Bolton Astronomical Society

(3200) Phaethon: asteriod or comet?
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Author:  rwilkinson [ Sun Dec 17, 2017 11:12 am ]
Post subject:  (3200) Phaethon: asteriod or comet?

This Small Solar System Body is around 5km in diameter and has been suggested as a possible extinct comet nucleus. It is certainly the parent body of the Geminid meteors.

Last night it made a close pass to Earth: some of the newspapers called it a "near miss", although it never got closer than 6 million miles. But in 2093 it is predicted to approach within 2 million miles.
I managed to get some images of it yesterday evening, between the patchy clouds. I found that it was moving so quickly that it was trailing badly in 60-sec exposures, so I ended up using 15-sec with 2x2 binning on my old Starlight-Xpress HX916 camera.
File comment: Phaethon on 16-dec. 32x 15-sec with HX916 on 80ED at f/4.6
3200_16dec.png [ 174.47 KiB | Viewed 409 times ]

And this stack shows how far it moved across my field of view in just 12 minutes:
File comment: The trail of Phaethon from 32x-15 sec over 12 minutes
track2.png [ 192.36 KiB | Viewed 409 times ]

Then later in the evening I collected another 35 minutes' data, with just one interruption from wispy cloud:

Author:  PMiskiw [ Sun Dec 17, 2017 12:12 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: (3200) Phaethon: asteriod or comet?

The mp4 is fabulous. Keep up the good work of recording these visitors.

Author:  rwilkinson [ Sun Dec 17, 2017 2:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: (3200) Phaethon: asteriod or comet?

Just in case I didn't manage it from Bolton, I'd set the T5 iTelescope in New Mexico to get some images for me too:
File comment: Phaethon on 17-Dec. 3x 170-sec with 250mm f/3.4 reflector
3200_17dec.png [ 266.21 KiB | Viewed 396 times ]

I'd programmed their high-tech mount to track the target body rather than the background stars, which it has done very successfully.
The modulation in the intensity of the star-trails is due to wispy cloud.

Author:  DRatledge [ Mon Dec 18, 2017 8:53 am ]
Post subject:  Re: (3200) Phaethon: asteriod or comet?

Peter is right - that is a fabulous mp4 video. Well done Ross.

Author:  rwilkinson [ Mon Dec 18, 2017 1:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: (3200) Phaethon: asteriod or comet?

Thank you both for your plaudits.

As usual, I used IRIS to align and process the individual frames:
I used the LOG2 command (for the first time), to do a logarithmic histogram-stretch on the whole sequence;
then PIC2BMP to produce a series of 100x .BMP files;
then I used the Batch Conversion in IrfanView to make these all into .GIFs;
next I used unFREEz to produce an animated GIF;
and finally the EZGif online video converter to make the .MP4 version.

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