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11/02/2017 – Ephemeris – Interstellar asteroid discovered passing through the solar system

November 2, 2017 1 comment

Ephemeris for Thursday, November 2nd. The Sun will rise at 8:21. It’ll be up for 10 hours and 7 minutes, setting at 6:29. The Moon, 2 days before full, will set at 7:21 tomorrow morning.

Apparently an interloper has entered the solar system. No, it’s not Nibiru, unless Nibiru is only 525 feet (160 meters) across. It’s name, for now, is A/2017 U1. It’s official name, when it gets one, will be given to this new class of asteroids.. It’s on a hyperbolic trajectory, meaning it won’t be back. We know there are rogue planets, kicked out of their star systems, so why not asteroids and comets? It had an interstellar space velocity relative to the Sun of 15.8 miles per second (25.5 km/s) coming from the direction of the constellation of Lyra. Interestingly that’s the direction the Sun is traveling toward relative to our neighboring stars at nearly the same speed. Maybe it didn’t so much as to run into us, but the Sun and our solar system ran into it!

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

A/2017 U1

Asteroid A/2017 U1 orbit animation. Click to enlarge. Credit NASA/JPL-Caltech.

This body was discovered because it came close to the Earth.  There are probably many of them passing through the solar system  that never come close enough to be found.

Here’s a link: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/small-asteroid-or-comet-visits-from-beyond-the-solar-system

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09/13/2016 – Ephemeris

September 13, 2016 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, September 13th.  The Sun will rise at 7:19.  It’ll be up for 12 hours and 36 minutes, setting at 7:56.  The Moon, 3 days before full, will set at 4:40 tomorrow morning.

Last Thursday evening an Atlas V rocket lifted off with NASA’s only interplanetary mission this year.  The spacecraft called by one of NASA’s tortured acronyms OSIRIS-Rex is on its way to the asteroid Bennu, which was discovered in 1999, and named by a 3rd grader in a contest.  Bennu is an Egyptian deity resembling a heron and also resembling the spacecraft.  OSIRIS-Rex will take two years to reach the small asteroid, orbit it for two years mapping it in great detail and will approach to retrieve a sample.  It will take 3 years to return the sample to the Earth in 2023.  Bennu is interesting because it contains organic compounds from the origin of the solar system and because of the tiny chance it could hit the Earth in 200 years or so.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

OSIRIS-REXx

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft with its sampler boom extended.

Categories: Asteroid, Equinox, NASA

09/15/15 – Ephemeris – Not another hoax again: This one’s a supposed asteroid collision

September 15, 2015 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, September 15th.  The Sun will rise at 7:21.  It’ll be up for 12 hours and 32 minutes, setting at 7:53.   The Moon, 2 days past new, will set at 9:02 this evening.

There is a bogus prediction from the Internet that been circulating for a month or so.  I missed it until a couple of days ago because I visit reputable astronomical web sites.  I check near earth asteroids on spaceweather.com, and there is nothing known as of now that’s 22 meters of larger in size that will come within 2 million miles of the Earth this month.  The dead giveaway that this prediction is bogus is the fact that the impact point is specific, near Puerto Rico, but the impact time is vague, between  the 15th and 28th of September.  An object orbiting the Sun, like the Earth travels at 18 and a half miles a second give or take, the asteroid at a comparable velocity, so the impact time would have to be known to the second.  On top of the Earth’s position, it also rotates

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Here is a link to NASA’s JPL on the subject.

NASA isn’t the only authority on asteroid orbits and positions.  The Minor Planet Center is part of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), and currently operated under a grant from NASA is the clearinghouse for asteroid positions and orbits. Some discoveries and positions  are supplied by amateur astronomers who aren’t beholden to any government, so there isn’t any conspiracy to keep the knowledge from the public.

 

 

03/30/2015 – Ephemeris – The importance of meteorites and asteroids

March 30, 2015 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, March 30th.  The Sun will rise at 7:27.  It’ll be up for 12 hours and 39 minutes, setting at 8:07.   The Moon, 3 days past first quarter, will set at 5:33 tomorrow morning.

On Friday the 3rd Joe Brooks will be giving a talk at the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society on meteorites.  That will be at 8 p.m. at Northwestern Michigan College’s Rogers Observatory.  NASA has the Dawn spacecraft now settling into orbit of the largest asteroid Ceres.  It is the asteroid belt that is the source of meteorites.  Meteorites are either pieces of destroyed protoplanets due to collisions in the asteroid belt or primitive objects like carbonaceous chondrites pristine that date back to 4.567 billion years ago, the formation of the solar system.  Meteorites tend to be contaminated by the environment.  That’s why samples of asteroids will be so valuable for planetary defense and understanding the origin of the solar system.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan.  They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Vesta as Dawn headed off to Ceres.

