Tag Archives: astronomy

Analemma, the Slender Figure Eight in the Sky


Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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Definition of Analemma by Merriam-Webster: “A plot or graph of the position of the sun in the sky at a certain time of day (such as noon) at one locale measured throughout the year that has the shape of a figure 8; also : a scale (as on a globe or sundial) based on such a plot that shows the sun’s position for each day of the year or that allows local mean time to be determined.

Our Earth orbits around the Sun on an elliptical path. It also revolves around the Sun on a slant with an axial tilt of about 23.4 degrees. This leads to some interesting observational effects. One of these is the analemma, the apparent path traced by the Sun in the sky when observed at the same time of day over the course of a year.

Due to the Earth’s orbital eccentricity and its axial tilt, our Sun does not appear in the same position in the sky at the same time every day throughout the year. These two factors combine to generate the slender figure-eight, called analemma ( Greek “support”) curve.

So, the astronomers use this analemma diagram that shows the deviation of the Sun from its mean motion in the sky, as viewed from a fixed location on the Earth.

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Analemma on a globe (Source: analemma.com)

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The analemma diagram with the Sun’s path resembling a lopsided figure eight can often be found printed on globes of the Earth, usually somewhere over the Pacific Ocean where there is lots of room to print it.

The north–south component of the analemma is the Sun’s declination, and the east–west component is the equation of time. Most often, the diagrams of analemmas carry marks that show the position of the Sun at various closely spaced dates throughout the year. Analemmas with date marks are used for various practical purposes. Without date marks, they are of little use, except as decoration.

Earlier, prior to the 18th century, the term “analemma” referred to any tool or method used in the construction of sundials. Now, the term “analemma” is used in conjunction with sundials to convert between apparent and mean solar time.

Analemmas are photographed by keeping a camera at a fixed location and orientation and taking multiple exposures throughout the year, always at the same clock-time.

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Analemma posted by Giuseppe Donatiello

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The above image is a photo of an analemma posted by Giuseppe Donatiello.

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Analemma photo taken by Jack Fishburn in 1998–99.

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The above is an afternoon analemma photo taken in 1998–99 by Jack Fishburn in Murray Hill, New Jersey, USA. The Bell Laboratories building is in the foreground.

Although the term “analemma” is used to refer to the Earth’s solar analemma, it can be applied to other celestial bodies as well.

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Comet Hale-Bopp: The Most Widely Observed Comet of the 20th Century


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj
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Image of comet Hale-BoppC/1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp), taken on 1997 April 04. The field shown is about 6.5° x 6.5°. At full resolution, the stars in the image appear slightly elongated, as the camera tracked the comet during the exposure. (Photo: E. Kolmhofer, H. Raab; Johannes-Kepler-Observatory, Linz, Austria)
Image of comet Hale-Bopp (C/1995 O1), taken on 1997 April 04. The field shown is about 6.5° x 6.5°. At full resolution, the stars in the image appear slightly elongated, as the camera tracked the comet during the exposure. (Photo: E. Kolmhofer, H. Raab; Johannes-Kepler-Observatory, Linz, Austria)

On July 23, 1995, two independent observers Alan Hale and Thomas Bopp in the United States discovered the comet Hale-Bopp. This comet formally designated C/1995 O1 was perhaps the most widely observed comet of the 20th century, the third largest comet in the last 500 years, and one of the brightest seen for many decades. It was visible to the naked eye for a record 18 months. The previous record holder, the Great Comet of 1811, officially designated C/1811 F1, was visible to the naked eye for around 260 days.

Dr. Alan Hale
Dr. Alan Hale

Astronomer Alan Hale was born in 1958 in Tachikawa, Japan, when his father was serving in the United States Air Force. Four months later his father got transferred to Holloman Air Force Base outside Alamogordo, New Mexico. Hale served in the United States Navy from 1976 to 1983. In 1980, he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. Next, he joined the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and worked as an engineering contractor for the Deep Space Network until 1986. As a contractor, he worked in several projects involving spacecraft, including Voyager 2. After Voyager’s encounter with Uranus, he left JPL. He attended New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. In 1992, he earned his Ph.D. in astronomy.

Hale had spent hundreds of hours searching for comets without success. On July 23, 1995, while tracking known comets from his driveway in New Mexico he chanced on the comet co-named after him just after midnight. The comet with an apparent magnitude of 10.5 was near the globular cluster M70 in the constellation of Sagittarius. He checked and confirmed that there was no other deep-sky object near M70. Next, he consulted a directory of known comets and established that none of them was in that area of the sky he had observed. He then found the object moving relative to the background stars.

As a trained astronomer who had seen about 200 comets, Hale to register his finding sent an email to the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams (CBAT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the clearing house for astronomical discoveries operating under the auspices of Commission 6 of the International Astronomical Union (IAU). A few hours later his effort was rewarded. His new comet was officially designated C/1995 O1. His name would also be attached.

But Alan Hale was not the only observer that night.

That very night, about 400 miles (644 kilometers) away, Thomas Bopp was observing star clusters and galaxies through telescopes with friends in the desert outside Phoenix, Arizona.

