Cosmic roulette: Astronauts warn that "we are literally in a shooting gallery"

© Former US astronauts are behind an early warning asteroid strikes project.
As members of an elite band of cosmic explorers, they are among the few to have gone beyond the final frontier and looked down on the Earth from space.

Now, inspired by the unique perspective they gained of their home planet - and armed with startling new data about the scale of the threat it faces from asteroid strikes - a group of former Nasa astronauts is on an extraordinary mission to save the world.

Fourteen months after a meteor exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, on a scale equivalent to 30 Hiroshima bombs, the B612 Foundation, a non-profit group founded by the Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart and the space shuttle astronaut Dr Ed Lu, is warning that only "blind luck" has so far saved us from worse.

Comment: Unfortunately these astronauts are a day late and a dollar short, and asteroid defense systems seem somewhat of a pipe dream. Speaking of pipe dreams, perhaps a better defense would be to kick the psychopaths out of power, learn to create a more just, honest world, and start living by the rules of the universe.

Xenophobic Self-Destruction Or, How the Odyssey and the Old and New Testaments Can Predict Our Future

Celestial Intentions: Comets and the Horns of Moses

Comet 2

Possible spectacular meteor shower from Comet 209/LINEAR in May

209P/LINEAR is a periodic comet discovered by the Lincoln Laboratory Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) survey on five images taken on 2004, February 3.40 (discovery magnitude ~18.1). Reported by LINEAR as an apparent asteroidal object, it has been found to show a narrow 1'.1 tail in p.a. 274 deg (slightly expanding toward the end) on CCD images obtained by R. H. McNaught with the 1.0-m f/8 reflector at Siding Spring on Mar. 30.8 UT. This comet has been assigned the permanent designation 209P on 2008, December 12 (previous designation were P/2008 X2 (LINEAR) = P/2004 CB).

We performed follow-up measurements of this object on 2014, April 14.95 with the 2.0-m f/10.0 Ritchey-Chretien + CCD telescope of La Palma-Liverpool (J13 MPC code). You can see our image below with the comet a about magnitude ~17.
Comet 209P/Linear
© Remanzacco Observatory
According to a prediction by E. Lyytinen and P. Jenniskens, comet 209P/LINEAR will possibly cause a big meteor shower on May 24, 2014.
Fireball 4

Earth has experienced many more large-scale asteroid impacts over the past decade than previously thought

Chelyabinsk Meteorite
© Universe Today
The bolide that impacted the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk in Feb. 2013 detonated with the equivalent of 530 kilotons of TNT, injuring over 1,200 people.
This Earth Day, Tuesday, April 22, three former NASA astronauts will present new evidence that our planet has experienced many more large-scale asteroid impacts over the past decade than previously thought... three to ten times more, in fact. A new visualization of data from a nuclear weapons warning network, to be unveiled by B612 Foundation CEO Ed Lu during the evening event at Seattle's Museum of Flight, shows that "the only thing preventing a catastrophe from a 'city-killer' sized asteroid is blind luck."

Since 2001, 26 atomic-bomb-scale explosions have occurred in remote locations around the world, far from populated areas, made evident by a nuclear weapons test warning network. In a recent press release B612 Foundation CEO Ed Lu states:
"This network has detected 26 multi-kiloton explosions since 2001, all of which are due to asteroid impacts. It shows that asteroid impacts are NOT rare - but actually 3-10 times more common than we previously thought. The fact that none of these asteroid impacts shown in the video was detected in advance is proof that the only thing preventing a catastrophe from a 'city-killer' sized asteroid is blind luck. The goal of the B612 Sentinel mission is to find and track asteroids decades before they hit Earth, allowing us to easily deflect them."
The B612 Foundation is partnered with Ball Aerospace to build the Sentinel Infrared Space Telescope Mission.
Comet 2

New Comet: C/2014 G1 (PanSTARRS)

Discovery Date: April 5, 2014

Magnitude: 20.5 mag

Discoverer: Pan-STARRS 1 telescope (Haleakala)

C/2014 G1 (PanSTARRS)
© Aerith Net
Magnitudes Graph
The orbital elements are published on M.P.E.C. 2014-G42.

New Comet: C/2014 F2 (Tenagra)

Discovery Date: March 31, 2014

Magnitude: 19.8 mag

Discoverer: M. Schwartz and P. R. Holvorcem (Tenagra III, near Nogales, AZ, U.S.A.)

