Jul 25

Earth Near Miss – But it wasn’t a Meteor !

Category: Atmosphere

I have spoken about the dynamics of our Sun many times on the science hour and here on AskTheScience Guru. I even keep a close eye on what is happening in the way of solar flares and CME’s. But I certainly did not realise the extent to which the massive solar events 2 years ago (classified as X-Class events) could mean down here on good old planet earth. It seems our Magnetosphere does not always protect us, a bit like the town levee bank and one in 100 year flood, that no one expects !

This study published in the Journal Space Weather with an analysis of the Data from the Stereo solar observatory, comes up with a chilling finding. I for one hope some very clever people are working out how we can avoid the consequences of this. Perhaps this is a lesson that we should

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Aug 8

Perseids Meteor Shower – Peak

Category: Atmosphere

The Perseids have been in the space news already with NASA’s announcement that they have the highest rate of Fireballs of all the recognized meteor showers. Early fireballs have already been spotted, In fact I have seen a few of these myself !

The Peak of the Perseid’s Meteor shower is on the morning of Tuesday the 13th. Hourly rates of 60-100 per hour is typical for this shower. A good CLEAR & DARK, NE to N horizon is needed to observe this shower. I have found this to be the most consistent & appealing Meteor Shower of the year & the further North you are the better it is. it is also worth looking on the morning before and after the predicted peak as rates can vary depending on your location on the planet.

This year I will be in Cairns for the peak and I am hoping a few other keen Meteor Shower watchers will join me in the cool morning air to observe this shower.
Even if you are not lucky enough to be in FNQ at this delightful time of year, It would be great to hear of your Perseids experience here
If you have never got up in the early hours of the morning to watch a meteor shower, I can highly recommend it (even better with a thermos of hot coffee)

No comments

Aug 1

Morning Glory Cloud ? – Gove NT Aug 2nd 2013

Category: Atmosphere

Being a bit of a weather watcher as well as a watcher of the stars, this caught

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my interest this morning. I have read much about the “Morning Glory” roll cloud formation that forms regularly in the southern Gulf of Carpenteria.

A bit of futher reading would inicate it can, and has formed in other parts of the gulf coast. Perhaps this is one of those mornings ?

1 comment

May 15

The Creative side of – ATSG

Category: Atmosphere

In the tradition of several of my fellow Astronomy presenters (Fred Watson comes to mind). I have laid down one of my original songs as a recording. Written, Sung and played by myself, mastered and mixed by my friend Josh McKeough (Thanks Josh !). The Song is “FIFO Blues” & for the uninitiated, FIFO is Fly In Fly Out. Something I have been doing on and off for the past 25 years of my working life.

Uke in Arnhem Land NT.

I hope you enjoy the music and if you are or have been a FIFO, you will understand the lyrics and the experience behind them:

Ian Maclean – FIFO

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Blues

2 comments

Mar 6

Mars Comet Impact – A Pattern ?

Category: Atmosphere

The discovery of the Comet C/2013 A1 and its possible impact on Mars, The Chelyabinsk Impact on Feb 15 2013 (injuring over 1500 people) , The two comets Lemmon & PANstarrs gracing the southern skies in March 2013, the near miss by Asteroid DA2012 & the upcoming comet Ison (touted to be the Comet the century) in November 2013, poses a question ?

Is there an increased level of Comet & Asteroid activity and if so, is there a cause for this ?

It is a well known fact that our star, the sun, rises and falls through the Galactic plane every 35 to 4o Million years.  It has been theorized  that as it does so, interaction with nearby stars could be a cause of comets being flung into the inner solar system. However we are currently 2-5 millions into our journey OUT of the plane of The Milky Way and typical transit time into the inner solar system is perhaps Circa one million years.

So why are we apparently seeing more comets and asteroids now than at any time in the past ? The Chelyabinsk impact in Russia in February 2013 has only served to highlight concern about potential impacts on the earth by extraterrestrial bodies. Enough so, that both the US and Russian governments are now expanding the space search programs to look for these potential impactors.

