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Perseidi 2016: Guida pratica all’Osservazione

La pioggia delle Perseidi

La pioggia delle Perseidi

Aggiornamento (30 luglio 2016): d’accordo con alcuni modelli, è possibile che le Perseidi quest’anno ci regalino un picco particolarmente generoso (outburst) tra l’11 e il 12 agosto, con una previsione di circa 200 meteore per ora. Questo è dovuto all’effetto gravitazionale di Giove sulle nubi di polvere della cometa madre (la Swift-Tuttle), che se spostate in direzione dell’orbita terrestre produrrebbero un incremento di attività. Per quest’anno, secondo gli studiosi, si potrebbe ricadere proprio in una di queste circostanze. La durata prevista di tale outburst è di circa mezza giornata, il momento del massimo previsto è intorno alle 02:30 estive del 12 agosto. La notte tra l’11 e il 12 agosto è dunque immancabile.

Puntuale come ogni anno, ritorna l’appuntamento con le celebri meteore di agosto, le popolari “Lacrime di San Lorenzo”, meglio note come Perseidi. Senza dubbio si tratta dell’evento astronomico più popolare, capace di suscitare sempre curiosità ed interesse presso il grande pubblico, complice il periodo estivo e le vacanze, magari trascorse sotto un cielo limpido e buio.

La tradizione collega il fenomeno al martirio di San Lorenzo, che secondo la tradizione arse sulla graticola nel 258, la cui ricorrenza  si celebra proprio il 10 agosto e da cui deriva il nome popolare dello sciame; tuttavia, esso è attivo per molti giorni intorno al vero picco di visibilità, che cade al giorno d’oggi tra il 12 e 13 agosto. Al massimo si possono osservare mediamente fino a 100 meteore per ora, a patto di osservare nella seconda parte della notte. Idealmente, le osservazioni vanno condotte da un luogo buio, poiché la luce artificiale abbatte drasticamente il numero di meteore visibili. Non sono necessari telescopi o altri dispositivi, poiché l’occhio nudo è senza dubbio ideale per cogliere il guizzo improvviso di tali scie luminose, grazie alla visione panoramica naturale.

Cielo visibile il 13 agosto, alle ore 2.30 estive (con marcata la posizione del radiante)

Cielo visibile il 13 agosto, alle ore 2.30 estive (con marcata la posizione del radiante)

Lo sciame delle Perseidi è originato dalla cometa Swift-Tuttle, scoperta nel 1862. Fu proprio l’astronomo italiano Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli (il “padre” dei canali di Marte) a stabilire, nel XIX secolo, una connessione tra le meteore e la cometa indicata, meccanismo questo di interesse generale per gli sciami. Il fenomeno si verifica proprio quando la Terra passa in prossimità dell’incrocio tra la sua orbita e quella della cometa in questione, “tuffandosi” così nella nube di polveri seminata da quest’ultima lungo il proprio percorso attorno al Sole. Questi grani di polvere, penetrando a gran velocità nell’atmosfera terrestre, bruciano per attrito, lasciando così nel cielo la caratteristica scia. Questo svela perciò che a “cadere” non sono affatto le stelle, piuttosto le briciole della cometa citata. La Swift-Tuttle è un astro chiomato periodico, che ritorna ogni 135 anni circa. L’ultimo passaggio risale al 1992.

Alcune Perseidi del 6 agosto 2014

Alcune Perseidi del 6 agosto 2014

Le meteore sono osservabili ogni notte serena dell’anno, ma è possibile scorgerne in maggior numero proprio in corrispondenza di questi incontri “orbitali”, quando dunque vi è una maggior quantità di polvere pronta ad entrare nell’atmosfera. In tali casi si parla di sciami di meteore: quello di agosto è solo il più popolare, ma ve ne sono altri di notevole interesse nel corso dell’intero anno.

Il nome delle Perseidi deriva dalla posizione occupata nel cielo dal radiante, ossia il punto dal quale prospetticamente le meteore sembrano scaturire: in questo caso, esso si proietta in direzione della costellazione di Perseo, celebre protagonista del firmamento autunnale. Tuttavia, le meteore appaiono in tutto il cielo: ripercorrendo idealmente all’indietro le scie delle Perseidi, esse convergerebbero proprio nel radiante, la cui posizione è moderatamente variabile nel corso dei giorni.

