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Friday, 31 January 2014

Supernova in M82 Peaks

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Alan MacRobert
OBSERVING BLOG by Alan MacRobert

Supernova in M82 Reaches Its Peak

Supernova 2014J in M82 has finally stopped brightening, at about magnitude 10.5. The galaxy and supernova are visible in amateur telescopes in the northeast during evening.

Last updated January 31st

Supernova in Messier 82
The supernova in M82 as imaged by Leonid Elenin (Lyubertsy, Russia) and I. Molotov (Moscow, Russia) on Jan. 22.396. It's located at right ascension 9h 55m 42.2s, declination +69° 40′ 26″. It was V magnitude 11.7 at the time.
Leonid Elenin
On January 21st a group of astronomy students spotted a supernova in M82, the famous nearby irregular galaxy in Ursa Major. It continues to swell, becoming easier to see in smaller and smaller telescopes, and now seems to be peaking at about V magnitude 10.5 (as of January 31st). Here's a preliminary light curve, right up to date, from the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO). The supernova is still showing its same orange tint due to reddening by dust within M82.

Shortly after its discovery, Yi Cao and colleagues at Caltech took a spectrum that suggested it was two weeks away from reaching its peak brightness in the first few days of February. This and other spectra showed it to be a Type Ia supernova — an exploded white dwarf — with debris expanding at up to 20,000 kilometers per second. Because it appears reddened, it must also be dimmed by dust along our line of sight. By one estimate, it would be two magnitudes brighter if we were seeing it in the clear.

Supernova in Messier 82
Before and after. The supernova image, taken remotely by Ernesto Guido, Nick Howes, and Martino Nicolini on January 22.3, shows the exploded star at unfiltered CCD magnitude 11.3. Their website.
Ernesto Guido / Nick Howes / Martino Nicolini
M82 is a near neighbor as galaxies go, at a distance of 11 or 12 million light-years. It's a favorite for amateur astronomers and researchers alike with its thick dust bands, sprays of hydrogen gas, and bright center undergoing massive star formation. The supernova is not in the central star-forming region but off to one side, 58 arcseconds to the west-southwest.

Remarkably, the supernova went undiscovered for nearly a week as it brightened. Prediscovery unfiltered CCD images by Koichi Itagaki of Yamagata, Japan, show nothing at its location to as faint as magnitude 17.0 through January 14.5. But it was magnitude 14.4 on January 15.6, 13.9 on January 16th, 13.3 on January 17th, 12.2 on January 19th, and 11.9 on January 20th. (Images.) So the actual explosion occurred (from Earth's viewpoint) late on January 14th or early on the 15th Universal Time.

It received the name Supernova 2014J once its nature was confirmed. It originally went by the preliminary designation PSN J09554214+6940260.

The M81-M82 galaxy pair, 23° apart, lie in a dim region of Ursa Major off the Big Dipper. They're detectable in a large finderscope in a dark sky. Once you've recognized the general area, you'll probably need this more detailed finder chart.
Sky & Telescope diagram
Where to Look

M82 is well up in the northeast by 7 or 8 p.m. (for observers at mid-northern latitudes). The waxing crescent Moon begins to light the evening sky noticeably after about February 2nd or 3rd, so don't wait.

Here's a comparison-star chart from the AAVSO. On the chart north is up, east is left, and the field is ½° wide; star magnitudes are given to the nearest tenth with the decimal point omitted. The galaxy shows up as an elongated swarm of faint dots. (If you want other parameters, you can make your own chart using the AAVSO Variable Star Plotter; for star name enter SN 2014J.)

Here's the preliminary AAVSO light curve with photometry in the B, V, and R bands (blue, "visual," and red light) as well as eyeball estimates (shown black). So far the light curve is developing just as expected for a reddened Type Ia supernova.

Italian observer Gianluca Masi hosted an online supernova-imaging session with his Virtual Telescope Project on January 25th. Click on the link to see a replay of the hour-long event.

Here's a wide-field view of M81 and M82 including the supernova, for a broader perspective.

Supernova in M82
S&T senior editor Dennis di Cicco captured M82's supernova on the evening of January 23rd with an Officina Stellare 12-inch f/7.9 RiDK 305 astrograph.
S&T: Dennis di Cicco & Sean Walker

A Flukey Find

The first people to recognize the supernova were a group of students — Ben Cooke, Tom Wright, Matthew Wilde and Guy Pollack, assisted by teaching fellow Stephen J. Fossey — taking a quick image at the University of London Observatory (within the London city limits!) on the evening of January 21st at 19:20 UT.

"The discovery was a fluke," says a university press release,

—a 10-minute telescope workshop for undergraduate students that led to a global scramble to acquire confirming images and spectra.

"The weather was closing in, with increasing cloud," Fossey says. "So instead of the planned practical astronomy class, I gave the students an introductory demonstration of how to use the CCD camera on one of the observatory’s automated 0.35-meter telescopes."

The students chose M82, a bright and photogenic galaxy, as their target, as it was in one of the shrinking patches of clear sky. While adjusting the telescope’s position, Fossey noticed a star overlaid on the galaxy which he did not recognise from previous observations.

