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Fire in the Sky


Comet Lovejoy - Some Comets like it Hot

Comets are icy and fragile. They spend most of their time orbiting through the dark outskirts of the solar system safe from destructive rays of intense sunlight. The deepest cold is their natural habitat.

Last November amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy discovered a different kind of comet. The icy fuzzball he spotted in the sky over his backyard observatory in Australia was heading almost directly for the sun. On Dec. 16th, less than three weeks after he found it, Comet Lovejoy would swoop through the sun's atmosphere only 120,000 km above the stellar surface.

Astronomers soon realized a startling fact: Comet Lovejoy likes it hot.

"Terry found a sungrazer," says Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab in Washington DC. "We figured its nucleus was about as wide as two football fields - the biggest such comet in nearly 40 years."

Comet Lovejoy_1
© Wayne-England
Comet Lovejoy at sunrise on Dec. 25, 2011. Wayne England took the picture from Poocher Swamp, west of Bordertown, South Australia.
Sungrazing comets aren't a new thing. In fact, the orbiting Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) watches one fall toward the sun and evaporate every few days. These frequent kamikaze comets, known as "Kreutz sungrazers," are thought to be splinters of a giant comet that broke apart hundreds of years ago. Typically they measure about 10 meters across, small, fragile, and easily vaporized by solar heat.

Based on its orbit, Comet Lovejoy was surely a member of the same family - except it was 200 meters wide instead of the usual 10. Astronomers were eager to see such a whopper disintegrate. Even with its extra girth, there was little doubt that it would be destroyed.

When Dec. 16th came, however, "Comet Lovejoy shocked us all," says Battams. "It survived, and even flourished."


UK: Scientists Probe Mystery Boom and Earth Tremors in Northumberland and Scottish Borders

Experts are trying to determine what caused earth tremors and buildings to shake in Berwick and coastal areas of the Scottish Borders this afternoon.

Scientists can't say if it was an earthquake and the RAF said the RAF says none of their planes caused a sonic boom.

Seismologists are currently looking into the 3.15pm incident in Berwickshire and Northumberland.

A British Geological Survey spokeswoman said: "We know something happened as we've had lots of reports of the earth shaking and it registered on our equipment."

The data is being studied but the spokeswoman said they could not confirm if it was an earthquake or a sonic boom. But she said the data did not have the 'tell-tale' signs of an earthquake.

A Northumbria Police spokesman said that reports had come in from as far afield as south as Craster and that Lothian and Borders Police had received reports from Burnmouth.

He said that the RAF had reported that although planes were operating in the area it was not believed to be a sonic boom.

It has also been felt in Wooler and Belford as well as throughout Berwick.


US: Fireball Report Prompts Search of Island Marsh

Brunswick, Georgia. -- Authorities say they turned up nothing after Georgia State Patrol and U.S. Coast Guard crews searched a marsh off Jekyll Island for a possible plane crash.

The search began around 10 p.m. Wednesday, after someone reported seeing a fireball disappear in the marsh.

The Florida Times-Union reports the search was called off shortly after midnight early Thursday, and state patrol officials say it is believed the fireball might have been a meteor.


Mexico: Authorities Search for Meteorite that Fell on Northwest Mexico

Culiacan - Mexican authorities are searching for a meteorite that fell to earth in a rural area in the northwestern part of the country, which was sighted in the region but about which there are as yet few details, officials said Friday.

The alarm sounded when inhabitants of a mountainous region of Sinaloa state near the border with Chihuahua were startled by the approach of a luminous object in the night sky.

NASA and Mexican emergency services agencies confirmed that the object was a meteorite, whose dimensions and exact place of impact are unknown.

Some witnesses believed it could have crashed to earth between the Gustavo Diaz Ordaz Dam and the town of San Jose de Gracia.

After hours of searching by air and land, an official of the Sinaloa municipality of Sinaloa, Marcial Alvarez, told Efe that the meteorite is believed to have impacted next door in Chihuahua state.

This Saturday observers will fly over the area in search of the meteorite.

It would not be the first time Sinaloa has seen a phenomenon like this. In 1871 a meteorite fell on the settlement of Bacubirito, which with a weight of 22 tons is considered one of the biggest in the world.


Fantastic Quadrantids

This morning, Jan. 4th, Earth passed through a stream of debris from shattered comet 2003 EH1. The encounter produced a strong display of Quadrantid meteors over the Atlantic side of our planet, as many as 80 per hour according to the International Meteor Organization. Fredrik Broms caught this one streaking over his home in Kvaløya, Norway:

Quadrantids Shower
© Fredrik Broms
"The Quadrantids of 2012 were fantastic," says Broms. "The display was dominated by fairly bright and fast meteors."

NASA's All-Sky Fireball Network recorded 20 fireballs during the outburst. Data from multiple cameras allowed the orbits of the meteoroiuds to be calculated, and they are shown here in a diagram of the inner solar system:

Quadrantids Shower_1


Large Meteor seen over southern Finland

A large meteor that shone brighter than the moon was seen over southern Finland on January 3rd 2012 according to the Ursa Astronomical Association.


Japan: Fireball/Meteor Over the Moon, 4 December 2011


Japan: Bolide Meteor Fireball, 27 December 2011


Japan, 11 - 15 December 2011: Bolide Meteor Fireballs Captured on Video


Italy: Meteor Fireball Photographed 27 December 2011

© Maurizio Eltri
This is a photo of the fireball that Maurizio Eltri captured from Lido, Venice, Italy on 27 December 2011 at 02:24.

The fireball was very low in the east.