Monthly Archives: September 2013

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Barlow Bob’s Corner – The Solar Spectroscopy Project

The following article has been provided by Barlow Bob, founder & organizer of the NEAF Solar Star Party and regional event host & lecturer on all things involving solar spectroscopy. You can read more about Barlow Bob and see some of his other articles at

Most solar amateur astronomers observe sunspots on the surface of the Sun through a white light (Baader) solar filter. Some also observe prominences and other features above the surface of the Sun through a Hydrogen-Alpha solar filter. If you are an amateur solar astronomer who shares your safe solar telescope at educational outreach events, please consider including solar spectroscopy at these events.

You do not have to make an expensive investment to purchase a solar spectroscope or spectrometer. Science First ( and Edmund Scientific ( both sell several inexpensive types of low-resolution spectroscopes and spectrometers for under $40.00.


The very affordable Quantitative Spectroscope from Science First.

A spectroscope is an instrument for producing and examining spectra, producing spectra of visual electromagnetic radiation (visible spectra). A spectrometer is an instrument for dispersing electromagnetic radiation and analyzing the location of the spectrum lines. A spectrograph is an instrument for dispersing electromagnetic radiation and recording the spectrum.

These spectroscopy products are all easy to use. Laminate an 8.5-by-11 inch sheet of white paper and place this laminated sheet on a table next to your solar telescope. Point the spectroscope down at the sheet of paper. Sunlight reflected off of the laminated sheet enters the front of the spectroscope to the grating or prism. You then can observe the dark Fraunhofer lines of the solar absorption spectrum. These are thin, vertical dark lines in the horizontal colors from red to violet.

Turn a cardboard carton on its side and put it on a table next to your solar telescope. Place a lighted camp lantern with florescent bulbs inside the carton. You can see the lighted lantern better in bright sunlight. Observe the emission spectra of the element mercury inside of the florescent bulb. You can use this demonstration to explain how astronomers discovered what the dark Fraunhofer lines were in the solar spectrum.

You can allow people to observe the dark absorption lines of the solar spectrum through a spectroscope. They can compare these dark absorption lines to the bright emission lines of the florescent light bulb.

The gas in the interior of a star like the Sun is under high pressure. The gas in the outer atmosphere of the Sun is under lower pressure. A photon (a piece of light) moves from the interior to the surface of the Sun and passes through the outer atmosphere. When it passes through the outer layer of the Sun, this outer layer absorbs the wavelengths of the specific elements in this outer layer while the remaining light passes through. The spectra of the elements in the outer layer appear as dark vertical lines in the spectroscope as those photons were absorbed by those elements in the Sun’s atmosphere.


The solar spectrum (Fraunhofer lines and all).

In 1802, William Hyde Wollaston (1766 – 1828), an English Chemist and Physicist, discovered the spectrum of sunlight is crossed by a number of dark lines. This was the birth of solar spectroscopy.

In 1814, Joseph Von Fraunhofer (1787 – 1826), a German glass maker, rediscovered the dark lines in the solar spectrum noted by William Hyde Wollaston and determined their position with improved precision. He made careful measurements of over 500 dark lines in the Sun’s spectrum. He never tried to find out what the lines were or where they came from. Today we honor his careful benchmark investigations by referring to the dark absorption lines of this type as Fraunhofer lines.

Fraunhofer needed a way to measure small differences in the composition of his glass from one melt to another. When white light comes into the prism, the different wavelengths are bent through different angles, resulting in a spread of colors. Prisms made of slightly different pieces of glass will bend the same wavelength of light through different angles. He therefore needed some sort of calibration standard. He used a series of dark bands superimposed at regular intervals over the colored spectrum of light to solve his calibration problem. However he had no idea what these lines were.


An idealized prism in action.

