Favourite Observations of 2020

3 weeks 4 days ago - 3 weeks 4 days ago #109864 by flt158
Favourite Observations of 2020 was created by flt158
Hello, everyone.

2020 was quite a year. Was it not?
The corona virus caused us so much havoc. And it still does so today on New Year's Eve. The sooner we all get the vaccine in 2021 the better.
We also experienced almost constant clear skies during the months of March, April and May. Do you remember?

In the meantime, let us list off our favourite individual observations of the year here.
Please provide as much information as you like. Thank you.

You don't need to compile as many as I have.

Here are my Top Ten of 2020 in reverse order.

10. May 22. Venus - Mercury conjunction. The 2 inner planets were 1.5 degrees apart. Therefore I could fit them in the same 2 degree field of view (fov) observing with my William Optics 158 mm f/7 apochromatic refractor without any hassle at 40X. The -4.3 magnitude 53.9" Venus was a very beautiful 5% lit crescent at the time. The gibbous -0.6 mag 6.2" Mercury was very pleasant also. Who says we cannot have 2 planetary conjunctions in one year? 7 evenings later I bid Venus farewell as she was 0.94% lit. That was the only time I have observed herself as a less than 1% lit phase before it sunk into some distant trees.

9. February 25. It's Venus again. But this time the -4.3 mag 65% lit and 18" wide planet was sitting right next to Zeta Piscium which is a true binary with magnitudes 5.2 and 6.3. Its separation is 22.8" and the PA is 63 degrees. Therefore both my William Optics 70 mm at 11X and 158 mm at 40X did split the double and the planet. An amazing spectacle.

8. November 3. ES 38 is an optical double with a major difference. A bloke on Cloudy Nights greatly encouraged me to check it out as it was included in a Sky & Telescope magazine he had bought. The magnitudes are: A = 9.8. B = 10.7. Sep = 24.5". PA = 237 degrees. But the major difference is the spectral classes are: A = F8 which is yellow-white. B = N and it is a very rich orange carbon star. I was so enamoured by the carbon I increased my magnification up to 280X. What a sight!

7. May 1. The true binary Cor Caroli, true binary STF 1702, the optical double STF 1688 and carbon star TT Canum all fitted in the same 2 degrees fov at 40X. Yes - that's 3 doubles successfully separated and one carbon star all viewed at the one time.

6. September 25. Michael and Darren I'm sure remember this event very well. At 21.36 local time Jupiter's innermost moon Io reappeared from behind the largest planet. It took about 30 seconds for the very faint moon to reach its normal brightness as I watched it live at 112X. I was heard to exclaim Wha-hay! Lol.

5. April 8. I'm so glad this true binary has made it into my top ten. STF 1338 is my favourite new double of 2020. Magnitudes: A = 6.7. B = 7.1. Sep = <1". PA = 318.2 degrees. I was completely stunned to see it cleanly separated with a hairline crack at a mere 140X. It was also very stunning at 167X, 225X and 280X. Both stars are F class yellow-white. Looking into the future on stelledoppie.it they say it is a double which is going to get tighter year by year. In April 2020 its precise split was 0.997".

4. March 25. I had memorised the position of M44 - the Praesepe open star cluster in Cancer the Crab. I managed to find Tegmine (Zeta Cancri) and M44 before the sky became truly dark. This true triple has been my favourite triple star for some years now. Magnitudes: A = 5.3. B = 6.3. C = 5.9. Sep's = 1.1" and 6.3". PA's = 4 and 65 degrees. I have always required 167X, and sometimes even 225X when the conditions were not so good. But I had often wondered could I split at a lower magnification. I can now state that I split A and B at 140X using my very old 8 mm TMB eyepiece. Therefore it is very possible to split tight doubles at a lower power when the sky is not fully dark.

3. April 3. Why? It's Venus yet again. With a magnitude of -4.3, a 45.4% phase and 26.4" wide disc, Venus was sitting within the confines of the open star cluster M45 the Pleiades in Taurus. Both wonderful celestial objects looked extremely good at 40X using my 2 degree eyepiece. It was my 2nd time to witness such a dramatic conjunction. It occurred precisely 8 years earlier in 2012.

And so we come to the climax of 2020. But which singular observation should I place as numbers 1 and 2? The more I thought about it the great giant planetary comes second - even though it occurred very recently.

2. December 20. Valerie and I stood in the freezing +1 degree conditions in the Sugarloaf car park for 1 hour. My Pentax 10 mm eyepiece which gives 112X and 37 arc minutes fov fitted in -2 mag Jupiter, +0.6 Saturn, the 4 moons of Jupiter and a 7.5 mag field star HD 191250 all in the same fov. At the time, the 2 planets were 8 arc minutes apart. It was with such great relief that such a fabulous group of Irish amateur astronomers managed to see this marvellous get-together of the largest planets in our solar system through both telescopes and our very own eyes.