Costellazione di Perseo al 13 agosto, ore 2.30 estive

Costellazione di Perseo al 13 agosto, ore 2.30 estive

Pur nella ricorrenza del fenomeno, non tutte le “annate” sono uguali. Il numero di meteore effettivamente visibili, rimanendo comunque sempre interessante (con almeno 50 meteore all’ora a ridosso del massimo), conosce sensibili fluttuazioni. In primo luogo, le piogge più intense sono quelle prossime al ritorno della cometa, che rifornisce la propria traiettoria di polvere “fresca”. Inoltre, può accadere che nel periodo di massima attività delle Perseidi sia presente la Luna, magari prossima alla fase piena, con un pesante effetto negativo sulla visibilità delle meteore. Ad esempio, nel 2014, proprio intorno alla data del massimo, essa era visibile per tutta la notte, risultando così fatalmente invadente.

Dopo un buon 2015, per il 2016 le circostanze saranno ancora favorevoli. La Luna, infatti, sarà al primo quarto il 10 agosto, tramontando nelle prime ore della notte e lasciando libere quelle finali, le più importanti per le osservazioni. Tecnicamente si può osservare a qualsiasi ora della notte, ricordando però che nella seconda parte di essa si assiste ad un sensibile aumento dell’attività meteorica, poiché all’alba l’osservatore è sulla parte della Terra che avanza lungo la propria orbita verso le polveri cometarie, dunque è come se vedesse dal “parabrezza”, anziché dal “lunotto” posteriore del nostro pianeta.

Il massimo è previsto tra le 15:00 e le 17:30 del giorno 12 agosto, dunque le prime ore del 12 e del 13 agosto saranno ideali per le osservazioni: in entrambi i casi, infatti, la Luna non interferirà.

NB: RIGUARDO AL PICCO, si legga quanto riportato all’inizio dell’articolo!

Come si diceva, l’osservazione ad occhio nudo è senza dubbio la migliore, mentre è importante scegliere un sito osservativo il più lontano possibile dall’inquinamento luminoso, vero nemico dell’osservazione del cielo e disastrosa evidenza di un immenso spreco di energia elettrica.

Ripresa fotografica

Chiunque disponga di una fotocamera capace di esposizioni relativamente lunghe può tentare, senza difficoltà, la ripresa delle Perseidi più brillanti. Le probabilità di successo dipendono da svariati fattori, come l’area di cielo inquadrata nella ripresa, la luminosità dell’obiettivo impiegato, la sensibilità ISO adottata.

Maggiore è il campo inquadrato, maggiori saranno le possibilità di intercettare la traccia di una meteora. Ottimi in tal senso gli obiettivi super grandangolari (con focale inferiore ai 20mm) e gli obiettivi “fish-eye”, specie se di buona luminosità (più aperti di f/4). Utile impostare sulla fotocamera sensibilità pari a 800/1600 ISO, compatibilmente con il rumore della fotocamera. Si raccolgono così immagini in sequenza, ciascuna con esposizione di 30/60 secondi (verificare il grado di annerimento del fondo cielo, dipendente dal locale inquinamento luminoso), magari puntando in direzione del radiante.

 

Non perdete questa ottima annata delle Perseidi!

A cura di Gianluca Masi

The Virtual Telescope Project

Per maggiori informazioni sul progetto Virtual Telescope, cliccare qui.

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The 20 July 2016 Full Moon rises above the Colosseum

Full Moon rising above the Colosseum, on 20 July 2016

Full Moon rising above the Colosseum, on 20 July 2016

On 27 July 2016 the world celebrated the 47th anniversary of the Apollo 11, when the first men reached the Moon. That night the Moon was full, so I managed to grab it with our robotic telescopes.

Later the same day, I wanted to capture the Moon again, this time including something very special from Rome. I did some calculation to see if there was a chance to see the Full Moon rising above nothing less than the Colosseum. I had to find a place from where the Colosseum was showing WSW, the same direction of the rising Moon. It was not easy, but at the end I won. I located a spot over the Capitoline Hill very likely facing the right azimuth.

I reached the place bringing with me my cameras, my tripod and my 70-200 lens. I had a wonderful view above the Roman Forum, with the Colosseum on the background. I prepared everything soon after the sunset, making some final checks to be sure to be in the right place. People around were quite curious to see me so equipped and a few of them decided to have their cameras handy, too.

At some point, the Moon started to show and… it was exactly where I hoped! Our satellite had an extremely beautiful pale-red hue, contrasting with the blue sky all around it. A cloud was gently playing with it, too. You can see an image at the beginning of this post.

I must say it was so difficult to take photographs: the view was so precious that you wanted to look at it all the time. Meantime, the scene evolved with the twilight, while the Moon was higher and higher. The Moon was by itself a great sight, but the surrounding made the experience very unique. The Roman Forum at night is a breathtaking experience, give it a try, but add the Full Moon at twilight and it will blow your mind, definitely.