Thomas Bopp in 1997 (Photo: Ron Baalke)
Thomas Bopp in 1997 (Photo: Ron Baalke)

Amateur astronomer Thomas J. Bopp was born in 1949 in Denver, Colorado. Later he relocated with his family to Youngstown, Ohio, where he graduated from Chaney High School in 1967. He attended Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio, and has lived in Tucson, Arizona since 1980. He is a Life member of the Mahoning Valley Astronomical Society (MVAS).

Bopp was a manager at a construction materials factory. He did not own a telescope. He too noticed some fuzzy object near M70 in the constellation of Sagittarius and pointed it out to his friend Jim Steven who owned the 70 inches telescope of Dubsoniano design he was using.

Bopp had never come across a comet. Jim looked at Bopp and said, “Tom, I think you have a comet.”

He knew he had to contact the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams in Cambridge, but he did not have the address with him. So, he drove back home to get it.

In the wee hours he managed to send a Western Union telegram to the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams in Cambridge where its arrival was greeted with bemusement. Brian Marsden, the leading voice on a committee that has the last say laughed. “Nobody sends telegrams anymore,” he commented. “I mean, by the time that telegram got here, Alan Hale had already e-mailed us three times with updated coördinates.”

However, the following morning, the comet was confirmed as a new entity and designated as C/1995 O1. The discovery was announced in International Astronomical Union circular 6187.

Sometimes weird things happened with when major comets appeared. According to a  report, 39 members of a California cult claimed they were departing on a spaceship that was trailing comet Hale-Bopp and ate their last meal before ritually committing mass suicide. For Thomas Bopp, the comet portended a loss. As comet Hale-Bopp reached its most spectacular point in the sky, his brother and sister-in-law who had been out photographing the comet were killed in a late night car crash. “This has been the best week of my life. And, the worst,” he lamented.

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A Near-earth Object, Asteroid 1998 QE2, Is Now Hurtling Towards Earth


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj
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Asteroid 1998 QE2 - 1

A near-earth object labeled Asteroid 1998 QE2, is now hurtling towards earth.

The asteroid about 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers) or nine Queen Elizabeth 2 ship-lengths in size in length has the physical mass to potentially knockout life on Earth. However, we are safe as it is just flying by.

The orbit of asteroid 1998 QE2

On May 31, 2013, at 20:59 UTC (1:59 p.m. Pacific / 4:59 p.m. Eastern) this asteroid will pass within 3.6 million miles (5.8 million km) of Earth – about 15 times the distance to the Moon. While this may seem a great distance for the layman, in astronomical terms it is a mere stone’s throw away. This is the closest approach the asteroid will make to Earth for at least the next two centuries.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) program near Socorro, New Mexico, discovered this asteroid on August 19, 1998. It is officially known as Asteroid 1998 QE2. It is not named in honor of Queen Elizabeth II, or after that 12-decked, transatlantic-crossing flagship for the Cunard Line. The name was assigned by the NASA-supported Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. This institute assigns each newly discovered asteroid a provisional designation starting with the year of first detection, along with an alphanumeric code showing the half-month it was discovered, and the sequence within that half-month.

Though this asteroid is not of much interest to those astronomers and scientists on the lookout for hazardous asteroids, it is of interest to those who dabble in radar astronomy and have a 230-foot (70-meter) or larger radar telescopes at their disposal.

Radar astronomer Lance Benner, the principal investigator for the Goldstone radar observations from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California said: “Asteroid 1998 QE2 will be an outstanding radar imaging target at Goldstone and Arecibo and we expect to obtain a series of high-resolution images that could reveal a wealth of surface features … Whenever an asteroid approaches this closely, it provides an important scientific opportunity to study it in detail to understand its size, shape, rotation, surface features, and what they can tell us about its origin. We will also use new radar measurements of the asteroid’s distance and velocity to improve our calculation of its orbit and compute its motion farther into the future than we could otherwise.”

Asteroid 1998 QE2

Asteroids come in various sizes and shapes: dog bones, bowling pins, spheroids, diamonds, muffins, potatoes, etc. Between May 30 and June 9, radar astronomers using NASA’s 230-foot-wide (70 meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, are planning an extensive campaign of observations. The two telescopes with complementary imaging capabilities will enable astronomers to study 1998 QE2 and what it looks like during its brief flyby.

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News: Russian Meteorite Shards Command ‘Stratospheric’ Prices


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Feb. 18, 2013: In this frame grab taken from AP video, a researcher touches a piece of a meteorite in a laboratory in Yekaterinburg. Researchers from the Urals Federal University, based in Yekaterinburg, have determined that the small stone-like pieces found near Lake Cherbarkul in the Chelyabinsk region are pieces of the meteorite that exploded over the region Feb. 15. A total of 53 pieces have been brought for analysis to the university in Yekaterinburg.(Source: AP Photo/ The Urals Federal University Press Service, Alexander Khlopotov)
February 18, 2013: Researchers from the Ural Federal University, based in Ekaterinburg, have determined that the small stone-like pieces found near Lake Cherbarkul in the Chelyabinsk region are pieces of the meteorite that exploded over the region on February 15. The university received a total of 53 pieces for analysis. (Source: AP Photo/ The Urals Federal University Press Service, Alexander Khlopotov)

The meteorite that streaked at a hypersonic speed of at least 33,000 mph across the morning sky over Chelyabinsk, Russia on Friday, February 15 at 3:20:26 UTC exploded and disintegrated about 18-32 miles above the ground. According to media reports, the shock wave from the explosion estimated as equal to 30 Hiroshima atomic bombs of August 1945, blew out the windows of 900 schools and hospitals, damaged around 100,000 homes, and injured nearly 1,200 people, It induced an undeniable trauma in many residing in and around Chelyabinsk. Fellow blogger, science fiction and fantasy author Bill Housley aptly wrote that it was similar “To Be Shot at and Missed.