1. July 19. With number 2 solved, It's now time to reveal my number 1 favourite single observation of 2020 and it's not an eclipse but it is Comet Neowise. With a very small 5 kilometre nucleus, my Heavenly Father stretched out an enormously long green tail over many millions of kilometres in the constellation of Ursa Major. The tail was 4 degrees long - so long it could not fit my 2 degrees fov. Ben Sugarman informed on the night that Comet Neowise was of magnitude +3 and was 108 million kilometres from Earth. And it was visible with my unaided eyes. It was my 13th observed comet. I have given Comet Neowise a nickname: Darren's Comet. I have never met such a fired up observer as Darren clearly is. You are such a breath of fresh air to many us, Darren!! By the way, my first observed was Comet Halley back in 1986.

Needless to say there were many other celestial objects which would have made it if I made into a top 20 list. Amongst these would have been the true binary Mu Cygni, NGC 457 the Owl Cluster, quadruple star 12 Lyncis, triple star 35 Comae Berenices, STF 3038 in Cassiopeia, Mars with its North Polar Hood and STF 3053 - a yellow, blue and white triple star in Cassiopeia.

So on that note, I invite you all to share your favourites of 2020.

I wish you all a very happy New Year for 2021 as we start on a New Decade.

Many clear nights and good health for 2021.

Aubrey.
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3 weeks 3 days ago #109865 by Fermidox
Replied by Fermidox on topic Favourite Observations of 2020
An amazing list Aubrey. Here are my highlights, although I'm going to ruin the tension by saying that my top two are the same as yours! Not surprising really...

In late March I observed Comet 2019 Y4 ATLAS, quite fortunately so, as a week later it began to disintegrate... the same fate befell C/2020 F8 SWAN in May, which I just managed to sweep up in an early dawn sky. Both comets had been expected to reach naked-eye, but were done for by the solar furnace, as has happened so many multitudes of other comets down the ages.

November saw the eruption of Nova Per 2020, rising to binocular visibility and peaking around 8.4. This maintains a nice trend of binocular novae, six since 2015 from our skies.

Venus passing through the Pleiades was memorable indeed. Clouded out for closest approach on the 3rd but great views on the 4th and 5th. Venus provided several other notable vistas including close approaches to Uranus and Mercury, and on April 12th a fireball was captured on my IP camera soon after Venus had entered the fov, a rare sight indeed!

Mars was spectacular in October although I do recall an evening in 2016 when it appeared even more dazzling to the naked eye; perhaps the atmospheric conditions were superior on that occasion. While reading up on the history of the Martian satellites I found that the Great Telescope at Birr had been used to confirm their discovery by Asaph Hall back in 1877.

May 31st featured probably the best ISS Lunar Transit I've seen, perfect conditions and a razor-sharp Moon. Never ceases to amaze how fast the ISS appears to move against a background object as compared to the open sky.

On March 28th there was a really stunning Western panorama; the Winter stars, a crescent moon and Venus approaching the Pleiades. JMW Turner himself would have struggled to paint it.

And the icing on the cake.... the Great Conjunction. Nobody saw the 1623 close approach so it was fully 792 years since the two Giants drew to within 10 arcminutes, as witnessed on the 20th. Actual conjunction on the solstice was clouded out, but several favourable views in the week preceding. And on the 24th they were still sufficiently proximate to appear together in the 17mm eyepiece of an 8 inch SCT, accompanied by the faithful Galileans. Magic.

My favourite observation during this surreal span was 23 years in the making... not since Hale-Bopp have northerners witnessed a cometary spectacle like C/2020 F3 NEOWISE. If it was not a Great Comet, it was certainly a very good one. I think the varying reports from urban and rural observers emphasised once more the advantages of dark skies for comet-watching. On the 19th I could see a naked-eye dust tail of at least 12 degrees, and earlier in the week the coma was visible into the dawn as late as mag 1.9 Menkalinan. Probably my favourite photo taken through the 8 inch I'll add below - so long for the next 7,000 years NEOWISE.

Best wishes and clear skies all for the new year,
Finbarr.

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3 weeks 3 days ago #109866 by flt158
Replied by flt158 on topic Favourite Observations of 2020
Wow! Finbarr
You most definitely had a sensational year!

I thank you very much for taking the time for giving us each and every one of these.

That's a fascinating story you have included in regards to the Martian moons being observed by the Great Leviathan at Birr. I never have heard of it before.

I wonder who saw the Jupiter - Saturn conjunction of 1228. If anyone can find out, please come back to us.