They inspected online archive images of the galaxy, and it became apparent that there was indeed a new starlike object in M82. With clouds closing in, they switched to taking a rapid series of 1- and 2-minute exposures through different colour filters to check that the object persisted, and to be able to measure its brightness and colour.

The original press release, and a BBC story repeating it, claimed that this is the nearest supernova since Supernova 1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud. In fact, SN 1993J in M81 was at essentially the same distance within the uncertainties, and two subsequent supernovae, SN 2004am and SN 2008iz (an obscured radio supernova), occurred within M82 itself.

However, this is said to be the nearest Type Ia supernova since 1972. That's the kind so valuable for measuring the size and expansion rate of the universe. Despite the dimming and reddening, astronomers hope that SN 2014J will provide new details about exactly what happens in these "standard-candle" explosions.

Update: Supernova in Another Messier Galaxy

Don't get your hopes up, but another supernova, SN 2014L, has appeared in M99 in Coma Berenices high in the late-night sky. It was only magnitude 15.7 as of January 28.4 UT, way too faint for most amateur scopes, but it was only about magnitude 17.2 when discovered on January 26th. More information and images.

It was still being reported at the same magnitude 15.7 as of January 29.4 UT.

M99 is a spiral galaxy about 50 million light-years away in the Virgo Cluster, four times as far as M82. It has hosted three previous known supernovae (1967H, 1972Q, and 1986I) and the odd lesser outburst PTF 10fqs.

Posted by Alan MacRobert, January 31, 2014
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First comments (from 20)

Backyard astronomy

Posted by Anthony Barreiro January 22, 2014 At 11:08 AM PST
This is very exciting news, thanks. I'm glad I happened to check the S&T website today. Tonight, Wednesday January 22, was already going to be interesting, with Algol at minimum brightness at 2220 PST, Europa and Europa's shadow transiting Jupiter from 2018 to 2352 PST, and Jupiter's great red spot at the central meridian at 2232 PST. We're having a drought here in California, so the weather has been remarkably good for skywatching. I'll add M82's supernova to my list for tonight. By the way, Sky and Telescope used to send out occasional email alerts for special events like supernovae. Do you still do this? Do I need to sign up again?

on-line video of M82 SN

Posted by Ron January 22, 2014 At 11:25 AM PST
Check out this video on youtube. they have the SN live and even talk about (lack of) them in M82 and don't recognize a new star is right there on the image!

Nearest Supernova?

Posted by Jon Hanford January 23, 2014 At 06:18 AM PST
Not only was SN1993J in M81 at about the same distance, two supernovae have appeared in M82 since 1987, SN2004am and SN2008iz(a radio supernova). SN2004am, a Type II-P SN, appeared very close to the position of the current SN: Additional info on these two supernovae in M82 can be found here:

a special supernova

Posted by Paul Vondra January 23, 2014 At 09:23 PM PST
My 86-year-old mother passed away this afternoon, peacefully, at home, after suffering a second stroke on Monday. She never regained consciousness. Unscientific though it is, I will always think of this as her Special Guidelight as she sets sail across that Vast and Unknown Sea. I live in Pittsburgh where it has been cloudy and bitterly cold since I first heard of the supernova yesterday but I intend to set up my scope the first clear chance i get regardless of the temp. to see it. The only other supernova I've ever seen was the one in M101 a year or two back and I'm hoping this one may get a little brighter.

a special supernova

Posted by Bruce Mayfield January 24, 2014 At 05:15 AM PST
Paul, sorry to read of your loss. I lost my mother a few years back. While we know scientifically that astronomical and human events are unrelated, seeing something special at a time of great loss can bring comfort, so I hope you are able to personally observe SN2014J, and may your heart be warmed when you do. But science alone doesn’t offer much hope though. Reflecting on these verses were some of the many that brought me hope and comfort when my mother passed; Job 14:14,15 and Acts 24:15.

Max Mag of M82 SN

Posted by Tom Hoffelder January 24, 2014 At 02:50 PM PST
Happy to see the "very tentative" prediction of mag 10.1 as the maximum. I have seen other sources saying as bright as 8. They must be ignoring the reddening caused by dust.

M82 supernova

Posted by John Mahlberg January 24, 2014 At 06:55 PM PST
I could just barely glimpse the super nova tonight through a 90 MM scope in central Colorado.

M82 Supernova

Posted by mrvair January 25, 2014 At 09:38 AM PST
Events like this supernova remind me of Psalms 19:1.

M82 Supernova

Posted by Bruce January 25, 2014 At 04:15 PM PST
That's one of my favorite verses too Mrvair. I hope to see this, but only have 10x50 binoculars. In a fairly dark sky, what appartent magnatude would this SN have to reach to be detectable?

