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Fire in the Sky


G1-class Geomagnetic Storm in Progress

A G1-class geomagnetic storm is in progress, sparked by a high-speed solar wind stream which is buffeting Earth's magnetic field. High latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras.

Shawn Malone sends this picture, taken before sunrise on April 12th, from Marquette, Michigan:

© Shawn Malone
"I coaxed myself out of bed around 4am and was rewarded by a lightshow!" says Malone. "The auroras had no problem shining through the light pollution. I think the sun IS waking up. I watched the Northern Lights until the sunlight wiped them out."


Solar Activity: Grand Filament Opens Up On Surface of Sun

A magnificent filament of magnetism is curling around the sun's southeastern quadrant today. Measuring more than 700,000 km from end to end, the vast structure is about twice as long as the separation between Earth and the Moon. Arrows trace the filament's meandering path in this extreme UV image from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory:

© SpaceWeather
It's not easy for such a filament to remain suspended indefinitely above the stellar surface, and indeed a collapse is possible. Filaments falling onto the sun can trigger explosions called "Hyder flares." Is one in the offing? Readers with solar telescopes are encouraged to monitor developments.


Earth to Get Very Close Look at a Huge Asteroid

© Arecibo Observatory / Michael Nolan
The near-Earth asteroid named 2005 YU55 — on the list of potentially dangerous asteroids — was observed with the Arecibo Telescope's planetary radar on April 19, 2010, when it was about 1.5 million miles from the Earth, which is about six times the distance to the moon.
Flyby in November sparks extensive campaign for all kinds of observations

Mark your calendars for an impressive and upcoming flyby of an asteroid that's one of the larger potentially perilous space rocks in the heavens - in terms of smacking the Earth in the future.

It's the case of asteroid 2005 YU55, a round mini-world that is about 1,300 feet in diameter. In early November, this asteroid will approach Earth within a scant 0.85 lunar distances.

Due the object's size and whisking by so close to Earth, an extensive campaign of radar, visual and infrared observations are being planned.

Asteroid 2005 YU55 was discovered by Spacewatch at the University of Arizona, Tucson's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory on Dec. 28, 2005. En route and headed our way, the cosmic wanderer is another reminder about life here on our sitting duck of a planet.

Comment: The reader may be interested in Planet-X, Comets and Earth Changes by J.M. McCanney.


US: Bright Fireball Leads To Meteorite Search In Tennessee

© NASA/MSFC/University of Tennessee Space Institute/Hands-On Science Center
False-color image of a bright fireball meteor over Tullahoma, Tenn., on the night of April 6, 2011.
Did you see a bright flash in the sky over Tullahoma, Tenn., last night? Have we got a scavenger hunt for you...

At approximately 08:21:57 p.m. CDT on April 6, 2011, NASA all-sky meteor cameras located at the University of Tennessee Space Institute, in conjunction with the Hands-On Science Center in Tullahoma, Tennessee, and at the Walker County Science Center in northwest Georgia detected a very bright fireball moving north across the state of Tennessee.

First detected 52 miles above the Arnold Air Force base near Tullahoma, the meteor was brighter than crescent moon and was approximately two feet in diameter, with a weight of 200 lbs. It was last recorded 30 miles above the town of Woodbury, Tenn., moving at a speed of approximately nine miles per second, or 32,400 mph.


US: Tennessee Fireball Caught on Video

Space rocks have landed in Tennessee. That's the conclusion of researchers who recorded a brilliant fireball streaking over the Smoky Mountain state on Wednesday evening. Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office reports: "On April 6th at 8:21:57 CDT, NASA all-sky meteor cameras detected a very bright fireball moving north across the state of Tennessee. First detected 52 miles above the Arnold Air Force base near Tullahoma, the meteor was brighter than crescent Moon and was approximately 2 feet in diameter, with a weight of 200 lbs. It was last recorded 30 miles above the town of Woodbury, Tennessee, moving at a speed of approximately 9 miles per second (32,400 mph)."

Cooke continues: "The NASA Meteoroid Environment Office has reasonable confidence that some fraction of this meteor survived to the ground as one or more meteorites. Calculations are underway to determine the general impact location, which may lie close to the Kentucky border. Eyewitnesses to the fireball are encouraged to make a report to the American Meteor Society or to the Meteoroid Environment Office."


US: "Ripping Fireball" over New Mexico

© Unknown
"There was a rippingly fine fireball over north central New Mexico on April 5th at 01:50 am MDT," reports amateur radio astronomer Thomas Ashcraft. "Signals from distant radio stations bounced off the meteor's trail as it shredded the ionosphere. Here is a movie I made with the radio echo in stereo at two frequencies. The full radio reflection lasted more than two minutes."


"Newly Discovered" Double Asteroid Flyby Today

© Unknown
It's notable when an asteroid flies past Earth closer than the Moon. Today, April 6th, two asteroids will do this. Newly-discovered space rocks 2011 GW9 and 2011 GP28 will zip through the Earth-Moon system at Earth-distances of 77,000 km and 192,000 km, respectively.

Both are ten-meter class asteroids two to three times smaller than the Tunguska impactor of 1908. There is no danger of a collision.


A history doomed to be repeated? Micro-meteorites rocked Earth's early climate

© iStockphoto / duuuna
A new research has claimed that bombardments of 'micro-meteorites' on Earth and Mars four billion years ago may have caused the planets' climates to cool dramatically, hampering their ability to support life. Scientists from Imperial College London studied the effects of the Late Heavy Bombardment (LHB), a period of time in the early Solar System when meteorite showers lasting around 100 million years barraged Earth and Mars.

This bombardment discharged sulphur dioxide into the upper atmospheres of both planets and the researchers'' analysis suggests that this may have had a catastrophic impact on their environments.

Micro-meteorites come from the rocky asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. These space rocks, which are the size of sugar grains, get dragged by gravity towards Earth and Mars.


Spectacular Coronal Mass Ejection From Sunspot 1176 April 3, 2011

NASA twin STEREO spacecraft observed a spectacular coronal mass ejection launched from the vicinity of decaying sunspot 1176 on April 3rd around 0500 UT. The blast was not Earth directed. Nevertheless, there is a chance that the expanding cloud will deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field on or about April 6th. CME movies: STEREO-A, STEREO-B.


Micrometeoroid? Small cracks found in three Southwest Airlines jets

© BBC News
Tests on Southwest's 79 other 737-300s are expected to be completed by Tuesday evening

Small, sub-surface cracks have been found in three more Southwest Airlines planes like those thought to have caused another to develop a hole in its cabin roof mid-flight, officials say.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it had been informed there were additional crack indications in the lap joints on the Boeing 737-300s.

Nineteen other 737-300s showed no problems and will return to service.

The plane with the ruptured fuselage landed safely in Arizona on Friday.

Some of the 118 people on board the flight, which had just taken off from Phoenix, reported hearing a loud bang as a 1.5m-long gash appeared.

The hole caused a sudden drop in cabin pressure, forcing pilots to make a controlled descent from 10,485m (34,400ft) to a military base. No-one was seriously injured, though a flight attendant was slightly hurt.