Asteroid expert Don Yeomans, head of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office said the object that streaked across the sky over this Russian industrial city was most likely a bolide – an exploding fireball.

The sonic blast shattered windows in and around Chelyabinsk. Scattered amid the broken glass are bits of space rock that sparked on a “meteorite rush.”

Amateur enthusiasts in Russia and scientists alike are scrambling to find bits of the meteorite worth more than their weight in gold. Dmitry Kachkalin, a member of the Russian Society of Amateur Meteorite Lovers said that enthusiasts will pay dearly for them. “The price is hard to say yet … The fewer meteorites recovered, the higher their price,” Kachkalin told Reuters. He estimates that chunks could be worth up to $2,200 per gram — more than 40 times the current cost of gold, the news agency said.

Within hours after the explosion, many residents of Chelyabinsk and its neighborhood  had listed shards of the meteorite on classified ads sites.

International Business Times reported that a person named Andrew advertised 18 pieces of the meteor for 500 rubles (about $16.61) each on avito.ru, – the largest Russian-language free classifieds site. “There are 18 pieces of size as a wristwatch,” Andrew wrote on the site. “You can choose as souvenirs or for stories. BOOK ME IN ADVANCE, to snap up FAST!”

Another Russian felt his rocks were more worthy, asking 300,000 rubles (roughly $10,000) for a piece of the rock. “A piece of the meteor for sale, it’s new,” Sergey wrote, with a photo of himself holding a piece of stone.

Russia’s Lake Chebarkul meteorite crater
The crater created by the meteorite in Russia’s Lake Chebarkul.

On Monday, scientists from Ural Federal University (UrFU) in Ekaterinburg found shards of the meteorite which fell on 15 February near lake Chebarkul near Chelyabinsk, about 1500 kilometers east of Moscow. The expedition team released a photo showing 53 tiny fragments of the meteor each about 0.2-inch-long.

Dr. Alexey Ischenko from UrFU Meteorite Expedition studying a piece of celestial body
Dr. Alexey Ischenko from UrFU Meteorite Expedition studying a piece of the celestial body
Shards of 'Meteorite Chebarkul'
Shards of ‘Meteorite Chebarkul’

According to Viktor Grokhovsky, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences‘ Committee on meteorites and the leader of the expedition, told the Interfax news service that the meteorite belonged to the class of regular chondrites. “These stone fragments contain about 10% iron. The meteor is likely to be called ‘Meteorite Chebarkul’,” the scientist said.

He then added: “We have found tiny pieces, about 50-53 in all, and each measure in millimeters. That was all we could find in the snow around the crater. The fragments we found are traces of the outer layer of the meteorite – there is a melted crust and so forth – which mean that the basic mass lies there, in the lake.”

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Asteroid 2012 DA14 Will Flyby on February 15, 2013


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Diagram of 2012 DA14 passing the Earth on 15 February 2013
Path of 2012 DA14 passing the Earth on 15 February 2013

The small near-Earth asteroid named 2012 DA14 discovered on February 23, 2012, by the OAM Observatory, La Sagra in Spain with an estimated diameter of about 45 meters (about half the size of a football field) weighing about 130,000 metric tons mass probably made of stone in contrast to metal or ice is now hurtling towards the earth. It will pass within about 3.5 Earth radii of the Earth’s surface inside the geosynchronous satellite ring, located about 35,800 kilometers above the equator.

UPCOMING CLOSE APPROACHES TO EARTH - 2

Tomorrow, February 15, 2013, when it passes within 17,200 miles (28,000 kilometers) of Earth, it will not be visible to the naked eye, but will be within range of small telescopes and solidly mounted binoculars, used by experienced observers who have access to appropriate star charts. Here is a note from NASA about the asteroid’s visibility:

On [February 15, 2013], the asteroid will travel rapidly from the southern evening sky into the northern morning sky with its closest Earth approach occurring about 19:26 UTC when it will achieve a magnitude of less than seven, which is somewhat fainter than naked eye visibility. About 4 minutes after its Earth close approach, there is a good chance it will pass into the Earth’s shadow for about 18 minutes or so before reappearing from the eclipse. When traveling rapidly into the northern morning sky, 2012 DA14 will quickly fade in brightness.

Astronomical observatories with their large telescopes would record images of the asteroid, and some observatories will be broadcasting them live online.

