in the Hyades star cluster. Although it is only 30% illuminated, it is shining at magnitudre -4.4, the brightest magnitude achieved so far this year.

12 July Conjunction between Mars and the Moon

With 2.5 degrees between them, there is a conjunction between Mars and the Moon today. Both are in the constellation Cetus on the border of Pisces and rise after midnight. At sunrise they are 30 degrees above the horizon, they do not reach the meridian as the Sun will have already long risen by then.

12 Conjunction between Venus and Aldebaran

It is a special occurrence when a bright planet passes by a bright star. Events like these are very eye-catching and appealing to observe. On 12 July, Venus passes by the bright star Aldebaran at a distance of only 0.5 degrees. It is to be the closest encounter of any planet with Aldebaran in this century.

14 July Jupiter at opposition

Jupiter rises in the south-east as early as twilight and can be seen as a very bright object. Today it is at opposition to the Sun and can be admired throughout the entire night. A mere 619 million kilometres separate it from Earth and the light requires a little more than half an hour to reach us. Its visible diameter is 47 arc seconds and it crosses the meridian, and therefore achieves its best visibility, at 1:25 CEST (23:25 UT).

16 July Pluto at opposition

The former planet and current dwarf planet is at opposition and is shining at a magnitude of 14.2. Finding it with a telescope which only works with one accurate star chart is a challenge. Pluto is located between Saturn and Jupiter on these days, from which it is only 2 degrees to the west (on the left of the central Telrad ring).

17 July Conjunction between Venus and the Moon

A delightful sight in the morning sky in the form of today’s conjunction between Venus and the very narrow and almost 26-day-old crescent Moon in the constellation Taurus, close to the star Aldebaran.

21 July Saturn at opposition

July is the month of oppositions and today’s offering is Saturn. At magnitude 0.1, it will be shining much more faintly than its prominent colleague, Jupiter. However, Saturn is able to make up for this with its attractive rings, which we are able to see fully exposed in our view.

22 July Mercury at greatest western elongation

Whilst Mercury was at its greatest eastern elongation in June, it is now at its greatest western elongation. This means that it has now become an object in the morning sky, as it now rises before the Sun. From 4:30 CEST (2:30 UT), you should be able to see it at around 3 degrees above the horizon. At this time, the Sun is 8 degrees below the horizon.

28 July Delta Aquariids

The last event this month is the Delta Aquariids. These are shooting stars which appear to come from region containing the constellation Aquarius, at a maximum frequency of 25 per hour. The period after midnight, when the Moon has already gone down, is best suited for their observation.

August

1 August Conjunction between Jupiter and the Moon

Today there is a conjunction between the 12-day-old and almost full Moon and Jupiter.

9 August Conjunction between the Moon and Mars

This morning the Moon is approaching the planet Mars until it is around 2.75 degrees away. While Mars is in Pisces, the Moon crosses the border from Cetus to Pisces in the morning.

12 August Perseids

The absolute highlight of every August is the Perseids meteor shower. We are able to see up to 100 meteors per hour tonight. Admittedly, this is only because the Moon is not interfering. This year, we are able to view them during the first half of the night without it interfering. At 0:30 CEST (22:30 UT) the Moon rises above the horizon, the sky gets brighter and the faint Perseids are drowned out by Moonlight.

13 August Venus at greatest western elongation

Venus is the morning star and is currently at its greatest western elongation at a distance of 45 degrees between it and the Sun. When you view Venus through the telescope, it appears half-illuminated.

13 August Conjunction between the Moon and the Hyades

The Moon is in the constellation Taurus, close to the Hyades star cluster.

15 August Conjunction between Venus and the Moon

Anyone looking up at the sky in the early hours of the morning can see Venus close to the narrow crescent Moon. Both are in the constellation Gemini.

28 Conjunction between Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon

This evening there is a conjunction between the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation Sagittarius. The trio is on the left, close to the well-known Teapot asterism. If deep-sky observation is not possible today, how about a tour of the lunar craters, culminating in a glimpse of both rulers of the solar system?

C/2019 Y4 ATLAS: A bright comet for the naked eye?

March 27 2020, Marcus Schenk

A yawning emptiness. No visitors.

For years, there has not been much going on in the vast expanses of the solar systems, just the planets continued their orbits around the sun.

However, the time for waiting has now passed.

We are being visited by a bright comet which could become a real highlight in April and May – maybe even for the naked eye.

It has the wonderful name of C/2019 Y4 ATLAS. Even now, it can be clearly seen with the telescope. During these times of corona, where we have to stay at home and go without social contact, this makes a welcome change. Keep your telescope at the ready because this could be really exciting!

Komet Y4 ATLAS

The C/2019 Y4 ATLAS comet, with its green coma, near the M81 and M82 galaxies on the 19th/20th March 2020. Photographed using a Canon 600Da – Canon EF 200mm f2.8 L – @f3.5 (step-down-ring as a front aperture), 76 x 2min -> 2h32min – ISO800, Vixen GP-DX – MGEN II. Editing and processing in DeepSkyStacker and Photoshop. Image author: Johannes Hildebrandt

The major comet of 2020?

Hawaii is home to the Asteroid Terrestrial impact Last Alert System, abbreviated to ATLAS. It scans the sky for near-earth objects, which could be of danger to the earth, and is designed to predict a possible impact. However, on the 28th December 2019, the robot-supported system discovered this comet on its way through our solar system. The astronomers observed that it is following a very similar orbit to that of the Great Comet of 1844 which, at that time, achieved a brightness of -1 mag. There has even been speculation that Y4 ATLAS might possibly be a fragment of the then tail-star and could achieve a similar brightness – this fact alone makes following the path of this comet exciting.

