Quadratids and Astronomy night -14th Jan 2014

 Quadratids Meteor Shower

Luckily I had consulted my Southern Sky Astronomy Calender and knew to look out for this Meteor shower. The Quadrantids Meteor shower is one that is generally considered to be a northern hemisphere event, so I was unsure what I would get when I set out to observe it on Saturday morning  the 4th of January 2014 from Gove NT, at a latitude of 12.2 degrees South. I was pleasantly surprised to at what I saw.

The first 2 Meteors were brief and faint but clearly Quadratids. I was then delighted to see a bright Quadratid rising up from the seaward horizon and lasting several seconds, like a bright marine flare !  There were several more like this and then the ones skimming the horizon, as the radiant rose higher, seemed to flare into visibility and disappear with a flash !

All in all we saw 7 Quadrantids  either rising up from the horizon or skimming it, as they did in the later part of the hour between 4 and 5 am.  The Quadranids are quite easy to pick being relatively slow moving compared to other showers. It was certainly well worth the effort of getting up for, at least from our northerly location. As luck would have it the clouds rolled in just as the sky started to brighten, so we got the best of it.

1st Observing Night – 2014

With the skies continuing to be clear I held an observing night for our Club Gove Amateur Astronomers.

For ease of setup I chose the clubs Meade LX-90 8″ Schmidt Cassegrain Go-To telescope. This proved to be a good choice as we got to see a few bright DSO’s (Deep Sky Objects) that I would not have normally picked up.

There were 6 other club members there on the night, making it easy to work our way across the sky. The typical favourites were the first to be observed, with the rapidly setting thin crescent moon, the first cab off the rank. For several members this was their first time looking through a telescope of a substantial size and quality, so they were blown away by the sharp detail of the craters and mountain ranges of the moon.

 Copernicus & Mare Ibrium

It’s not that hard to get great images of the moon either. This image of The Mare Ibrium and the bright crater Copernicus were taken by myself, with a simple point and shoot digital camera, albeit mounted on a 10″ scope , on a night of good “seeing” with a quality eyepiece.

 We moved on from the moon, to the #1 Eye candy nebula in the sky, the Great Orion Nebula, filling the field of view of the 40mm eyepiece. The 2nd best (arguably) Globular Cluster in the sky in 47 Toucana was the next target, showing a bright condensed core and a tight peppering of stars around the core.

The dark spidery arms of the Tarantula nebula was the next target with its huge expanse filling the field of view of a 32mm wide field Panoptic eyepiece. By this time Jupiter was ring high enough for good viewing with all of the moons visible & a clear view of the 2 cloud bands with occasional details apparent with a 13mm Nagler Eyepiece. Andromeda Galaxy spilled out of the edges of view with the telescope so the views through a 16×60 pair of Pentax binoculars gave a much better feel for the expanse of this galaxy of over 1 trillion stars 2.5 million light years distant. Its true size apparent, by the fact you can see this galaxy with the naked eye !

Using the dead accurate go-to capabilities of the recently serviced  LX-90 we were able to find and see the reminants of the 1056 Supernova in the Crab nebula & on to the planetary nebula “The Eskimo Nebula” the reminants of a nova star that blinks in and out of view each time you look away and back to it (a trick of our rod & cone optic cells of our eyes)

All in all it was a very satisfying evening of viewing with a peppering of meteors, most of which had a radiant close to the zenith (straight up). It is unusual to get such a clear night in January so it was greatly appreciate by all present. I look forward to our next observing night, but it might be a while as rain is now forecast, as you would expect at this time of the year.

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