M82 Supernova in Binoculars

Posted by Hal Lane January 25, 2014 At 07:48 PM PST
Bruce, This PDF: "Limiting Magnitude in Binoculars" answers your question: "what appartent magnatude would this SN have to reach to be detectable [in 10x50 binos]?" -- but you'll have to do a bit of reading to find it... Note that the author of the paper used a tripod and averted vision (looking very slightly away from the object being looked for) for their tests... In the PDF the 3rd page has a list of useful abbreviations used in the paper. Please post whether you were able to see 2014J or not, and the circumstances (sky darkness, etc.) of your attempt! - Hal Lane

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Good Clear Skies
Colin James Watling
Various Voluntary work-Litter Picking for Parish Council (Daytime) and also a friend of Kessingland Beach (Watchman)
Real Astronomer and head of the Comet section for LYRA (Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth Regional Astronomers) also head of K.A.G (Kessingland Astronomy Group) and Navigator (Astrogator) of the Stars (Fieldwork)


Earlier Yesterday, the Moon eclipsed the sun. No one on Earth saw it. The "lunar transit" was only visible from space. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the whole thing from geosynchronous orbit:

At maximum eclipse as much as 90% of the sun was covered. SDO is solar powered, but it did not "brown out" because mission controllers put an extra charge on the spacecraft's batteries ahead of time.
Every year, SDO observes multiple lunar transits. This one, lasting almost 2.5 hours, was the longest in the history of the spacecraft's 4 year mission.

Good Clear Skies
Colin James Watling
Various Voluntary work-Litter Picking for Parish Council (Daytime) and also a friend of Kessingland Beach (Watchman)
Real Astronomer and head of the Comet section for LYRA (Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth Regional Astronomers) also head of K.A.G (Kessingland Astronomy Group) and Navigator (Astrogator) of the Stars (Fieldwork)

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Lunar Transit of the Sun

Space Weather News for Jan. 29, 2014

LUNAR TRANSIT:  The Moon is about to pass in front of the sun, producing an eclipse that can be seen only from space.  NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory will record the 2.5-hour  "lunar transit" beginning at 1331 UTC or 8:31 EST on Thursday, Jan. 30th.  Tune into for pictures during the event.

SOLAR FLARES: A large and moderately active sunspot is slowly turning toward Earth, increasing the chances of geoeffective solar activity this week. X-flare alerts are available from (text) and (voice).

Good Clear Skies
Colin James Watling
Various Voluntary work-Litter Picking for Parish Council (Daytime) and also a friend of Kessingland Beach (Watchman)
Real Astronomer and head of the Comet section for LYRA (Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth Regional Astronomers) also head of K.A.G (Kessingland Astronomy Group) and Navigator (Astrogator) of the Stars (Fieldwork)

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

[BAA-ebulletin 00783] SUPERNOVA 2014J, SN 2014G, PSN J12184868+1424435 and PNV J16161867+1151058

BAA electronic bulletin

A new supernovae, now designated SN 2014J, has been discovered in M82
by Stephen J. Fossey, University of London Observatory (ULO), on CCD
images obtained by himself and students B. Cooke, G. Pollack, M.
Wilde, and T. Wright.  They used the ULO 35-cm Schmidt-Cassegrain
telescope at Mill Hill, London, on 2014 Jan. 21.80UT. It is located
at: RA 9h 55m 42.14s DEC +69 40' 26.0" (2000), 54" west and 21" south
of the galaxy's centre. Their discovery is reported here

It is of type Ia-HV and its current magnitude is around 10.8.

Charts and a sequence may also be plotted using the AAVSO chart
plotter and entering SN 2014J.  This
can then be re-produced to any size and orientation by using the
"Return and Replot" facility at the top right of the chart.

SN 2014G
This supernovae was discovered separately by Koichi Itagaki and
Patrick Wiggins in NGC 3448 on 2014 Jan. 14.317 at mag 15.2 and is now
around mag 14.4.  It is at R.A. = 10h54m34s.13, Decl. = +54°17'56".9
some 44" west and 20" south of the centre. Discovery images can be
found here and here
This SN is of type IIn.

Charts and a sequence may also be plotted in the same way as for SN
2014J above.

PSN J12184868+1424435
This possible supernovae was discovered by the THU-NAOC Transient
Survey (TNTS) on 2014 Jan 26.830 in M99.  Its position is R.A. =
12h18m48s.68, Decl. = +14°24'43".5 and the PSN is located 14" west and
16" south of the center of M99.  A discovery image can be found here
and an animation here
Its mag is around 15.4.

No sequence is yet available for this object.

PNV J16161867+1151058
Finally, a possible new nova has been reported in Hercules at R.A.
16h16m18.67s Decl. +11°51'05.8" (J2000.0) at 13.1 mag (unfiltered) on
2014 January 24.824 UT.  It was discovered by H. Nishimura,
Shizuoka-ken, Japan, on four 30-s frames (limiting mag.= about 15)
using 200-mm f/3.2 lens + Canon digital camera, who writes nothing is
visible at this location on his past frames taken on 2014 Jan. 18.854
and 22.839 UT (limit mag.= 15) using same patrol camera.

A chart and sequence is already available for this object and may be
obtained as described above.