And I am somewhat pleased you and I, Finbarr, agree on our number 1 observation of 2020. But I am utterly amazed you saw a 12 degree tail!

But it is also okay for anyone to differ as to what what was their number 1.

Clear skies from Aubrey.
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3 weeks 3 days ago - 3 weeks 3 days ago #109867 by Until_then-Goodnight!
Replied by Until_then-Goodnight! on topic Favourite Observations of 2020
Hello everyone,

I hope this find you and those close to you well as we head into the New Year. While 2020 was a pretty grim year in general, it brought many delightful nights for Irish amateur astronomy. With this in mind I have listed seven observational sessions that stood out for me. These are listed from 7 -1 with 1 being the most memorable.

7. Saturday 4 April Venus Conjunction  with M45 through the 10 X 50s. What made the observation all the more special was the live messages that were coming through this forum. There was a real sense of camaraderie that night. 

6. Wednesday May 27 23:14 UT+1 a very bright meteor blazed across the North-Eastern sky from Lyra and it finished up close to Sadr. The meteor displayed a long bluish/green tail - it was stunning.

5. Monday 15th June: From 02:10  - 03:30 IST I observed Jupiter and Saturn for the first time during 2020. All four Galilean Moons were visible, and Saturn showed her Cassini Division. The tilt of the rings looked different from the previous viewings during 2019. It was a special session because it was my birthday. As I finished the session the sun came up and the birds were singing - it felt great to be alive!

4.  Saturn and Jupiter Conjunction: What more is there to say about this once in a lifetime event. While it was bitterly cold, many of us made our way to the Sugar Loaf to observe this rare phenomenon. I owe a great deal of gratitude to Michael who let me use his eyepieces, and finder scope to observe both planets - Imagine leaving your eyepiece bag behind for such an event! Thanks a million Michael!

3. Reappearance of Io: With restrictions slightly eased Michael, Aubrey and I made our way to Glencullen to observe among other things the reappearance of Io from Jupiter on the 25th September. There was a real sense of excitement waiting for it show itself. Then slightly after 21:30pm IST Aubrey let out a 'woohoo' that I'll always remember. In addition, we also observed Rupes Recta that evening.

2. Comet Neowise: Friday July 10th  & Sunday 19 July. First up was seeing it naked eye from the Summit of Howth. I arrived at Howth at approximately 23:20 and there were several IAS members present. At 23:53 it was visible, and through the XT6 it showed two trails - one slightly bent.  Next up was observing it from the Sugar Loaf. Again, there were many observers present. The Comet displayed a greenish colour that looked very nice in the 10" scope. 

1.  Thursday 31 July: Observed the Moon from sister's house in Baltinglass. This session was special for two reasons: (1) it was my nephew's birthday and (2) it was the first (and last) time I got to observe the night sky with my late Dad - he passed away on the 26 August. He was struck by what he saw, and we observed until the earlier hours. A memory I'll always carry with me.

Notable mentions: Monday 13 April After much encouragement from Aubrey and Finbarr I finally split Izar Tuesday * May 19 00:33 UT +1 first time to see the ISS flyover * Several observations of Mars from September through to December - so much detail!. * And I have to add 01 January 2019 as it started off my 2020 lunar sketching project - I've still one more to go to make it a full 12 though!

As I reflect on the past year as an amateur astronomer, one thing comes to the forefront of my mind: The friendships that have been developed. Since taking up the hobby I have had the pleasure to engage with so many nice people who have helped me to develop my interest this wondrous activity. People like Brendan, Finbarr, Ben, Paul, Mike, Michael, and Aubrey have been inspirational. So, on that note I wish you all the very best for 2021, and I'll leave you with the following quote:

“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.”

  Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Clear skies to all,

Darren.
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3 weeks 3 days ago #109868 by Until_then-Goodnight!
Replied by Until_then-Goodnight! on topic Favourite Observations of 2020

Until_then-Goodnight! wrote: Hello everyone,

I hope this find you and those close to you well as we head into the New Year. While 2020 was a pretty grim year in general, it brought many delightful nights for Irish amateur astronomy. With this in mind I have listed seven observational sessions that stood out for me. These are listed from 7 -1 with 1 being the most memorable.

7. Saturday 4 April Venus Conjunction  with M45 through the 10 X 50s. What made the observation all the more special was the live messages that were coming through this forum. There was a real sense of camaraderie that night. 

6. Wednesday May 27 23:14 UT+1 a very bright meteor blazed across the North-Eastern sky from Lyra and it finished up close to Sadr. The meteor displayed a long bluish/green tail - it was stunning.

5. Monday 15th June: From 02:10  - 03:30 IST I observed Jupiter and Saturn for the first time during 2020. All four Galilean Moons were visible, and Saturn showed her Cassini Division. The tilt of the rings looked different from the previous viewings during 2019. It was a special session because it was my birthday. As I finished the session the sun came up and the birds were singing - it felt great to be alive!