Can we expect to see something similar from the C/2019 Y4 ATLAS?

Strong increase in brightness until May

What is certain is that its brightness is rapidly increasing. At the time of its discovery in December, it was still unreachable at 19 mag. In the interim, however, it has been able to increase its brightness to about eight magnitudes. Overall, this is an increase of 25,000 times! However, it will get really interesting from now until the end of May, because it is continuously getting brighter – in fact, it has already exceeded the original expectations in this respect.

It is now entering our region from the outer planets. On the 24th May, it will race past the earth at a distance of 117 million kilometres away and, on the 31st May, it will reach its closest point to the sun – and this despite being within Mercury’s orbit. According to the forecasts, it may reach a brightness of 2 mag – this would not just make it visible with all types of binoculars, but also with the naked eye!

Really good for us, as inhabitants of the northern hemisphere, is the fact that the comet is almost ideally positioned.

We have already observed it…

During the last few days, some members of our team have already been able to observe the comet. I, too, used last weekend for observation. I was able to identify it immediately using my 12“ Taurus Dobson telescope  The diffuse spot stood out clearly from the surrounding stars. The coma appeared uniformly round with a brighter core area. At the edge of a small-town sky, and after observation with my SWA 32mm eyepiece I used a Nagler 11mm with an approx. 140-times magnification. The comet thereby gained even more contrast and stood out even better from the background of the sky. A fantastic experience! However, the comet could also be seen with the 20+40×100 Nightstar large binoculars.

Zeichnung von Komet C/2019 Y4 ATLAS

An image of the C/2019 Y4 ATLAS on the 22nd March 2020 which reflects the visual impression of the 12″ Dobson telescope. Marcus Schenk.

Where can you find the C/2019 Y4 ATLAS comet?

Not at the bottom of the horizon, but high up and circumpolar. This is a dream position for an observer! Our vagabond is currently travelling through the Great Bear which is luckily now high in the sky in spring – this means that you have a good opportunity to observe it using your telescope. If you are planning to acquire a telescope first, then now would be a good time.

In the months of April and May, the comet will be moving through the giraffe constellation and heading for Perseus. It will become significantly brighter but, with time, it will lose altitude. At this time, a rather dark place and a few clouds on the horizon become even more important. In these times of corona and strict curfews, I was happy to be able to observe the comet from my garden at its still high altitude.

But, how can one find the comet now?

You can find an up-to-date search map on skyhound.com, for example.

Or, there is an up-to-date map for the respective day at Theskylive.

Would you like to get an even better view of the comet? The Lumicon Comet Filter can help you to see both the coma and a possible gas-tail contrast-enhanced.

Will we be able to see the comet with the naked eye? Well, despite all the calculations and predictions, this is written in the stars. Let us hope for the best! In the meantime, why not enjoy the comet with your telescope or binoculars. After all, who knows how many years we will have to wait again for such a bright comet?

If you are looking for a telescope, accessories or binoculars, we are here for you (despite the intensified corona crisis in Bavaria) and can be reached by phone and email. Furthermore, our courageous colleagues from the shipping department are holding the fort and will immediately despatch your orders.

Infographic: Spring 2020 astrohighlights

March 4 2020, Marcus Schenk

Once again there is plenty going on in the sky this spring. There the gas giants shake hands, a planet meets a star cluster, star occultations take place, and you may even spot a comet with binoculars.

We hope you enjoy the latest astronomical infographic, “Astronomy Highlights Spring 2020”. You will find explanatory descriptions of the events in the following text.

March

8 March: Venus near Uranus

Bright Venus, faint Uranus: these two planets meet one another today at dusk, as Venus hurries past the gas giant at a separation of around 2°. You can identify them easily using binoculars.

18 March: The Moon near Mars and Jupiter

If you get up early this morning you will be rewarded with a very special sight. Above the south-eastern horizon the waning Moon can be identified in an attractive grouping along with Jupiter and Mars. A little further east Saturn joins in too.

20 March: Jupiter near Mars

Once again Mars pays a visit to the big planets. This morning it meets Jupiter, approaching it at a separation of 40 arcseconds. In the coming days it passes by Jupiter and heads towards Saturn.

24 March: Venus at greatest eastern elongation

Half-illuminated, now Venus presents itself as an interesting object to observe. It gleams with a brightness of magnitude -4.3 and appears as a lovely evening star for almost the entire first half of the night, before finally disappearing below the horizon shortly before 23:00 CET.

29 March: The Moon occults Epsilon Tauri

Slowly winter bids farewell to the night sky. But the constellations Orion and Taurus are still visible in the western sky. This evening you can be witness to an interesting occultation of a star by the Moon. At around 21:30 CET the Moon draws near to the magnitude 3.5 star Epsilon Tauri in the Hyades cluster and at 21:35 CET occults it from its dark side.

April

2 April: Juno in opposition

Juno is a large asteroid in the main asteroid belt, with a diameter of 257 kilometres. On 2 April it reaches opposition to the Sun and shines with a brightness of magnitude 9.5.

3 April: Venus near the Pleiades

An unusual encounter: on 3 April we can see how Venus meets the Pleiades in the night sky. It’s a really rare sight, and all the more beautiful if we observe these objects through a telescope or capture the memory in a photograph.

15 April: The Moon near Jupiter, Saturn and Mars

At the moment the trio made up of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars is visible every morning before sunrise in the southeastern sky. Even if you don’t normally get up this early, try it once. For example this morning. Because today the Moon joins in and (together with the planets) offers a fascinating sight.