Roger Pickard, VSS Director
2014 Jan 28
BAA-ebulletin mailing list visit:
(c) 2013 British Astronomical Association

Good Clear Skies
Colin James Watling
Various Voluntary work-Litter Picking for Parish Council (Daytime) and also a friend of Kessingland Beach (Watchman)
Real Astronomer and head of the Comet section for LYRA (Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth Regional Astronomers) also head of K.A.G (Kessingland Astronomy Group) and Navigator (Astrogator) of the Stars (Fieldwork)

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Charts-info Astrosite Groningen (January 25, 2014)

Dear comet observers,    We have prepared the following new charts for our homepage:    C/2012 X1 (LINEAR):    - two 4.5x6.0 degrees charts for the period 27 January - 11 February 2014    C/2013 R1 (Lovejoy):    - a 4.5x6 degrees chart for the period 27 January - 10 February 2014    These new charts are now available in the charts section of our   mainpage at:    Reinder Bouma/Edwin van Dijk  ----------------------------------------------------------------------------    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Good Clear Skies
Colin James Watling
Various Voluntary work-Litter Picking for Parish Council (Daytime) and also a friend of Kessingland Beach (Watchman)
Real Astronomer and head of the Comet section for LYRA (Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth Regional Astronomers) also head of K.A.G (Kessingland Astronomy Group) and Navigator (Astrogator) of the Stars (Fieldwork)

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Bright Supernova in M82

Good Clear Skies
Colin James Watling
Various Voluntary work-Litter Picking for Parish Council (Daytime) and also a friend of Kessingland Beach (Watchman)
Real Astronomer and head of the Comet section for LYRA (Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth Regional Astronomers) also head of K.A.G (Kessingland Astronomy Group) and Navigator (Astrogator) of the Stars (Fieldwork)

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Supernova in nearby galaxy M82



          Electronic News Bulletin No. 368b  2014 January 22

Here is the latest round-up of news from the Society for Popular
Astronomy.  The SPA is Britain's liveliest astronomical society, with
members all over the world.  We accept subscription payments online
at our secure site and can take credit and debit cards.  You can join
or renew via a secure server or just see how much we have to offer by

By Robin Scagell

A relatively close supernova has exploded in the galaxy Messier 82

and may become bright enough to be observed in binoculars. M82 lies

about 11.4 million light-years away, which is relatively nearby,

making this already one of the brightest for many years.

Early images show the supernova as a bright blob against the cigar

shape of the galaxy, which can be found in the constellation of Ursa

Major and which is visible as a smudge in binoculars or a small


Estimates of its brightness put it at a little above 12th magnitude,

so it is a telescopic target. However, supernova experts say it was

discovered early in its explosive outburst and so could reach

magnitude 8.

The galaxy M82 is easy to find using the familiar star pattern of the

Big Dipper (also known as the Plough) which is part of the

constellation of Ursa Major. Just imagine a line extended through the

stars gamma and alpha and it will point to where the galaxy lies.

An image of the supernova was taken by SPA member Robin Scagell,

remotely using a telescope in New Mexico.

The supernova appears to have been discovered on Tuesday night by

tutor Dr Steve Fossey and his students, of University College London,

when they imaged the galaxy from the university's teaching

observatory at Mill Hill, north London.

It was confirmed by Russian astronomers L Elenin and I Molotov, using

a 0.4-metre telescope at the ISON-NM Observatory at Mayhill, New

Mexico. Its position is measured as 09h 55m 42s, +69d 40' 25.8", and

the discovery brightness was given as magnitude 11.7.

Remarkably, pre-discovery images have turned up showing that the

supernova was already apparent a week before discovery as it

brightened. But somehow it went unnoticed.

News of the supernova spread swiftly thanks to social media such as

Twitter, with excited professional astronomers comparing notes to

help themselves understand its significance! They will also be

scouring old Hubble images to see if they can se the star that

produced the supernova.

The SPA's Tony Markham, a formidable variable star observer, said:

"At its latest reported magnitude of 11.7, a telescope will be needed

to see the supernova. However given that it seems to have been

detected in its early stages it may well brighten further and could

even become visible in good binoculars."

Chris Lintott, of the University of Oxford, and presenter of The Sky

at Night, told us: "This is a nearby supernova, by astronomical

standards, and so we have the chance to learn about the causes and

processes that drive these spectacular events. Early indications are

this might be a type Ia - they're the type we use to measure the

expansion of the Universe and so that would be especially exciting."

The closest supernova of recent years was seen to explode in 1987 in

the Milky Way's companion galaxy the Large Magellanic Cloud. Labelled

SN1987A, it was of a different type to the new supernova, and reached

magnitude 3 though was too far south for UK observers to see.

