Comet Lovejoy

This dispatch is being relayed from BASS member Paul Robinson. Paul posted this today on the FRAC (Front-Range Astronomical Community) mailing list. It should definitely interest BASS members who enjoy comets and do monitor FRAC.

To all comet enthusiasts,

Comet Lovejoy is currently running about mag. 5.6 (internet), and I saw it last night about midnight in my 25×100 binos.

It is very easy to see as a large (10′ wide) round fuzz ball even though only 16 deg  high due south in the Denver metro light dome.

The good news is that things will improve over the next 2 weeks as it approaches both the earth (closest Jan 6 at 0.42 AU) and sun (closest Jan 30 at q = 1.29 AU).

The tail is all ion, meaning it is very difficult visually, but easy photographically.  A comparison of my visual estimate of size with photos on the internet suggest I could see only about 30% of its width visually.  What that means from a practical sense is that this comet will look MUCH BETTER FROM A DARK SITE !!

Currently the trend is very steady and suggests a max January 7 magnitude of about 4.0, which should be easy to see naked eye from a reasonably dark location.  The tail should be visible by then in binoculars.  The full moon will depart the sky starting Jan. 6.

The comet will head from Columba (west of southern Canis Major) to due west of Rigel in Orion by Jan 6, and onward toward Taurus.  This will make it well placed in our sky by the best viewing time.

But do not wait.  See it soon to follow its progress.

Happy Holidays,

Paul Robinson


We watched the short movie Wanderers by Erick Wernquist at the December meeting. It is an artistic piece, not a science documentary, but all of the places depicted are based on real science. Many of the backgrounds are from science renderings from ESA and NASA. In my opinion it is exceptionally well done. Enjoy.

The creator’s web site explains a bit about it here.

BASS Meeting and Potluck – Saturday December 13th

Annual Almost Solstice potluck celebration (and meeting) at the Hartung’s house. 6PM till the conversation dies down.

Spouses, friends, and even family are welcome to attend with you. Bring a dish that is best served in appetizer or small side portions. We used to try to coordinate who was bringing what, but in the end it just turns into bring what you want anyway. Beverages will be provided.

Science in the Brewery, Exo-planet talk

Just wanted to let people know that I’m doing a talk on exo-planet discovery on Thursday 12/11/14 starting at 6:30pm. This is an informal thing like the Science Café series, only this time it is the Science Brewery. I’m doing the inaugural experiment in science talks at Vindication Brewing in Gunbarrel (see map). The format is similar to the Forum Astronomique series that I have held at Fiske Planetarium in the past (except that you can also buy a beer or a house made ginger ale).

Cheers, Steve

BASS Meeting -Saturday November15th

7PM November 15th, at Sommers-Bausch Observatory on the CU Boulder campus:

Featured presentation: The Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope and its Instrumentation

David Elmore
Optical Systems Scientist and Instrument Scientist
National Solar Observatory

When operational in 2019 the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST), formerly Advanced Technology Solar Telescope, will be by far the largest solar telescope in the world. With its 4-meter diameter mirror, off-axis Gregorian design, adaptive optics, and advanced thermal control, DKIST will produce diffraction-limited solar images that for the first time will resolve the ‘natural’ solar image scale of less than 20km. DKIST will be equipped with five first-light instruments to provide high spatial, spectral, and polarimetric accuracy observations over the wavelength range of 380nm to 5000nm. The presentation will show slides of the Telescope design, state-of-the-art solar images, and the telescope’s instruments that will improve upon those images.

David Elmore is Optical Systems Scientist for the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) working with international partners to deliver first-light instrumentation for DKIST. Mr. Elmore has developed and designed instruments used for research in solar physics at the National Solar Observatory and previously for the High Altitude Observatory of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. His expertise includes design of ground-based, balloon born, and spaced-based spectro-polarimeters that measure polarized spectral line profiles to infer solar magnetic field strength in the solar photosphere, chromosphere, and corona.


Computer rendering of the DKIST atop Haleakalā, Maui, Hawai’i. NSO/AURA/NSF.


Bear Creek Elementary Super Science Night Oct 29th

Just a reminder that BASS is participating in the annual Bear Creek Elementary (Boulder, Table Mesa at the foot of the road to NCAR) Super Science Night tonight Oct. 29th, 2014 (yes, new this year, it is a mid-week event). The event is officially from 6-8PM, setup starts at 5:30. We will again be on the east playing fields. We will be able to drive up gently onto the field to setup right out of the back of our cars, as in the last two previous years. Power can be run from very long extension cords, but it is not very practical. If you require power for your systems, your field battery options are recommended.

This is usually a big event, and we appreciate anyone willing to bring out a scope. If you do not have a scope and want to participate, please do come and we will ask you to monitor one of the other scopes since some people bring more than one.

If you can’t make it by 6pm, feel free to come when you can.

Hope to see you there.

BASS Meeting -Saturday October 18th

As a formal entity, BASS is 10 years old this month. It has been an extraordinary decade for astronomy, and BASS has brought you many talks and programs related to some of the most interesting research and space missions in the field. We will look back on some of those discoveries and programs, and we will have cake! In professional astronomy they do something called a Decadal Survey, where they look at what they want to do in the coming decade for the flagship programs. We will do the BASS Decadal Survey, and look at what we have witnessed in the past decade.

Lunar Eclipse Early Wed Morning Oct 8th

A total lunar eclipse will be visible before dawn on Wednesday morning, October 8, 2014. The eclipsed Moon should take on a reddish or purple color as the majority of light on it will be that which is being refracted and diffracted by the Earth and our atmosphere. It is essentially a Moon illuminated by all of Earth’s sunsets and sunrises at on time.

The Earth’s shadow will begin to take a bite out of the Moon at 3:15 AM, and totality will run from 4:25 AM to 5:24 AM. The Moon will be above the mountains to the west for the event, making for some good potential photo opportunities. The forecast is for partly cloudy skies, but this event should even be nicely viewable even through light cirrus clouds. Viewing is best with the naked eye or binoculars. Take a look and enjoy the view.

BASS Meeting – Saturday September 27th

7PM at Sommers-Bausch Observatory (SBO). The BASS meeting has been moved from our usual 3rd Saturday of the month to the 27th due to a home CU football game. There will be a feature talk plus training on the SBO telescope operations. Even if you are a current SBO telescope operator, please attend this meeting to learn about the updated control system for the telescopes. The telescopes controls have been updated to run with the XEphem application, a tool that is widely used on scientific-grade instruments.

BASS Meeting – Saturday August 16th

The BASS Meeting, Saturday August 16th, will NOT be held Sommers-Bausch Observatory on the CU Boulder Campus. Ongoing maintenance work has our usual meeting space out of commission for the remainder of August. Instead, we will meet at the Hartung residence for a casual cookout of beers and brats and telescopes.