The Arc of Titus (right), the Colosseum and the Full Moon - 20 July 2016

The Arc of Titus (right), the Colosseum and the Full Moon – 20 July 2016

At some point, it was time to go. Well, it was hard to leave, but at least I had what I hoped. Meantime, several curious people gathered there, attracted by my setup, and I had to give a quick presentation about the Apollo 11 mission and the Moon. Before leaving, I had a last sight, with the sky now much darker and the Moon much brighter. I just had the time to capture another immortal fragment of beauty and left the place.

The beautiful Full Moon is shining above the Roman Forum

The beautiful Full Moon is shining above the Roman Forum

These experiences make you looking forward to the next chance, so I keep my camera and my imagination ready, as we will have more opportunities very soon.

Back to “Earth & Sky” page

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If everyone reading this right now would donate something, our fundraiser would be done in a few days. Please, donate and receive an exclusive, LIMITED EDITION image of potentially hazardous asteroids taken by the Virtual Telescope! specifically made for supporters like you!

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Happy 47th birthday, Apollo 11! – 20 July 2016

The 20 July 2016 Full Moon, celebrating the 47 years since the Apollo 11 landing

The 20 July 2016 Full Moon, celebrating the 47 years since the Apollo 11 landing

On July 20, 1969, 20:18:04 UTC, the Apollo 11 lunar lander touched the Moon: for the first time, man was walking on another world. This event marked the human history.

Now, 47 years are gone from that epic effort, so at Virtual Telescope we wanted to celebrate this. On 20 July 2016, the Moon was full. We managed to capture it remotely, covering the full disc with a two-panes mosaic, with the PlaneWave 17″ robotic unit. We used a OIII filter to reduce the amazing brightness of the subject. The resulting image is well worth a look.

We marked the position where astronauts landed, so you can easily find the right place.

Happy Birthday, Apollo 11.

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A record Venus-Jupiter conjunction: 27 Aug. 2016

2016 Venus-Jupiter Conjunction. Simulation for Rome, 27 Aug. 2016, 20:15 local time

2016 Venus-Jupiter Conjunction. Simulation for Rome, 27 Aug. 2016, 20:15 local time

The sky, once again, is ready to impress us with something unique. Next 27 August, planets Venus and Jupiter will have an extremely close conjunction: they will show very close each other, so be ready.

Venus and Jupiter approaching their conjunction - Rome, 26 Aug. 2016

Venus and Jupiter approaching their conjunction – Rome, 26 Aug. 2016

This conjunction is a true record: the minimum angular distance between the two involved planets will be less than 4′ arcminutes, that is only 1/8th of the angular size of the lunar disc. A quick check suggests this is the closest conjunction we will see at least for the next 40 years.

2016 Venus-Jupiter conjunction: a close up. 27 Aug. 2016, 22:30 UT

2016 Venus-Jupiter conjunction: a close up. 27 Aug. 2016, 22:30 UT

Planets, from the Ancient Greek ἀστήρ πλανήτης astēr planētēs, or πλάνης ἀστήρ plánēs astēr, which means “wandering star“, are continuously moving across the zodiacal stars, each with a different motion. The faster Venus, now back in the evening sky, will reach Jupiter, slowly sinking in the solar glare, at  the end of its visibility season. At some point, the two planets will be extremely “close” each other. Of course, this is only an apparent, prospective meeting: Jupiter is much farther than Venus: 953 millions of km vs. 232 millions of km from us, respectively.

Unfortunately, this rare Venus-Jupiter conjunction is happening with both the planets quite low in a bright sky, soon after sunset. The solar elongation of the planets is 22 degrees. A binocular will be very useful to spot this unique encounter; furthermore, it is mandatory to have a clear horizon on the west, so the best observing site would be at the sea.

Please note: the Sun can very seriously damage your eyes, even with a casual sight, so please wait for the Sun to set before you start exploring that patch of the sky looking for the planets.

Venus and Jupiter, partly covered by a tiny cloud, are enriching the sight of the skyline in Rome: 29 June 2015

Venus and Jupiter, partly covered by a tiny cloud, are enriching the sight of the skyline in Rome: 29 June 2015

The close conjunction will be at its best on 27 Aug. 2016, around 22:30 Universal Time. This will make people in most of Southern America quite happy. Of course, everyone will have the best moment to spot this wonderful cosmic happening. As we said, the observing conditions for this Venus-Jupiter conjunction, especially for those living north of the equator, are quite critical, so it is important to carefully plan the observations.

