Mojo and I are going to our favorite observing location this afternoon,
Amboy Crater, to try and view comet PanSTARRS just after sunset at 5:57
p.m. From now through the end of March, the comet should be naked-eye
visible very low on the western horizon - low meaning about 10 degrees
above the unobstructed horizon for those at latitude 40 (we are at 34
degrees North latitude here in the LA area), so it will be even a few
degrees lower than that here throughout March. But it will be visible
in April and May (through a telescope) higher and fainter in the sky.
This month, use binoculars to scan the western horizon.
Ten degrees can be measured by holding your clenched fist at arms-length
distance, then with thumb-up, place the bottom of your fist on the
horizon. The top of your fist (put your thumb back down first) will be
ten degrees above the horizon. You'll see it's not very high. The
comet's tail will be like your thumb up - because the tail will be
pointing straight up. It's easy to see why -- comets tails point away
from the sun.
Any spot where you have an unobstructed view of the western horizon just
at sunset is where you should look. Here in LA, looking west on the
horizon generally means looking through a hazy (smoggy) or foggy layer
of our atmosphere. The viewing window is just about a half hour after
sunset right now - sunset until about 6:30 p.m. Longer window next week,
but still very low. Watch my video for tips.
You are welcome to join us - sorry for the late notice, we were waiting
to see how the storm affected the deserts before deciding where and when
to go. Amboy, CA 92304 is an unincorporated town in San Bernardino
County, in California's Mojave Desert, west of Needles and east of
Ludlow on historic Route 66. It is roughly 60 miles northeast of
Twentynine Palms. Amboy Crater is a BLM landmark with a big parking lot.
It takes us about 3 hours (including a sandwich stop in Barstow) to
get there, and we'll arrive at about 4:30 p.m. to set up our equipment.
It will be cold and windy tonight, so we plan to observe for about 4
hours then drive back home. It is not a campsite, so no tents, but you
can sleep/rest in your car overnight and take a hike in the morning to
the volcanic crater. There are pit toilets in the parking lot.
We set up our two telescopes at the very end, next to the rest room.
If you do come, there are some universal courtesy tips to avoid blinding
the observers. The San Jose Astronomical Association has a great list
To this list, most important is to arrive before sunset. It is
virtually impossible to see the turnoff from Route 66 in the dark, and
you will miss the comet hunt unless your are all ready to look at
sunset. Park with your car lights pointed away from the telescopes
closer to the entrance end of the lot. Switch your car's interior lights
off if you can. We always bring some red carlight repair tape to place
over very small flashlights, leave those big flashlights at home, you
won't need them. No iPad, tablet, cell phones light near the (my)
telescopes, please. Just step away and face your light away from the
telescopes if you'd like to use them. They are fun to use, but will ruin
(this) observer's dark adaption. Bring a chair, layers, binoculars,
hydration. Oh there are trains with lights all night long, but I set up
away from that light. You'll love to hear them in the dark. :-)
Since this is short notice, you may want to consider joining us on May
11 at our campground star party at Mojave National Preserve instead.
Hopefully, the comet will still be visible. The light pollution rules
are a little more relaxed (except right near the telescopes) since it is
a public star party. Last fall's flyer is here with
If you do see the comet from LA let us know! Your chances are good if
you can see the western horizon with no clouds or haze. Try with
binoculars. We'll share what we see, how hard it was, tips and tricks
tomorrow! Wish us luck!
Jane Houston Jones
What's Up Video March 2013: Comet PanSTARRS
On Youtube: http://bit.ly/ZzW1bt
2013 Preview: http://bit.ly/13NrNHy
There will probably be a few telescopes in Monrovia Saturday night (not
Mojo and mine, we are on travel), and for sure a few other telescopes,
including ours next weekend, weather permitting. The moon and Jupiter
will be fabulous both weekends.
No on to the email of many links:
2013 - monthly highlights - lots to look forward to this year!!
Asteroid flyby - explanatory video, some charts, and frequently asked
A few of the most asked FAQs:
*Q: What is asteroid DA14*
A: Asteroid 2012 DA14 is a small near-Earth object - approximately 150
feet (45 meters) in diameter. On Feb. 15, 2013, the asteroid will pass
by our planet at a remarkably close distance, but the asteroid's path is
understood well enough that there is no chance of a collision with the
*Q: What date and what time will the asteroid be closest to Earth?*
A: Asteroid 2012 DA14 will be closest to Earth on Feb. 15 at
approximately 19:24 UTC (2:24 p.m. EST/11:24 a.m. PST). This time may
change by a minute or two as the asteroid is tracked on its approach and
predictions are refined.
At the time of closest approach, the asteroid will be over the eastern
Indian Ocean, off Sumatra -- approx. latitude: -6 deg South. /
longitude: 97.5 deg East.
These near earth asteroids are not very easy to spot in telescopes. This
one will be extremely faint (as faint as Pluto at Magnitude 13 when in
our night sky, moving swiftly past earth, about 10pm tomorrow night.
Here is my tale of near earth asteroid watching - one in 2002,one in
Breaking news at 10:30 pm: I'll report more tomorrow when I see news and
videos that have been verified, but seems a bolide exploded over Russia
- Urals-city of Chelyabinsk
Jane Houston Jones
What's Up Podcast for Feb:Asteroid flyby, comet preview
On Youtube: http://youtu.be/uEqt0yE6EG0
Twitter: http://twitter.com/jhjones /CassiniSaturn /otastro
My Blog: http://jane.whiteoaks.com/
Yosemite Video http://www.youtube.com/user/yosemitenationalpark?feature=watch
We'll have a couple telescopes out tonight in Monrovia from 6:30 - 8:30
or so. On display will be the 13-day moon (nearly full) and Jupiter.
Stop by if you're in the neighborhood.
Also, we now have a date for our twice-annual Mojave National Preserve
Star party - May 6. Though this flyer is for last fall's event, you
can get a feel for the event, and can RSVP if you'd like to attend.
Free camping, bring something for saturday night potluck. You might
want a chair to sit in and gaze at the night sky.
Free camping, unlimited stargazing, Comet Pan-STARRS (our March comet)
should still be visible.
Weather permitting, Mojo and I are planning dark sky observing outings
to Amboy Crater March 9 and April 6. Amboy Crater is not a campsite -
it's a large parking lot, and we usually snooze in our car a little
after observing, and sometimes take a hike to the crater in the morning.
If you are interesting in joining us, sent me an email!
2013 What's Up - at a glance
Jane Houston Jones
What's Up Podcast for February: Asteroid flyby, comet & planet previews.