Saturday, February 23, 2013

Comets, Meteors, and Asteroids, oh my!

As usual, I have been busy. Everyday I try and fit in some time for research, happily wandering the big web learning about things.

For quite a few months, I have been following spaceweather@  Mostly monitoring solar activity and enjoying the nice photos provided by spacelovers everywhere.

I haven't bothered to blog about it, because there are a lot of great astronomy sites out there, and much better written, as well.

I'll give you a little summary.

The sun has been fairly active, lots of sunspots, coronal holes, small and large flares, and even a few CME's.  The sun is at a maximum in the current solar cycle.

We have several comets buzzing around out there, three of them will  be visible to the naked eye.

First, comet PanStarrs, C/2011L4, will be brightest on March 10th.  Look for it March 9-11 just above and to the left of the setting sun.  Estimated orbital period of 110,000 years, so this one has been gone awhile.

Second, Comet Lemmon, C/2012F6, with an elliptal orbital period of 11,000 years, shouild reach naked eye visibility in late March.  Lemmon is already putting on a nice show in the southern hemisphere with binoculars, with a green coma.  Yes, A green Lemmon. Cynagen gas &diatomic carbon burn green in the vaccuum of space.

Lastly, Comet Ison, C/2012S1.  On October 1 it will be closest to Mars. On November 28th it will be closest to the sun. On December 26 2013 it will be closest to Earth.  on Jan14-15 2014, Earth will pass through the orbit of comet ISON.  Comet ISON's orbit indicates that it is a first time visitor from the Oort cloud, a region beyond the known planets in our solar system.  Every so often something stirs up the Oort cloud and here come the comets. Some astronomers think that ISON may grow to be brighter than a full moon. Other astronomers remember comets that fizzled out on their way around the sun. Either way, this will be our only chance to see ISON, as it's orbit suggests it won't be coming back this way again.

In the meantime, we can keep busy watching the skies and news for meteors.  One estimated to be the size of a bus exploded over Russia. the shockwave destroyed  thousands of panes of glass.  Hint: if you see a flash, don't run to the window, run for cover.  Or take the advice of someone else, and position yourself at the window but behind something, put your hands over your ears and keep your mouth open.  That should alleviate the pressure when the shock wave hits.

There are lots of smaller meteors as well, some just flashes of light in our peripheral vision as we pick out constellations in the night sky, others that make it to Earth are kept a little quiet, any damage is blamed on something else.  After all, we can't have the public in a panic or a rush of treasure hunters inundating the areas in question, no?  Especially when some meteors are worth much more than gold. I am not sure how they rate as so rare, considering our own planet is also, technically, just a big space rock too.

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