Category Archives: Astronomy News

SURPRISE ASTEROID FLYBY

Another reason we need to get working on ways and means of dealing with asteroids that threaten life on earth.
Space Weather News for April 15, 2018
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SURPRISE ASTEROID FLYBY: With little warning, on Sunday, April 15th, a “Tunguska-class” asteroid about the size of a football field flew through the Earth-Moon system. 2018 GE3 was discovered just the day before as it plunged inward from the asteroid belt. A quick-thinking amateur astronomer in Europe was able to record a video of the asteroid as it flew by. Visit Spaceweather.com to see the movie and to learn more about this surprise visitor.

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Above: An interactive 3D orbit from NASA-JPL shows the asteroid flying past Earth.

Northern Lights sighted as far south as the Dakotas in the USA

A minor G1-class geomagnetic storm is in progress on April 11th as Earth moves through a high speed stream of solar wind.

Space Weather News for April 11, 2018
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GEOMAGNETIC STORM: A minor G1-class geomagnetic storm is in progress on April 11th as Earth moves through a high speed stream of solar wind. This is causing bright auroras around the poles, with Northern Lights sighted as far south as the Dakotas in the USA. The gaseous material is flowing from a wide hole in the sun’s atmosphere–so wide that the stream could continue to influence our planet for the next two to three days. Visit Spaceweather.com for updates.

Above: First contact with the solar wind stream produced this outburst of auroras over Tromsö, Norway, photographed by Marcus Åhlund, a tour guide for Explore the Arctic.

 

Amazing aurora display

On March 18th, an unexpected crack opened in Earth’s magnetic field, sparking a brief but potent G2-class geomagnetic storm.

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Space Weather News for March 19, 2018
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SURPRISE GEOMAGNETIC STORM: On March 18th, an unexpected crack opened in Earth’s magnetic field, sparking a brief but potent G2-class geomagnetic storm. Bright auroras ringed the Arctic Circle while, in Europe, the light show descended as far south as Germany. With the northern vernal equinox less than a day away, this is the time of year when such cracks tend to form. Today’s edition of Spaceweather.com explains the phenomenon of springtime magnetic cracks and how you can monitor them online.

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Above: Auroras over Denmark during the G2-class geomagnetic storm of March 18, 2018. Photo credit:  Ruslan Merzlyakov. For more sightings, visit Spaceweather.com’s Realtime Aurora Gallery.

A GASH IN THE SUN’S ATMOSPHERE:

If you live where it is not snowing, you may want to watch for possible aurora.  –CPL
Space Weather News for March 13, 2018
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A GASH IN THE SUN’S ATMOSPHERE: An unusually wide hole has opened in the sun’s atmosphere, and it is spewing a fan-shaped stream of solar wind toward Earth. NOAA forecasters say there is a 55% chance of minor G1-class geomagnetic storms when the solar wind arrives, probably during the late hours of March 14th. Visit Spaceweather.com for more information and updates.

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Above: This image from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) shows the gash where solar wind is emerging on March 13th. The false brown color of the sun corresponds to the 193 ångström wavelength of SDO’s extreme ultraviolet telescope.

equinox cracks are causing geomagnetic activity

Space Weather News for March 11, 2018
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EQUINOX CRACKS FORMING IN EARTH’S MAGNETIC FIELD: The vernal equinox is less than 10 days away. That means one thing: Cracks are opening in Earth’s magnetic field. The seasonal phenomenon is known as the “Russell-McPherron effect,” named after the researchers who first explained it more than 40 years ago. These “equinox cracks” are causing geomagnetic activity and bright auroras around the Arctic Circle even without strong solar activity. Visit today’s edition of Spaceweather.com for the full story.

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Above: This outburst of auroras over Norway was caused by a crack in Earth’s magnetic field that opened on March 9th. Photo credit: Kristin Berg. Browse the aurora photo gallery for more sightings.

Neutron Stars Discovered on Collision Course

Neutron Stars Discovered on Collision Course
By: AAS Nova | March 8, 2018
Sky and Telescope Magazine

Got any plans in 46 million years? If not, you should keep an eye out for PSR J1946+2052 around that time this upcoming merger of two neutron stars promises to be an exciting show!

