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Fire in the Sky


Amateur Captures Coronal Mass Ejection

While you can't exactly call Joe Brimacombe an amateur astrophotographer, he's managed to capture an elusive solar event on film... a coronal mass ejection!

A huge, conical-shaped magnetic prominence had been lingering for days and calling attention to itself. On the morning of October 13, 2011 - it delivered.


Debris of "Doomsday" comet to swing by Earth on Sunday

The moment long feared by conspiracy theorists is nearly upon us: The "doomsday comet" Elenin will make its closest approach to Earth Sunday (Oct. 16). Or what's left of it will, anyway.

© NASA/JPL-Caltech
Trajectory of comet Elenin
Comet Elenin started breaking up in August after being blasted by a huge solar storm, and a close pass by the sun on Sept. 10 apparently finished it off, astronomers say. So what will cruise within 22 million miles (35.4 million kilometers) of our planet Sunday is likely to be a stream of debris rather than a completely intact comet.

And the leftovers of Elenin won't return for 12,000 years, astronomers say.

"Folks are having trouble finding it, so I think it's probably dead and gone," said astronomer Don Yeomans of the Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

That means it probably won't present much of a skywatching show Sunday, scientists have said.


Ireland: Jupiter And Full Moon To Light Up Eastern Skies Tonight

Weather permitting, a brilliant star-like object outshining every other star in the sky will be seen in the skies over Ireland this evening soon after the Moon rises around 7pm. Just to the lower right of the Full Moon, Jupiter will be clearly visible to the naked eye.

David Moore, Chairman, Astronomy Ireland, said: "The Moon and Jupiter are the two brightest objects in the sky and when they pass close to one another in the sky like this our phone lines start hopping as it is such a spectacular sight to the naked eye. This time we wanted to predict it in advance so the general public would not be alarmed as has happened in the past".

© www.astronomy.ie
The Moon and Jupiter at 8pm on October 13th


Asteroid Near Earth Discovered by Amateur Astronomers

New Asteroid
© ESA/TOTAS Survey Team
Observations coordinated by ESA's Space Situational Awareness programme have led to the discovery of a previously unknown near-Earth object, asteroid 2011 SF108 in September 2011. The asteroid orbits the sun in a path that brings it within about 18 million miles (30 million km) of Earth.

A team of amateur astronomers has discovered a previously unknown asteroid in orbit that brings it near the Earth, highlighting the contributions regular folks can make to planetary defense, scientists announced Wednesday (Oct. 12).

The skywatchers spotted the asteroid, which is known as 2011 SF108, in September using a telescope in the Canary Islands. While 2011 SF108's orbit appears to bring it no closer to Earth than about 18 million miles (30 million kilometers), it still qualifies as a near-Earth object - the class of space rocks that could pose a danger to our planet.

The team took advantage of an observation slot sponsored by the European Space Agency's Space Situational Awareness (SSA) program to make the find, according to an ESA announcement.

"As volunteer work, it is very rewarding," said Detlef Koschny, head of near-Earth object activity for SSA, in a statement. "When you do spot something, you contribute to Europe's efforts in defending against asteroid hazards."


Time-lapse trifecta! Photo captures meteor, Milky way and Northern Lights

A meteor, the Milky Way and the Northern Lights. Capturing just one of these natural beauties in a photo is a feat many photographers would be proud of.

Amateur photographer Tommy Eliassen struck photo gold in this beautifully composed image he shot in Ifjord, Finnmark, Norway.

Eliassen made the photo on Sept. 25 using a Nikon D700 with a wide angle lens and long exposures between 25-30 seconds.

© Tommy Eliassen/Caters News Agency
A meteor streaks across the Milky Way adjacent to a display of the Northern Lights in Finland.


Falling German Satellite Poses 1-in-2,000 Risk of Striking Someone This Month?

A defunct NASA satellite that fell to Earth last week sparked some worldwide buzz, but it's not the only spacecraft falling out of space.