26 April: The Moon near Venus

The Moon is just three days old and yet lights up the evening sky as a slender, fine crescent. Today it meets Venus, the bright evening star.

28 April: Venus at greatest brightness

A fiery brilliance in the sky. When we take a look at the sky we can see the glistening bright Venus. Many people mistake it for an aircraft with its lights, or even a UFO. But you know it’s Venus which is reflecting more than 75% of the sunlight and so shines so brightly in the sky.

May

3 May: The Moon occults Nu Virginis

The Moon approaches from its dark side and heads towards the star Nu in the constellation Virgo. At 23:48 CET the star disappears behind the Moon and reappears a good 40 minutes later behind the bright side. Before observing check your local occultation times since this can vary slightly according to location.

12 May: The Moon near Jupiter and Saturn

In the last hours of the night, the solar system’s dream team appears over the horizon: bright Jupiter, an even brighter Moon and the somewhat weaker Saturn.

15 May: The Moon near Mars

Shortly before dawn breaks, you can find the Red Planet and the Moon. They approach one another between the constellations Aquarius and Aries at a separation of 3°. Above and to the right at an angular distance of a good 30° you can see the two gas giants Jupiter and Saturn.

15 May: Comet C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS)

This comet could be a highlight in May. If the forecasts are correct, comet C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) could reach a brightness of magnitude 8 and so be easily visible with binoculars. In May it will linger in the circumpolar constellations. In the course of the month it will move from the constellation Camelopardalis (directly next to Ursa Minor), towards Ursa Major. On 23 May it stops close to the galaxies M81 and M82.

22 May: Venus near Mercury

Venus shines like a beacon in the sky. If you didn’t know you could easily mistake it for an aircraft’s lights. This evening Venus meets its direct neighbour, Mercury.

24 May: The Moon near Venus and Mercury

At the end of May everything revolves around Venus and Mercury since both planets are especially well visible at the moment. Today they share the limelight with the slender and only 4% illuminated crescent of the twodayold Moon.

26 May: Mercury visible in the evening

Mercury is so close to the Sun, nimble and very shy. At least this is the impression you can get when you try to observe it. It usually keeps itself close to the horizon. However now it is possible to discover it since it reaches an altitude of around 10° at dusk. It’s best to be on the lookout with binoculars a short time after sunset.

Good conditions for observing Venus

January 20 2020, Jan Ströher

In the coming weeks Venus, our “sister planet”, will become a good object for observing. The planet is a bright, easily detectable object in the morning or evening sky, but it is usually located very close to the horizon with corresponding atmospheric disturbance and rather short observing times. This will improve from around the end of January, when Venus will become progressively brighter and visible for longer in the evening sky. Then the planet will be found easily with the naked eye immediately after sunset and can be observed for almost four hours.

Even good binoculars, such as the Omegon Nightstar are suitable for observing. In telescopes with an aperture from around 90mm, Venus can already be identified as a small disc. Just like the Moon, the planet exhibits different phases, although details of the surface remain hidden owing to its very dense atmosphere. The cloud structures can be distinguished very well with telescopes from 130mm aperture. The use of a suitable filter (violet, dark blue, blue) is recommended to improve the contrast.

Credit: EXAME/JAXA/Divulgao, Brazil

Venus is the second innermost planet in our solar system and is a similar size to Earth. Its atmosphere consists of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, sulphur dioxide and various noble gases. This composition, combined with its proximity to the Sun, makes our neighbouring planet a hostile and mysterious world. As it orbits the Sun, Venus rotates backwards, that is in exactly the opposite direction to our Earth. Therefore on Venus the Sun rises in the west and sets in the east. After the Moon, the planet is the brightest object, but, just like Mercury it is only visible in the morning or evening sky – hence it is also given the designation “morning-” or “evening star”.

From mid-January, Venus dominates our evening sky immediately after sunset on the southwestern horizon. Between then and the end of March it changes its position from about 25° to 46° and reaches a brightness of -4.7mag by the end of April. During this period it moves towards the western horizon and passes through the constellations Aquarius, Pisces and Aries. In April it reaches Taurus and can even be found close to the Pleiades (M45) at the beginning of April.

From January to May it’s best to track Venus using a star chart.

Credit: Planetarium Bochum

Have fun observing Venus in 2020!

Infographic: Winter Astronomy Highlights 2019/2020

November 29 2019, Marcus Schenk

The winter is getting really cold again, but there is no better time than this for really good, early evening, chances to observe the stars. And what will lure you outside better than the Hunter of the Skies, the Seven Sisters or the Eye of the Bull?

The sky calendar with the interesting events for the next three months: the astronomical infographic “Winter Astronomy Highlights 2019/20” shows you when a glance at the sky will be worthwhile.

We wish you lots of fun with your observing!

December

1st of December: Planet alignment

At dusk there is a lovely meeting of the planets Jupiter, Venus and Saturn. They are accompanied by the waxing Moon.

11th of December: Saturn meets Venus

The planets Venus and Saturn meet today at dusk, above the northwest horizon. Look out for the difference in brightness between the two as they race past one another, less than 2 degrees apart.

11th of December: The Moon meets Aldebaran

Already in the early evening we can see Aldebaran, the Eye of the Bull, as it appears above the horizon. However today it reveals itself with the almost fully-illuminated Moon. A great evening for observing planets and double stars.

13th of December: The Geminids

If the sky is clear in the evening, it’s best to take a look to the south. Because the Geminids shooting stars appear to originate from the constellation Gemini. To be more precise: from a point two degrees above the star Pollux. The best time for observing is between 21:00 CET and 6:00 CET. At 120 meteors per hour, the Geminids are among the most reliable shooting stars. However this year the full Moon will disrupt the view. Nevertheless, you should not miss this event.

