Astronomical Double-Header at the RAS Observatory in New Mexico

Share Article

A Cataclysmic variable in Naked-Eye Outburst recorded by one of RASO's 5 Hunters, Ernesto Guido and DIRAS Member John Chumack captures an image of Super Nova 2006X

At dawn on February 13, 2006, the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams (CBAT) distributed the news that famous cataclysmic variable RS Ophiuchi, after years of relative calm, unexpectedly entered a new phase of outburst. As recent as the night of February 10, it had been still been estimated at magnitude 11 (visual magnitude).

From a distance of almost 9,000 Kilometers, one of the famous Hunters of the RAS Observatory, Ernesto Guido, logged into AREO5 at the RAS Observatory over the internet. It was 4:23 AM in New Mexico and Ernesto, of Castellammare di Stabia, near Naples, Italy, began taking a series of filtered images. Sixteen minutes later he had completed his work and logged off. Details at (

Within minutes 25 raw images of RS Ophiuchi were winding their way through the 900 miles of fiber optic cable from New Mexico to San Diego, California where they would connect to the main backbone of the internet. From the San Diego connection they would begin their 9000 kilometer trip back to Milan, Italy, at the speed of light.

Within minutes Ernesto received the images and resent them to his collaborator, Giovanni Sostero in the north of Italy. After reducing the data and analyzing their findings, Ernesto and Giovanni transmitted the photometric results and images to the world famous Sky and Telescope Magazine ( At Sky and Telescope in Boston Massachusetts, USA, science editor, Alan M. MacRobert published the details of this account at the following web address (

Meanwhile, DIRAS Member John Chumack of the RAS Observatory images Super Nova 2006X

Dayton, Ohio, .maybe a nice place to live but the skies are not the best for astronomical pursuits. To prove the point John Chumack, who has his own observatory located in Dayton, frequently uses the RASO facilities ( which is more than 1500 miles away, for more serious work.

On early Sunday morning February 12, 2006, at 4:13 AM MST John had logged onto AREO2 at the RAS Observatory. AREO2 is a pretty serious instrument capable of capturing elusive and faint objects. Well that was exactly why John was using it. He had targeted a mission to capture the recently discovered Super-Nova 2006X in the constellation, Coma Berenices. SN2006X which was reported to have been embedded within M100, is a Magnitude 10.2 Sc type Spiral Galaxy. M100 is approximately 7.5' x 6.4 arc minutes in size. Its diameter is estimated to be about 110,000 Light years across. Its distance is approximately 56 Million Light years away.

The final image may be seen at: ( There are two other galaxies visible in the field of view which are NGC4322 - bottom and NGC4328 - right.

The Supernova 2006X's magnitude is on the rise at about 11.5 Mag(expected?) from its original 17th mag at discovery on 02/04/06, on 02/07/06 it was at 15.3 mag.

M100 has produced other Supernovae during the past century; SN 1901B, SN 1914A, SN 1959E, SN 1979C, but SN 2006X may surpass the brightness of even 1979C, 11.6 mag. SN 2006x is still rising and bound to be the brightest Supernova for the year as well as could be the brightest ever recorded in M100.

To see the Supernova visually you'll need at least a 6" diameter scope and a dark moon less night.


Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Arnie Rosner
Visit website