Considering this extreme proximity, Venus and Jupiter can be imaged/seen together with powerful enough telescopes. This will makes possible to capture both a gibbous Venus  and Jupiter’s satellites, hardly with some details on the latter. But please don’t be obsessed to capture images: give you a chance to SEE this wonderful, cosmic gift.

Back to “Star Words” page

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If everyone reading this right now would donate something, our fundraiser would be done in a few days. Please, donate and receive an exclusive, LIMITED EDITION image of potentially hazardous asteroids taken by the Virtual Telescope! specifically made for supporters like you!

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The Five Planets are back: see all of them at a glance, next August 2016

The sky at sunset, as visible from Rome (lat.: +42deg) on 12 Aug. 2016 at 08:50 PM (local time), It works well for similar latitudes

The sky at sunset, as visible from Rome (lat.: +42deg) on 12 Aug. 2016 at 08:50 PM (local time), It works well for similar latitudes

This 2016 has been, so far,  particularly generous with us, considering the visibility of the planets. Last Feb., we had all the five,classic planets visible at a glance, providing a stunning planetary parade. It really was a spectacular show! Eh? Did you miss it? Ok, you are not lost, there is a new opportunity coming shortly, so please be ready: this upcoming August is your month!

Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter, with the Moon from Monte Mario look-out. - 2 Feb. 2016.

Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter, with the Moon from Monte Mario look-out. – 2 Feb. 2016.

For a few days, around Aug. 15, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn will show up there shortly after the sunset. Mercury will be particularly critical to see, if you live north of the equator: the planet will be just an handful of degrees above the bright, western horizon. You will need a very clear horizon, spanning from South to West.

First of all, you will want to see the five planets with your very eyes. A pair of binocular will help a lot, providing a far better view to spot Mercury. Once located each planet this way, you can try to spot all of them with your plain eyes. Trust us: you will be happy with this quick, personal grand-tour of the Solar System.

This planetary parade, while harder to see (southern hemisphere people will be much better placed), will have a good bonus for you: the five planets will be within only 90 degrees! This will help you to capture a nice group image with relatively normal lenses. Last Feb., the five planets covered more than 115 degrees and you needed an unusual lens, as a fish-eye.

If you want to grab a picture, consider a nice spot of your landscape, it will add its beauty to the final capture. These celestial events are perfect to discover interesting connections between the Heaven & Earth. Furthermore, they do not need an expensive setup, just try with what you have handy.

Now it is up to you: you can choose to go out there and look up, getting what the sky has to offer, or miss it and wait for the next five planets parade.

But that is NOT all. Next 27/28 Aug., an epic, very close conjunction between Jupiter and Venus will put a memorable show out there, with the planets coming as close as 4 arcminutes (almost 1/8 of the angular diameter of the Moon…). So,  after looking at the five planets, keep your binocular handy.

 Back to “Star Words” page

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If everyone reading this right now would donate something, our fundraiser would be done in a few days. Please, donate and receive an exclusive, LIMITED EDITION image of potentially hazardous asteroids taken by the Virtual Telescope! specifically made for supporters like you!

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Supernova ASASSN-16fq (2016cok) in Messier 66: an image (03 July 2016)

Supernova ASASSN-16fq (2016cok) in Messier 66: 03 July 2016

Supernova ASASSN-16fq (2016cok) in Messier 66: 03 July 2016

One month after our last observations, we wanted to image this important supernova again.

The image above comes from the average of five, 60-seconds exposures, unfiltered, remotely collected with the PlaneWave 17″+Paramount ME+SBIG STL-6303E robotic unit part of the Virtual Telescope Project. The supernova was estimated at mag. 16.0 (R mags for the reference stars from UCAC-4), so it was significantly brighter than in our previous visit. The target was at less than 30 deg. above the western horizon, while the twilight was still strong.

Unfortunately, the target is leaving the sky, conclusing its obserbing season. It will not be easy to grab it again.

Back to “Supernovae” page

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The Barnard’s Star, two years later (03 July 2016)

Barnard's Star: 2014 (star on the left) vs 2016

Barnard’s Star: 2014 (star on the right) vs 2016

Do you remember the famous Barnard’s Star? Probably yes. It is the star showing the highest annual proper motion (10.3″/year). In 2014 we did a few images of it, using some old plates from the Palomar Observatory to show its motion. Last night, we covered this target again, so we were ready to check again for its motion.

The animation above is showing a comparison between 2014 (star on the right) and 2016 images (star on the left). It is impressive to see all this motion for a star, isn’t it? Because of its large proper motion, the Barnard’s Star is a perfect target for smal telescopes to see a star in action!

