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Thu, 26 Apr 2018
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Fire in the Sky


Partial Solar Eclipse

Today, the new Moon passed in front of the sun, off-center, producing a partial solar eclipse. The only place to see it was from space. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) sends this picture from geosynchronous orbit approximately 36,000 km above Earth's surface:
Partial Eclipse
Using a bank of 16 megapixel cameras, SDO observed the event at multiple extreme ultraviolet wavelengths. Scan the edge of the Moon in this 171 Å image: The little bumps and irregularities you see are lunar mountains backlit by solar plasma.

Beyond the novelty of observing an eclipse from space, these images have practical value to the SDO science team. The sharp edge of the lunar limb helps researchers measure the in-orbit characteristics of the telescope--e.g., how light diffracts around the telescope's optics and filter support grids. Once these are calibrated, it is possible to correct SDO data for instrumental effects and sharpen the images even more than before.

The next solar eclipse visible from Earth's surface occurs on May 20, 2012: video.


Video of last week's enormous fireball over South Carolina


New Comet: P/2012 C3 (PANSTARRS)

Cbet nr. 3021, issued on 2012, February 16, announces the discovery of a new comet (discovery magnitude 21.6) by Larry Denneau and Richard Wainscoat in four exposures taken with the 1.8-m Pan-STARRS 1 telescope at Haleakala on February 15.3. The new comet has been designated P/2012 C3 (PANSTARRS).

We performed some follow-up measurements of this object, while it was still on the neocp. Stacking of ten R-filtered exposures, 60-sec each, obtained remotely, from the Siding Spring-Faulkes Telescope South on 2012, Feb. 16.6, through a 2.0-m f/10.0 Ritchey-Chretien + CCD, shows that this object is a comet: faint fan-shaped tail, nearly 6-arcsec long in PA 284.

Our confirmation image:

Comet Pan-Starrs
© Remanzacco Observatory
M.P.E.C. 2012-D03 assignes the following preliminary parabolic orbital elements to comet P/2012 C3: T 2011 Oct. 11.99; e= 0.61; Peri. = 346.39; q = 3.67 AU; Incl.= 9.38


US: Ancient meteorite standing between one Iowa town and its water supply

© Iowa Geological and Water Survey
The remains of a 1.5 mile-wide, 10 billion-ton meteorite are causing problems for a small Iowa town, 74 million years after it crashed onto the Earth's surface at 45,000 miles per hour.

The Des Moines Register reports that the 1,600 residents of Manson, Iowa are struggling to locate a site for the town's well due to the geological impact of the meteorite. The crash created the underground Manson Crater - which has a diameter of 24 miles and reaches into four neighboring counties.

"It's hard to predict exactly what you are going to hit," state geologist Robert Libra told the Register. "It's a jumbled mess."

For a little context, the asteroid blamed for wiping out the dinosaurs and most life on Earth 65 million years ago is estimated to have been about 9 miles in diameter. According to a 2010 article in the journal Science, that impact was the equivalent of 1,000,000 Hiroshima nuclear bombs, creating tsunamis and earthquakes measuring more than 10 on the Richter scale.


Wilsford-cum-Lake doorstep meteorite 'biggest to fall in UK'

Wilsford-cum-Lake meteorite
© BBC News
Experts said it would have taken at least four people to lift the meteorite
Mystery had always surrounded the origins of a 200lb (90kg) meteorite that had been on the doorstep of a Wiltshire house for more than 80 years.

Experts had wondered if the space rock had initially landed in another part of the world several thousand years ago and had been brought at some stage over to England

However, researchers now believe the 1.6ft (50cm) long rock may have landed 30,000 years ago closer to home - making it possibly the largest meteorite ever found in Britain.


Aurora Whirlpool

Sometimes the sky surprises us. On Feb. 14-15, with little warning, geomagnetic activity rippled around the Arctic Circle, producing an outbreak of auroras that veteran observers said was among the best in months. At the height of the display, a US Defense Meteorological Program satellite photographed a whirlpool of Northern Lights just north of the Bering Sea:

"A number of images from the DMSP F18 satellite captured the dramatic auroral event of the last couple nights," says analyst Paul McCrone, who processed processed the data at the US Navy's Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center in Monterey, CA.

The reason for the outburst is still not completely clear. It got started on Feb. 14th when a magnetic disturbance rippled around the Arctic Circle. No CME was obvious in local solar wind data at the time; the disturbance just ... happened. Once begun, the disturbance was amplified by the actions of the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) near Earth. The IMF tipped south, opening a crack in our planet's magnetic defenses. Solar wind poured in and fueled the auroras.


US: Exploding UFO Wakes Thousands in South Carolina

A streaking flash of blue light, what many witnesses are calling a UFO, burst over the midnight skies of South Carolina early on Monday morning. What was it? No one really knows, but the object, caught on tape, has astronomers trying to allay fears in a nervous public.

The unidentified flying object was caught on a home security cam, reflected in the window of a parked car, and a nighttime sky camera which showed the UFO blasting through the sky trailed by a flashing tail.

Local astronomers were immediately consulted and tried to allay public fears by saying the UFO was probably a comet or meteorite, even though such celestial phenomenon are usually well-known and expected by the time an object of this size burns up in the atmosphere.

© Unknown
Still, one local resident, interviewed by the local FOX affiliate in the video below, admits she was scared and wondered for just a moment if it was "aliens" attacking.


New Comet: C/2012 CH17 (MOSS)

Discovery Date February 7, 2012
Magnitude 17.9 mag
Discoverer Morocco Oukaimeden Sky Survey (MOSS)

Comet Moss
© meineko.sakura.ne
Orbital Elements

T 2012 Sept. 28.07814 TT MPC
q 1.2957137 (2000.0) P Q
Peri. 138.01949 -0.04302480 +0.92540652
Node 125.94444 -0.99480698 -0.00488755
e 1.0 Incl. 27.71566 -0.09223850 -0.37894443
From 29 observations 2012 Feb. 2-13.


South Carolina, US: New Video Shows Upstate Meteor

Spartanburg - Officials in Spartanburg County said a large boom heard by many people in the Upstate Monday morning may be a meteor.

Law enforcement officials saw a large ball of fire that popped in the air around 1:45 a.m. Monday. Viewers from Greenville to Cherokee Counties called 7 On Your Side saying they heard the noise and their homes shook. No one was hurt.

Calls poured in to dispatchers across the Upstate soon after. Some said it sounded like a crash. Others said they thought someone was kicking in their door.

The National Weather Service tells 7 On Your Side it was most likely something speeding toward Earth from outer space. It could have been moving as fast as 10 times the speed of sound.

"Thank God for the atmosphere," says Doug Gegen.


US: Possible Meteorite Wakes Many in South Carolina

Possible Meteor
Simulated image of a meteorite.
Greenville - Emergency dispatchers from across the Upstate and The National Weather Service office say they got numerous calls overnight from people who heard a loud explosion followed by lights streaking across the sky.

The National Weather Service said it got a call from Greenville police around 2 a.m. Police said they had been getting calls about lights in the sky and a loud boom.

They said after they started getting calls they checked the security camera at the National Weather Service and saw a flash of light at 1:42 a.m. A National Weather Service representative said it could have been a meteorite.

The National Weather Service say they also got calls from Cherokee County. One of these callers said they saw an object breaking apart in the sky.