Looking back at Vesta as Dawn headed off to Ceres. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCAL/MPS/DLR/IDA

Ceres 2/19/15

The bright spot is two. Picture taken February 19, 2015 from 29,000 miles (46,700 km). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.

03/06/2015 – Ephemeris – Learn about this year’s adventures in exploring the soiar system tonight

March 6, 2015 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, March 6th.  The Sun will rise at 7:12.  It’ll be up for 11 hours and 24 minutes, setting at 6:36.   The Moon, 1 day past full, will rise at 7:47 this evening.

This evening yours truly will be giving a program at the monthly meeting of the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society at 8 p.m. at Northwestern Michigan College’s Rogers Observatory.  It’s entitled Asteroids and Dwarf Planets and Comets, oh my!  It’s about the three solar system bodies being visited this year by spacecraft from NASA and the European Space Agency.  The asteroid is Ceres, which the Dawn spacecraft entered orbit of today.  The dwarf planet is Pluto which is the target of a summer flyby by the New Horizon spacecraft.  The comet is 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko orbited by ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft.  There will be a star party at 9 p.m. following the meeting.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan.  They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Oh My!

Apologies to MGM.

Vesta as Dawn headed off to Ceres.

Looking back at Vesta as Dawn headed off to Ceres. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCAL/MPS/DLR/IDA

Ceres 2/19/15

The bright spot is two. Picture taken February 19, 2015 from 29,000 miles (46,700 km). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.

New Horizons

Artist conception of the New Horizons spacecraft at Pluto. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

July 14th animation

An animation of Comet 67p/Churyumov–Gerasimenko rotation on July 14, 2014. The 30 pixel wide image has been smoothed. The Rotation rate is 1 rotation every 12.4 hours. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

03/03/2015 – Ephemeris – The bright spots on Ceres are still a mystery

March 3, 2015 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, March 3rd.  The Sun will rise at 7:17.  It’ll be up for 11 hours and 15 minutes, setting at 6:32.   The Moon, 2 days before full, will set at 6:30 tomorrow morning.

The Dawn spacecraft is approaching the asteroid Ceres.  It will be gently captured by Ceres on the 6th.  This as an update from the date I gave you yesterday.  Then the spacecraft will spiral closer and closer to the asteroid over the next few months.  There is a mystery spot on Ceres, a bright spot that was visible by the Hubble Space Telescope orbiting Earth.  As Dawn got close enough to resolve Ceres it too saw the bright spot.  As the spacecraft got even closer the spot showed to be smaller and smaller.  I thought it might be a crater that penetrated into Ceres icy interior.  But the latest image, taken February 19th shows that the bright spot has a companion spot, both inside a crater and still too small to resolve.  It’s still a mystery.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan.  They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Ceres from Hubble

Hubble’s best photo of Ceres. Note the white spot near the top of the image. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Parker (Southwest Research Institute), P. Thomas (Cornell University), L. McFadden (University of Maryland, College Park), and M. Mutchler and Z. Levay (STScI)

White spot from Dawn

The white spot shows as Dawn approaches Ceres. Credit: NASA/JPL.

Ceres 2/19/15

The bright spot is two. Picture taken February 19, 2015 from 29,000 miles (46,700 km). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.

This photo will be the best photo of the bright spots until the end of April, an Dawn maneuvers over the night side of Ceres.

On March 2nd NASA held a Dawn Mission Pre- Close Approach News Briefing which can be found on YouTube.

Categories: Asteroid, NASA Tags: , ,

01/26/2015 – Ephemeris – First quarter Moon, a telescopic asteroid misses the Earth tonight and a Jupiter shadow recap

January 26, 2015 3 comments

Note:  Ephemeris program generally features objects in the sky that are visible to the naked eye or binoculars.  However in the blog, with the ability to expand in both content and illustrations I can add information for telescopic observers and expand postings.

Ephemeris for Monday, January 26th.  The sun will rise at 8:08.  It’ll be up for 9 hours and 34 minutes, setting at 5:42.   The moon, at first quarter today, will set at 1:30 tomorrow morning.