In 1959 Germans Gustav Robert Kirchoff (1824 – 87), a physicist, and Robert Bunsen (1811 – 99), a chemist, observed the bright emission spectrum lines of different heated elements through a prism spectrometer. They discovered that dark Fraunhofer lines appeared when they observed the light from a fire in their city through smoke. When they compared the dark absorption spectra lines to the bright emission spectra lines in their laboratory, they realized that they discovered that they now had a way to analyze the chemical elements by observing the dark Fraunhofer absorption lines. This was the start of astrophysics to analyze stars.

Kirchoff studied light spectra using the spectrometer he developed with Bunsen. He observed that individual atoms and molecules emit certain colors when heated. Kirchoff realized that each element produces a distinct spectrum of colored emission lines that can be used to identify the element.

Kirchoff and Bunsen observed the light from a distant fire through their spectrometer. They observed dark Fraunhofer absorption lines of light from the fire as its light passed through smoke. They noticed that these dark absorption lines appeared in the same location as the bright emission lines of elements they observed in their laboratory.

In 1861, Bunsen and Kirchoff performed experiments leading to the conclusion that the dark lines in the solar spectrum, observed by Wollaston and Fraunhofer, arise due to the absorption of light by gases in the solar atmosphere that are cooler than those emitting the light.

In 1872, Henry Draper, a wealthy American physician and amateur astronomer, was the first person to photograph the Fraunhofer absorption spectrum of a star using a prism spectrograph. This introduced the world to a powerful tool for probing the physical properties of stars. For the first time, the Henry Draper (HD) Catalogue of spectral data was available as an astronomy research resource.

When Henry Draper died in 1882, his widow Anna Parker Draper funded the HD catalogue. Edward C. Pickering, the Harvard College Observatory director, continued creating Henry Draper’s catalogue. Hired women, called computers back in the day at Harvard College, examined the spectra of thousands of stars in these photographic plates. They noticed that the series of dark Fraunhofer lines of red stars had a similar pattern. Other star colors each had similar dark line patterns. These women created the OBAFGKM system to organize this catalogue of star spectra. These computers worked seven-hour days for six days a week and were paid 25 cents per hour. For these women, the opportunity to contribute to science was more important than the salary. By the middle of the 20th century, Henry Draper’s namesake catalogue would contain position and spectral information for nearly a quarter of a million stars.


Pickering and the Harvard computers. From wikipedia.

Spectroscopy is still used today. Astronomers use spectroscopy today to analyze the fingerprints of stars and other celestial objects. Manufacturers of food, drug and chemical products use spectroscopy to analyze the quality of their products. Government agencies including the FBI, FDA and OSHA also use spectroscopy for analysis.

You can allow people to observe the dark absorption Fraunhofer lines of the solar spectrum through the spectroscope, then allow them to observe the bright emission lines of elements in the florescent light bulb in the camp lantern. These two observations can be used to explain how astronomers use spectroscopy to analyze starlight.

You do not have to wait until sunrise to do solar spectroscopy. You can observe the solar spectrum reflected off of the Full Moon at midnight. You can recreate how Fraunhofer, Kirchoff and Bunsen discovered absorption and emission spectra for kids of all ages – and this could be someone’s excellent science fair project.

© 2013 Barlow Bob

CNYO Observing Log: Baltimore Woods Solar Session, 24 August 2013


The gathered crowd at Baltimore Woods.

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

As CNY completes a remarkable span of bright days and clear nights around this year’s Harvest Moon, we finally catch up on our observing logs with a recap of Baltimore Wood’s Solar Session held on an equally bright and clear August 24th.

Despite its importance as the primary reason we and this Solar System are here at all, the Sun often gets neglected by some amateur astronomers who opt out of expensive solar equipment in favor of expensive deep sky equipment. The Sun, like all stars, is a seemingly simple ball of light that reveals great complexity depending on what you use to observe it. Some filters knock down all but 0.001%(ish) of the Sun’s light to provide great Sunspot detail, while other filters let only very specific wavelengths of light through – these filters then providing insights into the surface structure of the Sun based on the excitation of specific atoms on the Sun’s surface or in its corona.


