Spectacular photo of yesterday’s fireball over Groningen

October 14, 2009 17:11 by scibuff

Hundreds of reports flooded astronomical societies in the Netherlands and Germany yesterday, as people observed a brilliant fireball in the evening’s twilight skies. Below is a spectacular photo taken by Robert Mikaelyan.

Fireball Meteor Over Groningen - Source: Robert Mikaelyan

Fireball Meteor Over Groningen - Source: Robert Mikaelyan

Extremely bright fireball seen over the Netherlands

October 13, 2009 19:34 by scibuff

Update 4: Below is a spectacular shot of the meteor captured by Robert Mikaelyan

Fireball Meteor Over Groningen captured around 17:00UTC on Tuesday Netherlands - Source: Robert Mikaelyan

Fireball Meteor Over Groningen captured around 17:00UTC on Tuesday Netherlands - Source: Robert Mikaelyan

Update 3: Koen Miskotte estimated the meteor’s brightness between -8 and -12.  According to his report the red orange fireball broke up in 5/6 pieces each one with a magnitude of -3 to -5. There are also reports of a sonic boom and a rumbling sound and shaking windows.

Update 2: Pictures of the smoke trail left by the bolide at dusk have appeared in a forum.

Update 1: According to the EXIF data of the original meteor photo, it was taken at 16:58:24 UTC between Assen and Groningen.

People in the Netherlands and Germany are reporting an extremely bright fireball seen around 19.00 CEST (17:00 UTC), traveling more or less south-north. Daniel Fisher of the Nuremberg Astronomical Association posted a photo of the meteor Daniel Fischer twittered links to a report posted on a mailing-list run by the Nuremberg Astronomical Association as well as to a a photo of the meteor:

A bright fireball seen over the Netherlands and Germany on October 13, 2009 at 16:58:24 UTC - Source: Jan de Vries

A bright fireball seen over the Netherlands and Germany on October 13, 2009 at 16:58:24 UTC - Source: Jan de Vries

Theo Jurriens from the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute of University of Groningen, and KNMI – the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, confirmed about one hundred reports received from the public. The meteor has been seen to burst into three pieces eventually.

Bolide smoke trail over the Dutch sky

Bolide smoke trail over the Dutch sky

International Space Station threatened by 3 year old space junk

September 3, 2009 13:24 by scibuff

NASA is currently tracking an oval-shaped 3 year-old debris from the Ariane 5 expended upper stage (Obj 29274) which is projected to miss the International Space Station (ISS) by 3.2km at the Time of Closest Approach (TCA) at 15:06 UTC on Friday. The original miss distance of 16.609 km was reduced dramatically as tracking models of the object’s highly eccentric orbit (apogee at 32,185 km) have been refined.

Although NASA officials decided that the upcoming Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA2) would not be delayed, a Debris Avoidance Maneuver (DAM) may need to be executed once astronauts John Olivas and Christer Fuglesang (both Mission Specialists) replace the station’s ammonia tank during their spacewalk.

Astronaut John "Danny" Olivas, STS-128 mission specialist, participates in the mission's first session of extravehicular activity (EVA) as construction and maintenance continue on the International Space Station - Photo Credit: NASA

Astronaut John "Danny" Olivas, STS-128 mission specialist, participates in the mission's first session of extravehicular activity (EVA) as construction and maintenance continue on the International Space Station - Photo Credit: NASA

In March earlier this year, the station’s crew was evacuated to the Soyuz spacecraft as the station was threatened by a orbital debris from the Cosmos – Iridium collision a few weeks earlier.

The sky in northern Michigan lit up by a spectacular meteor

September 3, 2009 10:17 by scibuff

Last night, fans at the Beach Bums game in Traverse City in Michigan reported seeing a bright meteor in the night sky.

“We were watching the game and then all of a sudden something caught our eyes.”
“We looked up really quick and there was this big, bright fireball… it seemed like it was right on top of us like you almost had to duck it seemed so low.”

There are also reports of a loud explosion, thus the object must have reached low enough altitudes where the air thickens enough that sound can propagate through it.

We thought someone set off dynamite – the boom shook the house.

This sighting adds to the series of bright meteors seen around the world recently. The number of similar reports in the last year should really be attributed to the rise of social media rather than increasing number of meteor activity. About 3,000 meteors are set ablaze in our atmosphere every day.

The space around us is filled with interplanetary debris. As of August 30, 2009, 6292 Near-Earth Objects (NEO) have been discovered. 1062 of these NEOs are asteroids with a diameter of approximately 1 kilometer or larger. Also, 145 of these NEOs have been classified as Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs).

Only yesterday, at 11:46:36 UTC the asteroid labeled as 2009 QC35, discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey on August 29, passed the Earth at a distance of about 0.0075 AU which roughly represents 2.9 Lunar Distances (LD). The separation of 1,113,500 km is considered quite close by space standards.

Orbit Diagram of 2009 QC35 - Source: NASA JPL

Orbit Diagram of 2009 QC35 - Source: NASA JPL

2009 QC35 has an estimated diameter of 23-52m. It is not one of the largest among Apollo asteroids (Earth-crossing NEOs with semi-major axis greater than 1.0 AU and perihelion distance less than 1.017 AU), nevertheless a collision with our planet would cause a great damage and leave a long lasting scar.