The decommissioned German X-ray space observatory, called the Roentgen Satellite or ROSAT, will tumble to Earth sometime in early November, but it's still too early to pinpoint exactly when and where debris from the satellite will land, according to officials at the German Aerospace Center.

© German Aerospace Center
Artist's impression of the ROSAT satellite in space
The 2.4-ton spacecraft's orbit extends from the latitudes of 53 degrees north and south, which means the satellite could fall anywhere over a huge swath of the planet - stretching from Canada to South America, German Aerospace officials said.


Asteroid Vesta Has Mountain Three Times as Tall as Everest

New view shows huge peak on Vesta's south polar region.

Vesta's south polar region, as seen in a digital model based on NASA images.
The asteroid 4 Vesta hosts a mountain three times as high as Mount Everest, seen in a new picture from NASA's Dawn spacecraft.

The unexpected peak rises from the center of a crater in the asteroid's south polar region. The mountain is about 13 miles (22 kilometers) high and spreads about 112 miles (180 kilometers) at its base.

By contrast, the biggest known mountain in the solar system, Mars's Olympus Mons, stands 16 miles (25 kilometers) high and spreads 374 miles (624 kilometers).


Did A Comet Cause Solar Explosion? Hardly, Ignorant Experts Say

A huge solar eruption that occurred right after a comet plunged into the sun was likely a coincidence, experts say.

The so-called "sungrazing" comet streaked toward the sun Saturday (Oct. 1) and disintegrated after getting too close. The sun then unleashed a massive eruption of solar plasma known as a coronal mass ejection, which can rocket through space at 3 million mph (5 million kph). But there's no reason to think the two dramatic events were related, scientists said.

"There still remains zero evidence for a link between sungrazing comets and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that can't be better explained than by simple coincidence," Karl Battams of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory wrote in a blog post Tuesday (Oct. 4). [Stunning Photos of Solar Flares & Sun Storms]

Solar astronomers with the sun-watching Solar and Heliospheric Observatory agreed.

"The question of whether a sungrazing comet can somehow trigger a coronal mass ejection is an intriguing one," SOHO scientists wrote in a website update this week. "So far, the feeling is that [the] apparent relationship between some comets and some mass ejections is simply one of coincidence."


A Meteorite Visits the Comettes

© Universe Today
This egg-sized meteorite broke through the roof of the Comette family.

When your last name is Comette, I'm sure the occasional astronomy-themed joke is never far away. But it's no joke that the Comette family living in Draveil, a suburb south of Paris, was paid a visit by a real extraterrestrial a couple of weeks ago - in the form of an 88-gram (3.5 oz.) meteorite that broke through their roof!

The Comettes were on vacation at the time, so didn't realize their house had been struck by a space rock until they noticed a leak in the roof. When they called in a roofer it was discovered that a thick tile had been completely broken through.

The meteorite was found wedged in insulation.

Mineral scientist Alain Carion investigated the meteorite and determined that it's an iron-rich chondrite, a 4.57-billion-year-old remnant of the early Solar System that most likely came from the main asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. About 3/4 of all meteorites that have been observed landing on Earth are chondrites.


France: Meteorite believed to be more than 4bn years old smashes through roof of home on outskirts of Paris

© Nasa/EPA
The meteorite which hit the Comette family home is thought to have come from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
When your name is Comette you may get used to jokes about rockets and space and planets. But French schoolboy Hugo Comette, 11, had the last laugh when of all the places, in all the countries on Earth, a piece of rock from outer space landed on his home.

An egg-sized meteorite believed to be 4.57bn years old smashed through the roof of the Comette family home on the outskirts of Paris some time over the summer when everyone was away on holiday.

And there the rock, blackened by its journey through Earth's atmosphere stayed, buried in the roof insulation, until Hugo's mother, civil servant Martine Comette, 32, noticed the roof was leaking and called out someone to fix it.