Slooh Space Camera will cover the asteroid’s near-approach on Friday, February 15, Slooh to cover live from the Canary Islands with the broadcast team, with several live shows free to the public starting at 6 p.m. PST / 9 p.m. EST / 02:00 UTC (2/16), accompanied by real-time discussions with Slooh Space Camera’s Paul Cox, astronomer and author Bob Berman, and Prescott Observatory manager Matt Francis. Viewers can watch live on their PC or iOS/Android mobile device.

Clay Center Observatory will be offering real-time high-definition video, from 22:00 UTC (6 p.m. EST) February 15 until 8:00 UTC (4 a.m. EST) on February 16. The video feed can be freely accessed worldwide via Clay Center Observatory’s Ustream channel. The observatory has also set up a countdown clock to show how much time remains until the tracking begins.

Bareket Observatory in Israel will be providing a free live webcast of the close approach of asteroid 2012 DA14 using a remote telescope coupled with a cooled CCD camera on February 15 from 21:00 – 22:30 local time (19:00 – 20:30 UTC, or 2 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. CST).

Virtual Telescope Project, which calls itself “the most active facility in the world in astronomical science and education,” will also be following 2012 DA14 on February 15, 2013.

Will anything happen when asteroid 2012 DA14 comes close to Earth? Nothing. According to Paul Chodas, Jon Giorgini and Don Yeomans of NASA/JPL Near-Earth Object Program Office the asteroid will not impact the Earth on February 15, 2013.

The asteroid will have no effect on the tides. It will not cause volcanoes to erupt. It will not trigger earthquakes and tsunamis. Though the asteroid will just hurtle closely past Earth only 17,000 miles away – within the orbits of geosynchronous satellites, most of us will not see it, and we will not be aware of it at all.

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A Near-Earth Object, Asteroid 2012 DA14 Now Hurtling Towards Earth


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj
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Comets and asteroids that enter the Earth’s neighborhood nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets are known as near-Earth Objects (NEOs).

One such near-Earth asteroid named 4179 Toutatis formerly known as 1989 AC was discovered by Christian Pollas on January 4, 1989, at Caussols, France. On
December 12, 2012, this asteroid with a shape of a “malformed potato” tumbled through space like a fumbled football, within 4.3 million miles from Earth.

UPCOMING CLOSE APPROACHES TO EARTH - 2

Another near-Earth asteroid discovered on February 23, 2012, by the OAM Observatory, La Sagra in Spain with an estimated diameter of about 45 meters (about half the size of a football field) weighing about 130,000 metric tons mass probably made of stone in contrast to metal or ice is now hurtling towards the earth.

Diagram of 2012 DA14 passing the Earth on 15 February 2013
Diagram of 2012 DA14 passing the Earth on 15 February 2013

On February 15, 2013, this asteroid labeled 2012 DA14 will pass within about 3.5 Earth radii of the Earth’s surface inside the geosynchronous weather and communication satellites ring, approximately 35,800 kilometers above the equator.

Even though asteroids like 2012 DA14 fly past Earth almost every 40 years they impact with our planet only every 1200 years or so. Don Yeomans, Paul Chodas, and Jon Giorgini of NASA/JPL Near-Earth Object Program Office after predicting the asteroid’s path have declared that according to their observations, there is no chance that the asteroid might be on a collision course with the Earth, and it will safely fly past Earth’s outer ring of satellites on February 15.

“Since regular sky surveys began in the 1990s, we’ve never seen an object this big gets so close to Earth,” Don Yeomans said.

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3MIN News December 12, 2012: Geminid Meteor Showers


by Suspicious0bservers

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Click on the image to see the video.

.3MIN News December 12, 2012 - Geminid Meteor Showers

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2.7 Miles Wide Asteroid 4179 Toutatis Will Buzz Past Earth


Myself By T.V. Antony Raj
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Near-Earth asteroid 4179 Toutatis formerly known as 1989 AC with a shape of a “malformed potato” discovered by Christian Pollas on January 4, 1989, at Caussols, France, will pass at more than 18 Lunar Distance (6.9 million kilometers; 4.3 million miles) away from Earth.

4179 Toutatis
4179 Toutatis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This large asteroid 4.46 kilometers (2.7 miles) long and 2.4 kilometers (1.5 miles) wide classed as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid makes an elliptical four-year trek around the sun that takes it from just inside Earth’s orbital path to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

On Wednesday, September 29, 2004, tumbling through space like a fumbled football, this malformed potato shaped asteroid came close as 1.55 million kilometers (962,951 miles) from earth – that’s very close in astronomical terms!

Large one kilometer or greater asteroids are far more rare and infrequent. There are only about 1,100 nearby large asteroids, and they are predicted to strike the Earth every half million years or so. However, scientists believe that asteroids that could cause mass extinctions are thought to be 10 kilometers or greater in diameter like the one that would have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Steven Ostro (1946 - 2008)
Steven Ostro (1946 – 2008)

In 2004, American scientist Steven J. Ostro (1946 – 2008) who worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California specializing in Radar astronomy said: “Radar images of the three-mile-long (4.6-kilometer-long) asteroid suggest it could be composed of two or three space rocks held together by gravity. But to know for sure would require drilling through the object.”