Finder charts and images can be found at the SPA website:


Bulletin compiled by Clive Down

(c) 2014 the Society for Popular Astronomy

Our lively website:

Good Clear Skies
Colin James Watling
Various Voluntary work-Litter Picking for Parish Council (Daytime) and also a friend of Kessingland Beach (Watchman)
Real Astronomer and head of the Comet section for LYRA (Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth Regional Astronomers) also head of K.A.G (Kessingland Astronomy Group) and Navigator (Astrogator) of the Stars (Fieldwork)

Supernova in M82

Good Clear Skies
Colin James Watling
Various Voluntary work-Litter Picking for Parish Council (Daytime) and also a friend of Kessingland Beach (Watchman)
Real Astronomer and head of the Comet section for LYRA (Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth Regional Astronomers) also head of K.A.G (Kessingland Astronomy Group) and Navigator (Astrogator) of the Stars (Fieldwork)

Monday, 20 January 2014

[BAA-ebulletin 00781] National Astronomy Week 2014

BAA electronic bulletin
National Astronomy Week, 2014 March 01–08

The sixth National Astronomy Week (NAW) occurs from March 01–08. NAW is organised and promoted by a committee representing all the main astronomical organisations in the UK, including the BAA. Its purpose is to stimulate public interest in astronomy and space science through the organisation of events country-wide. The BAA is supporting NAW financially, and encourages all its members and affiliated societies and schools to organise, or otherwise take part in, events and activities aimed at bringing astronomy to the general public, particularly including observing activities.

The theme of this year's NAW is "Target Jupiter", drawing attention to the fact that Jupiter will be ideally placed for observation during the evening in early March, at more or less the highest altitude it can obtain from the UK. Towards the end of the week the waxing crescent Moon will also be an attractive evening target, and of course the impressive winter deep-sky objects in Taurus, Auriga, Gemini and Orion will still be visible.

There will be an associated Star Count project to assess light pollution levels across the country, in collaboration with the BAA Campaign for Dark Skies and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, plus educational projects, including an attempt to reproduce Rømer's measurement of the speed of light using phenomena of Jupiter's satellites, in association with Orwell Astronomical Society.

NAW should be well-supported by national and local media. The main source of information will be the NAW website:
This contains a calendar of events and a map showing where they are taking place in the country, as well as other information. Event organisers should register here (the process has been made as simple as possible) and input details of their events. Many events are already on there.

If you have any queries or require any further information, please contact the NAW Project Co-ordinator Mrs Laurie Marsden:


Phone: 01323 832731
Fax : 01323 832741

The Observatory Science Centre
East Sussex
BN27 1RN

E-bulletin issued by David Arditti, Council Member of the BAA, representing the Association on the NAW committee
BAA-ebulletin mailing list visit:
(c) 2013 British Astronomical Association
Good Clear Skies
Colin James Watling
Various Voluntary work-Litter Picking for Parish Council (Daytime) and also a friend of Kessingland Beach (Watchman)
Real Astronomer and head of the Comet section for LYRA (Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth Regional Astronomers) also head of K.A.G (Kessingland Astronomy Group) and Navigator (Astrogator) of the Stars (Fieldwork)

SPA ENB No. 368

          Electronic News Bulletin No. 368   2014 January 19

Here is the latest round-up of news from the Society for Popular
Astronomy.  The SPA is Britain's liveliest astronomical society, with
members all over the world.  We accept subscription payments online
at our secure site and can take credit and debit cards.  You can join
or renew via a secure server or just see how much we have to offer by

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Astronomers have discovered the first Earth-mass planet that transits,
or crosses in front of, its host star.  KOI-314c is the lightest
planet to have both its mass and physical size measured. Surprisingly,
although the planet weighs the same as Earth, it is 60 percent larger
in diameter, meaning that it must have a very thick, gaseous
atmosphere.  The planet might have the same mass as Earth, but it is
certainly not Earth-like and proves that there is no clear dividing
line between rocky worlds like Earth and fluffier planets like water
worlds or gas giants.   The team gleaned the planet's characteristics
using data from NASA's Kepler spacecraft.  KOI-314c orbits a dim, red
dwarf star located approximately 200 light-years away.  It circles its
star every 23 days.  The team estimates its temperature to be 105
degrees Centigrade.  KOI-314c is only 30 percent denser than water
which suggests that the planet is enveloped by a significant
atmosphere of hydrogen and helium hundreds of miles thick.  It might
have begun life as a mini-Neptune and lost some of its atmospheric
gases over time, boiled off by the intense radiation of its star.
Weighing such a small planet was a challenge.  Conventionally,
astronomers measure the mass of an exoplanet by measuring the tiny
wobbles of the parent star induced by the planet's gravity.  This
radial velocity method is extremely difficult for a planet with
Earth's mass.  The previous record holder for a planet with a measured
mass (Kepler-78b) weighed 70 percent more than Earth.  To weigh
KOI-314c, the team relied on a different technique known as transit
timing variations (TTV).  This method can only be used when more than
one planet orbits a star. The two planets tug on each other, slightly
changing the times that they transit their star.  Rather than looking
for a wobbling star, astronomers essentially look for a wobbling
planet, Kepler saw two planets transiting in front of the same star
over and over again.  By measuring the times at which these transits
occurred very carefully, they were able to discover that the two
planets are locked in an intricate dance of tiny wobbles giving away
their masses.  The second planet in the system, KOI-314b, is about the
same size as KOI-314c but significantly denser, weighing about 4 times
as much as Earth.  It orbits the star every 13 days, meaning it is in
a 5-to-3 resonance with the outer planet.  TTV is a very young method
of finding and studying exoplanets, first used successfully in 2010.
The planet was discovered by chance by the team as they scoured the
Kepler data not for exoplanets, but for exomoons.  The Hunt for
Exomoons with Kepler (HEK) project scans through Kepler's planet haul
looking for TTV, which can also be a signature of an exomoon.  When
astronomers noticed this planet showed transit timing variations, the
signature was clearly because of the other planet in the system and
not a moon.  At first they were disappointed it wasn't a moon but then
they soon realized it was an extraordinary measurement.