23rd of December: The Moon meets Mars

Early risers take note: one day before Christmas it’s worth getting up early and taking a look at the sky. At dawn a delicate crescent Moon shines, just 10% illuminated, and meets up with Mars, the god of war.

23rd of December: The Ursids

The Ursids are a meteor shower that you can keep your eye on all night. This is because they originate from Ursa Minor, from which these meteors get their name. However these beacons speed across the sky more slowly than the Perseids – at around 35 kilometers per second.

29th of December: Moon meets Venus

As soon as it gets dark we can see them shining above the horizon: the Moon and Venus. Even if this is not the most astronomically interesting event, under a clear twilight sky this sight is probably one of the most beautiful. This evening the Moon can be seen as a wafer-thin crescent and Venus shines in all its splendour.

January

4th of January: The Quadrantids

The Quadrantids are a meteor shower originating from the constellation Böotes. The New Year almost begins with an astronomical fireworks display, which brings us about 120 meteors per hour. In the evening the half-lit Moon is still high in the sky: wait until it disappears under the horizon before you start observing – then it will be dark. Böotes is one of the spring and summer constellations and so now, in winter, it – and therefore also the radiant – does not rise until after midnight. Then observing can become very interesting. Oh and yes, wrap up warmly, because patience is required when observing meteors.

5th of January: The Moon’s Golden Handle

A fascinating event: the Moon’s Golden Handle. Like a handle of light, it breaks the Moon’s darkness just beyond the terminator. We look at Mare Imbrium in the region of Sinus Iridum crater and the high Montes Jura mountain range. The Sun rises here at the boundary between light and shadow. While the crater is still in darkness, the Sun bathes the circular-shaped peaks of Montes Jura in light. A golden ring in the dark.

18th of January: Mars meets Antares

Antares is a red supergiant in the constellation Scorpius. It shines with an intense red light and resides at the very bottom of the class M spectral type. If it stood in the place of the Sun, Antares would reach beyond the orbit of Mars. But today Mars and Antares meet only visually for us in the sky. Compare the red colours of these two celestial bodies.

27th of January: Venus meets Neptune

One very close, the other very distant: our neighbouring planet Venus meets up with the outpost of our solar system. With just the naked eye, however, we can admire only Venus. But less than a degree north we meet Neptune, which reveals itself in a telescope as a small blue disc.

28th of January: The Moon meets Venus

Another chance to see this beautiful sight: Venus and the narrow, 12% illuminated, crescent Moon. Until around 20:00 CET we can easily follow the two brightest bodies in the sky, before Venus disappears below the horizon, often in haze, a good 40 minutes later.

February

4th of February: The Moon’s Golden Handle

As on the 5th of January, today we can once again observe the Moon’s Golden Handle. This is caused by the illuminated peaks of Montes Jura mountain range on the dark side of the terminator.

10th of February: Mercury’s greatest eastern elongation

Mercury is nimble and only rarely visible. But right now our shy friend reveals himself in the evening sky. It is positioned at its greatest angular distance from the Sun and is barely visible in the growing twilight. For this you need a very good view of the horizon, cloud-free and clear weather, and binoculars with which you can discover Mercury.

27th of February: The Moon meets Venus

The second beautiful sighting of the crescent Moon and Venus at dusk. Meanwhile we can follow the splendour of the bright and shining Venus in the sky for some time – as it only disappears under the horizon at around 22:00 CET.

Mercury transit 2019: these products will turn the transit into an experience

October 11 2019, Marcus Schenk

We only see a Mercury transit every 3.5 to 13 years. On 11 November 2019 this rare event will take place once more. An inferior conjunction occurs as Mercury crosses in front of the Sun and we can observe this in broad daylight. Don’t miss the astronomical highlight of the year! But what do you need to observe it? With the following products you will be well prepared for a successful sighting.

Warning: never look directly at the Sun without a suitable filter. A solar filter is always required for observing.

Solar filter film  

The Baader AstroSolar solar filter film is available in various sizes, it is effective and very good value. Use the film to make your own solar filter which you can then attach to the front of your telescope.

AstroSolar-Sonnenfolie

The AstroSolar solar filter in 210 x 297mm format

 

Mounted solar filter

Is do-it-yourself not really your thing? Then a ready-mounted filter is the perfect solution for you. The Omegon filters for smaller telescopes or the Baader ASTF filters are good value and are available for many sizes of telescopes. You simply choose the diameter that suits your telescope and attach the filter to the front of your telescope. Before long you will be safely looking at the Sun and discovering sunspots – and of course Mercury.

Tip: to be certain which filter will fit your telescope, measure the outer diameter of your tube before making your selection.

Omegon-Sonnenfilter

Omegon solar filter mounted on a photoscope

Solar filter for binoculars and cameras

You can also follow the Mercury transit with binoculars. Just by attaching two normal solar filters? This works particularly well with the AstroSolar binocular filter.  They are laterally cut in such a way that they don’t make contact even with objective lenses that are very close together. This is also an advantage for DSLR cameras: the flattened filter edges makes it possible to attach a camera flush to a telescope or a mounting plate.

ASBF-Filter

ASBF filter for binoculars and cameras

Herschel wedge

Even more contrast is on offer from the professional for solar observing: a Herschel wedge. Combined with a ND3.0 filter it can be connected to a refracting telescope. The advantage: you see the Sun in front of a black background, and the granulation and sunspots appear in unimagined levels of detail.

