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Quadrantid Meteor Shower

Earth is about to pass through a stream of debris from 2003 EH1, a comet fragment that produces the annual Quadrantid meteor shower. Forecasters expect the shower to peak around 07:20 UT (02:20 am EST) on Wednesday morning, January 4th. At maximum, as many as 100 meteors/hour could emerge from a radiant near Polaris, the north star.

Brian Emfinger of Ozark, Arkansas, photographed this one on Jan. 2nd:

Fireball_1
© Brian Emfinger
"Wow! What a really nice fireball," says Emfinger. "It emerged very very close to the Quadrantid radiant, but I'm not 100% sure it is indeed an early Quadrantid."

Even among professional researchers there is a lot of uncertainty about the Quadrantids. Because the shower occurs during the deep cold of northern winter, and because its peak is brief (often no longer than a couple of hours), this strong shower is seldom observed. Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office hopes 2012 will be different. "We encourage sky watchers to be alert for Quadrantids and send their observations to NASA using the Meteor Counter app," he says. "With a little help, we just might learn something new about this intriguing shower."

Meteor

New Year's Fireball

The first bright fireball of the New Year streaked over the southwestern USA on Jan. 1st at 03:15 UT. It was visible from Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. "I was able to see it out my window," reports amateur astronomer Thomas Ashcraft from his rural observatory outside of Santa Fe. "It was brilliant turquoise blue." Ashcraft operates a combination all-sky camera/forward-scatter meteor radar system, which captured the fireball's flight. Click here to play the movie--and don't forget to turn up the volume to hear the ghostly radar echo:

New Year's Fireball - 2012
© Space Weather
Cameras belonging to NASA's All-Sky Fireball Network also recorded the fireball from multiple locations. An orbit calculated from those data show that the fireball was a random meteoriod hailing from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It hit Earth's atmosphere at 26 km/s (58,000 mph), which is relatively slow compared to other meteoroids, and disintegrated 82 km above Earth's surface.

"This was an auspicious start to 2012," says Ashcraft. "Clear skies and Happy New Year!"

Meteor

US: Green Light Streaks Across Arizona Night Sky

Tucson, Arizona - A streaking green light across the Arizona sky Saturday night created a stir among KOLD News 13 viewers and Facebook friends.

Around 8:15 p.m., viewers called to ask about the light, wondering if it were a meteor, an asteroid or fireworks.

"I would guess it's a meteor, but that's only a guess without actually seeing it," said Stephen Pompea, public information officer for Kitt Peak Observatory.

Pompea, who was traveling this weekend in Colorado, said a meteor shower will be visible in the Southern Arizona sky Wednesday morning,

"The Quadrantid meteor shower, one of the best displays of 'shooting stars' all year, will
peak in the hours before dawn," Pompea said. "If you get up early, bundle up warmly, and find dark site with a wide-open view of the clear sky, you might see 1 or 2 meteors per minute during the shower's brief but intense performance."

The light could be seen as far northwest as Prescott in Yavapai County and as far southeast as Douglas in Cochise County, according to News 13 Facebook friends.

Sun

Massive solar storm 'could knock out radio signals' over next three days, warn scientists

Image
© NASA
It's coming this way: The CME, seen by Nasa's STEREO-B spacecraft, can be seen blasting out from the Sun on the right-hand side (circled)
Skywatchers will be hoping for clear skies from today because particles from a recent solar storm will slam into Earth and produce amazing Northern Lights, or auroras.

On the downside, experts expect radio blackouts for a few days, caused by the radiation from the flare - or coronal mass ejection (CME) - causing magnetic storms.

The flare is part of a larger increase in activity in the Sun, which runs in 11-year cycles. It is expected to peak around 2013.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center wrote: 'Category G1 (Minor) geomagnetic storms are expected 28 and 29 December due to multiple coronal mass ejection arrivals. R1 (Minor) radio blackouts are expected until 31 December.'

Devices that depend on radio waves include GPS systems, radios and mobile phones.