The Moon will be perfectly half illuminated by the sun at 11:48 p.m.  The gray patches that appear on the Moon’s surface were called by early telescopic astronomers: seas; because they thought they were bodies of water.  The Moon is pretty much bone dry, except for some eternally shadowed craters at the poles, which still aren’t wet because the water is frozen.  Anyway the seas or maria on the moon are indeed low spots.  The seas, from the top center of the moon down to the lower right are Serenity, Tranquility, Nectar and Fertility.  To the upper right all by itself is the Sea of Crises.  From Serenity to Fertility some can imagine an upside down rabbit, with ears of unequal sizes.  In a few more days we’ll see the face of the man in the Moon.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan.  They may be different for your location.

Addenda

First Quarter Moon

Rabbit in the Moon

Rabbit in the first quarter Moon. Created using Virtual Moon Atlas.

Tonight Asteroid 2004 BL86 will pass three times the Moon’s distance from the Earth

This evening a rather large asteroid for a Near Earth Object or NEO will pass three-quarters of a million miles from the Earth.  The asteroid has the designation 2004 BL86. The cool thing is that this asteroid is half a kilometer or so meters across, that’s 5 soccer or football fields in diameter.  Radar from this close passage should nail down the size and shape.  Between Goldstone Tracking Station and Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico the asteroid should be mapped down to 2 to 4 meters.  It would be definitely not cool if this asteroid ever hit the Earth.  It will be 9th magnitude, and so will be visible in small telescopes, and it will cross the east or left side of the Beehive star cluster also designated M44 starting about midnight tonight.

If you want to observe the event and don’t have the equipment head on over to www.slooh.com.  This is the site for Slooh (pronounced “slew”) Community Observatory which has observatories in the Canary Islands and Chile, and partners with others.  Besides these events, members can schedule time and use the telescopes via the internet.  Check the above link for more information.

The chart below is from NASA/JPL’s Near Earth Object Program: Updated Charts for Asteroid 2004 BL86 Earth Flyby on Jan 26, 2015

Three Day track of 2004BL86

The track of asteroid 2004 BL86 as viewed from the Earth, plotted on a star chart with an equatorial coordinate grid. The asteroid location is shown at four-hour intervals from January 26 to 28. The indicated times are Universal Time; subtract 5 hours for Eastern Standard Time (EST), 6 hours for CST, and 8 hours for PST. On January 26, the asteroid will pass within 11 degrees of Jupiter, now shining brightly in the east in the evening sky. Image and caption credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. JPL orbit solution #43, with star chart graphics produced using C2A.  Click to enlarge.

Below is a chart from Universe Today.  Here’s a link to their web page.

Finder chart for 2004BL86 as it sails past the Beehive Cluster

A Black on white chart of asteroid 2004 BL86 crossing to the right of M44. Note that the actual path depends on your location since the chart is based on the center of the Earth. The closer to your horizon the greatest deviation from the path shown. Time Ticks are for CST. Add one hour to them for EST. The Midnight tick mark is 0 h UT or GMT the 27th. Credit Universe Today and created with Chris Marriott’s SkyMap software.

Sky and Telescope has charts that have BL86’s track plotted about 15 minutes ahead of the track above.  It is a newer chart, so the asteroid’s position may have been updated.  The Sky and Telescope narrative and charts are here.

Results from Jupiter’s early Saturday satellite shadow play

The video live feed from the Griffith Planetarium in Los Angeles was a bust.  It suffered from what astronomers call bad seeing.  I mean really horrible seeing.  Astronomers ascribe at least two qualities to the sky, other than brightness due to the moon or light pollution.  That is transparency and seeing.  Seeing is the steadiness of the sky.  What Jupiter looked like was looking at a small disk at the bottom of a swimming pool while the kids are still playing in it.  At first I ascribed it to Jupiter being low in the LA sky, being 3 hours west of here.  But it didn’t get better as the night progressed.  I could occasionally make out Callisto’s shadow, just because I knew where it’s supposed to be.  But that’s it.

However my friend from the Detroit area, Scott Anttila, blessed at least for a while with clearer and calmer skies got some wonderful pictures of the first part of the multiple shadow event.

Satellite shadows 1

Left to right the shadows of Io and Callisto crossing the face of Jupiter at 12:52 a.m. January 24, 2015. Credit Scott Anttila.

Note that Callisto has a larger shadow than Io.  That’s mainly due to it’s greater distance from Jupiter that makes its shadow larger and fuzzier than the closer Io.

 

Satellite shadows 2

In this picture Io’s shadow has just caught up with Callisto’s shadow. Credit: Scott Anttila.

Shadow annimation

Rocking animation of the early stages of the shadow show on Jupiter. Callisto’s shadow already on the planet while Io’s shadow is just entering. Also Io’s transit is starting, following its shadow on the planet. Credit: Scott Anttila