(meteorobs) Observation October 8/9 2013

Pierre Martin pmartin at teksavvy.com
Mon Oct 14 00:58:02 EDT 2013

Hello all,

The dusk-to-dawn outing we had at Nirvana last Tuesday night was fantastic!  It was one of the most memorable, varied and enjoyable dark sky sessions that I've had in quite some time.

With a pleasant and relaxing two hour drive through the Renfrew area, heading down highway 41... beautiful weather with autumn colours beginning to show, I arrived to the airstrip just after 6PM.  Greeted by Chris, Jim, Richard and Randy along with a variety of scopes.  Later on, Ivan and his son Nicholas, as well as Sanjeev and Shane showed up.  An impressive turnout for a weeknight, but not too surprising as the weather forecast was highly promising!

What an interesting night full of surprises!  At dusk, Chris Thuemen pointed out an interesting atmospheric phenomena of radial shape diverging from the setting Sun, that had various shades from teal to deep blue.  It was subtle but I also have never seen anything like that before.  I then switched my attention to photographing the thin crescent Moon and Venus in the western sky, a beautiful sight.  As the sky grew darker, another phenomena appeared... the unmistakable "glow arc" of aurora over the northern horizon.  It was just a very uniform glow, a perfect arch.  But not too long later, this glow turned into a magnificent and very colourful aurora... with flaring spikes, moving curtains!  Wow!!  Bright greens at the base and pale reds at the tops.  The biggest surprise was the sight of a brilliant and slow moving sporadic meteor, gracefully cutting across the brightest part of the aurora!  It was well seen and photographed by many of us too!  Here's the photos I took.  (You'll find the details in the captions underneath each photo): 
The aurora was very active for about an hour, then it subsided into a dimmer display near the horizon.  I decided to sign-on for meteor observing, and face the north-west to look for possible Draconids.  While that particular shower turned out being nearly quiet, sporadic activity was a different story.  After a normal first hour, the second one surged with sporadics literally flying left and right!  Nine of them were seen within eight minutes, shortly after midnight, including two simultaneous meteors.  A few seemed to emanate from the general direction of Auriga but I was not able to pin point a precise radiant.  Here's my meteor data:

October 8/9 2013, 02:20-04:22 UT (22:20-00:22 EDT)
Location: Irvine Lake airstrip (Nirvana), Ontario, Canada 
(Long: -76 deg 29'; Lat: 45 deg 23')

Observed showers:
Draconids (GIA) - 17:28 (262) +56
Southern Taurids (STA) - 01:56 (029) +08

Period 1: 02:20-03:20 UT; clear; F 1.00; LM 6.80; facing NW50 deg; teff 1.00 hr.
GIA: one: +2
STA: none
Sporadics: seven: -1; +1; +2; +3; +4(2); +5
Total meteors: eight

Period 2: 03:20-04:22 UT; clear; F 1.00; LM 6.80; facing NW50 deg; teff 1.01 hr.
GIA: none
STA: one: +1
Sporadics: eighteen: 0; +1(2); +2; +3(5); +4(5); +5(4)
Total meteors: nineteen

I spent the rest of the night with telescope observing.  The seeing conditions were excellent, and I had a terrific time with my 12.5" dob right up until the end even though fog patches occasionally interfered.  It was also great to move around the site, and share what others were seeing and imaging.

Highlights with my 12.5" dob:  The Veil nebula with OIII filter, three comets (2P Encke, C/2013 R1 Lovejoy and C/2012 S1 ISON), the Orion nebula and of course Jupiter in the morning sky, displaying many fine features during moments of excellent seeing!  As for comet ISON, the anticipation caused more excitement than the actual viewing.  It was visible in the 12.5" as a dim elongated object.  It was equally difficult in a nearby 18" dob - but visible!  It'll be interesting to watch the comet as it approaches the Sun and brightens in the coming weeks.  It still has a long way to go before becoming "great".

At the end of the night, the temperature was down to 0C, with heavy dew/frost.  I wrapped myself up in a warm sleeping bag and slept well until mid-morning.  We had enough fun that we're thinking of getting out there again next New Moon!

Clear skies,

Pierre Martin
Ottawa, Ontario

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