An observer at a Coronado H-alpha scope.

Despite its close proximity and constant activity, the Sun is just like any other astronomical object – patience is the key to appreciating the view. At low magnification and over only a few minutes, Sunspots and prominences appear to drift slowly, if at all, in the field of view. Changing to high magnification reveals dynamic views around Sunspots as they undulate or merge with other spots, with changes that are apparent to trained eyes occurring over many seconds. Observers with good memories can return to their scopes over several minutes to see very obvious changes to large prominences. While the differences may be subtle to the eye, they are anything but subtle on the Sun. Keeping in mind that 107 Earths fit across the diameter of the Sun, seeing changes to large prominence over the course of minutes means that plasma on the Sun’s surface is racing at dizzying speeds. The drama only seems slow from our safe distance.


The gathered scopes (and gathering observers).

The two hour session at Baltimore Woods provided ample time to sample both the range of filters and the range of timescales, thanks primarily to the ever well-equipped Bob Piekiel and his Baader, CaK, and H-alpha scopes. To this list of equipment was added Larry Slosberg and his Baader-filtered New Moon Telescope 12″ Dobsonian (the big primary mirror of the session), then myself with a Coronado PST (H-alpha). And speaking of filters (and taken from CNYO’s A Guide For Solar Observing brochure)…


A solar projecting scope (left) and Larry Slosberg’s Baader’ed NMT Dob.

Baader Filter – The Baader (“Bah-der”) filter works by reflecting 99.999% of all of the incoming light (almost a mirror), leaving you with a pale yellow disk. You’ll see no prominences or fine surface detail, but Baader filters are excellent for observing sunspots.

CaK (Calcium K-line) – The CaK filter lets through a wavelength corresponding to the 393.4 nm Ca K-line transition (you see it as violet). These filters provide excellent surface detail.

H-alpha (Hydrogen-alpha) – This filter lets through a hydrogen electronic transition corresponding to a wavelength of 656.28 nm (you see it as a rich red). H-alpha filters are excellent for prominences and good for surface detail.


The Sun through different filters (see above).

Thanks to the SOHO (Solar And Heliospheric Observatory) satellite and its website, it is easy to find the Sun’s snapshot on August 24th to see exactly what we were looking at, complete with a week’s worth of images from the days before to see how the positions of Sunspots changed as the Sun’s plasma rotated about its axis (the final image in yellow is the view from the 24th).


The week before the solar session (images from NASA/SOHO).

Technical details aside, the session was an excellent one, with approximately 30 people enjoying many views of the Sun and all the solar details Bob, Larry, and I could remember. Of specific note was a prominence that started small at the beginning of the session but grew to contain a clear, dark hole more than one Earth diameter wide over only an hour’s time. The fun wasn’t restricted to scope observers, either. With filtered binoculars and simple Baader glasses, the dimmed ball of light itself was just as interesting a target.


The unmagnified (and nearly unmagnified) view of the Sun through Baader glasses.

While I didn’t hear it mentioned, it is worth noting that the unmagnified (but filtered) Sun appears to be about the same diameter as the unmagnified (and unfiltered) Moon – a point of no small significance during Solar Eclipses. And as the Moon is slipping away from us at a rate of 1.5 inches per year, the Solar Eclipse is also (very, very slowly) becoming a thing of the past in favor of what will become Lunar Transits. All the more reason why it’s a great time to be observing!

I leave you with the most informative 30 seconds on the website (so far). To demonstrate the dangers of observing the Sun without some kind of filter, Bob and Larry set to work reproducing the fabled ship-burning apparatus of Archimedes (also of Syracuse) by burning one sheet of paper and one dark leaf at low magnification. As Bob explains, this same burning would occur on your retina without something to greatly knock down the Sun’s brightness. I even found myself jumping rather anxiously at one intrepid observer trying to look through the eyepiece of Bob’s projecting scope. Solar safety (and eye safety in general) is no joke!

