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Optical outburst of the quasar CTA 102

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#76 timokarhula

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Posted 23 December 2016 - 12:07 PM

I just made an observation of CTA 102, with 25x100 binoculars!  It was brighter than ever.  At 16:37 UT, I estimated CTA 102 as magnitude 11.5.  This must be a world record in distance with ordinary binoculars, 7.7 billion light years!  The blazar was not even that particularly difficult to spot, being in a relatively star-less region.  I saw a fainter V=12.5 field star 12' to the E.

 

/Timo Karhula


Edited by timokarhula, 23 December 2016 - 12:08 PM.

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#77 mkothe

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Posted 24 December 2016 - 08:47 PM

I just observed it a second time. Again with the neighbor's driveway light in my face, but definitely easier to spot than on 12/2. It was a bit brighter than the mag 12.9 star in the S&T finder chart. Last time I saw that star clearly but CTA-102 was more of a challenge.
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#78 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 25 December 2016 - 07:55 PM

Well, I got an astronomical Christmas present this evening.  I was able to successfully observe CTA 102 using the ASH 17" f/15 classical Cassegrain at 116 (56mm Meade 4000 "Super" Plössl), 162 (40mm University Optics MK-70), 216 (30mm Explore Scientific 70 degree), and 259x (25mm Explore Scientific 70 degree).  The conditions just after astronomical twilight were rather good and I was able to match up the star patterns shown in the Sky & Telescope and AAVSO finder charts.  CTA 102 was brighter than the nearby magnitude +12.9 field star.  Shortly afterwards the sky began to grow somewhat hazy.
 
A fellow ASH member arrived just as I was closing down the French Dome.  I asked him if he wanted to see the blazar.  He opened up the Weiser building, which he was going to use for imaging, and prepared the 14" f/10 Meade SCT.  After a bit, we were near the location of CTA 102.  I looked through the eyepiece as he panned the scope with the hand control.  A short time later I identified the correct field.  We both took a look at CTA 102 at 142x (25mm Explore Scientific 70 degree) and I left not long thereafter.
 
Prior to observing the blazar I viewed Venus, M38, and M15 and watched a fine pass of Tiangong 2. 
 
Dave Mitsky
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#79 Aquarellia

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Posted 25 December 2016 - 11:20 PM

Well, I got an astronomical Christmas present this evening.  I was able to successfully observe CTA 102 ./..

That's so good, merry Christmas Dave!

Michel



#80 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 25 December 2016 - 11:26 PM

It looks like the third time was the charm. (I'm fairly sure that I saw CTA 102 on my second attempt but I wasn't able to positively identify it before the clouds arrived.)

Thanks and the same to you.

Dave Mitsky

#81 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 26 December 2016 - 03:13 AM

The folk-rock song by the Byrds that CTA 102 inspired can be heard at https://www.youtube....h?v=P1mXIiM9QjA

 

Dave Mitsky


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#82 swetzel

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Posted 26 December 2016 - 10:30 AM

I would really like to observe this object but ever sense I have read about it we have been clouded in.


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#83 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 26 December 2016 - 11:57 AM

A fellow ASH member who moved to New Mexico when he retired reported seeing CTA 102 through a 152mm Takahashi refractor yesterday.

 

Dave Mitsky



#84 BrooksObs

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Posted 26 December 2016 - 12:05 PM

I had a nice look at CTA 102 last evening; finding it to be of 12.4 magnitude.

 

However, something that I find more interesting in regard to this strange object caught my attention when examining its behavior over the course of the past three months. Early on in the outburst CTA 102’s brightness rose slowly but in a rather steady fashion. That is up until nearly the very end of November. At that time we saw the first of it extraordinary brightness flares, the first of which took CTA 102 rather abruptly from magnitude 13.0 to 11.8 in just a couple of days. This initial event took about two weeks to die away, ultimately leaving the object at about 13.5 magnitude.

 

Then at mid month CTA 102 underwent a second outburst/flaring, quickly taking it once again back to magnitude 11.8 to be followed once again by a progressive decay in its brightness back to 13.4 . Unexpectedly, a further new such event was initiated just days later with the same amplitude again. But this time CTA 102 only fell to 12.5 before immediately initiating yet another flare! In the last week, or so, it appears that these events are coming every couple of days!

 

Perhaps the strangest aspect of all, however, is that carefully looking over the object’s overall light curve reveals that taking the mean brightness of each of the recent flarings corresponds to an extrapolation of the slope exhibited by its brightness in previous months. In other words CTA 102’s recent brightness simply has the flarings simply superimposed upon its constant brightening trend.

