Saturday, November 17, 2007

Comet Holmes from Columbia U. Outreach

Session name: 20071116.2015

I headed up to Columbia University's outreach event to meet up with Kin & Charlie. Jan Kratochvil was giving a public lecture on digital imaging. I recently met Jan at the Urban Starfest. When I arrived Jan was the only one in the classroom as others were on the rooftop inside the domes. This allowed for some one-on-one where he showed & told of panoramic shots and described how to make a gigapixel panorama.

From the rooftop, I could see with the unaided eye Comet Holmes as a very dim smudge near Mirfak in an 8 o'clock direction. Some cirrus clouds coating parts of the sky while more offending stratus clouds approached from the southwest did not distract us from looking. In the binoculars it was more obvious as a large pale ghost of what it was weeks before. The 12.5" telescope offered no justice as the comet's low, low surface brightness does not contrast well with our background sky. Some of the public said they couldn't see it. The comet is noticeably larger but I don't recall if I saw the brighter central condensation. I do know I didn't see the pseudo nucleus. Observing Comet Holmes in low power binoculars continues to provide the most pleasuring and satisfying view, especially with the star field it inhabits.

Local astronomer and comet hunter Tony Hoffman shares a photo of the comet on the same night from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn.

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Small city. News spreads fast.

Session name: 20071117.1330

While passing through Union Square, heard some chess players chatting to one another while they wait for challengers and overheard them speak of the guy with the huge camera. "I don't know what he's photographing but he should be taking pictures of me." said one of them just before he chuckled.

I looked around to see Lincoln inside of the park with others nearby. I asked what's up and he gestured to the tree where a Buteo jamaicensis perched stately on a Gleditsia triacanthos. As I stood there, pedestrians like me pulled out our point-n-shoots while Lincoln and what seemed to be a growing number of birders accumulated beneath the Red-tailed Hawk. I said to myself, "Word spreads fast."

Check out Lincoln's site of spectacular photographs of red-tailed hawks around the city.

Who's Pale Male?

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Urban Starfest 2007

Session name: 20071110.1900

The skies were clear for Urban Starfest, an annual astronomy event organized by the Amateur Astronomers Association (AAA) and the Urban Park Rangers. Many of the AAA members showed up with their optics ranging from small to large. Refractors, reflectors, Schmidt-Cassegrain, and binoculars swinging from neck straps were shared with maybe 100 persons that passed through.

Jan Kratochvil shares photographs of the Urban Starfest 2007.

Comet Holmes was a popular object as a naked eye object and through various optics. Personally, I liked the 7x50 view which showed the comet right beside the Alpha Persei Association. I showed one person where to look and point the bins. After locating it they would pass the bins to someone else and tell them where and what to look for. Cries of "Eureka" marked off repeated successes. This would continue for half a dozen or more people at a time and at different times over the course of the session. (And I didn't lost my bins.)

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Comet Holmes shines above the street lamps

Comet Holmes above the NYC street lampSession name: 20071106.2000

Skies cleared up after the rain where a naked eye limiting magnitude was in the neighborhood of magnitude 5. Comet Holmes continues to be seen naked eye from New York City, even from well lit spots in the city. Find some shade if you can and look toward Mirfak to see an obvious non-stellar object nearby.

Artists' Rock, an outcrop of Manhattan Schist behind Artists' Gate is not the ideal place to observe from (view of area) yet this photo shows a good likeness of the night sky with acute vision unaided. The four brighter stars of Alpha Persei Association show between Mirfak and delta Per.

The comet continues grow in size, my estimate based on ~7 comet diameters to in the 22x60 binoculars' 2.1° field of view is about 18'. The brightness profile consists of an evenly illuminated central condensation surrounded by a paler ring. The coma is about 3 central condensation diameters across. The psuedonucleus was not detected. In acsii it could appear like __/---\__

Its location has moved west, north of west, morphing the right triangle it created with Mirfak and delta Per last week to a flat isosceles.

I find the observation with 7x50 binoculars to be the most pleasing. It takes in the large, richer field of stars that contrast sharply with this dandelion interloper, ready for a breath of air to blow it apart.

Another pleasing view was the Double Cluster observed in the Tak bins. Framed nicely the clusters reveal the stardust that clings around some of the brighter stars; all the while sitting on a bed of uneven faint light.

Marked up photo || unmarked photo

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