Asteroid 4179 Toutatis is known to have an erratic orbit. Scientists say Toutatis has one of the strangest rotation states yet observed in the solar system. Instead of spinning on a single axis – as do most asteroids and the planets, including our own Earth – Toutatis wobbles around two. The asteroid rotates around one axis once every 5.4 Earth days and, and then rotates around the other axis once every 7.3 Earth days. As such, “the orientation of the asteroid never repeats exactly,” Ostro said.

Asteroid 4179 Toutatis will pass by Earth on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 6:40 AM UTC (1:40 AM EST). On this approach to Earth, Toutatis will pass within 4.3 million miles from Earth.

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Toutatis might be barely visible through binoculars at its maximum brightness. However, it should be very bright through Slooh telescopes as it is being tracked. Slooh will webcast Toutatis views from a scope in the Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa beginning at starting at 20:00 UTC (12 PM PST / 3 PM EST) on December 11. Another show will follow at 03:00 UTC Wednesday (10 PM EST Tuesday) EST tonight (0300 GMT Wednesday), with footage from the Prescott Observatory in Arizona.

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Streamed live on Dec 11, 2012: Slooh Space Camera tracked Asteroid Toutatis live from the Canary Islands – December 11th, 2012. This is the audio broadcast from the event – main broadcast was held on Slooh.com

Asteroid Toutatis 2012 – Show #1

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Asteroid 2012 DA14 Will Pass the Earth on February 15, 2013


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

.UPCOMING CLOSE APPROACHES TO EARTH

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On February 23, 2012, the OAM Observatory, La Sagra in Spain discovered a near-earth asteroid with an estimated diameter of about 45 meters and about 130,000 metric tons mass hurtling towards the earth. On February 15th, 2013, this asteroid named 2012 DA14 will pass within about 3.5 Earth radii of the Earth’s surface inside the geosynchronous satellite ring, located about 35,800 kilometers above the equator. According to Paul Chodas, Jon Giorgini and Don Yeomans of NASA/JPL Near-Earth Object Program Office the asteroid will not impact the Earth on February 15, 2013.

Diagram of 2012 DA14 passing the Earth on 15 February 2013
Diagram of 2012 DA14 passing the Earth on 15 February 2013. – Author: NASA/JPL Near-Earth Object Program Office.

As per calculations, on February 15, 2013, the distance between the asteroid and the Earth will be 0.09 Lunar Distance (35,000 kilometers; 21,000 miles) and travel rapidly from the southern evening sky into the northern morning sky. Its closest Earth approach to Earth would occur at 19:26 UTC achieving magnitude of less than seven; somewhat fainter than naked-eye visibility. Four minutes later 2012 DA14 after passing into the Earth’s shadow for 18 minutes it will reappear from the eclipse, travel swiftly into the northern morning sky and would disappear.

Note: LD = Lunar Distance = ~384,000 kilometers (238,900 miles) .

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December 21, 2012: THE REAL DOOMSDAY? (Part 2)


by Dan Eden for ViewZone

Part 2 – The Previous Doomsday of 12,950 BC: what was it like?

Since I wrote the doomsday article I have received lots of e-mails, mostly asking me if it is really true and what they should do.

I know I had a difficult time coping with this topic, both emotionally and spiritually. I can’t say that I have perfected the right “attitude” about what the future holds. To be honest, I think I always held back from accepting the facts. I had hope. But this new evidence forces me to open my eyes and soul to setting my life in order. I hope it will do the same for you.

Although “doomsday” is frequently linked with the Mayan calendar, this is just coincidental. December 21, 2012 is a significant day in astronomy because of a number of important events that will impact our Sun. It would be a “doomsday” even if we never knew about the Mayan calendar. Yet, the more we understand this ancient civilization and appreciate their knowledge of astronomy, we must assume they knew this date to be auspicious. So let’s just talk about astronomy here. There’s a lot of information. I’ll try to make it easy to understand.

Glazed donuts on the Moon

Let’s begin back in the 1960s with the Apollo 11 manned landing on the moon.

On one of their EVA’s (extra-vehicular activities), the astronauts photographed and took samples from some small craters, about 20 cm to 1.5 meters across. When they examined the floors of these craters they noticed what looked like glazed donuts. These were actually chunks of moon dirt that were coated by glass.

The glazed areas are clearly concentrated toward the top surfaces of protuberances, although they exist also on some sides. Points and edges appear to be strongly favored for the glazing process. In some cases, droplets appear to have run down an inclined surface for a few millimeters and congealed there. [1]

Hardly anyone in the general public was made aware of this discovery and, even if they were, thay could hardly have realized the significance.

But in 1969, an article in Science by T. Gold [1] proposed a theory of how they were made. Glass, as we know, is made from melting sand. It occurs natually near sources of high temperature, such as volcanos and meteor impacts. The atom bomb tests in New Mexico’s White Sands area produced a small “lake” of glass at ground zero. So it was never a question about the lunar glass also having been created by something very hot.

The fact that the glaze was confined to small patches, 0.5 to 10 mm, suggested to scientists that the surface had been zapped rather than slow-cooked. And the likely source of this zap was our Sun. Gold estimated that the solar luminosity would have had to increase by 100 times what it is normally, for a duration of from 10 to 100 seconds.