4.  Saturn and Jupiter Conjunction: What more is there to say about this once in a lifetime event. While it was bitterly cold, many of us made our way to the Sugar Loaf to observe this rare phenomenon. I owe a great deal of gratitude to Michael who let me use his eyepieces, and finder scope to observe both planets - Imagine leaving your eyepiece bag behind for such an event! Thanks a million Michael!

3. Reappearance of Io: With restrictions slightly eased Michael, Aubrey and I made our way to Glencullen to observe among other things the reappearance of Io from Jupiter on the 25th September. There was a real sense of excitement waiting for it show itself. Then slightly after 21:30pm IST Aubrey let out a 'woohoo' that I'll always remember. In addition, we also observed Rupes Recta that evening.

2. Comet Neowise: Friday July 10th  & Sunday 19 July. First up was seeing it naked eye from the Summit of Howth. I arrived at Howth at approximately 23:20 and there were several IAS members present. At 23:53 it was visible, and through the XT6 it showed two trails - one slightly bent.  Next up was observing it from the Sugar Loaf. Again, there were many observers present. The Comet displayed a greenish colour that looked very nice in the 10" scope. 

1.  Thursday 31 July: Observed the Moon from sister's house in Baltinglass. This session was special for two reasons: (1) it was my nephew's birthday and (2) it was the first (and last) time I got to observe the night sky with my late Dad - he passed away on the 26 August. He was struck by what he saw, and we observed until the earlier hours. A memory I'll always carry with me.

Notable mentions: Monday 13 April After much encouragement from Aubrey and Finbarr I finally split Izar Tuesday * May 19 00:33 UT +1 first time to see the ISS flyover * Several observations of Mars from September through to December - so much detail!. * And I have to add 01 January 2019 as it started off my 2020 lunar sketching project - I've still one more to go to make it a full 12 though!

As I reflect on the past year as an amateur astronomer, one thing comes to the forefront of my mind: The friendships that have been developed. Since taking up the hobby I have had the pleasure to engage with so many nice people who have helped me to develop my interest this wondrous activity. People like Brendan, Finbarr, Ben, Paul, Mike, Michael, and Aubrey have been inspirational. So, on that note I wish you all the very best for 2021, and I'll leave you with the following quote:

“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.”

  Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Clear skies to all,

Darren.

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3 weeks 3 days ago #109869 by Fermidox
Replied by Fermidox on topic Favourite Observations of 2020
That's an excellent point you make Darren about the real-time updates for the Venus/Pleiades conjunction; that was quite rare for this forum and made it an even more memorable evening.

Aubrey I should have said 794 years as it was the year 1226, March 4th in fact. The planets were high up in the morning sky so must have been widely observed assuming clear skies, although I don't know of any actual accounts. Maybe St Francis of Assisi saw it, he died later the same year. Or Genghis Khan, who died the following year. Some have interpreted his decision to withdraw the triumphant Mongol armies from Western China as being based on a series of rare conjunctions which took place later that year, involving all 5 then-known planets. But that as they say, is another story...

Clear skies,
Finbarr.
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3 weeks 3 days ago #109871 by flt158
Replied by flt158 on topic Favourite Observations of 2020
I do thank you very much for your update regarding the Jupiter - Saturn conjunction of 1226, Finbarr. 

It must have been a most spectacular event for whoever saw it without the use of a telescope. 

And a huge thank you to Darren for his top 7 observations of 2020. 

Of course, we would love to hear from others if you please, no matter how few events they observed! 

Happy New Year and new decade to everyone here on www.irishastronom.org

Clear skies tonight on 1st January 2021. 

Aubrey. 
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3 weeks 2 days ago - 3 weeks 2 days ago #109875 by Until_then-Goodnight!
Replied by Until_then-Goodnight! on topic Favourite Observations of 2020
Hello Aubrey and Finbarr,

Your lists were great to read. Finbarr, that's a fabulous photo of Neowise! I also liked reading your point about what you saw on March 28th.

Aubrey, I remember reading your report from May 01 when you had all those objects in the same FOV...It sounds as beautiful now as it did then. And you're too kind about Neowise! Would you believe that green is my most favourite colour : )

Seriouly though, as I've said in the past it's very easy to get excited about amateur astronomy when there are people like you involved in the activity. You are so passionate about the hobby I'd ask 'how could one not get excited and fired-up to gaze through an eyepiece when reading your reports, or being at a meet-up with you?' Not only are you a wealth of knowledge,  but you're also great craic...ah the Shaggs : )

Clear skies and I wonder what others will include.

Darren.
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