Another Nova in Sagittarius, But Not Seen
November 21, 2016
A couple of days ago, prompted by thee
of November 21, 2016, I finally took the effort to look for
the second relatively-bright and recently-discovered nova in the
constellation Sagittarius, PNV J18205200-2822100. It was
discovered on October 25, 2016, five days after the nova TCP J18102829-2729590,
was discovered on October 20, 2016. The former had reached magnitude 5,
while 2.5 degrees away, the latter reached magnitude 8 around the time I
spotted it on October 24, 2016 (scroll down this page for more on that).
November 21, 2016, I headed to the baseball field complex in Maple
Shade, NJ, to spot Mercury, which I did at 4:58 pm EST, then Saturn 4.2° straight
above Mercury at 5:03 pm (in both cases, with 16x70 binoculars in
relatively bright twilight after sunset at 4:39 pm).
I waited a bit for
the sky to darken somewhat before looking for the nova. Starting at bright and
obvious Venus with the 16x70s, I worked my way across the lid of the Teapot asterism in
Sagittarius, Phi to Lambda to Delta Sagittarii. At 5:32 pm, I thought I
spotted Nova PNV near Delta, and thought I confirmed it at 5:37 pm when it became dark
enough to see a couple of nearby field stars.
Subsequently, on November
22nd, I was looking at the initial close-up picture of the nova and
nearby stars that I posted. By measuring the spacing between them on the
picture and on a SkyTools chart, I realized the presumed nova didn't
exhibit the right spacing. Instead, a magnitude 6.2 star did fit (HD
appeared I had mistaken this star for the nova. Then it dawned on me to
AAVSO magnitude estimates for the nova and found that by November
21st, it had dropped to the neighborhood of magnitude 9 (vs. "near the
limit of naked-eye visibility last week" as described in the APOD text).
There's now no doubt that I did not see the nova and mislabeled it on
the initial pictures posted here. The picture above is correctly labeled
based on this further study (mouseover for labels). It was
captured at 5:49 pm with a Canon 6D digital SLR camera
on a fixed tripod and a Canon 100 mm f/2.8L macro lens. Exposed
1/2 second at f/2.8, ISO 3200 (exposure limited by residual twilight and
general light pollution). Cropped to about 22% of the original size.
The Nearly-Full Moon Near Perigee
November 13, 2016
Here's the rising
Gibbous Moon (2°02'
altitude) at 4:47 pm
November 13, 2016, 14 minutes after moonrise and
roughly 16 hours before Full Moon at 8:52 am on November 14th. Because the
moon will be at an unusually close perigee at 6:21 am on the 14th
(356,509 km or 221,524 miles per the U.S. Naval Observatory's MICA
software), this has been a widely (or wildly?) touted "Super Moon." This
anti-scenic location at the old Mart site in Pennsauken, NJ, was picked
for its low eastern horizon, and because I've made many low-altitude spottings of various celestial objects from here (usually in the morning before sunrise). In any
case, the moon really didn't look especially large or bright to me, but
that might reflect my generally unimpressed view of the super moon
business. The picture certainly doesn't show any "largeness." However,
perhaps more interestingly, notice the nice Belt of Venus, the pinkish band above
the darkness of the earth's shadow along the horizon. Taken with a Canon
6D digital SLR camera and a Canon 100 mm f/2.8L macro lens on a fixed
tripod. Exposed 1/125 second at f/3.2, ISO 100. Cropped in the vertical
direction (only) to a 16:9 ratio and a field about 20° wide x 11.5°
Here's a wide-angle view
from the same position at 4:54 pm EST when the moon was at 3°14'
altitude. Taken with a Canon 6D digital SLR camera on a fixed tripod and
a Sigma 20 mm f/1.4 Art lens. Exposed 1/125 second at f/5.6, ISO 800.
Cropped in the vertical direction (only) to a 16:9 ratio and a field
about 84° wide x 52° high. In this view, the moon doesn't look "super"
at all. What is amazing is how many interesting astronomical
observations I've made from this arguably dingy, very non-bucolic
Here's a telephoto view
at 5:00 pm EST when the moon was 99.2% illuminated. Taken from the Mart
site with a Canon 6D
digital SLR camera and a Canon 400 mm f/5.6L lens on a fixed tripod.
Exposed 1/320 second at f/6.3, ISO 800. It was cropped to 22% of the
width x 25% of the height of the original, yielding a field about 1.1°
wide x 0.84° high. It's certainly not as crisp as the lunar image below,
taken on the previous night. Besides the difference in focal length (400
mm here, 960 mm below, then cropped to roughly the same final size), it was also very low at 4.3° altitude vs. 50°
for the picture below. Unfortunately, the low altitude by itself
invalidates any direct comparison of sharpness and details.
