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The Great "Birthday Comet" of 2011

© SOHO

SOHO's 16th Birthday gift is on it's way, and the tracking number states delivery by midnight on December 15th!

On December 2nd, 2011, newly discovered Kreutz-group comet C/2011 W3 (Lovejoy) was announced. SOHO discovers these objects on average every three days, but this one is different... it was found from a ground based telescope, and marks the first such discovery in over 40yrs. It also marks a significant achievement for Australian astronomer Terry Lovejoy, who as an early pioneer of discovering SOHO comets over the internet, can now claim to be the first person to discover a Sungrazer from both ground and space-based telescopes!

Traditionally, and with little exception, ground-discovered Kreutz-group comets have gotten bright. Very bright! In 1965, Kreutz-comet Ikeya-Seki was so bright, it could be seen by the naked eye by blocking the Sun out with your hand. We do not expect C/2011 W3 to get this bright, so reserve your seat next to your computer and stay tuned to the SOHO, STEREO and Sungrazer websites as we prepare for this rare and potentially spectacular object to enter our cameras around Dec 12, meeting its fiery demise late on Dec 15.

We will have more information on this site over the coming week. In the meantime, updates will occasionally be posted at the Sungrazer site.

Stay tuned!

Meteor

US: Mysterious Debris Crashes Through Plymouth Warehouse Roof

Image
© Kathy Curran
A piece of metal crashed through the roof of a Plymouth business.
Plymouth - A solid piece of metal crashed through the roof of a Plymouth furniture warehouse on Thursday. Investigators say the debris appears to have fallen from the sky, but it did not come from a plane.

Michael Facchini, the owner of Michael's Wholesale Furniture Distributors found the 3-5 lb. chunk of debris on the floor of his building off Camelot Drive.

Facchini also discovered a hole in the roof of the building.

"Looked up, the ceiling had a big hole," he told WBZ-TV's Kathy Curran. "One of the workers came by and noticed the office was a mess and asked if I knew what happened then I looked and saw metal and figured it came from high above."

No one was hurt by the falling debris.

The FAA has sent an inspector to Plymouth to help investigators.


Meteor

US: Rainbow-Colored, Exploding Meteor Appears Just South of D.C.

© Lorenzo Lovato
A Leonid fireball during a Nov. 1998 meteor shower in Italy.

Hordes of incandescent meteors have ripped across U.S. skies this past week. According to alert skywatchers, the nation's capital got in on the stellar action in a big way.

The delightful blog Lunar Meteorite Hunters carries two reports of a glowing nightly visitor that appeared between 40 and 60 miles south of D.C. on Monday, Nov. 28. The first account is from Patrick in Leonardtown, Md., who caught a bright object whizzing by overhead around 9:20 p.m. The flaming flier lasted about 2 seconds, cycling like an angry squid from red to blue to green. Says Patrick, with minor spelling/grammar errors fixed:
No discernible sound. Very bright, same as the moon. Not blinding, but quite noticeable. Not sure, [but it looked like it had] only one tail. I'm not sure if it was when it entered the atmosphere, but I saw almost an explosion or halo form around it about halfway through its travel before it disappeared.
A meteor that was hoisted with its own petard, you say? Go on!

Chalkboard

Science Debunked Meteorites

Image
© unknown
A Rock from the sky...
"The Lord cast down great stones from heaven upon them"
Joshua 10:11
Rocks that fell from the sky were often venerated in ancient times and even became objects of worship. Visitors to the temple of Apollo at Delphi, for example, reported that a stone, reputed to have fallen from the sky, was on display there and each day was anointed by the resident priests.

So the ancient Greeks knew that stones could, and did, fall from the sky. They used observation, common sense and the genuine power of reason to establish this. Rocks and stones that fell to the ground were not really falling stars they reasoned, because the celestial population of stars remained the same.

Aristotle, however, the great Greek philosopher, was one who at first wholeheartedly debunked this concept. He thought that rocks could not fall from the sky because the heavens were perfect and could not possibly have loose pieces floating around to fall to Earth. Aristotle was forced to change his position somewhat after a meteorite fell at Thrace near Aegospotami. He reasoned that strong winds had lifted an earth rock into the sky, then dropped it. Other learned men of the time favoured an alternate theory. They held that meteorites somehow formed in the sky during violent thunderstorms, suggesting that particles inside the clouds consolidated because of the heat during a lighting flash. For this reason the rocks were sometimes referred to as thunderstones.