Also, because of the lack of debris or dirt covering this glass, it must have occurred within the last 30,000 years. This made Gold propose that the Sun — our Sun — does this every 10,000 years or more. He suggested that future research should look for a “trigger” event — possibly a large comet or asteroid impacting the surface of the Sun. He estimated this would only have to be 100 km and weigh 3 x 1021 grams.

Decades passed and this theory didn’t receive much attention.

Then, as it often does, the theory got a fresh look by a genius, Dr. Paul LaViolette. He was not satisfied with the source of the glass being caused by a solar blast, mainly because the output would have had to be on the scale of a nova, not just a flare. He envisioned another possibility.

LaViolette envisioned a large solar flare or coronal mass ejection (CME) that would become magnetically entrapped in the Earth’s magnetosphere [2]. The magnetosphere would then hold on to this fireball of radiation like a magnetic thermos bottle, allowing the Moon and Earth to be exposed for a duration of time long enough to really “flash bake” their surfaces.

Critics quickly denounced LaViolette’s theory citing evidence of “cosmic dust” and rare elements in the lunar glass and concluding that the heat source was from a meteor impact. [3]

But LaViolette proposed that this cosmic dust was likely present on the surface of the Moon during the time it was melted into the glass. In fact, he proposed that the entire solar system was full of this cosmic dust at the time of this solar eruption. He was vindicated when polar ice cores showed unusual cosmic dust deposits at srata marking the end of the last ice age [4]. This time period, about 12,950 BCE, approximates the current age of the Moon glass. So where did all this cosmic dust come from?

Like Earth, our entire solar system has its own atmosphere, called the heliopause. This “bubble” surrounds the Sun and planets as it travels through galactic space. Like our earth’s magnetosphere, the movement of the heliopause creates a rounded “head” and a narrowing “tail.” Actually, it’s more egg shaped (see above). Until recently, astronomers believed that our solar system was a region relatively free from cosmic dust. The cosmic dust and frozen material of space were kept outside this protective bubble.

This was confirmed when the IRAS and Ulysses spacecrafts showed infrared images of the solar system, surrounded by whispy clouds of cosmic dust that increase in density just beyond Saturn.

So if the cosmic dust is surrounding the heliopause, what would make it suddenly enter the heliopause and how would this coincide with huge solar flares? LaViolette envisioned something disrupting the heliopause from the outside, impacting it and drawing cosmic dust inside with it and energizing the Sun. The energy of such an impact would be immense. The most logical place to look for such enormous energy was the Milky Way Galaxy.

The smoking gun

Examining the shape of the cosmic dust clouds, the IRAS satellite team reported that the cloud was tilted relative to the solar system’s ecliptic — the narrow plane containing our planets. LaViolette realized that this odd alignment tracked back to the Galactic center. This was quickly verified by NASA’s Ulysses spacecraft and New Zealand’s AMOR space radar observatory. Whatever caused the last ice age to end, the Sun to flare up and caused the glass to form on the Moon, came from the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. The plot was getting more interesting.

Astronomers have known about intense radiation from space since the 1970s. Multiple bursts of powerful gamma rays were routinely detected and believed to originate from stars in the Milky Way. Assuming this energy originated locally, astronomers concluded this type of gamma ray burst was insignificant and harmless. Then, in December 1997, they had the technology and good luck to catch a strong gamma ray burst and track it. The source was not inside the Milky Way Galaxy. It was from a distant galaxy billions of light years away.

A review of other bursts showed that their assumptions had been wrong. All of the gamma ray bursts they were observing were from other galaxies far, far away.  The amount of energy coming from objects so distant was a real shock. No one had ever imagined such powerful bursts could be generated by galactic centers. The thought of a burst coming from our own Milky Way galactic center was abysmal.

 A burst of the same intensity as the 1997 event, originating from inside the Milky Way, would deliver 100,000 time the lethal dose of radiation, killing every life form that was exposed. Could that really happen to us?

This question was answered on August 27th, 1998 when an unusual 5 minute gamma ray pulse was located just 20,000 light years away in the constellation of Aquila. This may sound like a huge distance, but to astronomers this is just “next door.” The Milky Way Galaxy, for example, is just 100,000 light years from end to end.

The 1998 event was close enough and strong enough to ionize Earth’s upper atmosphere, damage a couple of spacecraft and disrupt global communication. Since then astronomers place gamma ray bursts from the Glaxy’s core at the top of the list of things we don’t want to happen.

Before Aquila, scientists just feared exploding stars — novas and supernovas. Now things are different. It’s like living in a ghetto and fearing drive-by shootings and random bullets. Then one day you learn that there’s a nuclear bomb down the street, waiting to explode.

Not in my galaxy!

Ironically, all of these facts are incorporated in LaViolette’s “superwave” theory. He concludes that there are cyclical and frequent explosions from the Galaxy’s core. These waves of radiation advance outward to the edges of the Galaxy, impacting everything and causing stars to erupt in their path. He believes this is what has happened many times to our own solar system — the most recent superwave of radiation being 14,950 years ago. He envisions the shock wave — or superwave — dragging cosmic dust along with it as it enters the heliopause and energizes our Sun.