University of Toronto
An object located near and likely orbiting a very young star about 440
light years away from the Sun, is leading astrophysicists to believe
that there is not an easy-to-define line between what is and is not a
planet.  Astronomers have very detailed measurements of the object
spanning seven years, even a spectrum revealing its gravity,
temperature, and molecular composition.  Still they can't yet
determine whether it is a planet or a failed star -- what we call a
'brown dwarf'.  Depending on what measurement you consider, the answer
could be either.  Named ROXs 42Bb for it's proximity to the star
ROXs 42B, the object is approximately nine times the mass of Jupiter,
below the limit most astronomers use to separate planets from brown
dwarfs, which are more massive.  However, it is located 30 times
further away from the star than Jupiter is from the Sun.  Most
astronomers believe that gas giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn
formed by core accretion, whereby the planets form from a solid core
that then accretes a massive gaseous envelope.  Core accretion
operates most efficiently closer to the parent star owing to the
length of time required to first form the core.  An alternate theory
proposed for forming gas giant planets is disk instability -- a
process by which a fragment of a disk gas surrounding a young star
directly collapses under its own gravity into a planet.  This
mechanism works best farther away from the parent star.
Of the dozen or so other young objects with masses of planets observed
by the team, some have planet-to-star mass ratios less than about 10
times that Jupiter and are located within about 15 times Jupiter's
separation from the Sun.  Others have much higher mass ratios and/or
are located more than 50 times Jupiter's orbital separation,
properties that are similar to much more massive objects widely
accepted to not be planets.  The first group would be planets formed
by core accretion, and the second group probably formed just like
stars and brown dwarfs. In between these two populations is a big gap
separating true planets from other objects.  Astronomers say that the
new object starts to blur this distinction between planets and brown
dwarfs, and may lie within and begin to fill the gap.  It's very hard
to understand how this object formed like Jupiter did.  However, it's
also too low mass to be a typical brown dwarf; disk instability might
just work at its distance from the star.  It may represent a new class
of planets or it may just be a very rare, very low-mass brown dwarf
formed like other stars and brown dwarfs: a 'planet mass' brown dwarf.
Regardless, it should spur new research in planet and star formation
theories, and serve as a crucial reference point with which to
understand the properties of young planets at similar temperatures,
masses and ages.

BBC News
Astronomers have discovered a triple star system which could reveal
the true nature of gravity.  They found a pulsar with two white dwarfs
all packed in a space smaller than Earth's orbit of the Sun. The
trio's unusually close orbits allow precise measurements of gravity
and could resolve difficulties with Einstein's theories.  This triple
system gives us a natural cosmic laboratory far better than anything
found before for learning exactly how such three-body systems work and
potentially for detecting problems with general relativity that
physicists expect to see under extreme conditions.  Pulsars emit
lighthouse-like beams of radio waves that rapidly sweep through space
as the stars spin on their axes and are formed after a supernova
collapses a burnt-out star to a dense, highly magnetised ball of
Using the Green Bank Telescope, the astronomers discovered a pulsar
4,200 light-years from Earth, spinning nearly 366 times per second.
Such rapidly-spinning bodies are called millisecond pulsars - and are
used by astronomers as precision tools for studying gravitational
effects and other phenomena.  Subsequent observations showed the
pulsar is in a close orbit with a white dwarf star, and that pair is
in orbit with another, more-distant white dwarf.  Three-body systems
are keenly studied because they allow competing theories of gravity to
be tested. But until now the only known triple system containing a
millisecond pulsar was one with a planet as the outer companion,
causing only weak gravitational interactions.  The gravitational
perturbations imposed on each member of this system by the others are
incredibly pure and strong.  By precisely timing the arrival of the
pulses, the scientists were able to calculate the geometry of the
system and the masses of the stars.  The pulsar's inner white-dwarf
companion has an orbital period of less than two days, while the outer
dwarf has a period of almost a year.  The system gives the scientists
the best opportunity yet to look for violations of the equivalence
principle described by Einstein - which states that the effect of
gravity on a body does not depend on the nature or internal structure
of that body.   This was famously illustrated by Galileo's dropping of
two balls of different weights from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and
Apollo 15 Commander Dave Scott's dropping of a hammer and a falcon
feather while standing on the Moon in 1971.  Rather than drifting to
the ground, the feather plummeted, falling as fast as the hammer.
Without air resistance to slow the feather, both objects hit the lunar
dust at the same time.  While Einstein's theory of general relativity
has so far been confirmed by every experiment, it is not compatible
with quantum theory.  Because of that, physicists expect that it will
break down under extreme conditions.  High-precision timing of the
pulsar's "lighthouse" flashes will let astronomers hunt for deviations
in the equivalence principle at a sensitivity several orders of
magnitude greater than ever before.  Finding a deviation would
indicate a breakdown of general relativity and point us toward a new,
correct theory of gravity.