The Barringer Meteor Crater in Arizona created approximately 49,000 years ago by a nickel-iron meteorite with the diameter of about 50 meters

The Barringer Meteor Crater in Arizona created approximately 49,000 years ago by a nickel-iron meteorite with the diameter of about 50 meters

Endeavour scrubs summary

July 14, 2009 20:23 by scibuff

Update 4: The latest weather forecast predicts a 5% chance of weather prohibiting tanking and 40% probability of weather prohibiting launch, while showers and thunderstorms within 20 Nautical Miles (~37km) of the Shuttle Landing Facility remain the primary concerns.

Update 3: The Mission Management Team is scheduled to meet at 12:00 UTC to give a “go” for the fueling of Endeavour and the tanking should commence at 12:30 at slow phase with filling the External Tank (ET) with liquid hydrogen (at 20K).

Update 2: Currently teams are working on resolving a fuel cell issue but the management team is not sure about the impact on the scheduled launch.

Update 1: Thursday will be the last possible launch attempt until July 26 due to the Progress 34P mission to the ISS.

The mission’s four scrubs place STS-127 only two scrubs behind the “record” of six called-off launch attempts held by STS-73 and STS 61-C. The first two scrubs (June 13 and June 17) were due to gaseous hydrogen leak on a vent line near the Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate (GUCP). Because of a planned launch of the LRO/LCROSS mission on June 18, there was no time to attempt another launch of Endeavour before the beta angle cutout started on June 20. After that, it was not possible to launch the shuttle before the cutout ended on July 10.

Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate attached to the venting system used to carry excess hydrogen safely away from the launch pad - Photo Credit: NASA TV

Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate attached to the venting system used to carry excess hydrogen safely away from the launch pad - Photo Credit: NASA TV

Coincidently, the beta angle cutout provided NASA technicians with enough time to carefully examine the GUCP problem. During a meticulous investigation and data analysis engineers determined that the most likely cause of the leak was a misalignment in the External Tank Carrier Assembly. Technicians replaced the old seal with a two-piece seal enabling it to counter any movement of the external tank carrier assembly as the tank was being fueled. On July 1, NASA conducted a live tanking test to ensure repairs to the external tank (ET) were successful. (Source: NASA)

NASA technicians working on the GUCP issue - Photo Source: NASA

NASA technicians working on the GUCP issue - Photo Source: NASA

On July 11, NASA first postponed the ET tanking and consequently decided to delay the launch by 24 hours to give ground team extra time to examine ground equipment and systems aboard Endeavour for possible damage from lightning strikes. Although none of the 11 lightning strikes recorded within 0.5km of the launch pad were direct hits to either the orbiter, the external tank or the solid rocket boosters (SRB’s), the Ground Lightning Monitoring System (GLMS) declared a “lightning event” at 06:00 UTC and additional checks were needed to reach 100% confidence that orbiter electronic boxes and the solid rocket booster circuitry were functioning within the norms.

Friday's storm rolling in over Kennedy Space Center - Photo Credit: NASA

Friday's storm rolling in over Kennedy Space Center - Photo Credit: NASA

On Sunday, July 12, NASA’s launch director (LD) Pete Nickolenko coordinating with the Mission Management Team (MMT) called off the launch during the final Go/No-Go station polls, as the Mission Control Center in Houston (MCC-H) declared a No-Go due to unacceptable weather forecast at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) for a possible Return To Launch Site abort. For the launch to proceed, weather conditions must be acceptable not only at the launch pad and one of the Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL) sites, but also within 20 Nautical Miles (roughly 37km) of the SLF for about 20 minutes after liftoff.

Another lunch attempt was scrubbed on July 13, shortly after the MCC-H declared a No-Go because of the weather forecast at SLF for a possible RTLS, and the Launch Weather Officer Kathy Winters informed LD and MMT about Phase 1 lightning alert, the violation of restrictions on anvil clouds and the field mill violations. After a short discussion with the launch teams, Pete Nickolenko made a decision for a 48-hour turn-around, setting the next launch attempt for Wednesday at 22:03:10 UTC.

ISS threatened once again

March 16, 2009 22:16 by scibuff

Currently, NASA is tracking another piece of debris from the satellite collision last month. Last week, a piece of from Iridium’s Payload Assist Module (PAM) missed the station by approximately 5km and caused crew’s temporary relocation to the Soyuz Module. This time, the culprit is a piece from the old Soviet era Kosmos satellite. At the time of the closest approach (TCA), 07:14 UT on Tuesday, the debris will pass within 1 km of the station. This poses a serious to astronauts’ security and NASA considered firing the onboard thrusters to move the station out of harms way.

Astronaut Michael Fincke, Expedition 18 commander, participates in a session of extravehicular activity (EVA) to perform maintenance on the International Space Station - Source: NASA

Astronaut Michael Fincke, Expedition 18 commander, participates in a session of extravehicular activity (EVA) to perform maintenance on the International Space Station - Source: NASA

Update #1: 21:54UT – NASA CAPCOM Rick Davis just informed the International Space Station (ISS) Commander Mike Fincke (who celebrated his 42nd birthday on Saturday) that the station will NOT need to maneuver tonight to avoid the satellite debris. Thus it seems that the crew can continue their prepration for the visitors from STS-119 shuttle which will dock with the station tomorrow at 19:13 UT 22:13 UT.