 Herschelkeil

A Herschel wedge offers a beautiful picture of the Sun with a refractor

H-alpha telescope

You will experience a bit of the action when  observing the Sun in H-alpha light. In a very narrow, deep-red band with a wavelength of 656nm you can observe a very active Sun. Prominences flare millions of kilometers into space and are changing rapidly. Even when you see no sunspots on the Sun, there is almost always something to see.

H-alpha-Sonnentelekop

H-alpha solar telescope from Coronado

Mercury transit T-Shirt

For huge fans of astronomy: show your passion for astronomy with the new Mercury transit T-shirt. It shows the progress of the transit with all the important information and timings. So anyone can look to see when Mercury will appear in front of the Sun, or how long we still need to wait until the next transit.

Omegon-T-Shirt-Merkurtransit

Omegon Mercury transit T-shirt

Smartphone adapter

Photographing the Sun swiftly and simply: with a smartphone adapter you can quickly take beautiful pictures of the Mercury transit. It works really well with small telescopes. Simply attach the Omegon smartphone adapter to your eyepiece, and soon you will be capturing these astronomical moments for ever.

Omegon-Easypic-Universal-Smartphone-Adapter

Omegon Easypic universal smartphone adapter

Omegon 70/400 Backpack with solar filter

If you are looking for a small travel solar telescope, then the Omegon Backpack 70/400 AZ is perfect. The set includes a finder scope, mirror star-diagonal, eyepieces and of course the appropriate solar filter. You get all of this together in a practical rucksack.

Omegon-Teleskop-AC-70-400-Solar-BackPack

Omegon AC-70-400 Backpack solar telescope

The Sun on your neck

When observing the Sun for hours on end you need to take precautions against sunburn. A normal hat only protects the scalp. But when you are bending forward and observing through an eyepiece then your neck is exposed to the Sun. Lunt offers appropriate protection against this: a sun hat with neck protection.

Sonnenhut-mit-Nackenschutz

Sun hat with neck protection

Finding the Sun made easy

Sometimes its hard to believe how hard it can be to find the Sun with a telescope without spending a lot of time searching for it. Finding it is much easier with the Geoptik 1.25’’ solar finder.

Simply attach the sun finder to your focuser and right away you can centre the Sun over your mount’s axes. The Euro EMC solar finder offers an alternative way of finding the Sun. It consists of a pinhole and a small screen onto which a small image of the sun is projected. Simply attach the finder to your tube using the Velcro straps included.

Geoptik Sonnensucher

Geoptik solar finder

Equipped with these you’ll be well prepared for the Mercury transit.

Infographic: The Astronomy Highlights of Autumn 2019

September 2 2019, Marcus Schenk

 

In the next three months, from September to November, there are once again some great observing opportunities that we should not miss. A special event is fast approaching: the very rare transit of Mercury across the Sun. But there are also other smaller events to be seen.

The new astronomical infographic “Astronomy Highlights in Autumn 2019” offers you a quick graphical overview. This will keep you up to date and let you know what is happening in the sky.

September:

1 September: Alpha Aurigids

The Alpha Aurigids are a fast meteor shower moving at a speed of 65 km/s, which originated from the comet Kiess C/1911. At their peak on 1 September, around six meteors per hour are visible. The radiant, that is the place from which the meteors appear to originate, lies in the constellation Auriga below the star Capella.

6 September: The Moon meets Jupiter

At a distance of just under 5° the Moon is approaching Jupiter this evening. At dusk we see them as bright objects that are close to one another.

8 September: The Moon meets Saturn

While the Moon was seen near Jupiter two days ago, it is today visiting the ringed planet Saturn. Both celestial bodies approach one another at a distance of 1.5°.

9 September: The Moon’s Golden Handle

This evening we experience the Moon’s golden handle. A fairly rare event that can only be seen during a Moon phase of 83%. We can then discover a closed semicircle of golden light on the dark side of the Moon’s boundary between light and shadow. The reason for this: we are looking at Mare Imbrium and Sinus Iridum crater, which is surrounded by the Montes Jura range. While the crater is still lying in darkness, the Sun rises over the mountain peaks and we see the famous handle.

10 September: Neptune in opposition

Neptune is one of the outlying gas giants of our solar system. At a distance of 4.5 billion kilometres, it takes 165 years to orbit the Sun. Its light is en route for 4 hours and 10 minutes before it arrives at the Earth. During its opposition it is particularly easy to see in Aquarius. At 1am it reaches its highest point, around 36° above the horizon.

20 September: The Moon meets Aldebaran

The waning Moon, which is 72% illuminated, meets Aldebaran, the main star of Taurus, during the night of September 20. Aldebaran is a red giant, a star that has reached the last phase of its life. It shines 150 times brighter than the Sun and is so large that if it were to replace of the Sun it would reach as far as Mercury.

October

3 October: The Moon meets Jupiter

An especially pretty sight awaits us this evening: the Moon meets up with bright Jupiter. This impressive conjunction is worth observing, especially as dusk begins.

5 October: The Moon meets Saturn

In the early evening in Sagittarius, just above the horizon, today you can see a conjunction of Saturn and the Moon.

9 October: The October Draconids

Shooting stars appear to be falling from the constellation Draco on 9 October: this is the Draconids meteor shower. As they dart across the sky they are a fascinating spectacle, even for amateur astronomers. The radiant is located near the star Draconis. Draco is a circumpolar constellation, therefore the radiant lies at an optimal visible altitude in the evening sky.

12 October: Amphitrite in opposition

Amphitrite is a sea goddess in Greek mythology and is married to Poseidon. In the sky, however, Amphitrite is an asteroid of the main asteroid belt, which is now in opposition. It is 211 million kilometres away from Earth. It is currently in Pisces below the constellation Andromeda.