It’s as informative and definitive a video on solar safety as you’ll find on youtube, so feel free to pass the link along to any and all.

Barlow Bob’s Corner x 2 – The Sunspotter Solar Telescope & Activity For The Sunspotter Solar Telescope

The following two articles have been provided by Barlow Bob, founder & organizer of the NEAF Solar Star Party and regional event host & lecturer on all things involving solar spectroscopy. You can read more about Barlow Bob and see some of his other articles at

Barlow Bob’s Corner #1 – The Sunspotter Solar Telescope

Galileo demonstrated that the Sun rotated by observing sunspot movements and argued that, based on these imperfections on the surface of the Sun, that the Sun was not perfect. This statement angered the Roman Catholic Church during the Renaissance. The church stated that God was perfect – therefore, the Sun was perfect, without blemishes. Unfortunately, he lost his sight caused by illness. He might have lost his sight by observing the Sun through his telescope without a safe solar filter. However, there is now a safer way to observe the Sun.


The Sunspotter (image from

The Sunspotter Solar Telescope can be used to safely recreate Galileo’s solar observation. You can confirm this rate of rotation and observe that the number of sunspots change over the Solar Sunspot Cycle. The Astronomical League even has a Sun Spotters Observing Award.

The Sunspotter product is the safer solar telescope for observing sunspots.

This unique solar telescope projects an image of the solar surface on a small piece of paper. Sunlight passes through a lens and is reflected off three mirrors and passing through an eyepiece that projects the solar image on to a small piece of paper. A group of people of all ages can observe the solar image at the same time.

The Sunspotter creates an image of the Sun by eyepiece projection. After you align it with the Sun, light passes through the 61.7 mm objective lens, stopped down to 57.0 mm. It is reflected off of three mirrors into the 12.5 mm FL field lens.

A 3.5-inch image of the Sun, magnified 56 times, is projected on to a white viewing screen. You can observe features on the Sun, in all wavelengths of light, as they would appear in a small refractor. The triangle-shaped wooden telescope sits in a semicircle cradle. You can observe the Sun from 0 to 30 degrees.

When you reverse the telescope in the cradle, you can observe the Sun from 30 to 90 degrees.

This wooden folded-Keplerian telescope is constructed using techniques found in a fine piece of furniture. Perhaps the manufacturer should consider selling this product in a furniture gallery store. The Sunspotter appears to have been created by Al Nagler, in a seventh grade wood shop class, while the other students made salad bowls.

The Sunspotter was created for use in a classroom for a short period of time. However, to use it longer requires the ability to track the motion of the Sun across the sky. Upon arrival at a solar observing session, I set up a small canvas camp table on level ground. A two-foot-square thick piece of sturdy plastic or plywood is placed on the table, to create a stable platform. A television swivel stand sits on this platform. The Sunspotter is placed on the swivel stand, to create a simple mount to manually move the solar telescope to track the movement of the Sun.

You do not notice the movement of the Sun across the sky over a short period of time. However, you do notice the movement of the Sun at sunrise or sunset, when it is against the horizon. Kids of all ages are fascinated by the projected image of the Sun in the Sunspotter, dancing across the white viewing screen. Most people are surprised to see how fast the solar image moves across the viewing screen, caused by the rotation of the Earth under the Sunspotter. Students and teachers have taken a video of this movement of Earth for science projects.

It is very easy to align this cleverly designed solar telescope with the Sun. There is a gnomon, consisting of a short wooden rod on the front, above the objective lens. Simply point the front of the telescope in the direction of the Sun and move the telescope until this gnomon no longer produces a shadow on the front of the telescope. Two points of light are projected on the back inside through two small holes on the right and left of the objective lens. Two small circles are drawn on the rear inside. When you align the tow point of light inside of these circles, an image of the Sun is projected on the white viewing screen under the eyepiece.

