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Tue, 23 May 2017
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Fire in the Sky


Second giant chunk of space junk heading for Earth

A defunct German space telescope is set to collide with Earth less than five weeks after a satellite the size of a bus hits the planet.

© Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics
The 2.4-ton Röntgensatellit, or ROSAT, has been spinning aimlessly through space for 12 years after it was switched off in 1999 after its guidance system broke.

With its orbit bringing it inexorably closer to Earth, the authorities initially thought it would burn up entirely on re-entry.

However, it is now believed that pieces of space junk weighing up to 400kg could smash into the planet's surface as early as the end of October.


Saturday X-Flare

Behemoth sunspot 1302 unleashed another strong flare on Saturday morning--an X1.9-category blast at 0940 UT. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the extreme ultraviolet flash:

The movie also shows a shadowy shock wave racing away from the blast site. This is a sign that the blast produced a coronal mass ejection (CME). The CME isn't heading directly toward Earth, but it might deliver a glancing blow to our planet's magnetic field 2 to 3 days hence. Stay tuned for further analysis.

UPDATE: Sunspot 1302 followed today's X2-flare with an M7-flare nearly as strong (movie). So far none of the blasts has been Earth-directed, but this could change as the sunspot turns toward our planet in the days ahead. The sunspot is growing and shows no immediate signs of quieting down.


NASA searches for burned up satellite debris

© Rex Features
1991 NASA file photo shows the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) in the grasp of the RMS (Remote Manipulator System) during deployment. NASA officials scrambled Saturday to locate any remains of a bus-sized satellite -- the biggest piece of US space junk to plummet to earth in 30 years -- that disintegrated upon on re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere
NASA officials scrambled Saturday to locate any remains of a bus-sized satellite -- the biggest piece of US space junk to plummet to earth in 30 years -- that disintegrated upon on re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere.

NASA has said there is only a "very remote" risk to the public from any of the fragments of the 6.3 tonne Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) that may have survived the journey back into the atmosphere.

The satellite fell back to Earth between 11:23 pm Friday and 1:09 am Saturday (0323-0509 GMT Saturday), but the precise re-entry time and location "are not yet known with certainty," NASA said.

The tumbling motion of the satellite has made it difficult to narrow down where it landed, with the ocean considered likely and the exact number of pieces of debris it broke into is still unknown.

The Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California said the satellite penetrated the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean, but the landing site was still not confirmed.


US: Meteorite Hits California House

© KSDK.com

Sacramento - While many in the world are wondering where on Earth a falling satellite could hit, one California man had his own space mishap.

A meteorite slammed into his house!

"What happened?"

That was how Mike Gibson responded after he was rudely awakened the night of August 13.

"I heard a boom like you wouldn't believe hitting our house, middle of the night," said Gibson.

He ran outside and searched his roof with a flashlight, and that's when he saw what happened.

"A huge impact zone about 4 ½ -6 feet around was in my roof," he said.


US: Washington State residents could get view of falling satellite

© Unknown
A 6-ton NASA satellite on a collision course with Earth is set to fly over Washington state Friday evening -- if it doesn't fall out of orbit sooner.

The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, or UARS, is expected to pass over Washington state at 9:20 p.m. PT -- on a path that will take it on a northeasterly course from the mouth of the Columbia River and south of Olympia to the Canadian border.

When it passes over, the satellite may be low enough that the atmosphere is heating it, making it brighter in the sky than it would normally appear.

NASA cautioned there was now a slim chance any surviving debris would land in the United States. Earlier this week, NASA said North America would be in the clear.

"It is still too early to predict the time and location of re-entry with any certainty," NASA said in a statement.

The Aerospace Corp., which tracks space debris, estimates the strike will happen sometime between about 6 p.m. and 4 a.m. EDT, which would make a huge difference in where the debris might wind up. Those late-night, early morning passes show the satellite flying over parts of the United States.

Any surviving wreckage is expected to be limited to a 500-mile swath.


NASA's falling satellite slows - and now could hit US

Re-entry time frame shifts too, and it may not crash until late Friday or Saturday

A huge, dead satellite tumbling to Earth is falling slower than expected, and may now plummet down somewhere over the United States tonight or early Saturday, despite forecasts that it would miss North America entirely, NASA officials now say.