The images were remotely taken with the PlaneWave 17″ + Paramount ME + SBIG STL-6303E robotic unit part of the Virtual Telescope.

We are happy with this, so we will be back on this target next year!

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If everyone reading this right now would donate something, our fundraiser would be done in a few days. Please, donate and receive an exclusive, LIMITED EDITION image of potentially hazardous asteroids taken by the Virtual Telescope! specifically made for supporters like you!

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Asteroid Day 2016: a great event at Virtual Telescope (30 June 2016)

Asteroid Day 2016: observed near-Earth Asteroids

Asteroid Day 2016: observed near-Earth Asteroids

With just a few words, we want to thank all of you for making Asteroid Day 2016 memorable at the Virtual Telescope Project. We hosted two live feeds, one in Italian, one in English, so reaching thousands of people out there.

“Asteroid Day 2016”: an official live event – poster

“Asteroid Day 2016”: an official live event – poster

To say the least, it was a epic event. We hosted some extremely unique guests, such a bright constellation of first-rate scientists like Thomas Jones, Nasa astronaut and planetary scientist, Eric Christensen, director of the Catalina Sky Survey, Michael Schwartz, CEO at Tenagra Observatories, Debbie Lewis, Asteroid Day Expert Panel and Disaster Management expert, Jay Tate, The Spaceguard Center, Gregory Leonard, astronomer at Catalina Sky Survey and of course Grigorij Richters, filmmaker and co-founder of Asteroid Day. Both the streams were presented by Gianluca Masi, astrophysicist and creator of the Virtual Telescope Project. We had more than five hours of live streaming, so it was almost a marathon!

Asteroid Day 2016 @ Virtual Telescope: the protagonists

Asteroid Day 2016 @ Virtual Telescope: the protagonists

Discussing with these eminent personalities was a unique opportunity for us to learn and discover asteroids and the goals of such an important movement as Asteroid Day.

For this edition, the Virtual Telescope also officially promoted Asteroid Day in Italy, which resulted in number of great,events  connected as Asteroid Day Italia. The impact on media and press in Italy was amazing, including the very most important newspapers, radio stations and TVs. We wish to thank all the ones who took part, bacause they helped to make all this so big!

Asteroid Day Italia 2016

Asteroid Day Italia 2016

We made available the podcast for both the Italian and English streams below. If you missed the original streaming, here you can find all the contents and the special guests. For sure these videos will be a very enjoyable view for years to come.


English

Italiano

We are already missing Asteroid Day, but will start working on the 2017 edition soon.

Support The Virtual Telescope Project!

If everyone reading this right now would donate something, our fundraiser would be done in a few days. Please, donate and receive an exclusive, LIMITED EDITION image of potentially hazardous asteroids taken by the Virtual Telescope! specifically made for supporters like you!

donate now (you can adjust the amount later)

 

Scientists Rock – an Asteroid Day series | Episode 2

Scientists Rock - an Asteroid Day series

Scientists Rock – an Asteroid Day series

Here it is the second episode of the special series “Scientists Rock”, made for Asteroid Day 2016. At Virtual Telescope we provided the subtitles in Italian.

Ecco il secondo episodio della serie speciale “Scientists Rock”, appositamente realizzata per Asteroid Day 2016. Il Virtual Telescope ha curato la realizzazione dei sottotitoli in Italiano.

Back to “Asteroid Day 2016”

Support The Virtual Telescope Project!

If everyone reading this right now would donate something, our fundraiser would be done in a few days. Please, donate and receive an exclusive, LIMITED EDITION image of potentially hazardous asteroids taken by the Virtual Telescope! specifically made for supporters like you!

donate now (you can adjust the amount later)

 

Scientists Rock – an Asteroid Day series | Episode 1

Scientists Rock - an Asteroid Day series | Episode 1

Scientists Rock – an Asteroid Day series | Episode 1

Here it is the first episode of the special series “Scientists Rock”, made for Asteroid Day 2016. At Virtual Telescope we provided the subtitles in Italian.

Ecco il primo episodio della serie speciale “Scientists Rock”, appositamente realizzata per Asteroid Day 2016. Il Virtual Telescope ha curato la realizzazione dei sottotitoli in Italiano.

Back to “Asteroid Day 2016”

 

Support The Virtual Telescope Project!

If everyone reading this right now would donate something, our fundraiser would be done in a few days. Please, donate and receive an exclusive, LIMITED EDITION image of potentially hazardous asteroids taken by the Virtual Telescope! specifically made for supporters like you!

donate now (you can adjust the amount later)

 

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