Monthly Archives: December 2013

Observing Report – Mare Vaporum – 2013-12-12

I am pretty sure i was observing on the 12th, although it may have been Dec 11. It’s  important because the phase of the moon plays an important role in what can be observed on the lunar surface.  I do know it was clear and pretty $#^&* cold with temperatures below -20c at 10pm.

Pyroclastic formation south east of Mare Vaporum

Pyroclastic formation south east of Mare Vaporum

I had found statements that the dark pyroclastic formation to the south east of Mare Vaporum was observable even at a full moon. I had just completed my image of that area taken with a lunation of 7days, so was keen to test that statement. I grabbed the 70mm Telvue Pronto, which was already on the camera tripod, and observed from the front porch at 10pm to see if i could find the “dark spot” below Mare Vaporum.

Using the 70mm scope and a 5mm Hyperion yields a magnification of 96x and a real FoV of 42′. So the whole moon didn’t quite fill the field of view but provided enough magnification that i was hopeful of seeing the details i was after. The seeing was actually quite poor despite the seemingly very transparent skies. I was also observing at about 10pm so the moon was high in the sky and due south which should have been ideal. I think the cold winter air gives the impression of being clear, but the seeing (stability) is generally poor in these conditions.

Mare Vaporum was easy to spot. As well 4 dark “spots” to the south east were clearly visible. The one furthest east is the large crater Julius Caesar. Just west of that is the crater Boscovish. Then there are two dark spots that together with Boscovish form a line going south west. I presume the two additional spots are the craters Hyginus Z and Hyginus S.

As for the pyroclastic formation, i think with a little stretch of the imagination i did see it. But the seeing was poor and the magnification and resolution of the 70m Pronto was probably marginal for that task. As well, the camera tripod was affected by the stiff breeze making it hard to get a stable fix on the object of interest.

I will have to try again with the HD11 on the motorized CGE Pro to be able to definitively say that the dark formation is visible past the 1st quarter moon.

Astrophoto Mare Vaporum – 2013-10-11

The rough patch of ridges south east of Mare Vaporum is quite an interesting formation. This greyscale image taken at about the 1st quarter moon shows nice details in the mountain ridged. A colour image taken a couple years ago when the lunation was a day later shows the region to be reddish brown compared to the surrounding area.

Pyroclastic formation south east of Mare Vaporum

Pyroclastic formation south east of Mare Vaporum

Pyroclastic formation south east of Mare Vaporum
2013-10-11 v1
Lunation 7.08days

The best information i found describes the area as being formed from material ejected from the Imbrium impact and then later overlaid by pyroclastics – ash from volcanic vents. I assume that the valleys of the original ridges were filled in at some point by basalt lava flows.

The formation seems to be unnamed despite being of considerable interest with observations dating back to the early 1800s. On the western ridge to the south is a formation that was once called Mt. Schneckenberg but has since been de-named. It has also been referred to descriptively as the “spiral mountain”. It has also been described as an /e/ shaped formation. On the eastern ridge, about mid way along the ridge, there is half a crater (looking like a cap). This is Hyginus N. The larger creator to the south, and mostly covered from a lava flow, is Hyginus W. Observers in the late 1800s thought it might be a new formation as it was not previously noted in detailed observations from the early 1800s even though the earlier observers had the equipment and skill to have seen it.

Image details:
Scope HD11 with tv 2x powermate
Chameleon at 1280×960 18fps.
Mosaic from 7 x 2min videos – 2200 frames.
Stacked best 10% (220 frames) with Autostakkert2
Processed with Pixinsight and Photoshop

Comet ISON Officially Gone – 2013-12-03

Comet ISON (c2012 s1) encountered a solar flare while traveling around the sun and faded quickly. It was thought to have disintegrated, but a short time later it reappeared on one of NASA’s solar observatories. So for a little while there was a faint hope (pun intended) that it had survived. However, as of Dec 3rd, NASA has declared that the comet has broken apart. There is still a dense “debris pile” traveling along the comet’s path and this may still be visible in large telescopes. But this isn’t a comet anymore and won’t have a coma or a tail.

Comet ISON is known as a “sun grazer” – meaning it passes very close to the sun. On Nov 27/28th ISON passed through perihelion (point of closest approach of a body to the sun) with a orbital radius of 1,860,000 km. A million or so kilometers might seem like a lot, but when you consider the sun is 1,391,000 km in diameter (695,500km radius), 1.8m km starts to look really close. At closest approach then, ISON was only 1,165,000km from the surface of the sun.

For comparison, Mercury’s orbital radius of 58m KM and Venus’ orbit is 108m km. The Earth is on average 150m km from the sun.

Comet ISON Fading Fast – 2013-12-01

NASA’s solar observatories have been tracking comet c2012 S1 (ISON) as it rounded the sun. On Nov 27th it encountered a solar flare and then began to fade noticeably. They predict that “this development makes it unlikely that Comet ISON will put on a good show after it exits the glare of the sun in early December”.

For more info and a cool video of the comet actually rounding the sun see: