Thursday, March 31, 2016

Comets & Asteroids - Summary for March 2016

During the month of March 2016,  3 new comets were discovered. On March 17, 2016 a new impact flash on Jupiter has been captured by amateur astronomers. Moreover, delay-doppler images of asteroid 2016 DV1 (on March 03, 2016) and of comet P/2016 BA14 (on March 22, 2016) have been obtained by Goldstone Solar System Radar.(see below for more about these news). "Current comet magnitudes" & "Daily updated asteroid flybys" pages are available at the top of this blog (or just click on the underline text here).

The dates below refer to the date of issuance of CBET (Central Bureau Electronic Telegram)  which reported the official news & designations.

 - Comet Discoveries

Mar 11  Discovery of C/2016 E1 (PANSTARRS)
Mar 16  P/2015 B4 (LEMMON-PANSTARRS)
Mar 16  C/2016 E2 (KOWALSKI)

Scientists using the Goldstone Solar System Radar in California's Mojave Desert observed comet P/2016 BA14 during its historic flyby. Close approach of March 22, 2016 by P/2016 BA14 has been the third closest on record and the closest flyby of a comet in 246 years (for more info about P/2016 BA14 see our previous post). Radar images from the flyby indicate that the comet is about 1 kilometer in diameter. Moreover data collected by V. Reddy using the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) on Mauna Kea, Hawaii indicate that the comet reflects less than 3 percent of the sunlight that falls on its surface. 

Radar images of comet P/2016 BA14 - Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR

Comet P/2016 BA14 - Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR

- Asteroid & Meteors news

On March 17, 2016 (at 00:18:35UT) a possible impact flash on Jupiter was imaged independently by 2 amateur astronomers: Gerrit Kernbauer (Mödling, Austria) & John McKeon (Dublin, Ireland). Both videos are on Youtube: & If confirmed, this becomes the fifth such event in the past decade. For more info about old impact flashes see our previous post here. Click on the gif below to see a comparison side by side of the 2 videos with an apparent impact flash on the Jupiter's East limb. 

Credit: Kernbauer & McKeon

On March 03, 2016, delay-doppler images of asteroid 2016 DV1 were obtained using DSS-13 to transmit and GBT to receive. The images span ~1 rotation. Rotation period is about 304 +/-8 seconds.

Goldstone Radar Observations of 2016 DV1

by Ernesto Guido

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

New Comet: C/2016 E2 (Kowalski)

CBET nr. 4266, issued on 2016, March 16, announces the discovery of a comet (magnitude ~18) by R. A. Kowalski on CCD images obtained with the 0.68-m Schmidt telescope in the course of the Catalina Sky Survey on Mar. 15.44-15.46 UT. The new comet has been designated C/2016 E2 (Kowalski).

We performed follow-up measurements of this object, while it was still on the neocp. Stacking of 65 unfiltered exposures, 15 seconds each, obtained remotely on 2016, March 16.3 from H06 (iTelescope network - New Mexico) through a 0.25-m f/3.4 reflector + CCD, shows that this object is a comet with a diffuse irregular coma nearly 10 arcsec in diameter.

Our confirmation image (click on it for a bigger version)

M.P.E.C. 2016-F03  assigns the following preliminary parabolic orbital elements to comet C/2016 E2: T 2016 Feb. 6.70; e= 1.0; Peri. =  322.01; q = 1.07;  Incl.= 136.00

Credit: JPL

This comet will have a close approach with Earth at about 114 LD (Lunar Distances = ~384,000 kilometers) or 0.2920 AU (1 AU = ~150 million kilometers) on March 17, 2016 at 06:41 UT (it passed perihelion on Feb. 06, 2016 at 1.075 AU). Comet C/2016 E2 will fade in the coming days as its distance from both the Earth and Sun increase.

by Ernesto Guido & Nick Howes