Top Night Sky Stories
of 2013: The Year in TWAN Photography
Review the most memorable night sky scenes of
the cameras of TWAN photographers; from
bright comets to spectacular aurora
displays, eclipses, meteor showers, and
Babak A. Tafreshi, published on
2013 December 31
Anthony Ayiomamitis (July), Juan Carlos
Alex Cherney (Feb),
Fred Espenak (May),
P-M Heden (April/July/Nov/Dec),
Tamas Ladanayi (June), Gernot Meiser (Sep), Kwon O Chul (Dec),
Wally Pacholka (Aug), Stefan
Seip (March), Babak Tafreshi (March), Yuichi Takasaka
Tezel (June/Sep/Nov), LeRoy Zimmerman (Dec)
Quadrantids Meteor Shower peaks
January 4-5. Here several meteor photos
of the shower
are digitally stacked to create this
image from Mount Fujii, Japan.
one of the most active annual meteor showers,
favored for northern hemisphere
is not as seen as other famous meteors showers
the peak intensity is very sharp,
lasting only few hours and it happens in a cold time of the year.
collection of Quadrantid meteor shower
Comet Lemmon (C/2012 F6) appeared with
long but faint tail in the southern hemisphere
the southern coast of
Lemmon (and comet PanStarrs).
unique collection of bright comets in the Earth sky:
the Northern Hemisphere's spring (vernal) equinox on March
solar magnetic fields are oriented in the right way to cause rips in
Earth's magnetic field, allowing more of the sun's charged particles to
reach our atmosphere. The resulting increase in solar winds on Earth
often encourages spectacular aurora
shows, but can also damage satellite technology and electrical grids on
the ground. Here the northern lights swirls over a fjord in the
Comet PanSTARRS (C/2011 L4) became visible to unaided eyes (though
bright twilight) after reaching
the closest distance to the sun. Here it appears in a
telephoto view from Germany,
sweeping away from the sun with
the curving dust tail.
Almost like a double comet in the sky, Comet PanSTARRS appeared
next to the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) in
early April, both visible to naked eyes like faint
their apparent meeting the
Galaxy was 100 billion times further away (at
the distance of 2.5 million light years). Bright comets
are in our inner Solar System neighborhood. See more TWAN images of
Three bright planets Venus, Mercury, and
Jupiter performed an enchanting celestial dance in the evening twilight.
In late May the triple planetary cojunction formed a distinct
triangular. But their proximity as seen from Earth was just an optical
illusion, since the three planets are actually separated by hundreds of
millions of kilometers. See TWAN
gallery for more examples of celestial gatherings.
term "supermoon" is becoming
very popular in media
It describes a full moon that coincides with
perigee. The photographed full moon of 2013 June 23 was the largest of
the year. In
contrary to what the word might resemble, the angular size of the
moon does not change that much. It's not noticeable to inexperienced
eyes compared to other full moons of the year.
Supermoons hold a record in size anyhow and they
are great occasions to bound public with the night sky. See more images
is the month where the high northern
latitude observers usually enjoy best displays
mysterious night-shining clouds known as the Noctilucent clouds or NLCs
that appear electric blue in
the presence of polar twilight. They lie near the edge of space, reflecting
sunlight from about 80 kilometers above Earth's surface. They can be
spotted above the polar and sub-polar regions (and
occasionally from lower
latitudes) between May and September.
Watch a unique collection of 2013 NLC appearance
over Sweden. See more of TWAN
the best known annual
meteor shower that peaks on August 11-12.
bright fireball is caught lighting up the California sky.
The Perseids peak when the Earth slams
into a giant cloud of debris left behind by comet Swift-Tuttle along its
orbit. While most meteors zipping across the skies are no bigger than a
grain of sand, fireballs like the this one can be anywhere from the size
of a grapefruit to the size of a basketball.
See TWAN diverse collection of meteor photos on
The erupting star designated as Nova Del 2013 in
constellation Delphinus reached magnitude
4 in mid-August and remained visible to unaided eyes for
Moon and Venus pairing is a night sky classic
beauty but when the conjunction appears next to bright summer Milky Way,
the view becomes stunning under dark skies. On the evening of September
8 the pair was also accompanied by Saturn. See
more TWAN photos of Moon and Venus pairing.
Near the time of autumnal equinox the aurora activity peaked up again.
Here the dancing lights are pictured deep in nature in a calm peaceful
night of Hessdalen valley, central Norway.
shadow of the moon brought a short total solar
eclipse to the
Earth that crossed
Africa. This wide-angle view is
from northwest Uganda where totality shaded the wild nature in
darkness for just 20 seconds. See TWAN
collection of lunar and
the past 3 decades at
Planet Venus, the second brightest object in
the Earth sky, appears next to globular cluster M22 in Sagittarius,
another notable apparent paring of the year between two widely distanced
objects. The cluster is located some 10,000 light years away, almost a
billion times further away than Venus.
The newsmaking Comet ISON (C/2012 S1)
who anticipated the arrival of
possible Great Comet for almost
The icy body didn't
the close approach to the Sun on Nov.
video of ISON's
Pictured above is almost
last appearance of ISON in the Earth sky
only 4 days before
death in the solar corona.
See more TWAN images of
When comet ISON disappeared in the sun's glow
another naked-eye comet became the stargazers target. Comet Lovejoy
C/2013 R1, photographed here from a historic castle in Sweden, displayed
a green-glowing coma and a long faint tail that remained attractive to
the end of the year. See more TWAN images of
the 2nd December a "guest" new star, a nova, erupted next to the
brightest stellar beacons of the southern constellation Centaurus, Alpha
and Beta Centauri. By mid-December it peaked at about magnitude 3.3
becoming the brightest nova of this millennium so far. This image from
Australia is made two weeks later when the nova was a 5th magnitude
star, still visible to naked-eye. Known as Nova Centauri 2013 this
erupting star is an interacting binary system composed of a dense, hot
white dwarf and cool, giant companion star. Material from the companion
star builds up as it falls onto the white dwarf's surface triggering a
cataclysmic blast that can increase the brightness of the system in the
order of tens of thousands.
Venus reaches its
brightest in early December, a dazzling evening "star" almost 16 times
brighter than Sirius, the brightest star in our night sky. Venus
gradually developed a beautiful crescent by the month's end (visible
with a small telescope or mid-sized binocular) before reaching solar
conjunction in January 2014. See TWAN photos of Venus crescent:
Aurora activity peaks again in December by
arrival of a minor solar storm that made magnificent light displays in
the high altitude skies. Pictured from Alaska this sequence of bursting
aurora appears in panoramic photos which are vertically paneled to
present a unique art form, painted by nature.
the last meteor shower of the year, is very often the best. With peak
activity on December 13-14 bright moonlight vanished fainter meteors
this year for most of the night but a short window of dark sky before
morning twilight allowed the TWAN photographer to capture the shower
peak in the dark skies of Canaries. On the right Comet Lovejoy is
captured in a lucky telephoto shot together with a streaking Geminid
meteor. See more TWAN images of
Geminids meteor shower.