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Wed, 25 Jan 2017
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Fire in the Sky


Miserable comet ends life by diving into the Sun (VIDEO)

Perhaps upset that it's so hard to find a mate in the unimaginable barrenness of space, a lone comet wandered into the Sun yesterday and has not been seen since. (Follow the jump for multiple angles of its fiery demise.)

The deceased likely belonged to the suicidally depressed Kreutz comet family. Astronomer Heinrich Kreutz theorized in 1888 that many sun-diving comets were once part of a larger, cohesive comet up to 66 miles wide that separated in a traumatic breakup centuries ago. Now the Kreutzian children rove the solar system, flirting with annihilation by buzzing the scalding zone around the sun.

A few, like the 1882 "Super Comet" and 1965's Ikeya - Seki, obtain lasting glory by lighting up like a disco ball in hell, a spectacle visible from Earth during the daytime. But most are silently consumed by the furious and insatiable Sun, a steady procession of cosmic nullifications ignored by the average human. Astronomers estimate that the solar system harbors more than 1,600 comets with paths perilously close to the solar touch of death.


Another Sundiving Comet

Today, the solar system has one less comet. During the late hours of July 5th, an icy unnamed comet dove into the sun and disintegrated. The comet's last hours were recorded by coronagraphs onboard the the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO):

The comet was probably a member of the Kreutz sungrazer family. Named after a 19th century German astronomer who studied them in detail, Kreutz sungrazers are fragments from the breakup of a giant comet at least 2000 years ago. Several of these fragments pass by the sun and disintegrate every day. Most are too small to see but occasionally a big fragment like this one attracts attention.

NASA's STEREO-A and -B spacecraft also recorded the event, and they are beaming their data back to Earth now. In a few days we'll have high-res movies of a comet's death plunge from three points of view: SOHO, STEREO-A and STEREO-B. Stay tuned.


Giant Fireball Filmed In Mexico

© kimdragon1
With a title that reads "UFO or Meteorite", it's easy to see how alien and UFO rumors begin. Posted on YouTube is a video that was shot in Cuernavaca, Mexico, on June 29th, 2001.

The video is by far one of the clearest and most beautiful filming of a meteorite falling towards earth. With such long trailing tails of fire, you really can't help but imagine this thing bring from a different planet.


Each June, a giant comet stalks the Earth

Last week the Earth came close to being hit by a chunk of cosmic debris packing the punch of a Hiroshima-type atomic bomb.

The house-sized asteroid 2011 MN shot past the Earth at more than 25,000kph last Monday, coming closer than some communications satellites before flying off back into the void of space.

So why were we not warned? One reason was that although it was a close-run thing, astronomers had pinned down the path of 2011 MN well enough to be pretty confident it would miss us.

Another was that even if it had struck, it would have lost most of its energy as it entered our atmosphere, most likely burning up to give a brief but impressive shower of "shooting stars".

Bad Guys

Australia: Space rock passes through satellite belt

Astronomers around the world breathed a sigh of relief last Monday night when an asteroid passed within 12,000 kilometres of Australia, closer than communication satellites.

First observed by a dedicated telescopic asteroid tracker in the US on 22 June, the object was then observed by French astronomer Professor Klotz and PhD student Michael Todd, who remotely programmed it into the schedule for the Zadko Telescope at the University of Western Australia.

Director of the telescope, Associate Professor David Coward, said the asteroid - officially known as Near Earth Asteroid 2011MD - was identified as a tumbling, elongated 4-12 metre rock during a 40-minutes observation by Zadko over Australian skies. The Zadko telescope observations were the first to determine that the rock was rotating with a period of about 11 minutes.

"NASA said asteroids of the size of 2011MD come this close to Earth on average once every six years so it's a relatively rare event," Coward said. "2011MD was within the geosynchronous satellite belt, orbiting with our communications satellites and it could do a lot of damage if it collided with one."


US - July 3, 1861: The Great Comet - what does it portend?

© Cometography.com
The Great Comet of 1861 passed closest to Earth on June 30, 1861.
"The Comet. Mr. Editor: -- Did you see the comet Monday night? I was indebted for the pleasure to an excellent friend, who took the trouble to call and awaken me. I certainly was never more astonished. All similar visitors to our system have either been foretold, or discovered by astronomers when not visible to the naked eye. Their approach has been gradual, and their advent and progress duly chronicled by the newspapers. But this has come like a thief in the night, unannounced - - undiscovered -- until, with a splendor far beyond any of its predecessors, it blazes in our firmament ... The tail reached the zenith, inclining a little to the West. The body seemed three or four times as large as that of any other comet I ever saw. My friend says when it first caught his eye, without referring to the points of the compass, he took it for the moon ..."