Galaxies can be remarkably dusty places and supernovae are thought to
be a primary source of that dust, especially in the early Universe.
But direct evidence of a supernova's dust making capabilities has been
slim up to now, and could not account for the copious amount of dust
detected in young, distant galaxies.  But now observations with ALMA
are changing that.   An international team of astronomers used ALMA to
observe the glowing remains of Supernova 1987A , which is in the Large
Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy orbiting the Milky Way about 160 000
light years from Earth.  SN 1987A is the closest observed supernova
explosion since Johannes Kepler's observation of a supernova inside
the Milky Way in 1604.   Astronomers predicted that as the gas cooled
after the explosion, large amounts of dust would form as atoms of
oxygen, carbon, and silicon bonded together in the cold central
regions of the remnant.  However, earlier observations of SN 1987A
with infrared telescopes, made during the first 500 days after the
explosion, detected only a small amount of hot dust.  Using ALMA, the
research team was able to image the far more abundant cold dust, which
glows brightly in millimetre and submillimetre light.  The astronomers
estimate that the remnant now contains about 25 percent the mass of
the Sun in newly formed dust.  They also found that significant
amounts of carbon monoxide and silicon monoxide have formed. 
Supernovae, however, can both create and destroy dust grains.  As the
shockwave from the initial explosion radiated out into space, it
produced bright glowing rings of material, as seen in earlier
observations with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.  After hitting
this envelope of gas, which was sloughed off by the progenitor red
giant star as it neared the end of its life, a portion of this
powerful explosion rebounded back towards the centre of the remnant.
At some point, this rebound shockwave will slam into these billowing
clumps of freshly minted dust and it's likely that some fraction of
the dust will be blasted apart at that point.  It's hard to predict
exactly how much — maybe only a little, possibly a half or two thirds.
If a good fraction survives and makes it into interstellar space, it
could account for the copious dust astronomers detect in the early

BBC News
NASA has won White House backing to extend the life of the
International Space Station for a further four years, until 2024.
Construction of the ISS began in 1998 and is a joint venture between
the US, Russia, Canada, Japan, and states in the European Space Agency
(ESA).  For the extension to happen, it will likely need the partners'
support.  Their current commitments run to 2020, but many engineers
believe the station could work safely until at least 2028.  NASA says
that it is feasible to continue operating the ISS if some partners
decided not to stay on board, but it expects them all to offer full
support, even if the agreements took a few years to put in place.
Certainly, Germany, Europe's biggest contributor to the ISS project is
keen to see the $100bn orbiting platform operate for many years into
the future.
At the moment, the station is solely reliant on Russian Soyuz capsules
to rotate the platform's six-person crew.   NASA is therefore seeding
American companies, including Sierra Nevada, to help them design and
build alternatives.  The mini-shuttle is known as the Dream Chaser and
would launch atop an Atlas rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida.  It
is envisaged that the vehicle will make its maiden voyage into orbit
in 2016, in an autonomous configuration; and then fly its first manned
mission in 2017.  The Ariane 5 was originally conceived as a human
launcher, and Europe spent considerable funds designing its own mini-
shuttle called Hermes to go on top of the rocket.  Budget constraints
eventually led to the Hermes project being cancelled.
NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE)
spacecraft has discovered a never-before-seen asteroid -- its first
such discovery since coming out of hibernation last year. NEOWISE
originally was called the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE),
which had made the most comprehensive survey to date of asteroids and
comets.  The spacecraft was shut down in 2011 after its primary
mission was completed, but in September 2013, it was reactivated,
renamed and given a new mission, which is to assist NASA's efforts to
identify the population of potentially hazardous near-Earth objects
(NEOs).  NEOWISE also can assist in characterizing previously detected
asteroids that could be considered potential targets for future
exploration missions.  NEOWISE's first discovery of its renewed
mission came on Dec. 29 -- a near-Earth asteroid designated 2013 YP139.
The mission's sophisticated software picked out the moving object
against a background of stationary stars.  As NEOWISE circled Earth
scanning the sky, it observed the asteroid several times over half a
day before the object moved beyond its view.  2013 YP139 is about 43
million kilometres from Earth. Based on its infrared brightness,
scientists estimate it to be roughly 650 metres in diameter and
extremely dark, like a piece of coal.  The asteroid circles the Sun
in an elliptical orbit tilted to the plane of our solar system and is
classified as potentially hazardous. It is possible for its orbit to
bring it as close as 300,000 miles from Earth, a little more than the
distance to the Moon.  However, it will not come that close within
the next century.  WISE discovered more than 34,000 asteroids and
characterized 158,000 throughout the solar system during its prime
mission in 2010 and early 2011.  Its reactivation in September
followed 31 months in hibernation.  NEOWISE will continue to detect
asteroids and comets.