C/2014 F2 (Tenagra)
© Aerith Net
Magnitudes Graph
The orbital elements are published on M.P.E.C. 2014-G32.
Comet 2

Comet Jacques brightens rapidly, heads North

© Damian Peach
Comet C/2014 E2 Jacques on April 1, 2014.
We've got a hot comet on our hands. Comet Jacques barely cracked magnitude +11 at the time of its March 13 discovery, but just three weeks later, amateur astronomers have already spotted it in large binoculars at magnitude +9.5. Expert comet observer Michael Mattiazzo, who maintains the Southern Comets Homepage, predicts that if Comet Jacques continues its rapid rise in brightness, it might become faintly visible with the naked eye by July.

Comet Jacques_2
Discovery images of Comet Jacques by the SONEAR team show a small, condensed object with a short, faint
The comet's currently inching across the southern constellation Antlia headed toward Puppis and Monoceros later this month. Observers describe it as "very diffuse" with a large, dim coma and moderately compact core. Photos show a short tail pointing east-northeast. This past weekend C/2014 E2 passed closest to the Earth at 89.3 million miles (144 million km) on its way to perihelion on July 2.
Comet 2

New Comet: C/2014 F1 (HILL)

Cbet nr. 3840, issued on 2014, April 01, announces the discovery of a comet (~ magnitude 18.6) on CCD images taken on 2014, March 29.4 by R. E. Hill with the Catalina Sky Survey's 0.68-m Schmidt telescope. The new comet has been designated C/2014 F1 (HILL).

We performed follow-up measurements of this object, while it was still on the neocp. Stacking of 10 unfiltered exposures, 60-sec each, obtained remotely on 2014, March 30.4 from H06 (iTelescope network - New Mexico) through a 0.50-m f/6.8 astrograph + CCD + f/4.5 focal reducer, shows that this object is a comet: coma about 5" in diameter elongated toward PA 215.

Our confirmation image (click on it for a bigger version).
C/2014 F1
© Remanzacco Observatory
M.P.E.C. 2014-G02 assigns the following very preliminary parabolic orbital elements to comet C/2014 F1: T 2013 Oct. 27.18; e= 1.0; Peri. = 13.93; q = 3.62; Incl.= 108.91

Mars-bound comet Siding Spring sprouts multiple jets

C/2013 A1
© NASA, ESA, and J.-Y. Li (Planetary Science Institute)
Left:Hubble Space Telescope picture of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring photographed March 11, 2014. At that time the comet was 353 million miles from Earth. Right: When the glow of the coma is subtracted through image processing, Hubble resolves what appear to be two jets of dust coming off the nucleus in opposite directions.
Comet Siding Spring, on its way to a close brush with Mars on October 19, has been kicking up a storm lately. New images from Hubble Space Telescope taken on March 11, when the comet was just this side of Jupiter, reveal multiple jets of gas and dust.
Bizarro Earth

Atmospheric history captured in sunset colors of old paintings

© WikiPaintings via European Geosciences Union
Old World artists captured the state of the climate in their paintings of the world centuries ago, according to a new study. Pictured is "The Lake, Petworth: Sunset, Fighting Bucks", by J. M. W. Turner (c. 1829)
Old World artists captured the state of the climate in their paintings of sunsets centuries ago, according to a new study.

Writing in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, a team of Greek and German researchers report that the colors of sunsets painted by artists in centuries past can be used to estimate pollution levels in Earth's past atmosphere.

The researchers cite the 1815 eruption of Tambora volcano in Indonesia, the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history. The event sent a huge plume of volcanic ash and smoke into the air, and the particulate matter ejected by the volcano scattered sunlight in a particular way, making sunsets appear more bright red and orange in Europe for a number of years.

"Nature speaks to the hearts and souls of great artists," said lead study author Christos Zerefos, a professor of atmospheric physics at the Academy of Athens in Greece. "But we have found that, when coloring sunsets, it is the way their brains perceive greens and reds that contains important environmental information."

For their study, Zerefos and his team studied high-resolution photographs of paintings of the sunset made between the years 1500 and 2000. In this 500-year period, the world saw more than 50 large volcanic eruptions.

Comment: More food for thought: Reassessing the Mystery Cloud of AD 536


New Comet: P/2014 E1 (Larson)

Discovery Date: March 10, 2014

Magnitude: 16.8 mag

Discoverer: Stephen M. Larson (Catalina Sky Survey)
P/2014 E1 (Larson)
© Aerith Net
Magnitudes Graph
m1 = 13.0 + 5 log d + 10.0 log r
The orbital elements are published on M.P.E.C. 2014-E86.