Artist’s illustration of the final stages of a neutron-star merger. Scientists have now caught a binary-neutron-star system about 46 million years before this stage. NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

 

It seems like we just wrote about the dearth of known double-neutron-star systems, and about how new surveys are doing their best to find more of these compact binaries. Observing these systems improves our knowledge of how pairs of evolved stars behave before they eventually spiral in, merge, and emit gravitational waves that detectors like the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) might observe.

Today’s study, led by Kevin Stovall (National Radio Astronomy Observatory), goes to show that these surveys are doing a great job so far! Yet another double-neutron-star binary, PSR J1946+2052, has now been discovered as part of the Arecibo L-Band Feed Array pulsar (PALFA) survey. This one is especially unique due to the incredible speed with which these neutron stars orbit each other and their correspondingly (relatively!) short timescale for merge

Hubble reveals exoplanet’s atmosphere

Hubble reveals the most detailed exoplanet atmosphere we’ve seen to date

The new data suggests WASP-39b made a fantastic migration across its planetary system.

WASP39

WASP-39b is classified as a hot-Saturn that orbits a star similar to the Sun, 700 light-years from Earth. The combined data from Hubble, Spitzer, and ground-based telescopes make it the most detailed atmosphere we’ve observed outside our solar system.

NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)

Dissecting the atmospheric compositions of exoplanets helps us interpret the vast and complex universe we live in — and our own solar system, closer to home. Our findings continually pump the public and science community alike with curious excitement, and with the most comprehensive set of observations ever conducted, exoplanet WASP-39b’s atmospheric revelations didn’t disappoint.

A team of British and American researchers combined new data from NASA/ESA’s Hubble Space Telescope with previous data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and ESO’s Very Large Telescope to create an amazingly detailed atmospheric analysis of exoplanet WASP-39b. The results are the most in-depth analysis of an exoplanet atmosphere possible with available technology.

“We need to look outward to help us understand our own Solar System,” said lead investigator, Hannah Wakeford of the University of Exeter and of the Space Telescope Science Institute, in a press release.

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Will the Tesla roadster collide with Earth?

If you’re concerned about a cherry red fireball from the sky, don’t panic.

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SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket carried Elon Musk’s cherry red Tesla Roadster, manned by a mannequin in a spacesuit named Starman. SpaceX
On February 6, SpaceX wrote a new chapter in the ongoing book on commercial spaceflight with the successful launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket. Along for the ride was Musk’s red Tesla Roadster, which is now on an elliptical orbit around the Sun. But what about the risk to Earth? Could the car, which is estimated to last up to a few tens of millions of years, ever pose the threat of raining down from the sky as a fireball in the future?

The answer, as it turns out, is probably not. A paper posted on Cornell University Library’s arxiv.org preprint server February 13 (and to be submitted to the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society) with the jaunty title The random walk of cars and their collision probabilities with planets concludes that there is just a six percent chance that the Tesla will collide with Earth in the next one million years. The chance does rise to 11 percent in the next three million years; but even if you’re a pessimist, “it will either burn up or maybe one component will reach the surface,” said first author Hanno Rein in a press release. “There is no risk to health and safety whatsoever.”

roadster_orbitsimulator.com
The Roadster’s orbit takes it out just past Mars, then in toward Earth’s orbit. Over the next several million years, it will cross the orbits of Mars, Earth, and Venus several times. Generated on orbitsimulator.com

The authors calculated the probabilities by fast-forwarding the Tesla’s orbit — along with the orbits of the planets — over time and observing whether collisions occurred over the course of many simulations. In addition to the probability of colliding with Earth, they also found only a 2.5 percent chance the Tesla will collide with Venus in the next one million years. Though they predict several close calls with Mars, they don’t believe it is likely to collide with the Red Planet. After three million years, they only observed one collision with the Sun.