17 October: The Moon meets the Hyades

The Hyades open star cluster is very old at 600 million years and forms a V-shape with its brightest stars. The Moon visits the cluster tonight. By the way: the star Aldebaran does not belong to the Hyades.

20 October: Mercury’s greatest eastern elongation

Mercury is at its greatest elongation angle of 24°, but we still don’t see it in the evening sky.

21 October: Orionids

The Orionids are a smaller meteor shower with an activity of about 25 meteors per hour. The radiant is located in the constellation Orion near the star Betelgeuse. Although you can watch the shooting stars all month long, the peak is seen between 20 and 21 October.

23 October: The Moon meets Regulus

Today the slender crescent moon can be found at a distance of around 10 degrees from Regulus, the main star in Leo.

28 October: Uranus in opposition

Now there is another opportunity to take a look at distant Uranus: it can be seen all night during its opposition. With a brightness of 5.6 mag. you can see it with binoculars alone, but it is only recognisable as a planet using a telescope. You will find it in the constellation Aries. To find it draw a line from the bright star β Ari to the just 4.3 mag. dim star ξ1 Cet in the constellation Cetus. At the start of the last third of the line to ξ1 Cet, you will find the planet.

31 October: The Moon meets Jupiter

Tonight we see a slender and only 15% illuminated crescent Moon directly next to Jupiter.

November

2 November: The Moon meets Saturn and Jupiter

This evening we see a nice conjunction of the Moon, Saturn and Jupiter on the southwestern horizon.

6 November: Taurids

The Taurids are a two-part meteor shower with just 10 meteors per hour expected. What is much more interesting is that some bright fireballs may also be visible.

11 November: Mercury Transit

It only happens every 13 years: Mercury passes across the solar disc and we can follow this transit live through a telescope. It starts at 13:35 CET, the 2nd contact is at 13:37 CET, the middle at 16:19 CET, the 3rd contact 19:02 CET, finishing at 19:04 CET. Unfortunately we can only observe half of the transit because the Sun would have already disappeared under the horizon. Attention! Always use a suitable solar filter for your observation! Never observe the Sun without one! Observation without a special solar filter is dangerous and will lead to severe retinal damage. Let us advise you.

14 November: Asteroid Vesta in opposition

The asteroid Vesta belongs to the main asteroid belt and was one of the first bodies of its kind to be discovered. After Pallas, it is one of the largest asteroids with a diameter of 516 kilometres. On 14 November Vesta reaches a brightness of 6.5 mag. and so you can find and observe it with any telescope. It is currently in the constellation Cetus. You can find it relatively easily by extending a line from o Tau (in Taurus) about 2 degrees to the west. A star atlas is useful here.

17 November: Leonids

On 17 November the Leonids reach their peak. In addition to the Perseids, they are amongst the most famous meteor showers. There have been years when these meteors fell like raindrops from the sky. This usually happens every 33 years when the Earth collides with the Leonid cloud.

In normal years, the shower reaches a peak of no more than 20 meteors per hour. This year the rate of occurrence is a little lower, with 15 meteors per hour expected.

24 November: Jupiter meets Venus and the Moon meets Mars

In the last days of November there are two conjunctions: the Moon and Mars, and Jupiter and Venus.

In the early morning of the 24th we see a delicate crescent moon, Mars and, a little further below, Mercury. Then the following evening, in the very early twilight, there is a beautiful view of Jupiter and Venus.

28 November: Mercury’s greatest western elongation

Mercury reaches the best morning visibility of the year from 28 November at its greatest western elongation, now it has an angular separation from the Sun of 20 degrees. Through a telescope Mercury appears half-illuminated.

Infographic: 50th anniversary of the Moonlanding

July 19 2019, Marcus Schenk

moonlanding infographic

Infographic: The Astronomy Highlights of Summer 2019

June 3 2019, Marcus Schenk

Summer and warm temperatures: now all those who were hibernating in the winter can venture outside for a glimpse at the stars. But unfortunately it also gets darker later and then, as if turbocharged, light again just a few hours later. So you need to make good use of the hours of darkness, because when the summer Milky Way stretches across the sky there’s so much to discover.

The new astronomical infographic “Highlights in the Summer Sky” shows you at a glance what is happening in the sky in the months from June to August. Also included: a short description of the events.

June 5: The Moon meets Mars

Just two days after the new Moon, the slender crescent Moon stands seemingly fragile as dusk falls in the evening sky. Inconspicuous at around 2.5 degrees further to the right you will find the 1.7 magnitude bright Mars.

June 10: Jupiter in Opposition

You can now observe the largest planet in the solar system all night. Jupiter is in opposition this month, so this is the best time for observations. The gas giant reaches a magnitude of 2.6 and is 640 million kilometers away. As night falls the planet emerges above the horizon in the southeast, later it quickly becomes brighter and gets easier to see. At around 1:15 CEST it reaches the meridian and is particularly good to see.

June 18: Mercury Half Phase

Mercury reaches dichotomy, that is, a phase in which it is half-lit. Like the Moon or Venus, Mercury displays different phases.

June 18: Mercury meets Mars

A very beautiful event takes place shortly after the middle of the month: a close encounter between Mercury and Mars. Our innermost planet passes Mars at a distance of just half a lunar diameter, 13 arc minutes. This event takes place just above the western horizon at around 21:30 CEST. To observe these two it’s best to use binoculars.

June 19: The Moon meets Saturn

This configuration takes place in the second half of the night and can be followed until sunrise. Our Moon and the ringed planet approach each other with a minimal separation of about 2°50′.