This product is extremely easy to operate. I shared the Sunspotter at a Boy Scout Summer Camp – while a father was reading the operating instructions on the back of the Sunspotter, his six-year old son aligned the telescope. The son watched the previous scouts align it.


How much are your eyes worth?

While the Sunspotter is the safer solar telescope, it is also the cooler lunar telescope. You can also use the Sunspotter as a Moonspotter to observe the Moon from First Quarter to Third Quarter. I even used this product to observe a Lunar Eclipse.

The wooden Sunspotter solar telescope has an extremely unusual shape. The central part has a triangular shape, containing an objective lens, three mirrors, and an eyepiece. The mount has a crescent shape with feet on the bottom.

Manufacturers of cases for astronomy telescopes and accessories do not make a padded case for the Sunspotter, with its unique shape. This product was shipped in a large cardboard carton, with a hard fitted foam interior. The Sunspotter fits securely inside of this shipping carton.

I carried the Sunspotter into a music store. People who are not amateur astronomers look at you funny when you carry a weird looking wooden object into a music store. I told the store employee that I was looking for a large padded drum case to hold this wooden telescope. The employee showed me several cases. The Sunspotter fit perfectly into one case.

When I placed the Sunspotter on its side in the bottom of the drum case, there was additional empty space in the top. I bought a round foam pad in a housewares store. I placed this pad over the Sunspotter and I now store clothing in the top half of this case.

Since I now store various small cases containing the parts of my other solar telescopes in the large drum case, I had to find another case to hold the Sunspotter. I left the Sunspotter in its shipping carton. However, this large box is difficult to carry from my vehicle to the observing field of an event.

The bedding sales area of a local retail store had comforters on display stored in heavy plastic cases with zippers. These large plastic cases appeared to be the same size as the Sunspotter shipping carton. I considered buying a comforter, just to get this plastic case.

While observing the Sun with Chuck and Carol Higgins, I mentioned my idea to buy a comforter to get a plastic case to hold the Sunspotter. They gave me an empty heavy duty plastic comforter case. The Sunspotter shipping carton fit perfectly inside of this plastic case with a handle.

At an art supply store, I bought a small and large portfolio case used to carry art works. The television swivel stand and two-foot square piece of heavy plastic or plywood fit into these cases. I now can protect the Sunspotter and easily carry it plus the mount at a solar star party.

This product was created for the vertically challenged. It has been rumored that elves us the Sunspotter at the North Pole. However, they can only use it for six months – during summer vacation.

I set the Sunspotter up at the annual NEAF – Northeast Astronomy Forum – in Suffern, New York. Amateur astronomers were fascinated with this product. Some ATM people photographed it or used a video camera. Others took measurements or made drawings of how it was constructed. They probably stopped at Home Depot on the drive home to build their own wooden Sunspotter.

The Sunspotter
Ref: SKE:654-0145
price: USD $349.95.

For additional information contact:
Science First
86475 Gene Lasserre Blvd.
Yulee, FL 32097
(800) 875-3214
(904) 225-5558
Fax: (904) 225-2228

If Galileo had used the Sunspotter, he still would have been in trouble with the church. However, he could have retained his eyesight.

Barlow Bob’s Corner #2 – Activity For The Sunspotter Solar Telescope

The Sunspotter product is the safer solar telescope for observing Sunspots.

This unique solar telescope projects an image of the solar surface on a small piece of paper. A group of people can observe the solar image at the same time. Kids of all ages are amazed at how fast the solar image moves across the piece of paper. You can also observe the Moon through this telescope.

Several years ago, someone told me about an additional educational activity using the Sunspotter. When you observe the Sun, where is the solar equator?

You can use the Sunspotter to find the solar equator.