The Waxing Gibbous Moon
November 12, 2016
November 12, 2016, the 96% illuminated waxing
Gibbous Moon was 13.3 days
old and 1.5 days before full when this image of it was captured at
8:44 pm EST from Maple Shade, NJ. It was taken with a Canon 6D digital
SLR camera and a William Optics 80 mm f/6 triplet apo refractor plus a
Kenko doubler yielding an effective focal length of 960 mm. This single
frame was exposed 1/1250 second at f/12, ISO 1600, daylight white
balance. It was cropped to 51% of the width x 58% of the
height of the original, yielding a field about 1.1° wide x 0.83°
high. At the time, the moon was at 50° altittude.
The upcoming full moon at
8:52 am on November 14, 2016, has been widely described as a "Super
Moon" because it occurs just 2½ hours after perigee, a particularly
close perigee in this case (356,509 km or 221,524 miles geocentric/selenocentric
at 6:21 am), the closest since 1948, so it will be larger
in apparent diameter and brighter than usual, but it's unclear if the
effect will really be visible. From the Philadelphia area,
the moon will be about the same half-day time span from the moment of
full on both Sunday evening the 13th and Monday evening the 14th around
9 pm, but early risers on Monday can see it closer to full if they look
before moonset at 6:29 am (for 40°N-75°W, nominally Philadelphia). One
could also theoretically see the moon at the moment of perigee, but with
it setting just 8 minutes before perigee, you'll need a clear sky and a
low, unobstructed horizon. If visible near the horizon, the moon will
look large, but most of that due to the
In any case, it was a good
excuse to take a test picture of the moon with the scope and doubler, a
setup I haven't used in a while. It's also the first time I've used my
new Benro A373FBS8 tripod and video head with this camera+scope setup.
It worked well. Compared to my old Manfrotto tripod and video head, the new
head tilts to a steeper vertical angle and the counterbalance control is
effective, plus the tripod is tall enough to allow viewing the camera's
rear screen when tilted, and it's sturdy.
The Moon, Venus and Saturn
November 2, 2016
November 2, 2016, the 3.2-day-old waxing
Crescent Moon joined the
planets Venus and
Saturn in the southwest
after sunset (mouseover for labels). Clouds and haze were
present too, but some earthshine is just visible on the dark portion of
the 9% illuminated moon. Venus was about 7° from the moon, Saturn was
about 3° from the moon, while Venus and Saturn were about 5.3° apart.
Taken from Strawbridge Lake in Moorestown, NJ, at 6:36 pm EDT with a
Canon 6D digital SLR camera on a fixed tripod and a Sigma 70-300 mm
f/4-5.6 zoom lens set to 133 mm focal length, yielding a field nominally
15° wide x 10° high. Exposed automatically 1/6 second at f/4.5, ISO 1600
with auto white balance. The camera was set with -2/3 stop compensation,
and this frame was auto-bracketed -1/3 stop from
that. No processing was applied besides size reduction for this web
The image below is a 16:9
crop, 67% horizontal x 56% vertical, of the original 3:2 image above. This effectively magnifies the area of interest (the
is about 10° wide x 5.8° high) and better shows relatively dim Saturn (mouseover
for labels). Saturn was at
magnitude +0.5 vs. -4.0 for brilliant Venus, so at the time, Venus was 63x
brighter than Saturn (not including any effects from the clouds and
haze). Saturn was not convincingly observed visually during the session.
The Moon, Jupiter and Porrima
October 28, 2016
In the early morning
October 28, 2016, the 27.4-day-old waning
Crescent Moon, resplendent
with earthshine, was paired closely with the bright planet
Jupiter and several stars,
including Porrima (Gamma
Virginis). Mouseover for labels. When this picture was captured
at 6:36 am EDT, the moon was about 5% illuminated and 55 hours before
the next new moon on October 30th at 1:38 pm. The moon was at 13½°
altitude, and center-to-center, it was 1°03' from Porrima and 1°19' from
Jupiter. Looking closely at Jupiter, right of the moon and slightly
above it, several of
its satellites are also visible (see the picture below for details).
Taken from Maple Shade, NJ, with a Canon 6D digital SLR camera and a
Canon 400 mm f/5.6L telephoto lens on a fixed tripod, then cropped to
about 67% of the original dimensions for a field 3.4° wide x 2.3° high.
Exposed 0.8 seconds at f/7.1, ISO 1600.