 

This seemingly being so, one wonders just how bright the object is going to grow and what bizarre, unexpected aspects, it will develop? I certainly wish that CTA 102 were not slipping steadily down into the west these nights as it could prove to be most interest to see just what in in store next!

 

BrooksObs


Edited by BrooksObs, 26 December 2016 - 12:06 PM.

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#85 Aquarellia

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Posted 26 December 2016 - 01:59 PM

A fellow ASH member who moved to New Mexico when he retired reported seeing CTA 102 through a 152mm Takahashi refractor yesterday.

 

Dave Mitsky

No problem Dave, I have a brand new 152mm Bresser focal 1200mm, I already made 14 estimations of the blazar with this refractor from my backyard new observatory.  For magnitude lower than 13.0  ofcourse I use my 302mm Dobson, that means 10 more estimations.

You can see my own estimations via the AAVSO curve under my observer code : DMIB.  In the notes I always add the material used.

Tonight the sky is not transparent, this is rare here in Provence but ok, so sadly no estimation tonight!

Michel



#86 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 27 December 2016 - 07:38 PM

I was able to log CTA 102 again this evening using the 17" f/15 classical Cassegrain at the Naylor Observatory.  Three fellow ASH members are also here tonight and got a chance to see the extraordinary blazar, which seemed to be somewhat brighter than the magnitude +12.9 field star.  I used magnifications of 116, 162, 185, 216, and 259x to observe CTA 102.

 

Dave Mitsky


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#87 Aquarellia

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Posted 27 December 2016 - 10:58 PM

Yesterday evening (Dec. 27.81250 UTC) 11.5 !!!

Michel


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#88 andycknight

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Posted 28 December 2016 - 08:37 AM

Aquarellia, on 28 Dec 2016 - 03:58 AM, said:Aquarellia, on 28 Dec 2016 - 03:58 AM, said:Aquarellia, on 28 Dec 2016 - 03:58 AM, said:

Yesterday evening (Dec. 27.81250 UTC) 11.5 !!!

Michel

Yes indeed - I wonder how bright it will get??

 

Unfortunately the dreaded clouds and mist made HD212989 a real challenge to find in my C8, so no chance of spotting CTA 102. :(  :(

 

Perhaps tonight will be better.

 

Edit: Yes tonight was better, despite issues with cloud and light pollution: I managed to see it in both my C5 (125mm - easy direct vision) and C90 (90mm - adverted & rather difficult).

 

Regards

 

Andy.


Edited by andycknight, 28 December 2016 - 02:23 PM.


#89 BrooksObs

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Posted 28 December 2016 - 10:03 AM

Yes, I can fully confirm your most recent observation of CTA 102 Michel. I got 11.6 on December 27.9924 UT last evening, the brightest confirmed flaring (almost simultaneous with a CCD V magnitude obtained) of this object to date. What I suspect, however, is this magnitude will mark the peak of the current flaring and CTA 102 will now once again decline into the mid 12's in a day or two.

 

The aspect that really surprises me is the seeming regularity and amplitude of these flares seen over the past two weeks. I would not anticipate  seeing such regularity and similarity in outbursts from an object supposedly randomly accreting matter from its surroundings. Bizarre.

 

BrooksObs


Edited by BrooksObs, 28 December 2016 - 10:09 AM.

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#90 havasman

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Posted 28 December 2016 - 01:21 PM

 Maybe those who thought Sholomitskii's 1965 observations meant aliens were sending messages will resurface.  :lol:


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#91 goodricke1

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Posted 28 December 2016 - 02:55 PM

You can see my own estimations via the AAVSO curve under my observer code : DMIB.

I see you've just posted an estimate of 11.2, amazing!


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#92 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 28 December 2016 - 09:07 PM

My observing buddy Tony Donnangelo hadn't seen CTA 102 yet so he joined me at the Naylor Observatory tonight.  I quickly located the blazar and we observed it with the 17" classical Cassegrain at 162 and 216x under somewhat hazy skies. 