A six-inch embroidery hoop will fit on the piece of paper. A wooden or plastic embroidery hoop can be bought at a craft store. Make a pen mark at the top and bottom of the hoop. Make another pen mark on the right and left sides of the inside hoop. Drill four small holes in the inside hoop at the pen marks. Finally, pick up a spool of the thin green wire used to attach gardening plants to wooden stakes – sold in hardware, craft or gardening stores.


The completed embroidery loop and green wire.

Thread the green wire through the first hole from the outside into the second hole on the opposite side. Continue to move the wire across the top of the inside hoop and into the next hole. The wire is finally threaded into the last hole. Wrap the two ends of the wire through the first and last holes several times to secure the ends. Once the wire has been threaded through the four holes, two perpendicular wires form a crosshair inside of the hoop. Attach the larger outside hoop to the smaller inside hoop and tighten the bolt to secure the two hoops together.


The completed loop with Sunspotter.

Place the altered embroidery hoop on top of the small piece of paper displaying the projected solar image. You will usually see two groups of sunspots between that equator and solar North and South Poles. As the solar image drifts across this piece of paper, keep moving the horizontal wire until the sunspots move in a line following the wire. This will show you the orientation of the Solar Equator.

Sue French provided the following information and is used here with permission.

The plane of our Solar System is defined as the mean plane of the Earth’s orbit. Earth is the only planet whose orbit isn’t inclined to the plane of the Ecliptic. If you still count Pluto as a planet, it has the highest inclination, Mercury the second highest, and Venus the third. The Sun’s axis is tipped with respect to the plane of the Ecliptic, so even if the Earth had no axial tilt, the Sun’s equator would appear high, low, or tipped depending on where Earth is in its orbit around the Sun (take a normally tilted globe of the Earth. Pretend that it’s the Sun and you are the tilt-free Earth. Walk around the globe to simulate your orbit around it, and see how the view of its equator seems to change). And the apparent tilt of the Sun’s equator with respect to the observer’s horizon would also change as the Sun takes its daily path across the sky for anyone that didn’t live somewhere along the Earth’s Equator.

This will show you the orientation of the solar equator. You could also try this with solar eyepiece projection.

Official Announcement – Kopernik AstroFest: Friday, October 4th – Sunday, October 6th

The following is the official announcement for AstroFest 2013 from Patrick Manley and our friends at Kopernik Astronomical Society. Kopernik always does a fantastic job hosting amateur astronomers and the general public alike on Friday evenings throughout much of the year, with their AstroFest among the high points for CNY astronomers. I highly recommend taking in all three days of events and (hopefully) observing, if for no other reason than to see what a fully-equipped and maintained astronomy club should look like!

CNYO members will be there in several capacities, including a guest lecture by CNY’s own Bob Piekiel. Also note that Barlow Bob is scheduled to host a solar session (and hopefully the skies will cooperate this year). The view through his CaK Bob-o-scope is NOT to be missed!

For more information, contact Kopernik at We all hope to see you!

AstroFest 2013 is rapidly approaching.

Kopernik AstroFest is a celebration of the night sky and amateur astronomy. The 3-day event is held annually at the Kopernik Observatory & Science Center (KOSC). Both the KOSC and the Kopernik Astronomical Society (KAS) sponsor the event. AstroFest includes speakers on a variety of topics, demonstrations, an amateur astronomy roundtable discussion, the Kopernik AstroFest Solar Star Party, and nightly observing if skies are clear. Non-fire camping is allowed on the facility grounds for an additional cost.

Kopernik Observatory sports a 20” Ritchey-Chretien OGS Telescope, Celestron C-14 SCT, and a 6” Astrophysics F/12 refractor that will be open for use in observing under clear skies. During clear daytime skies, the legendary Barlow Bob will host the Kopernik AstroFest Solar Star Party (KASSP).

If you are an amateur astronomer located in the Northeastern US, we would love to host you at Kopernik AstroFest 2013.