The picture below is a 16%
crop, centered on Jupiter, of the same original as the picture above,
yielding a field 0.82° wide x 0.55° high. All four Galilean satellites
of Jupiter are present, as well as a field star. However, Io and
Ganymede are essentially superimposed, so the dot above Jupiter
representing them is
elongated slightly to the upper-right (Ganymede was about 8 arc seconds
from Io). Mouseover for labels. Below that is a screen clip
from WinJUPOS for the same time (but labeled in UT). It's cropped close
to Jupiter, so the more distant star and Callisto are excluded.
The Camera-Lens-Tripod setup used for the
Jupiter & Porrima image taken on October 28, 2016
October 28, 2016, while taking pictures of the
Moon, Jupiter and Porrima grouping, I also took some pictures of the camera setup
I was using. I finally got around to copying them from my Apple iPhone 5s
on November 6th. The picture on the left was
taken with existing light at 6:23 am EDT (exposed 1/15 second at
f/2.2, ISO 2000), so the noise is quite pronounced after brightness
enhancements were applied (the camera and tripod were barely visible in
the very dark original picture). It shows the Canon 6D camera with a Canon 400 mm f/5.6L
telephoto lens on a Benro TMA48CL graphite tripod with an Acratech GV2
open-ball head in the gimbal position (which works quite nicely with the
long focal length lens). The moon and Jupiter are prominent in the
background sky, while Porrima is lost in the noise. The picture on the
right was also taken at 6:23 am, this time with the "flash" turned on
(actually a bright LED that comes on momentarily). It was exposed 1/16
second at f/2.2, ISO 100. I was using a Canon RC-6 infrared wireless
remote to trigger the 6D, so there's no wired remote dangling from it.
October 29, 2016: I went to the old Mart site in
Pennsauken, NJ, to look for the even older crescent moon before sunrise.
With 16x70 binoculars, I spotted it along the edge of the distant tree
tops at 6:19 am EDT, 6 minutes after it rose at 6:13 am (by definition, rise
and set times for the moon occur when the upper limb reaches the horizon,
so in this case, the illuminated lower limb would be
a couple of minutes behind). When first spotted, the moon was 31 hr 19 min before new
(Oct 30 at 1:38 pm). Within a minute, the thin, wiggly, darkly yellowish
crescent was visible to unaided eyes. I followed it for at least another
half hour at the Mart and while driving home. On Monday, October 31st,
the nominal 30-hour-old crescent moon should be visible after sunset if
the weather permits. Currently, the slope of the ecliptic after sunset
is relatively shallow vs. the steep slope before sunrise, so the evening
moon won't be as high as the morning moon for a similar time span from
I also observed Jupiter with
the 16x70s while at the Mart. Offhand, it appeared as if there were four
Galilean satellites present; however, I wondered if the star HD 110123
remained. I checked SkyTools and indeed, the star was still nearby in line with
Jupiter's moons, but now it was west of them (Jupiter had moved eastward
since yesterday). Europa, Callisto and Ganymede were visible, but Io
would begin transit at 6:28 am, so it was lost in Jupiter's glare at 16x.
Therefore, I was actually seeing three Jovian satellites and a star.
October 31, 2016: I went to Swede Run in
Moorestown, NJ, to look for the nominal 30-hour-old moon after sunset.
However, there were streaky horizontal clouds along and above the
western horizon (they resembled greatly magnified Jovian cloud bands). I could not find the thin crescent while looking at
apparent gaps in
the clouds with 10x50 binoculars between about 6:00 and 6:45 pm.
Nova in Sagittarius
October 24, 2016
Late in the afternoon on
October 24, 2016, I saw an
online Sky & Telescope article about a recently-discovered, fairly
bright nova in Sagittarius (currently about magnitude 8), so I headed to
Swede Run in Moorestown, NJ, for a look at what has been temporarily
TCP J18102829-2729590. Sagittarius is now low in the
southwest at the end of twilight, so there's no time to dally. Finder
charts are available at the S&T link above. As soon as I arrived, I set
up my mounted 16x70 binoculars, and was able to find it easily at 7:45
pm EDT (astronomical twilight ended at 7:38 pm). The compact,
slightly-curved row of three stars above the tip of the Teapot's spout
make's a distinct skymark. This image was captured at 8:03 pm when the
nova was about 10° altitude (corrected, I originally had it at 15.5°). Taken with a Canon 6D digital SLR camera
and a Canon 100 mm f/2.8L macro lens, then cropped to 42% of the
original size for a field about 8.5° wide x 5.7° high. Exposed 2 seconds
at f/4, ISO 1600, 3600K white balance. Mouseover for labels.