The Tesla, which is estimated to rotate about once every five minutes based on reflected light measured with the 4.1-meter SOAR telescope in Chile, is on an orbit that will cross the orbits of not only Earth, but also Venus and Mars, several times over the course of its dynamically stable lifetime. According to Rein, this orbit is not unlike that of many near-Earth Asteroids regularly observed. In fact, the Tesla has been officially labeled by NASA as a Near-Earth Object and listed in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Horizon’s database as object -143205 SpaceX Roadster (spacecraft) (Tesla). It is one of about 150 manmade objects in the database, which allows you to chart any object’s position on the sky. According to the database, the Tesla is currently following an orbit with a perihelion of 0.99 astronomical units (AU, where 1 AU is the Earth-Sun distance) and an aphelion of 1.67 AU (Mars’ average distance from the Sun is about 1.5 AU).

The Tesla’s first close pass of Earth will occur in 2091; after that, it has a 50 percent chance of continuing to orbit for a few tens of millions of years, before it either collides with a planet or falls into the Sun. For now,it’s on its way out past Mars, carrying an appropriate message: Don’t panic.

THE ROADSTER AND THE STAR CLUSTER

Space Weather News for Feb. 20, 2018
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THE ROADSTER AND THE STAR CLUSTER: How far away can you see a cherry red Tesla Roadster? Yesterday, a telescope in Chile spotted Elon Musk’s electric car 3.7 million kilometers from Earth as it was passing by star cluster NGC 5694. Using orbital elements published by NASA, amateur astronomers are setting new distance records almost every day as they track the Roadster en route to the orbit of Mars. Visit today’s edition of Spaceweather.com for updates and a movie of the Roadster and the star cluster.

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Above: Glowing feebly like a 20th magnitude star, Starman and the Tesla Roadster pass NGC 5694 on Feb. 19, 2018. More photos of the distant car may be found in Spaceweather.com’s SpaceX photo gallery.
 

Starman hits the open road

The launching of Elon Musk’s cherry-red roadster has created a lot of buzz everywhere that NASA never could. Sure, it’s a gimmick, but it’s a gimmick that does wonders for the promotion of space exploration.

 

Some bits of info I’ve picked up here and there.

  1. 1)  Elon Musk’s cherry red Roadster has been spotted 430,000 km from Earth heading toward the orbit of Mars.
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Space Weather News for Feb. 9, 2018
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https://www.facebook.com/spaceweatherdotcomAMATEUR ASTRONOMERS PHOTOGRAPH ROADSTER IN SPACE: “It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever captured in my telescope,” says amateur astronomer Raymond Kneip. Last night, he photographed Elon Musk’s cherry red Roadster 430,000 km from Earth heading toward the orbit of Mars. NASA has just released an ephemeris (celestial coordinates) for the electric car, allowing astronomers to track and photograph the Tesla as it recedes into deep space. Pictures of the Roadster and instructions for accessing NASA’s ephemeris may be found on today’s edition of Spaceweather.com.

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Above: A Tesla Roadster flying among the stars. Photo credit: Raymond Kneip.
 
2) The live feed is no longer live–the batteries in the camera were only good for 6 hours. Sill, if you have not seen the video, take a look, it’s wonderful to watch it drift past the Earth.

Gotta love the Don’t Panic button, and according to one account, Starman also had a towel with him.

3) Also, he was accompanied by Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series:

SpaceX has just successfully launched its new Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time, and just before launch, the company revealed on its live stream that inside the rather unique cargo of a Tesla Roadster, the company had placed an “Arch” storage system containing Isaac Asimov’s Foundation book series.

An Arch is a “5D, laser optical quartz storage device” that is meant to be able to survive even in the harsh conditions of space, built by the Arch Mission Foundation. The foundation’s goal is to preserve libraries of human knowledge for interstellar travel (and to protect information in the event of calamity to Earth itself). It’s a goal that the group says was inspired by Asimov’s novels, which see mankind working to write an “Encyclopedia Galactica” to protect mankind against a coming dark age.

4) File 770’s Pixel Scroll had one of the greatest lines ever: In Space Nobody Can Hear Your Red Tesla’s GPS Scream “Recalculating!” (Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

5) Over on the RASC mailing list, the members are having a fun time discussing tire pressure in space (the physics involved is mind-boggling), and the life of batteries in extreme cold. And shouldn’t the signal light be flashing?

And Russell had to say there is only the one mannequin because if there has also been a femmequin the Starman would have had to deal with a back seat driver.  It’s a red roadster–isn’t it more likely the couple would end up in the back seat?