2010 RK53 – Another Asteroid Passed Close by Earth

September 10, 2010 14:51 by scibuff

Only hours after the recently found duo of asteroids with provisional designations 2010 RX30 and 2010 RF12 passed the Earth within lunar orbit, another “overstuffed flying couch”, just marginally bigger than 2010 RF12, saw the Earth up close. The object was discovered shortly before 10 UT on September 10 by the Catalina Sky Survey, Tucson, Arizona during their routine monitoring of the skies.

Animation of 2010 RF12

Animation of 2010 RF12 composed of 4 unfiltered exposures, 30-seconds each obtained by means of a 0.25-m, f/3.4 reflector + CCD - Credit: Ernesto Guido & Giovanni Sostero

According to the most recent orbital elements, 2010 RK53 passed the perigee of roughly 76,300km at around 23:30 UT on September 8. This time there was no “warning”. The object came in at an elongation of about 34 degrees, i.e. from the direction of the Sun in the sky, where no ground-based telescope can aim (and hope to get any useful results). Therefore, 2010 RK53 wasn’t observed up until it had already gone by. Nevertheless, unlike 2010 RX30 and 2010 RF12, which are now lost in sunlight (at elongation of less than 30 degrees), 2010 RK53 will remain observable by medium and large sized telescopes for a few days until September 13-14.

Although the object had no chance of hitting Earth, a ten meter-sized near-Earth asteroid from the undiscovered population of about 50 million would be expected to pass almost daily within a lunar distance, and one might strike Earth’s atmosphere about every ten years on average.

Six Eruptions in Two Days

August 27, 2010 09:45 by scibuff

As the STEREO (Behind) spacecraft observed in extreme UV light, the Sun popped off no fewer than six eruptions over just two days (Aug. 14-15, 2010). At one point, three events were occurring at the same time. Most of these were eruptive prominences in which cooler clouds of gases above the surface break away from the Sun. The most powerful of the events, a coronal mass ejection, began around 6:30 UT on Aug. 15. It was harder to see from this spacecraft’s angle since it blasted out from the whiter active region in the lower center, so it had the Sun as its backdrop.

SOHO Pick of the Week: Popping Out All Over - Credit: SOHO/NASA & ESA

Courtesy of SOHO/STEREO consortium. SOHO is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.

Asteroid Discovery From 1980 – 2010

August 27, 2010 09:07 by scibuff

Have a look at the video animation below, capturing the exponential increase of asteroid discoveries over time. The animation starts in 1980 when only a handful of objects between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter were known. As new asteroids are discovered they are added to the map and highlighted white so that they can be easily distinguished from already known ones.

Asteroid Discovery From 1980 - 2010

* Earth Crossers are Red, Earth Approachers (Perihelion less than 1.3AU) are Yellow, All Others are Green

Notice how the pattern of discovery follows the Earth around its orbit. Most discoveries are made in the region directly opposite the Sun, when asteroids are close to opposition. At the time of opposition Main Belt Asteroids are not only closest to Earth in their orbit around the Sun, but also most of their surface is illuminated (when seen from the Earth) and therefore they are reaching their maximum brightness.

Furthermore, you’ll also notice some clusters of discoveries on the line between Earth and Jupiter, these are the result of surveys looking for Jovian moons. Similar clusters of discoveries can be tied to the other outer planets, but those are not visible in this video.

As the video moves into the mid 1990’s we see much higher discovery rates as automated sky scanning systems come online. Most of the surveys are imaging the sky directly opposite the sun and you’ll see a region of high discovery rates aligned in this manner.

At the beginning of 2010 a new discovery pattern becomes evident, with discovery zones in a line perpendicular to the Sun-Earth vector. These new observations are the result of the WISE (Widefield Infrared Survey Explorer) which is a space mission that’s tasked with imaging the entire sky in infrared wavelengths.

Currently we have observed over half a million minor planets, and the discovery rates show no sign that we’re running out of undiscovered objects.

Kennedy Space Center Sunrises – A Photo Book by Jen Scheer

August 17, 2010 16:47 by scibuff

If you follow @flyingjenny, the incredible Space Shuttle Technician who’s started the Space Tweep Society, or if you’ve seen her daily entries in the Astrophoto gallery, then you know she’s been taking amazing photos of sunrise not far from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). What you might not have known (I only found out myself a few days ago) that she is going share this amazing photo collection with all of us:

I have amassed a nice collection of sunrise photos, some of which have elements that are unique to this location, such as plumes from pre-dawn launches that resemble fire-breathing dragons. I am going to combine the best of these photos into a book, and then pepper it with little bits of historical information about the structures that appear in some of the photos.

The book funding project is hosted on The Kickstarter and at the time of writing the project had 72 backers who had pledged almost $5,000 (see the details below).

Kennedy Space Center Sunrises - A Photo Book

Kennedy Space Center Sunrises - A Photo Book

The best part is that you’ll get your money back in the form of an e-book. Those who donate ($50 or) more will receive a hard-copy signed by the same hand that signs shuttle banners. And, of course, the higher your pledge the better the goodies that come with the book.

To make a pledge, simply visit the project website. As a freebie you can have a look at Jen’s amazing sunrise photo collection on flickr

Spot of light - Credit: Jen Scheer

Spot of light - Credit: Jen Scheer

Meteorwatch 2010 UKSnow-like Map

August 4, 2010 19:29 by scibuff

Meteorwatch 2010 has now its own map displaying meteor observations. The map is quite similar to UKSnow by Ben Marsh but has a few additions/improvements. First of all, reporting is not restricted to just UK but works worldwide. Furthermore, once reports start to come in, the typical meteor icons will be accompanied by meteor animations created by the author of the Meteorwatch 2010 TrailerAdrian West. Finally, the live day/night overlay is a neat touch to finish the map off.

Meteorwatch 2010 Map

Meteorwatch 2010 Map

To report meteors and have them added to the map simply send a tweet in the form of:

#meteorwatch [postcode] [country] [meteor count]

e.g. #meteorwatch e15 uk 5

For more information about the valid format see the bottom of the map page.

Meteorwatch 2010

July 29, 2010 21:50 by scibuff

The first big meteor shower of the year is almost here. The 12th August is the annual maximum of the Perseids but the shower can be seen for some time either side of that date and it is worth looking out for them from the evening of 11th through to the morning of 13th August. This year, the Moon will set at early evening, leaving a dark sky for theshow. The Perseids tend to strengthen in number as late night deepens into midnight, and typically produce the most meteors in the wee hours before dawn. These meteors are often bright and frequently leave persistent trains. This year, the maximum background activity is expected to reach ZHR = 110-120. Besides that, the Earth is expected to encounter a quite dense 441 trail fragment, which could increase the ZHR by 10-20.

After a tremendous success in 2009, the Twitter Meteorwatch will continue in 2010 with a few extra ways to participate. Apart from including #meteorwatch hash tag in your tweets, this year you will be able to add photos to the meteorwatch gallery* and see the meteor activity observed by other around the world using the meteorwatch map* (still under construction). Below is the long awaited Meteorwatch 2010 Trailer created by Adrian West / @VirtualAstro.

Meteorwatch 2010 Trailer

* … both of which are the reason I have not written a blog post in three weeks