Letter to the editor, The Daily Virginian


Meteorite strike? Russia can take it!

© RIA Novosti. Vasiliy Litosh
If a large asteroid falls on the earth then the fallout will be huge and life as we know if comes to a choking, flaming end. But if it's a small one then Russia can take it.

That's more than can be said for Europe and North America, whose people can kiss the world goodbye if anything lands on them.

The reason is not that Russians are hardier than everyone else but that with its expanses of open space, covering one fifth of the world's land surface, Russia could take the strain.

A near miss

An asteroid the size of a truck skimmed past Earth four weeks ago, coming closer to us than the moon ever has. The 7-meter lump of celestial rock, named 2009 BD, came within 346,000 kilometers of Earth at around 9:51 pm Moscow time The moon's average distance from us is about 385,000 km.

So it, was relatively speaking, by a gnat's whisker that a calamity approaching the Hiroshima bomb bypassed humanity.

Comment: Actually, the possibility of a strike is much more imminent. Perhaps not by the "killer asteroid", but one doesn't need to be knocked over by the a sledgehammer, when series of "undetected" darts can do the job very well. The stony "drops" have been falling on our heads for quite some time now, and we wonder if one of them is about to provide us with the last wake-up call.

Bizarro Earth

Large Asteroid To Pass Between Earth And Moon

© Unknown
The third near-earth asteroid of 2011 will pass between the moon and earth later this year, NASA has confirmed. The 400-metre wide asteroid, named 2005 YU55, will pass within 0.85 lunar distances of the Earth on November 8, 2011.

Discovered December 28, 2005 by Robert McMillan of the Spacewatch Program near Tucson Arizona, the object is believed to be a very dark, nearly spherical object 400 meters in diameter.

According to NASA's Neart Earth Object Program: "Although classified as a potentially hazardous object, 2005 YU55 poses no threat of an Earth collision over at least the next 100 years. However, this will be the closest approach to date by an object this large that we know about in advance and an event of this type will not happen again until 2028 when asteroid (153814) 2001 WN5 will pass to within 0.6 lunar distances."

Earlier this week, earth experienced one of its closest encounters with an asteroid in recent years. But as NASA indicated in the days ahead of Monday afternoon's 'cosmic close call', the encounter was so close that Earth's gravity sharply altered the asteroid's trajectory and prevented the space rock from impacting the planet.

2011MD, a newly discovered asteroid passed within 12,000 kilometres (7,500 miles) of Earth. The asteroid was only sighted for the first time on 22 June by a robotic telescope in New Mexico, USA. The International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center in Massachusetts, USA, put out an alert Thursday.


The Mysterious Crestone Crater in Colorado, US: A real meteor crater or not?

© H. H. Nininger (1941)
Aerial view of the Crestone Crater looking eastward from an altitude of about 500 feet.
Is the hole in the ground south of Crestone a meteor crater or not, and if not, what is it? Well it sure looks like one, and many geologists believe it is, but a few others say they aren't sure. It's a Crestone mystery that's not completely solved.

Known as the "Crestone Crater" to most, this striking feature lies inside of the Great Sand Dunes National Park, one mile from the Liberty Gate entrance in the Baca, and 6 miles from downtown Crestone. This crater measures 355 feet by 246 feet with a mean depth of 23 feet.

The crater was first discovered by Crestone resident V.M. King in 1934. He and many others around the San Luis Valley had witnessed a fireball crash in the same area back in 1892. It was first studied in 1941 by Denver geologist Dr. H.H. Nininger, an expert in this line of research. His initial study suggested that it could be a true meteor crater, or perhaps an impact from a comet.


Australia: Colourful Spectacle Lights Up Sky Over Melbourne's West

Mysterious bright lights have been spotted in the sky over Melbourne's western suburbs this morning.

Streaks of luminous blue, green and white lit up the area shortly before 6am.

The phenomenon was most likely caused by space junk or a meteor entering our atmosphere, according to Australasian Science Magazine astronomy expert David Reneke.

"My favourite (possibility) is always the fireball - that is, a meteor that's on fire," he said.

"It's pretty rare. I've seen two in my lifetime. You're seeing a piece of rock physically melting in front of your eyes. These things are pretty startling."

The lights probably moved too quickly for anyone to catch the event on camera, he said.

The spectacle comes after orbiting junk came perilously close to the International Space Station on Wednesday.