The 6 1/2-ton Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) was expected to fall to Earth sometime Friday afternoon, but changes in the school bus-size satellite's motion may push it to early Saturday, according to NASA's latest observations of the spacecraft.


UARS Debris Tracker To Provide 2-Hr Warning For Populated Areas

© Unknown
NASA’s Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS)
A debris tracker will be able to provide a two-hour warning should debris from an out-of-control U.S. satellite crash in populated areas, Chinese experts said on Friday.

NASA's Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) is expected to re-enter Earth's atmosphere on late Friday afternoon or early Friday evening, almost six years after the end of its productive scientific life. Although the spacecraft will break into pieces during re-entry, not all of it will burn up in the atmosphere.

As of early Friday morning, the orbit of UARS was 110 miles by 115 miles (175 kilometers by 185 kilometers), and re-entry could happen sometime Friday afternoon or early Friday evening U.S. time. While NASA has ruled out an impact in North America, it remains unknown where the debris will fall.

Pang Zhihao, a researcher from the Chinese Research Institute of Space Technology, told China's state-run Xinhua news agency on Friday that the debris will most likely fall into the ocean or an uninhabited area. Nonetheless, a debris tracker will be able to give a fairly accurate prediction where debris will fall about two hours before it hits Earth, giving any residents some time to evacuate.


The Curious Case of Comet Elenin: A Skywatching Tale

© Michael Mattiazzo
Amateur astronomer Michael Mattiazzo of Castlemaine, Australia caught these two images of comet Elenin on Aug. 19 (left) and Sept. 6, 2011. The images show a rapid dimming in the comet, possibly hinting at its disintegration.

Russian amateur astronomer Leonid Elenin had the good fortune to discover a comet on Dec. 10, 2010, and it's turned out to be quite a skywatching curiosity.

Initially, comet Elenin received quite a bit of attention from astronomers because its orbit would take it quite close to Earth, within 22 million miles (35 million kilometers), on Oct. 16, 2011. It looked like it was going to put on a good show.

Even as recently as Aug. 19, the comet was brighter than predicted, as observed and photographed by amateur astronomers in Australia, notably Michael Mattiazzo.

Then, disaster struck in the form of a coronal mass ejection from the sun. The next day the comet had dropped half a magnitude in brightness, and has continued to drop, despite the icy body getting closer to the sun. Apparently the comet is disintegrating, as sometimes happens when comets pass too close to the sun.

Meanwhile, this rather small and ordinary comet has become the subject of media frenzy among conspiracy theorists and 2012 doomsayers. Comet Elenin has been accused of being a brown dwarf or the mysterious and destructive planet "Nibiru," and has been blamed for earthquakes and tsunamis. Did you know that its discoverer's name is really an acronym for "Extinction Level Event: Nibiru Is Nigh."

On Sept. 10 the comet passed its perihelion, a phase marking its closest approach to the sun, at a distance of 44,840,000 miles (72,170,000 km).


Meteor Caught on Video by Troy Stone

One of our valued readers here in Universe Today sent us a link to a video that was first featured in a local news channel in Florida. It was a video of a bright green fireball shooting across the sky in Orlando, Florida. The video was recorded by Troy Stone using a dash cam as he was on his way to work in the morning of September 5, 2011.

According to the locals who were able to post the sighting online, the meteor was heading east to west when looking south.


Solar Dynamics Observatory records an X1.4 Solar Flare and a Coronal Mass Ejection

This X1.4 class flare was recorded by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) on the morning of September 22, 2011, peaking at 7:01 AM ET. The movie is shown in multiple wavelengths of light simultaneously (211, 193, 171 angstrom). Across the top is a graph of the x-ray intensity during flare as recorded by the GOES spacecraft.

A large coronal mass ejection (CME) shot off the West (right) side of the sun at 6:24 PM ET on September 21, 2011. The CME is moving away from Earth at about 900 miles per second.

The next morning, an X1.4 class flare erupted from the other side of the sun, peaking at 7:01 AM ET on September 22. The flare came from sunspot N15E88, which is just moving into view as the sun rotates. This flare has caused elevated proton levels on the East (left) side of the sun. Associated with this flare, there was a significant CME, traveling at over 600 miles per second, that began around 7:24 AM ET.