A coronal mass ejection contains billions of tons of gases bursting with X-rays and ultraviolet radiation that are flung into space at around 5million mph.

They are mind-bogglingly hot - around 100,000,000C.

The Earth is occasionally hosed by these ejections, leading to amazing shimmering light shows.

Meteor

5 Hours of Beautiful Comet Lovejoy in 30 Seconds


Colin Legg from Esperance, Australia has been documenting Comet Lovejoy's holiday gift to the southern hemisphere, and this is his latest - and possibly last - timelapse, as the comet has started to fade. This one covers almost 5 hours of Legg's Comet Lovejoy views as seen during the early morning hours of December 27, 2011. "I used a tracking device to track in azimuth only to maximize coverage," Legg said. "If you look closely at the head in the 2nd half you can see it moving against the stars."

Meteor

Unidentified comet inbound towards the Sun

With thanks and gratitude for Suspicious0bservers's dedicated time and effort in producing this video.


Sun

CMEs Target Earth and Mars

The odds of a geomagnetic storm on Dec. 28th are improving with the launch of two CMEs toward Earth in less than 24 hours. NASA's STEREO-B spacecraft photographed this one on Dec. 26th:

261211 CME
© Space Weather
According to a forecast track prepared by analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab, the cloud should squarely strike Earth's magnetic field on Dec. 28th at 20:22 UT (+/- 7 hours). Another CME could deliver a glancing blow a few hours earlier on the same date. The double impact is expected to spark mild-to-moderate geomagnetic storms at high latitudes.

Mars is also in the line of fire. The first of the two CMEs is squarely directed toward the Red Planet--estimated time of arrival: Dec. 30th at 1800 UT. Using onboard radiation sensors, NASA's Curiosity rover might be able to sense the CME when it passes the rover's spacecraft en route to Mars.

Extinguisher

Failed Mars Probe To Crash Back To Earth Mid January 2012

Phobos Grunt
© Sky News
The £105m Phobos-Grunt would have been Russia's first interplanetary mission since Soviet times
A Russian space probe that failed in its attempt to reach one of Mars' moons will crash back to Earth next month, officials have said.

The unmanned Phobos-Grunt craft was successfully launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in November.

However, the probe got stuck in Earth's orbit after its engines failed to fire up - quickly ending its planned journey toward the Red Planet.

Russia's space agency said it expects the Phobos-Grunt to plummet back through our atmosphere between January 6 and 19.

Toxic fuel from the craft will burn on its fiery re-entry, but several dozen fragments weighing up to 200kg (440lbs) will crash into the Earth's surface, officials said.

Comment: There has been an alarming number of alleged defunct space debris falling to earth of late. See Here We Go Again! Another Dead Satellite to Fall From Space in November


Sun

Christmas Eve Solar Eruption

A filament of magnetism connected to sunspot AR1386 erupted during the early hours of Dec. 24th. Extreme UV-wavelength cameras onboard the Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the picturesque blast:


The C5-class eruption hurled a billion-ton coronal mass ejection (CME) into space, but not toward Earth. With the cloud sailing wide-left of our planet, Christmas geomagnetic storms are unlikely. Nevertheless, this active region merits watching as it turns toward Earth in the days ahead, possibly positioning itself for the first storms of 2012.

Meteor

Astronaut Photographs Comet Lovejoy - from Space

Images of space observations from the Hubble Space Telescope often leave me speechless. Pictures taken by amateur astronomers in their backyards also leave me speechless. Space, in general, has that effect -- peering deep into alien space-scapes, views that are very rarely experienced by our terrestrial existence, can be an incredible eye-opener.

However, if you put an astronaut into space, with a camera, often those photographs have the most profound impact. Sometimes you just need a human to compose the best pictures.

Take this beautiful view of the "sungrazing" Comet Lovejoy for example.
Image
© NASA/Dan Burbank.
Comet Lovejoy
NASA astronaut and Expedition 30 Commander Dan Burbank photographed the dazzling comet as it hung above the Earth's horizon yesterday (Dec. 21). The green haze is known as "airglow."

Wow.