This year’s guest speakers will be:

Dr. Stefanie MilamNASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Astrochemistry Theory and Observation
Bob BermanAstronomy Magazine and author of many nonfiction books.
Dr. Carolyn PorcoSpace Science Institute, Cassini Mission, A Skype Interview with Q&A session
Barlow Bob – Solar Observing Enthusiast
Bob Piekiel – Telescope Optics Tuning
Dave Bishop – Astronomy Imaging Enthusiast
Dr. Damian Allis – Central New York Observers & Observing Exhibit (
Patrick Manley – Meteorite Enthusiast

Dates: Friday, 10/4/2013 – Sunday, 10/6/2013

Location: Kopernik Observatory & Science Center, 698 Underwood Road, Vestal, NY 13850 (Get Directions)

Check out our AstroFest Page at

Check out the fantastic astronomy prizes you could win in our 2013 raffle at

And help us spread the word, click the image below for our AstroFest 2013 Flyer (click the image below to download the PDF)!


An Update On Nova Del 2013 (PNVJ20233073+2046041) – Dimmer Views And A Distance Estimate

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

While the Night Sky is always inspiring, it is quite… constant. The positions of objects within our own Solar System change with respect to the background of stars, weather patterns on Jupiter and Saturn can produce a bit of variety for backyard telescopes, Iridium flares and other satellites produce some nice bursts of reflected sunlight, the Sun can prove to be a many-varied treat to afternoon solar watchers, and the most astute observers can pick out the differences in brightness of variable stars. That said, much of the rest of the Night Sky only changes due to the rotation of the Earth about its axis and the revolution of the Earth around the Sun (within the lifetimes of most observers, that is).

Significant changes to stars, nebulae, and galaxies can take decades, lifetimes, or eons, meaning even many observers take in the same deep sky views throughout their entire lives. The recent nova in Delphinus was then noteworthy as something that (1) changed dramatically over the course of days and (2) occurred within our own Milky Way galaxy. CNYO members held their first Scope Mob at Jamesville Beach to take in a prime view of the nova from just outside Syracuse, finding a quite reasonable spot for future sessions at the same time.


“Animation of Possible Nova in Del by E. Guido & N. Howes,”
taken from…/gif_1531x1459_2db958_zps3f68f105.gif.html

With several excellent websites providing great detail on the nova itself (I specifically direct you to,, and AstroBob’s article (link HERE), which I count as the most thorough article written on the event), a group of astronomers have provided an official measurement of the distance to Nova Del 2013, posted to Astronomers Telegram on 23 August. In their report, they determine that the nova is 4.2 kiloparsecs (I refer you to the wikipedia article on the parsec for more info), or about 13,700 light years, away. As our own galaxy is about 100,000 light years across and we’re about 25,000 light years from the center, this puts the nova in our own celestial neighborhood. That said, this means the nova itself occurred near the end of Beringia, the land at the bottom of the Bering Strait, after the last great ice retreat but before the flooding that separated Asia from America (so it’s been a while, but an eye blink in celestial terms).

A snippet of the abstract that includes the reported distance estimate is reproduced below from the original post, which can be found at:

Distance of nova Del 2013 from MMRD relations

ATel #5313; M. M.M. Santangelo, M. Pasquini, S. Gambogi, G. Cavalletti (OAC – Osservatorio Astronomico di Capannori and IRF – Istituto Ricerche Fotometriche, Italy)
on 23 Aug 2013; 15:56 UT
Credential Certification: Filippo Mannucci (

Subjects: Optical, Nova

… So the distance of the nova is d ~ 4.2 +/- 0.4 kpc Using the linear Mv-log(t2) relation of Downes & Duerbeck (2000, AJ 120, p.2007) a t2 = 8.5 implies an absolute magnitude of Mv ~ -8.9 +/- 0.2. So, ceteris paribus, the distance changes to d ~ 3.5 +/- 0.4 kpc. As a final preliminary estimate, we can adopt a value around 4 kpc (or a bit less) for the distance of the nova DEL 2013.