The search for Asteroids has been steadily building since the invention of the telescope 400 years ago. That search has increased exponentially over recent years. Just 10 short years ago, when I co-founded Gove Astronomers in the Northern Territory, Australia, there was no effective program in the southern hemisphere for detecting NEO’s (Near Earth Objects). Now there is a world wide program in place intended to detect objects in the 100 metre plus range (high consequence impacts). This has routinely shown up NEO’s in the 20 to 50 metre class, which in themselves could cause local devastation.

So are there more meteors now that in the past, or are we simply more aware of then ? I think this simulation of Asteroid discovery from the 80′s to 2011 in part answers that question. (expand to full screen for best effect !)

So what about comets, are there more of them now than in the past ? Comet hunting has been popular among Astronomers, both professional and Amateur (unpaid) since the first telescopes fell into their hands. With the advent of the all sky surveys such as Linear, Neat and the most recent addition PANstarrs (Giving the name to the exciting comet of March 2013) & the SOHO discovery of sungrazers as they dive into the corona of the sun, the rate of early discovery has increased.

Anecdotal evidence would suggest the rate is increasing: As of January 2011 there are a reported 4,185 known comets of which about 1,500 are Kreutz Sungrazers and about 484 are short-period. This number is steadily increasing. However, this represents only a tiny fraction of the total potential comet population: the reservoir of comet-like bodies in the outer Solar System may number one trillion. (Wikipedia)

Conclusion:

While we are discovering and seeing more comets & asteroids now than at any time in the past, this is largely due to the increased rate of discovery, better equipment enabling more people to see faint comets, the pervasive availability of information online and of course the mainstream medias propensity for latching on the sensational stories & beating them up.

So could we be hit by a devastating comet or asteroid in our lifetimes ? Clearly the answer is YES.

Is this any more likely than at anytime in our past history ? Probably NOT.

No comments

Feb 16

Russian Meteorite – 1 in 100 year event

Category: Atmosphere

With all the focus on Asteroid DA 2102 no one saw it coming ! In the biggest meteorite impact since the Tunguska event of 1908 in the Siberian wilderness.

This event has been quite destructive with reports of many square kilometers of glass having been shattered, along with over 1000 people injured & buildings damaged.

The Feb 2013 Meteorite in Russia

Amazingly there are no reports of deaths thus far. There is extensive footage all over You tube.

NASA reports on the details of the object, its trajectory & explosive power as follows:

New information provided by a worldwide network of sensors has allowed scientists to refine their estimates for the size of the object that entered that atmosphere and disintegrated in the skies over Chelyabinsk, Russia, at 7:20:26 p.m. PST, or 10:20:26 p.m. EST on Feb. 14 (3:20:26 UTC on Feb. 15).

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The estimated size of the object, prior to entering Earth’s atmosphere, has been revised upward from 49 feet (15 meters) to 55 feet (17 meters), and its estimated mass has increased from 7,000 to 10,000 tons. Also, the estimate for energy released during the event has increased by 30 kilotons to nearly 500 kilotons of energy released. These new estimates were generated using new data that had been collected by five additional infrasound stations located around the world – the first recording of the event being in Alaska, over 6,500 kilometers away from Chelyabinsk. The infrasound data indicates that the event, from atmospheric entry to the meteor’s airborne disintegration took 32.5 seconds. The calculations using the infrasound data were performed by Peter Brown at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.

So why was this missed ? Are we not looking closely enough, was the object just to small or do we need more funding ?

Despite its massive size, the object went undetected until it hit the atmosphere. “I’m not aware of anyone who saw this coming,” says Heiner Klinkrad, head of the European Space Agency’s space debris office at the European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany. Although a network of telescopes watches for asteroids that might strike Earth, it is geared towards spotting larger objects — between 100 meters and a kilometer in size.

“Objects like that are nearly impossible to see until a day or two before impact,” says Timothy Spahr, Director of the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which tracks asteroids and small bodies. So far as he knows, he says, his centre also failed to spot the approaching rock.

Source: Scientific American

A Possible Meteor Fragment impact

There will I am sure be a lot more follow up to this one, including the recovery of fragments of the meteor, some of which I am sure will be large !