Ice core samples support this view. Evidence of the effects from cosmic dust show at ice core strata corresponding to the years 11,880 to 11,785 BCE*. This evidence, along with the Moon glass, the presence of cosmic dust and the abrupt and atypical end of the last ice age — all point to an intimate relationship between extreme solar activity and gama radiation from the Milky Way Galaxy’s center. [* These dates have been updated following more precise research from Dr. LaViolette.]

Something has changed

More troubling is the suggestion by some scientists that this powerful radiation may not require a dramatic burst or explosion to cause eruptions in the Sun. Physicists at nearly a dozen research institutions, including New York University, have discovered evidence for very high energy gamma rays emitting from a narrow band at the equator of the Milky Way. These gamma ray levels mark the highest energies ever detected from the Galaxy.

The gamma rays had a median energy of 3.5 trillion electron-volts, or 3500 times the mass-energy of a proton. Previous satellite experiments have seen gamma-ray emissions along the galactic equator reaching up to energies of only 30 billion electron-volts.

Perhaps related to this is the puzzling fact that, even though we have witnessed no Galactic explosions or “bursts”, the measurements of cosmic dust streaming inside the heliopause as been steadily increasing [6] to almost three times since the last solar maximum in 2001.

During the solar maximum of each 11 year cycle, the polarity of the Sun shifts — North becomes South and visa versa. This brief period of magnetic instability allows some cosmic dust to enter the heliopause because the Sun’s “shields” are reduced. But once the new polarity is established, the Sun usually quickly blocks the dust. This time it didn’t happen. Cosmic dust has been streaming in from the Glactic center and astronomers are at aloss to explain why.

It’s likely that the solar system is already experiencing the invasive energy from the Galactic equator as we move into position and align with it on 2012.

Yes, there’s more!

What will it be like when this happens to us? Perhaps the most dramatic evidence of what we can expect in 2012 comes from the most unlikely place — ancient petroglyphs! Ancient rock carvings from around the globe, created during the last solar “zap” 14,950 years ago, seem to illustrate a spectacular event that happened when the Earth was last hit by extremely high radiation. This is a little difficult to explain, but I’ll try.

Viewed from the top, the aurora actually forms a luminous and electrically charged cup (or chalice) shape extending into space from each pole.

We are all familiar with the sparks that flash brightly when we discharge electrical current. Lightening is a good example. Extremely high energy, called plasma, has been shown to form unique shapes when it is made to discharge — especially around a sphere. The northern lights are an example of how this “spark” of plasma can form luminous, electrically charged sheets or tubes at the Earth’s poles. Theaurora, as it is called, occurs when mild energy from our Sun is trapped and dissipated by the Earth’s magnetic poles.

Extremely high energy — the type that would have caused the Moon glass and zapped the Earth — creates a more elaborate discharge. Physicists call it a z-pinch formation. The z-pinch has been extensively researched by a group headed by Anthony L. Peratt with the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM and is described in his paper, Characteristics for the Occurrence of a High-Current Z-Pinch Aurora as Recorded in Antiquity Part II: Directionality and Source[5]. In this paper, Dr. Peratt illustrates the shape and characteristics of this high energy discharge on the Earth and shows thousands of petroglyph sites all over the globe where this z-pinch was observed and recorded in ancient carvings.

The term z-pinch originates from experiments where physicists made extremely high current to flow through thin wires that were arranged vertically in a tubular formation. They noticed that the energy quickly vaporized the wires, but the magnetic field generated by these paths remained and contained (or “pinched”) the stream of energy, collapsing the streams of energy toward the center of the tube-like configuration — called the z-axis. When the streams of energy converge, they form unique shapes that persist and can be observed as Birkeland elements, named for their discoverer.

[Above (left): Virtual image of the intense auroral plasma column as viewed at an angle of inclination, not to scale. Above (right): Conceptual view of the Birkeland sheath filaments surrounding Earth (28 close pairs). The relativistic electron flow is downwards toward Antarctica. The current bundle above Antarctica twists in counter-clockwise rotation. By convention, the Birkeland currents and ion flow is upwards toward the Arctic. Not yet completely resolved is a bend in the upper filament sheath that allows the upper plasmoids and column to be seen at northern latitudes.]

If the Earth was zapped by high energy radiation, either from the Sun or the Galactic core, the planet would be surrounded with distinct lines of energy, converging at the North and South pole. These bands would continue to extend well out from the planet’s poles and into space and would be visible from almost every point on Earth — each with its own unique perspective.

Laboratory experiments whith a metal sphere, representing Earth, show the “chalice” shape created by high energy paths [above]. Oddly, repeated experiments show a preference for 56 “rays” or distinct bands of energy. This same number is often depicted in the ancient petroglyphs!

[Above (left): Northern hemisphere petroglyphs from the Columbia River Basin, 45.65ºN, 121.95ºW. Right: Oblique view into the auroral plasma column from these coordinates. Above (right): Nasca, Peru vase, date unknown (14.24ºS, 75.58ºW). Note the similarity to the northern hemisphere petroglyphs.]

Recent global archiving of global petroglyphs have demonstrated that these shapes were correctly recorded in rock carvings by humans who withnessed this event!

