Sunday, October 3, 2010

Comet, planet and fear of the attacking UFO

A couple weeks ago, Jupiter reached opposition. That is when the Earth is exactly lined up between Jupiter and the sun.  Therefore, Jupiter will rise at sunset, be at it's highest point in the sky at midnight, and set at sunrise.  Also, it's the closest point the planet will come to the Earth, and appear at it's largest in telescopes.  This opposition will be the closest pass to Earth in almost 50 years.  Next time it's this close will be in 2022, so get out and take a look at it.
Those who don't understand the basics get a little confused and probably frightened of the bright thing in the sky and feel they need to call 911 for protection against the alien spacecraft!  Some people in Port Angeles, Washington are now famous (and probably learned a little about astronomy) in the recent clear nights here in the Northwest since they have called the authorities to report a UFO in the sky.  Fortunately, officers knew that the danger was only Jupiter and informed them not to fear the big planet.
I took a few shots of Jupiter last week and here is the best of the batch.  My astronomer friend David and I got together on a cloudy night and combined our processing skills and came up with this nice image of the planet.  The dot on the left is the volcanic moon Io.  The image is made from a stack of about 250 images taken with a cheap $40 webcam on the 12" Meade LX200 scope.
I then swung the scope around to the east and captured some images of Comet 103P/Hartley which is just passing below Cassiopeia these evenings.   The first image is 11 images stacked with the comet head as the reference.  The next is an animation showing the movement of the comet over a period of about an hour.  See here for location in the sky of the comet. (click image below to see the animation)


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