One of the fastest spacecraft ever built -- NASA's New Horizons -- is
hurtling through the void at nearly one million miles per day. 
Launched in 2006, it has been in flight longer than some missions
last, and it is nearing its destination: Pluto.  Closest approach is
scheduled for July 2015 when New Horizons flies only 10,000 km from
Pluto, but the spacecraft will be busy long before that date.  The
first step, in January 2015, is an intensive campaign of photography
by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager or "LORRI."  This will help
mission controllers pinpoint Pluto's location, which is uncertain by
a few thousand kilometres.  LORRI will photograph the planet against
known background star fields.  The images will be used to refine
Pluto's distance from the spacecraft, and then fire the engines to
make any necessary corrections.  At first, Pluto and its large moon
Charon will be little more than distant pinpricks--but soon they will
swell into full-fledged worlds.  By late April 2015, the approaching
spacecraft will be taking pictures of Pluto that surpass the best
images from Hubble.   By closest approach in July 2015, a whole new
world will open up to the spacecraft's cameras.  If New Horizons flew
over Earth at the same altitude, it could see individual buildings
and their shapes.

By Geoff Elston, SPA Solar Section Director 

I've been trying out a combination of a new full aperture solar filter
(a "Sonnenfilter SF100" which I bought at the recent SPA 60th
Anniversary Convention), UV/IR filter and a deep sky OIII filter when
taking images of the Sun with a Canon D550 DSLR and 80mm f11 refractor.
The OIII filter is said to act like a solar continuum filter and when
ombined with a UV/IR rejection filter helps to improve the clarity of
digital solar images.

Rotation Nos. 2142 - 2143
There a significant rise in sunspot number in October, compared to the
previous two months, and we had at least one, possibly two, naked eye
sunspots. The Mean Daily Frequency went up from 2.80 last month to
5.10 this month and the Relative Sunspot Number more than doubled from
35.47 in September, to 71.65 this month.

The first few days of October showed limited sunspot activity. AR1855,
AR1856 and AR1857 were seen on the 5th, the first was nearing the W
limb, and the second and third were still some way from the SE limb.
As AR1857 approached the W limb it was followed by AR1861, AR1864 and
AR1865 coming over the SE limb and putting on a fine display by the
10th. All three Active Regions showed signs of growth by next day. On
the website announced that AR1861 and AR1865, by
then near the CM, were active with low-level C class flares due to
their sunspot configuration.

From mid-month onwards sunspot activity really picked up. AR1875 and
AR1877 were seen near the SE limb on 19th. AR1875 was visible to the
naked eye on the 24th was remained so even as it neared the NW limb on
the 27th. The main spot showed a bright patch of photosphere with a
trail of smaller spots behind it. AR1877 was possibly visible to the
naked eye as well. AR1882 was much further east, towards the SE limb,
and had about 16 umbrae embedded within the penumbrae. A patch of
bright photosphere was also seen in the centre of the main spot. On
the same day AR1884 and AR1885 were just over the SE or E limb and
showed faculae being close to the limb. By the 30th the Sun was again
very active, AR1882 was now at the CM behind a very complex group
AR1885 and AR1879 coming over the E limb with bright faculae scattered
around the two main sunspots.

MDF: 5.10 R: 71.65

On the 5th plages and filaments were seen around AR1856 and AR1857 and
a group of bright lengthy prominences were seen on the E limb. There
was a substantial hedgerow prominence on the 7th. Numerous plages and
small filaments were seen around AR1861, AR1864 and AR1865 on the 10th
as were prominences along the S, E and W limbs. A broad dense
prominence was also seen at the NW limb the following day. On the 15th
a substantial prominence was seen at the S limb and a sizable arch
prominence on the NW limb. Meanwhile AR1861, AR1864 and AR1865 still
showed plages and filaments near them.

The 17th saw some large and diverse prominences as well as spikes
particularly along the SW limb, extending eastwards. AR1875 and AR1877
each showed several plages nearby and AR1877 had a large coiled
filament just east of it on the 24th. Also seen on that same day were
some filaments at the SE and SW limbs and there were several sizeable
prominences visible. On the 25th a long curved filament was observed
passing through AR1875, prominences and spikes were seen on the N and
W limbs, and a bright highly active prominence on the SE limb. On the
31st several dark conspicuous filaments were seen near the E limb as
well as a tree-like prominence on the W limb.

MDF (P): 7.18

Go to the Solar Section link on the SPA homepage to see a selection of
the many remarkable images and drawings made by the Section membership.

Bulletin compiled by Clive Down
(c) 2014 the Society for Popular Astronomy

Good Clear Skies
Colin James Watling
Various Voluntary work-Litter Picking for Parish Council (Daytime) and also a friend of Kessingland Beach (Watchman)
Real Astronomer and head of the Comet section for LYRA (Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth Regional Astronomers) also head of K.A.G (Kessingland Astronomy Group) and Navigator (Astrogator) of the Stars (Fieldwork)