The Antares OA-5 Launch to the ISS
October 17, 2016
October 17, 2016, this much-delayed launch
finally occurred at 7:45 pm EDT. I observed it from Borton Landing Rd in
Moorestown, NJ, using unaided eyes and my mounted 16x70 binoculars. I
decided not to take any pictures (I didn't want to distract from my
visual observations, and at best, any pictures would have just shown a
steak in the sky).
Some more details here.
Mercury and Jupiter
October 15, 2016
These two planets continue
to separate and were 6.2°
October 15, 2016, when this picture was captured
at 6:37 am EDT from the old Mart site in Pennsauken, NJ. Magnitude -1.7
was easily visible to unaided eyes at 7.4° altitude, while
Mercury required binoculars to be
seen in the murkier twilight sky at 1.9° altitude (and 8.8° solar
elongation). It's barely visible
between the wires to the right of the radio tower (mouseover for labels). Taken with a Canon 6D
digital SLR camera and a Canon 70 to 200 mm f/2.8L lens, set to 200 mm
focal length) on a fixed tripod.
Cropped lightly in the vertical direction to a field 6.8° wide x 8.5°
Exposed 1/250 second at f/3.5, ISO 3200; auto white
The picture below is a
greater crop of the picture above (to a field 3.0° wide x 2.5° high) and
shows Mercury more clearly to the right of the radio tower (mouseover for label).
This will probably be my last attempt at spotting Mercury before
superior conjunction on October 27, 2016.
Mercury and Jupiter
October 12, 2016
The two planets were again 1.7°
October 12, 2016, but this time (compared to the
picture below), Jupiter
Mercury was below when this image
of them was captured at 6:31 am EDT from the railroad tracks in Maple
Shade, NJ (interestingly, the camera's GPS indicated the spot was 0.2"
west of being exactly 75° west longitude, about 16 ft). At the
time, magnitude -1.1 Mercury was at 3.4° altitude
and magnitude -1.7 Jupiter was at 4.6° altitude. Mercury is moving swiftly
eastward and catching up with the sun while Jupiter plods eastward and
is falling behind the sun and moving higher in the morning sky.
Yesterday, October 11, when the pair was 0.8° apart at their
closest appulse, I observed them visually from this location. Taken with a Canon 6D
digital SLR camera and a Canon 400 mm f/5.6L lens on a fixed tripod.
Exposed automatically 1/80 second at f/5.6, ISO 3200; auto white balance.
Not cropped, so the field of view is 5.12° wide x 3.42° high. Mouseover for labels.
Mercury and Jupiter
October 10, 2016
Mercury (above) and
Jupiter (below) were 1.7°
October 10, 2016, when this image of them was
captured at 6:24 am EDT from the old Mart site in Pennsauken, NJ. At the
time, Mercury was at 3.9° altitude and is heading towards the Sun and
superior conjunction on October 27. Jupiter was at 2.3° altitude and is
moving away from the Sun after conjunction with it on September 26.
Tomorrow, October 11, the pair will be just 0.8° apart at 6:30 am (essentially, their
closest appulse for observers at 40°N-75°W). Taken with a Canon 6D
digital SLR camera and a Canon 400 mm f/5.6L lens on a fixed tripod.
Exposed automatically 1/20 second at f/5.6, ISO 800; auto white balance.
Cropped slightly in the height to a field of view about 4.3° high x 3.4° wide. The radio tower is
Philadelphia's 50 kW WPHT-1210 AM, located in Moorestown, NJ, about 1.8 miles away.
Mouseover for labels. My initial spotting of Jupiter after it's
September 26 conjunction with the sun was on October 6, 2016, with 16x70
binoculars at 6:27 am when it was at 0.9° altitude with a solar
elongation of 7°52'.
The Crescent Moon and Venus
October 3, 2016
October 3, 2016, the three-day old, 8%
illuminated and earthshine-filled Crescent Moon
was about 4.2° from Venus
when this picture of them was captured at 7:40 pm EDT (62 minutes after
sunset) from Swede Run in Moorestown, NJ. At the time, the Moon was at 6.3° altitude and Venus at 2.6° altitude. Taken
with a Canon 6D digital SLR camera (on a fixed tripod) and a Sigma 70 to
300 mm f/4-5.6 zoom lens set to 168 mm focal length. Exposed one second
at f/5, ISO 1600. Cropped in the width to a nominal 8° square. The star
Zubenelgenubi (Alpha Librae) is 2.8° above-left of Venus (mouseover
for labels). Note:
The soybean field between the camera and the distant trees, which was a
lush green color on August 26 (see the background in my
picture of the 16x70 binoculars on that
date), and had started turning yellowish by September
7, was straw-like stubble on October 3. Obviously, it had been
harvested, recently I suppose, since there was still a harvester parked
in the field.
for some older images.