Despite the varying views, a consensus was somehow arrived at. Being a temporary phenomenon, it was agreed, shooting stars had to be something within the atmosphere. These objects were therefore named Meteors meaning 'things in the air'.

Meteor

Mahad, Maharashtra, India Meteor - Nov.25, 2011

Nearly at 22:50 there was a flash light falling all over illuminating the dark sky. I don't know what it was but it was extremely bright, leaving a shiny trail behind it which lasted for few seconds. I am in Mahad, Maharashtra, India.-feelipkd Thank you!

Meteor

Incoming! Shower of micro-meteorites sets fire to household items in India

New Delhi - Experts are yet to ascertain the composition of the mysterious "celestial" objects that fell on Chand Mohalla colony in Gandhi Nagar in east Delhi. Police sources said the material resembled a meteorite even as they were not ruling out the possibility of a prank. The incident took place on Sunday evening.

Police sources said incidents of meteorites falling on earth are rare. "It is too soon to arrive at a conclusion. The objects have been sent to FSL for examination and we will have to wait for the expert's take on the incident," said a police source. The incident, however, has had an impact on those who witnessed it.

"A strange black fireball first hit a cricket bat and then a towel. Both caught fire. Even the bike caught fire because of the fireball,'' said Indrapal Singh, whose household items were set on fire by the "celestial" objects.

Indrapal was watching television with his family when they heard a sound and rushed out. Moments later, several items - including a cricket bat and a towel - were on fire. "We brought out buckets and tried to douse the fire with water. However, it took us a while to bring it under control," he said. Police sources said they have collected the material from the site.

Sun

Coronal Mass Ejection Impact November 28th

As predicted by analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab, a coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth's magnetic field at approximately 2145 UT on Nov. 28th. The impact was weaker than expected, but it still produced bright auroras around the Arctic Circle:

Image
© Antti Pietikäinen
"The CME that hit Earth gave us some nice, colourful and easy-moving auroras," says photographer Antti Pietikäinen of Muonio, Lapland, Finland, who enjoyed the show with his two dogs.

Also in the Finnish Lapland, Chad Blakely says "the auroras exploded all over the sky. If this is a sign of things to come the rest of the season should be fantastic!!"

Meteor

US: A Thanksgiving predawn meteor over North Carolina?

At least one person was watching the sky before dawn on Thanksgiving morning. And..he had a view to be thankful for.

Around 4:30 AM today Ty in Grimesland, NC between Greenville and Washington saw a bright meteor low in the sky...heading south to north.

He writes, "It appeared to be really low, bright and with a long tail lasted for about 3 sec".

Did anyone else catch this bright but brief visitor?

Meteor

US: Baffling fireball reported overhead in Richland County, Ohio

Image

[File image]
A bright fireball in the sky got Rick Beverly's attention at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday.

"I was headed north on Graham Road and was right about in front of my house when it happened," said the 1431 Graham Road, Lexington, man. "I was looking toward the east and noticed a big ball of fire fall from the sky. It was cruising."

Beverly said a red glow lit up a large section of woods behind his home. He thinks the fireball may have landed there.

Lt. Michael Vinson, of the Mansfield post of the Ohio Highway Patrol, said several agencies, including the Lexington Police Department, Troy Township Fire Department, the Richland County Sheriff's Office and the Air National Guard, responded.

Sun

Update: Black Friday Solar Eclipse

Earlier today, Nov. 25th, the new Moon passed in front of the sun, slightly off-center, producing a partial solar eclipse visible from Antarctica, Tasmania, and parts of South Africa and New Zealand. Mike Nicholson photographed the event about two minutes before sunset from Otaki Beach, NZ:

© Mike Nicholson
Image Taken: Nov. 25, 2011
Location: Otaki Beach, New Zealand
"We were experiencing gale force Sou'westerlies when I took the picture," says Nicholson. "Low clouds plus flying salt and sand provided a natural filter to reduce the glare of the sun."

Maximum coverage occurred about 100 miles off the coast of Antarctica where the sun turned into a slender 9% crescent. Will any pictures be submitted from that remote location? Stay tuned.