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PostPosted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 8:17 am 
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Look Up! Grab Your Binoculars to See a Newfound Comet

https://www.space.com/38382-comet-asas- ... ulars.html

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 1:44 pm 
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Again, it seems we have non-observers reporting on viewing a celestial object. While I have generally have great respect for Joe Rao's articles, he's probably overly optimistic on this comet, for which the correct name is C/2017 O1 (ASASSN). The discovery attribution goes inside parentheses and there is no hyphen, since a hyphen would suggest co-discoverers.

In any case, the comet is currently in the 9+ magnitude range based on reports I read on the comet e-groups, and from personal experience, I can say that it's a difficult binocular object. After several failures to spot it with binoculars, I finally picked it up on the morning of September 29, 2017, in a dark, moon-free sky in the middle of Wharton State Forest. At the time, 2:14 am EDT, M31 was easily visible to unaided eyes.

I thought I might have seen something in my 16x70 binoculars, but it wasn't until I looked with my 85 mm spotting scope (and cranking it up to the 60x maximum magnification) that I could say for sure that I saw the comet. It was just a dim patch of haze, without a tail, 12° northeast of the Pleiades (about a degree from 55 & 56 Persei).

The November 2017 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine has an article about C/2017 O1 starting on page 48. It has nice finder charts, but also seems overly optimistic about its brightness, suggesting "it should glow at about 7th magnitude from early October through mid-November, and could reach 6th in mid-October." It's already short of that.

However, I don't want to dissuade anybody from looking, especially with a scope. Quite the opposite -- try for it after the moon is out of the way.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 2:11 pm 
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I was out to the Pit in Wharton State Forest last night (October 17-18, 2017), from about 11:30 pm to 3:30 am. Sky conditions were excellent. I could see magnitude 5.7 Uranus with unaided eyes and the majority of the time without averted vision. M31 was also easy to see, and through the 12.5-inch scope, NGC 206 (the star cloud in M31) was not difficult. More often than not under New Jersey skies, NGC 206 is difficult or impossible to see in a 12.5-inch scope.

Anyway, I looked for Comet C/2017 O1 (ASASSN), of course. I could not see it with my 16x70 binoculars (it was about 50 to 70° altitude during our session, so that wasn't a problem). In the scope, it was an amorphous, faint patch with no hint of color that I could see. Regardless, I thought it was nice, but I'm used to seeing dim comets. It certainly isn't a "binocular comet" as touted by armchair commentators.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 3:28 pm 
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Joe,

Does one need special permission for stargazing in Wharton?

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 3:04 pm 
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Chris,

I suppose that some sort of permission for night use might be the case for all of the State Forests, not just Wharton. I don't have any such permission, but my perspective is that until somebody (e.g., the State Park Police) chases me off, I’ll just keep going out to observe at night in the Pines.

I’ve never seen any signs prohibiting forest use at night and I don’t cause any damage to the forest, which is no different than the daytime. They did put up a sign where Tuckerton Rd veers off as a sand road from Carranza Rd, a few miles above the turnoff to Carranza Field. It warns against use of off-road vehicles in designated areas (aimed, I presume, at those who dig mud holes in the sand roads and produce “donuts” in open areas). Ironically, there's a statement that it’s illegal to remove or deface the sign. I’m surprised that the last time I paid attention, the sign didn’t have any bullet holes or indentations in it.

I know that the WAS (West Jersey Astronomical Society, formerly the Willingboro Astronomical Society) is currently working to reestablish its permit to use Atsion on the western edge of Wharton, but there will be some bureaucracy involved in using the field; apparently, among other things, there has to be a club officer present to make it official, so that means scheduling needs to be worked out. Since I’m an observing opportunist (I often make plans at the last minute), it doesn’t interest me that much… not to mention the light pollution to the west.

Access to Coyle Field is also being pursued by the WAS, and that does interest me. Hopefully, when it comes about, it will allow use under circumstances similar to those under the now-defunct Coyle Field Astronomers – just know the lock combo and carry a permission card, not the Atsion-like bureaucracy.
Since Coyle is a unit of the State Forest Fire Service, and is not specifically a State Forest (although both are under the NJ DEP’s Division of Parks and Forestry), the situation might be different there. We'll see.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep on doing what I’ve been doing. In fact, tonight (actually, tomorrow morning, October 20), presents a nice opportunity. The combination of a steep morning ecliptic, a new moon and potentially fine weather means the Zodiacal Light will be in position for viewing.

So, if it is indeed clear, I want to get out to Carranza before the onset of astronomical twilight, which begins at 5:44 am EDT. I’ll look for C/2017 O1 (ASASSN) too. It reaches upper culmination shortly before 4 am at a neck-busting 73° altitude. I’ll check the weather around 2 to 3 am, then make a final decision on whether or not to go.

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 21, 2017 9:21 am 
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I made it to Carranza Field on Friday morning, October 20, mainly to look for the Zodiacal Light before morning twilight, but transparency in the east wasn't so good, so I didn't see it. While I was there, I took a snapshot of C/2017 O1. I've attached an animated GIF with labels.

The comet doesn't exactly jump out, and may even be difficult to find without the labels. I saw it again last night from the Pines with a different 12.5-inch scope (a duplicate of my own), and several fellow observers were underwhelmed by it.


Attachments:
File comment: Taken on 20-Oct-2017 at 4:27 am EDT with a Canon 6D + a Canon 200 mm f/2.8L lens on a fixed tripod. It's a single frame exposed 4 seconds at f/2.8, ISO 6400.
IMG_0564-adj.gif
IMG_0564-adj.gif [ 555.55 KiB | Viewed 99 times ]

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