With all the dramatic footage and the unprecedented damage from the Russian Meteorite it is a timely reminder of our vulnerability to these objects.
There are those who are taking action to detect these objects, such as the B612 Foundation
I am amazed by how quickly this has slipped out of the news and off our collective radar. Perhaps it is something we do not like to think about ?
A kind of collective denial (it wont happen to me), I guess this is why there is a survivalist movement active around the world.
I for one am glad to know that there are organizations that are looking & putting together a plan !

No comments

Feb 11

2012 DA14 NEO – Near Miss !

Category: Atmosphere

You may have heard about the close call

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the earth is about to have with a football field sized asteroid NEO 2012 DA14
I have attached a link to the map here showing where it is visible in the morning sky (with Binoculars) from wherever you are. You will need to add your location to show the visibility of 2012 DA14
http://www.heavens-above.com/
It will look much like a passing satellite, although moving slow by comparison at 0.5 Degree’s of Arc per minute
during the early morning

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twilight. At that speed it will be challenging to track with a telescope, making binoculars a better choice.

No comments

Dec 14

21st December 2012 and the FUTURE !

Category: Atmosphere

Mayan Calendar

With the 21st of December approaching and increasing numbers of questions from people about what will happen, I feel it is time to set the record straight:

Or will there be a shift in consciousness, heralding a new age of enlightenment ? Well I certainly hope so, the human race, the planet and everything else that lives on it could sure do with the help.

See you on the 22nd of December !

No comments

Nov 29

The REAL Saturn, Venus & Mercury Conjunction

Category: Atmosphere

This image floating around the net of the planets aligned over the Pyramids in Egypt on the 3rd of Dec, only happens every 2737 years, tell all your friends .. Blah …Blah .

I thought it better to share what is actually happening in Cairo Egypt on that morning.
It would have been great if I could have
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The reality is shown in the star chart below from my favourite stellar software, Skychart.
It will be a good photo opportunity wherever you live.
For a good
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Landscape Astrophotographer it would even be good at the Pyramids !

If only real astronomy events spread across the net like this.
You CAN pass this one on to your friends :-)
No comments

Oct 30

The Total Solar Eclipse – Arnhem land NT

Category: Atmosphere

I have been asked many times in the past few weeks just what will be visible of the eclipse for Nhulunbuy in Arnhem Land NT.
So from the eclipse chasers site here it is:
Nnulunbuy:
Partial eclipse.
Magnitude (along diameter): 98%
Obscuration (surface area):99%
Begins: 7:44:12.7 PM UT, Not visible
Maximum: 8:35:29.4 PM UT, Alt: 3 degrees
Ends: 9:31:41 PM UT, Alt: 17 degrees
(Note: times are Universal time not local)
Calculated results at this point:
Calculated point at 12.183S, 136.7782E

This is calculated for up on Mt Saunders in Nhulunbuy.
However anywhere you have a clear view of the sunrise at the horizon will be good.
Note that the sun is only 3 Degree’s about the horizon at maximum, IE: soon after sunrise.

Totality !
You will have to venture south to see a total eclipse !
There is

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a link on my 2012 Total Eclipse page for performing calculations for the eclipse at a given point.

For a look at totality you would have to be at least at this point on the track out
Calculated point at 12.5941S, 136.5738E :

This is what you would see, IF you have a clear view of the eastern horizon.

Total Alt.*
1st contact: 5:14:35.5 AM -
2nd contact: 6:05:28.4 AM 3.5
Mid eclipse: 6:05:54 AM 3.6
3rd contact: 6:06:19.5 AM 3.7
4th contact: 7:02:01.9 AM 16.6
Calculated Limb corrections applied.
C2=1.5, C3=2.9 seconds.

 

Total duration

Totality duration at this location was calculated as 49.7 seconds. The Sun will be about 3.6 degrees above the astronomical horizon for totality.

Remember stay safe and always use safe solar viewing methods, such as these eclipse glasses available at NightSkySecrets.com

Happy Eclipse chasing

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