June 24: Mercury’s greatest eastern elongation

Mercury gradually leaves the evening sky but it can still be seen, and can initially be found with the naked eye. From the second half of the month it becomes more difficult to find since it is so faint, and you’ll need the help of binoculars. It reaches its greatest angular distance of 25° from the Sun on 24 June. It reveals an almost half-lit sliver to us with a size of 8 arcseconds..  You can find Mercury with a good pair of binoculars from around 22:00 CEST.

July 2: Chile Total Solar Eclipse

In South America the Sun will grow dark. The eclipse’s shadow comes from the direction of the Pacific Ocean and stretches across Chile with a totality duration of 2:30 minutes. Later, the shadow moves onwards over Argentina. The Sun will be relatively low during this eclipse which will enable beautiful shots of the eclipsed sun against the landscape.

July 5: Noctilucent Clouds

Now in June you will be able to see them: noctilucent clouds. When the summer Sun is between 6° and 16° below the horizon it sometimes illuminates extremely thin clouds of ice crystals that are at an altitude of about 80 kilometres. These clouds are indeed so high that they are in the mesosphere part of our atmosphere. For us it is long since nightfall, but these clouds catch a little sunlight and we see bluish white clouds illuminated, which are invisible by daylight.

July 9: Saturn in Opposition

At present we have the problem that, due to the Sun’s ecliptic, many planets are far to the south and so are not high enough in the sky to be visible. Because of this we inevitably face a struggle with air turbulence. Despite this, Saturn still is worth observing, even if it only climbs to a height of 18°. On July 9 it reaches its opposition and shines brightly in the sky with a magnitude of 0.1. It is competing with the brightest stars but we can recognise it by its yellowish colouring and a faint glow that differs from the flickering of the stars. Because of this you can find it straight away and you can easily capture it with a small telescope. Its rings appear tilted at 24° and we are looking from the north at the ring system in which we can easily recognise the Cassini Division.

July 14: Pluto in Opposition

Pluto is a hard-to-see dwarf planet that used to be classified as a planet, and can barely be distinguished from a star – at least if you don’t have a map at hand. Even so, it’s worth taking a look at this outpost of the solar system with a larger telescope. GoTo coordinates: RA: 19h33m40s, DEC: -22° 07′.

July 16: Partial Lunar Eclipse

In January we had to view this in the cold, but not today. We can observe this partial lunar eclipse in warm temperatures and at a reasonable time. It gets interesting for us at 22:01 CEST, at which point the Moon enters the umbra of the Earth. Over the course of the evening it will become up to 66% obscured before the umbra moves away again and eventually disappears at 1:00 CEST.

July 20: Moon Landing 50th Anniversary

50 years ago today the whole world looked towards the Moon: to three astronauts, pioneers of humanity, who dared to set out on the greatest adventure. Apollo 11 flew to the Moon and Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on a foreign celestial body. Let us celebrate this event, remember it, and look again today towards the Moon, perhaps even to the Sea of Tranquility, the landing site of this daring mission.

July 29: The Delta Aquariids

A small meteor shower in Aquarius which we can best observe after midnight. The Earth passes through trails of small dust particles which burn up when entering the atmosphere and become streaks of light. We can expect to see 20-25 meteors per hour provided we find a dark place for our observation.

August 9: The Moon meets Jupiter

Similar to in July, the Moon and Jupiter meet again today. When it gets dark they stand dominant and bright in the sky above the southern horizon.

August 10: Mercury’s greatest western elongation

Now Mercury reaches its greatest angular distance of 19° from the Sun. Whilst before it was an object of the evening skies, for around 10 days from today we can discover it in the morning sky. On August 10 Mercury rises at 4:30 CEST, it then disappears into the haze, then it rises higher and we have a good chance of seeing it in the sky around 4:50 CEST.

August 12: The Moon meets Saturn

We have almost full Moon, so the sky is brightly lit, but Saturn shines clearly visibly and just 5° from the Moon. If our gaze wanders a little more to the right and a few degrees higher, we will also find Jupiter.

August 12: The Perseids

Every year we look forward to the most beautiful shooting stars of the year: the Perseids. In the morning of August 12 the meteor shower reaches its peak. Up to 100 shooting stars per hour rain down, thundering through our atmosphere at incredible speeds of around 216,000 km/h. The peak will be reached between 22:00 CEST and 4:00 CEST. Unfortunately this year the almost full, and far too bright, Moon will disrupt the display so that we are likely to only be able to observe the very brightest shooting stars. It’s best to find a spot away from the direct glare of the Moon. We have the comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle to thank for this meteor shower, which lost part of its mass on its orbit around the Sun. Whenever the Earth crosses the orbit of the original comet in August, the Perseids shoot across our corner of the sky.

August 23: Occultation of the Hyades by the Moon

Unfortunately, it’s not until the early hours that we can observe an interesting occultation of the star 61 Tau by the Moon. Such occultations of the Hyades star cluster are particularly interesting because it contains many bright stars and we can sometimes even see multiple occultations. Around 4:40 CEST the Moon approaches from its illuminated side and snuffs out the 3.7 magnitude bright star. The star remains hidden behind the Moon for a little more than an hour. At 6:00 CEST, as if out of nowhere, it suddenly reappears. Important: point your telescope at the Moon a few minutes beforehand to ensure you don’t get the timing wrong.

August 27: Occultation of Delta Geminorum (Wasat) by the Moon

The Moon has migrated to the next constellation in recent days and is about to enter its new Moon phase. Before sunrise, it occults a really bright star: this time the double star 55 Gem in the constellation Gemini. The Moon, at this stage just a thin sickle-shape in the sky, approaches from its illuminated side. At 5:50 CEST the time has come: the star disappears behind the Moon and reappears nearly an hour later at 6:40 CEST. But by then the Sun has long since risen, the sky is bright and so the reappearance is difficult to observe with a telescope.

