Fire in the Sky
Sky & Telescope
Wed, 05 Apr 2017 23:34 UTC
Discovered two years ago on March 15th by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope on the summit of Haleakalā, it was a faint 21st-magnitude midge. But how it's bloomed! By late March and the start of April, the comet had brightened to around magnitude +8.5 while puttering across Sagittarius and Capricornus low in the southern sky before dawn.
Our observations helped in determining its orbit.
We captured 2017 GM while it was safely approaching us. For this, we remotely used a telescope in Arizona, made available to the Virtual Telescope by Tenagra Observatories, Ltd. Above is an image coming from a single 30-seconds exposure, unfiltered, taken with the 16?-f/3.75 Tenagra III ("Pearl") unit. The robotic mount tracked the fast apparent motion (150?/minute) of the asteroid, so stars are trailing. The asteroid is perfectly tracked: it is the sharp dot in the center, marked by two red lines.
Mon, 03 Apr 2017 19:09 UTC
A report on the American Meteor Society webpage confirms a similar possible sighting. According to Antonio Paris, an astronomer at MOSI, seeing meteors flying across the sky isn't unusual.
If you look up at the night sky, Paris said you could see a meteor almost every night if it's clear. That's not as common in cities like Tampa. Paris said you'll have better luck in rural areas and national parks where there's less light pollution.
Mon, 03 Apr 2017 11:21 UTC
According to NASA the encounter on April 19 will be the closest the asteroid comes to Earth in 400 years, and no projected future encounters will be as close for at least another 480 years.
However, another fly-by is expected in 2091 and the space rock also makes regular close approaches to Mercury and Venus.
Fri, 31 Mar 2017 18:54 UTC
"The springtime is considered fireball season; we actually call it that," said Derek Kief, an astronomer at the H. R. MacMillan Space Centre. "In the early spring, people tend to see more fireballs than at any other time of the year. They're random and inconsistent and once a month you'll get a very good one."
At least five people, including two in British Columbia, considered the fireball they saw on Thursday around 10 p.m. remarkable enough that they reported it to the American Meteor Society's "report a fireball" website, where it was deemed an "event."
They reported the bright sparking ball of fire flared for one to two seconds.
"Remarkable sight!" Kim D. on Mayne Island wrote on the site. "Saw sparks."
Thu, 30 Mar 2017 02:39 UTC
There's no need to worry about it hitting Earth: The comet will zoom past at a safe distance of around 13.2 million miles, about 50 times the moon's distance, EarthSky.org reports.
While the comet will be closest Saturday, you can get a peek in the days before and after. "Amateur astronomers with small telescopes are already watching, and more people will see the comet in the coming days," EarthSky.org said.
41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresák will be in the far northern sky, meaning stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere can see it for much of the night. At 9 p.m. ET Saturday, for example, it should be near the handle of the Big Dipper, which is part of the Ursa Major constellation.
Comment: Field Trip: Check it out!
Sky & Telescope
Thu, 30 Mar 2017 23:54 UTC
Terry Lovejoy's new comet has gone from faint to bright in just three weeks and is now a tempting binocular target at dawn.
C/2017 E4 Lovejoy.
Discovered on March 10th at magnitude +12, early observations suggested a peak magnitude of +9 in mid-April, assuming it didn't crumble apart en route to an April 23rd perihelion.
Forget that. This fuzzball's already at magnitude +7 - 7.5 and a snap to see in 50-mm binoculars.
I know because I got up Wednesday morning (March 29th) shortly before the start of dawn, pointed my 10×50 glass just below the figure of Equuleus, the Little Horse, and saw a small, dense ball of glowing fuzz without even trying.
Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak — now circumpolar in Ursa Major — shines at a similar brightness, but it's larger and less condensed and therefore not as easy to see as Lovejoy.
M108, the Surfboard Galaxy," says Aoshima. "The comet's green atmosphere appeared to swallow the distant spiral galaxy as it exited Ursa Major."
The Journal News
Fri, 24 Mar 2017 15:38 UTC
"Crazy, right? I'm driving and it was right in front of my car. It just came right across the road," the Haverstraw resident said. "It was just an amazing thing to see."
After some investigation, and a call to Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, Connolly learned that it was, in fact, a meteor.
The object Connolly perceived as a fireball traveling across Route 9W at about 6:20 a.m. was seen across the Northeast, according to an online event log maintained by the American Meteor Society. There were 34 sightings from as far away as Michigan and Ontario that were logged by the AMS.
Connolly said the meteor "dissipated" as it crossed the road but, in fact, that was a trick of the eye. What she perceived as directly in front of her car was quite a bit farther away.
"We looked into this, and discovered that a large meteor did light up in the atmosphere roughly between northern Lake Erie and Ottawa at this time," said Kevin Krajick, Lamont-Doherty's senior editor for science news. "It was seen from Michigan to Virginia."
Comment: Earlier on the day of this sighting (March 22nd) another meteor fireball was observed streaking across the U.S. East coast.
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 19:33 UTC
"At 14:39 local time (11:39 GMT), while we were riding in a car along the bridge across the Irkut River towards the Leninsky district, we spotted an unusual glowing object in the daytime sky. It was speeding at a 45 degree angle, but its light went out in just a couple of seconds. We very much hope that Irkutsk's residents may have recorded this phenomenon using their car DVRs. We could collect these recordings and hand them over to scientists," he stated.
The fact that the celestial body was seen in the daytime, speaks volumes for its enormous weight, a source in the Astronomical Observatory of Irkutsk State University told TASS. "We assume that a celestial body weighing several kilograms could be glowing so brightly in the daytime. If we are provided with video recordings showing the bolide, then we could calculate its weight and trajectory," the source added.
In the autumn of 2016, residents of the Irkutsk region and the Republic of Buryatia witnessed a bright green meteor soaring above Lake Baikal. It was later dubbed the Baikal Bolide. Scientists believe that its weight was about 80 kilograms but because of its high speed it burnt up in the atmosphere.