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Archive for March 2020

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, 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.

Now available: the new MGEN autoguider from Lacerta!

March 19 2020, Stefan Taube

An autoguider is a very important accessory when taking astronomy photos involving long exposure times. The autoguider is a tracking control device that ensures that the mount always keeps the telescope pointing as precisely as possible at the astronomical object desired. The autoguider images a bright star on a separate camera in order to achieve this. The autoguider then uses the apparent movement of this star to calculate the appropriate control movements for the mount.

Lacerta Stand Alone Autoguider MGEN Version 3

Lacerta MGEN Version 3 stand-alone autoguider

It is possible to use a simple planetary camera, a laptop and free software from the Internet for this type of tracking control. The MGEN autoguider from Lacerta has also proven itself to be excellent. But the great advantage of using the MGEN autoguider is that you don’t even need a laptop or PC; hence the term ‘stand-alone’ autoguider. In particular, this type of stand-alone solution makes astrophotography with SLR cameras much easier, as you do not need a laptop when using this type of camera.

The MGEN autoguider also comes supplied with a matching camera and already has all the necessary software – simpler autoguiding is just not possible! Another great advantage is that the MGEN autoguider does not just use a single star for the tracking control, but several. This has the effect of increasing accuracy considerably! The following graphic comes from a test by the manufacturer and illustrates the higher precision you achieve with multi-star guiding:

Durch das Multistar Guiding ist die Nachführkontrolle unabhängig vom Seeing.

Multi-star guiding also means that tracking control is less dependent on the seeing.

The new version MGEN-3 autoguider offers many other improvements:

  • improved hardware allows the new, self-learning, AI multi-star guiding.
  • the large colour display makes operation easier.
  • the new quick-start function allows guiding to commence at the push of a button!
  • polar alignment using the digital Scheiner method.
  • power supply via USB (5V), only 1.2 watts.

This is, however, just a small selection. You can find the entire list of advantages on the Lacerta MGEN Version 3 stand-alone autoguider webpage.

Omegon wide-field binoculars: 30 Euro discount on the super eye

March 13 2020, Marcus Schenk

The wide-field binoculars are a compact tool for observing the star field. You can use it to observe stars, constellations or the Milky Way. However, not as with classic binoculars, but as if your eyes were significantly more sensitive and stronger. Or as if you suddenly had a super eye.


Wide-field binoculars 2,1×42

Now cheaper
Get the Omegon binoculars 2.1×42 for star field observation now at an especially favorable price, because we have reduced it from 179,- to 149,-. You save 30,- Euro compared to the normal price.

Imagine that you see as many stars from the city as you do in the country. Imagine that on a warm evening in the Milky Way you see star clusters and large nebulae. And all this with a tool that looks like stargazing glasses and not binoculars. You may gaze at the starry sky again. This is the Omegon wide-field binoculars.

The advantages at a glance:
– Like glasses with which you look at the starry sky.

– Extremely bright: 42mm opening and 2.1x magnification.

– Wide range of vision: Observe complete constellations in one field of view.

– See significantly more stars than with the naked eye – even with light pollution.

– Pleasant view, even with glasses.

Enjoy the fantastic views of the starry sky with the wide-field binoculars.

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.


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.


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.


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.

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