Infographic: Astronomy Highlights Spring 2019

February 28 2019, Joshua Taboga

As the temperatures grow warmer, many stargazers are ready to head outside regularly again. In the spring, the sky shows us a completely different face. But what is there to see? What is worth looking for?

Your sky calendar for the next three months: The new astronomy infographic, “Highlights of the Spring Sky,” shows you what will be happening in the sky from March through May 2019, at a glance.

 

March

March 3: The Planet Chain – the Moon, Venus, Saturn and Jupiter at Dawn

A good reason to get up early: this morning, we can see the planets Jupiter, Saturn and Venus lined up like beads on a necklace. Starting at around 6 am, the Moon will peek up over the horizon and join the show. The constellations Scorpius and Sagittarius are the first heralds of summer, but it will be a long time before they are visible in the evening sky.

March 11: The Moon Meets Mars

To the naked eye or with binoculars, the Moon and Mars offer a pretty sight. They are close together, only 5 degrees apart. The Moon is just 5 days old today and shaped like a crescent.

March 16: The Golden Handle

A fascinating occurrence: the “Golden Handle” on the Moon. Like a handle made of light, it breaks through the Moonlit night just past the terminator. We can see Mare Imbrium near the Sinus Iridum crater and the tall Montes Jura range. This is where the Sun rises in the twilight zone. But while the crater is still in the dark, the Sun bathes the circular mountaintops of Montes Jura in sunlight. A golden ring in the darkness.

March 27: The Moon Meets Jupiter

Tonight, the Moon does not rise until after midnight. But it isn’t alone. It is accompanied by Jupiter, and they will travel together across the sky for the rest of the night. Jupiter will remain just below the Moon, about 50 arcseconds away.

 

 

April

April 5: Asteroid Iris in Opposition

Iris is one of the largest asteroids in the asteroid belt. This chunk of space rock has a diameter of 200 kilometers. On April 5 it will be in opposition to the Sun, reaching a brightness of 9.4 mag.

April 9: Asteroid Pallas in Opposition

The asteroid Pallas comes into opposition this month, reaching a brightness of 7.9 mag. Theoretically, it can be spotted with a pair of binoculars, and definitely with a telescope. But it appears as just another tiny dot among the stars. Between April 10 and 12, Pallas will pass by the 2.6-mag η Boötis – a great orientation point, because both objects appear in the same ocular field of view.

April 9: A Meeting of the Moon, Mars and Aldebaran

This evening the narrow crescent of the Moon will appear in the Taurus constellation, along with Mars and the constellation’s bright main star, Aldebaran.

April 11: Mercury’s Largest Western Elongation

Mercury orbits the Sun so quickly and so closely that we cannot always see it. But right now, Mercury has a large angle distance from the Sun at 27°. Still, it will be almost impossible to make out around daybreak.

April 12: Virginids

The Virginids are a meteor shower that come from the Virgo constellation. They show relatively little activity, with at most 5 shooting stars per hour. The best time to observe them is around midnight.

April 22: Lyrids

The Lyrids are a meteor shower that will produce just 10 to 20 meteors an hour at their peak on April 22. The best time to observe them is between 10 pm and 4 am; before midnight, we can enjoy the view without the disruptive Moon. The radiant, in other words the place where the shower begins, is located in the Lyra constellation.

April 25: The Moon Meets Saturn

Tonight, the Moon will pay another visit to the ringed planet. We can see this beautiful sight in the early morning hours, starting at around 3 am. Above it and to the right is the planet Jupiter, glowing with a brightness of -2.4 mag. The chain made up of these planets and the Moon offers a good opportunity to take beautiful atmospheric pictures.

 

May

May 6: Occultation of 61 Tau (For Experts)

The Moon’s path will lead through the Taurus constellation and the Hyades cluster, creating various interesting occultations with bright stars. This evening, the stars 61 Tau and 68 Tau will be hidden by the wafer-thin crescent Moon. One problem: the occultations will take place in the day sky or in the very early twilight sky, just above the horizon. At 7:18 pm CEST, the star 61 Tau (still in the day sky) will disappear on the unilluminated side of the Moon and reappear on the other side just under an hour later. Caution: at the time of the occultation, the Sun will still be in the sky. Do not stare at the Sun! Because it will still be daytime, the occultation cannot be seen from everywhere.
The next occultation, which can be observed from more southern regions, will be better: at 8:47 pm CET, the Moon will cover the star 68 Tau, and at 9:30 pm CET it will reappear on the other side.

May 8: The Moon Meets Mars

On the evenings of May 7 and 8, the Moon and Mars will come together. The Moon’s crescent will only be 8.8% illuminated, giving it a delicate look against the colorful evening sky. On the 7th the Red Planet will shine just 5 degrees above the Moon, and on the evening of the 8th the Moon will have overtaken Mars, moving from Taurus to the Gemini constellation.

May 18: Blue Moon

A “Blue Moon” has become defined as the point when we have a full Moon twice in one month.  However, the older definition of “Blue Moon” refers to the third full Moon out of four in one season and is called a Seasonal Blue Moon. Occurring about every 2.5 years, the name has nothing to do with the color of the Moon, which is the same for every full Moon.

May 20: The Moon Meets Jupiter

At 10:30 CEST, the Moon and Jupiter will cross the horizon and travel together through the second half of the night, until Sunrise. For most of the night, they will be the brightest objects in the sky. Venus only begins to shine in the East starting in the early morning.

A PDF of this infographic can be found HERE.

 

03.07.2020
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