 

Dave Mitsky


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#93 nytecam

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Posted 29 December 2016 - 06:01 AM

BLAZAR BURNING BRIGHT !   Time recorded CTA-102 last night under good conditions [after a fortnight break due to poor weather] and it seemed much brighter @ ~m11.2 than last recorded by a full magnitude.  This blazar continues to surprise :)

 

Nytecam

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#94 BrooksObs

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Posted 29 December 2016 - 09:32 AM

Taking the past 24 hours of visual and CCD data regarding CTA 102 submitted to the AAVSO at face value indicates that this object underwent something new once again in its recent series of rapid brightness fluctuations. After having rapidly risen to a magnitude of 11.5-11.6 by December 28.00UT, it abruptly fell back by several tenths of a magnitude during the next few hours. However, rather than declining fully back to its latest pre-flaring brightness of about 12.5, as it has during the last several outbursts, instead it halted and resumed its rise. Based on the latest magnitude report on very near December 29.00UT,  it had reached a magnitude of between 11.1 and 11.3 ! This latter figure might tentatively to be regarded as the peak of the current flare, but just what this bizarre object will do next becomes pretty much anybody's guess. :hmm:

 

BrooksObs


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#95 dhawn

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Posted 29 December 2016 - 11:50 AM

Took me about an hour and a half, but I found it last night looking over the Pacific from Santa Barbara (our coastline faces south). I've been hoping to catch this for a few weeks, and thought my chances were getting slimmer with clouds and travel for the holiday, but it flared again just in time!

 

I wonder how many people on the planet will see this?

 

(8" reflector, BTW)


Edited by dhawn, 29 December 2016 - 11:51 AM.

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#96 Sasa

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Posted 29 December 2016 - 11:53 AM

Just came back from a very short (12 minute) backyard session. Blazar is indeed very bright, this time, I had no problem to hold it steadily with averted vision in 63mm refractor just at power of 53x. Judging how difficult was to see it, visibly more difficult than V=10.5 star and slightly better than V=11.0 (but this one has close V=11.3 star), I would say blazar visual brightness was about V=10.8-10.9


Edited by Sasa, 29 December 2016 - 12:13 PM.

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#97 Cames

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Posted 29 December 2016 - 11:59 AM

It has brightened so much since I last viewed it that seeing it in the eyepiece last evening was somewhat disorienting. I had to double-check to ensure that I was looking at the correct field of view.

 

Reportedly, the light we are seeing was emitted at X-ray wavelengths but due to the redshift much of it is now reaching us in the visible portion of the spectrum.  It's getting bright enough to start to show its visual color in our own telescopes, now.

 

When I defocus stars to help to estimate their apparent brightness, their color is somewhat revealed as a pastel shade. Defocused, CTA102 appears pretty neutral and, if anything, duskier than blue.  Have you noticed if there is a tint to this quasar?

--------

C


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#98 Aquarellia

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Posted 29 December 2016 - 12:02 PM

Took me about an hour and a half, but I found it last night looking over the Pacific from Santa Barbara (our coastline faces south). I've been hoping to catch this for a few weeks, and thought my chances were getting slimmer with clouds and travel for the holiday, but it flared again just in time!

 

I wonder how many people on the planet will see this?

 

(8" reflector, BTW)

Good question, visually speaking we are 22 in the AAVSO DB,... but I have another question, how many are we in the whole univers, because this blazar must be visible from everywhere in the univers, in the past and in the future. Ha ?

Michel


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#99 andycknight

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Posted 29 December 2016 - 01:43 PM

Sasa, on 29 Dec 2016 - 4:53 PM, said:

Just came back from a very short (12 minute) backyard session. Blazar is indeed very bright, this time, I had no problem to hold it steadily with averted vision in 63mm refractor just at power of 53x. Judging how difficult was to see it, visibly more difficult than V=10.5 star and slightly better than V=11.0 (but this one has close V=11.3 star), I would say blazar visual brightness was about V=10.8-10.9

Agreed - I've also just came back in from a quick look. In my case it was only just possible to spot in a C5 (125mm) with direct vision. (Tonight - I could not see the nearby M12.9 star at all though. :() I would "roughly" estimate CTA102 to be around Mag 11.

 

Regards

 

Andy.


Edited by andycknight, 29 December 2016 - 02:05 PM.

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#100 MartinMeredith

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Posted 29 December 2016 - 03:13 PM

Finally the perma-fog has lifted, so here's a shot from a freezing Northern Spain this evening. 16 x 5s subs, Baader C filter (i.e. essentially unfiltered) Lodestar X2 mono, 8" f4 Quattro Newtonian. I'd estimate the mag to be around 11.6

 

CTA.102_2016.12.29_19.19.59.png

 

Martin


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