[Above (left): White-striped pictographs at Iga Warta Cultural Tourism Centre, North Flinders Range (30.59ºS, 138.94ºE). Shown is Cliff Coulthard, Australian Department of Environment and Planning in Aboriginal Heritage, an authority on pictograph painting techniques having analyzed such works as the Magdalenian cave art in France. Above (right): Lightning Brothers, Ingaladdi, Victoria River, Wardaman country of the Northern Territory (15ºS, 130ºE). New dating techniques of this red inorganic-pigmented pictograph image were done using a plasma-chemical extraction method and correspond to the era of the z-pinch.]

When researchers went to various petroglyph sites that contained the z-pinch artifacts they carefully plotted the GPS location and noted if the ancient artist had a clear view of the Southern horizon. Almost all of the sites had this view. The number and extent of these global petroglyph sites clearly demonstrate the purpose of this art. Also, depending on the latitude, depictions of the z-pinch corresponded to the exact perspective that would have been expected.

Some examples of z-pinch petroglyphs are shown here. We highly recommend reading the complete article. We especially thank team member, John McGovern, for bringing this important work to our attention.

So what do we know for sure?

The recent data shows that dramatic and potentially deadly effects can result from solar flares and coronal mass ejections. Substantial data suggests that an event, similar to the one anticipated in the 2012 “doomsday” scenario, occurred about 14,950 years ago and was recorded by ancient humans. This event appears to have lasted for several years in duration and was responsible for the abrupt end of the last ice age as well as a substantial culling of the human population.

The surprising findings of LaViolette, supported by other research, suggests that the extreme solar event corresponded to powerful radiation coming from the center of the Milky Way Galaxy and was associated with gamma rays and cosmic dust. Recent observations have shown a dramatic increase in gamma ray energy in the Galaxy’s equator which will be in maximum alignment with our solar system on December 12, 2012. The past records in ice cores (strata from 13,880 to 13,785 BCE) suggest that intense radiation from this last event could have lasted many years. It seems highly likely that this alignment will cause another extreme solar event since other factors precipitating a “solar maximum” (i.e. the opposition of major planetary barycenters) also converge on this exact date.

The fact that galactic centers routinely radiate lethal gamma rays makes it unlikely that life, at least as we understand it, can survive in the universe. Sooner or later it is destined to be zapped.

A new genetic study of Y-chromosome variation by Dr. Marcus Feldman of Stanford University shows that the population from which the world’s present population is derived consisted of about 2,000 individuals. Somehow, humans, flora and fauna did survive the past doomsday and some may yet survive past 2012. Indeed, many of the ancient prophecies I have encountered in my travels around the world have spoken of a “bright light” or “flash” followed by the “good seed” (i.e. humanity) which would rise up and repopulate the world.[7]

Organisms on Earth, including humans, have evolved during quiet times — between the lethal blasts from our own Milky Way center. This means that we are indeed quite unique (and lucky). But it also means that our ultimate demise is part of the natural order. This universe is larger than ourselves and our lives. We are just transient phenomena, seemingly running counter to the laws of entropy, yet a part of the cosmic reality. This is neither good or bad. It simply is.

And yet there is part of us that may continue. This hope is what we must hold on to. Tell me what you think.


Just In:

Mass Extinction: Why Did Half of N. America’s Large Mammals Disappear 13.8 and 11.4 Thousand Years Ago?

As reported in ScienceDaily, years of scientific debate over the extinction of ancient species in North America have yielded many theories. However, new findings from J. Tyler Faith, GW Ph.D. candidate in the hominid paleobiology doctoral program, and Todd Surovell, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Wyoming, reveal that a mass extinction occurred in a geological instant.

During the late Pleistocene, 40,000 to 10,000 years ago, North America lost over 50 percent of its large mammal species. These species include mammoths, mastodons, giant ground sloths, among many others. In total, 35 different genera (groups of species) disappeared, all of different habitat preferences and feeding habits.

What event or factor could cause such a mass extinction? The many hypotheses that have been developed over the years include: abrupt change in climate, the result of comet impact, human overkill and disease. Some researchers believe that it may be a combination of these factors, one of them, or none.

A particular issue that has also contributed to this debate focuses on the chronology of extinctions. The existing fossil record is incomplete, making it more difficult to tell whether or not the extinctions occurred in a gradual process, or took place as a synchronous event. In addition, it was previously unclear whether species are missing from the terminal Pleistocene because they had already gone extinct or because they simply have not been found yet.

However, new findings from Faith indicate that the extinction is best characterized as a sudden event that took place between 13.8 and 11.4 thousand years ago. Faith’s findings support the idea that this mass extinction was due to human overkill, comet impact or other rapid events rather than a slow attrition.

“The massive extinction coincides precisely with human arrival on the continent, abrupt climate change, and a possible extraterrestrial impact event” said Faith. “It remains possible that any one of these or all, contributed to the sudden extinctions. We now have a better understanding of when the extinctions took place and the next step is to figure out why.”

REFERENCES

[1] Gold, T. “Apollo II Observations of a Remarkable Glazing Phenomenon on the Lunar Surface.”Science 165 (1969):1345.

[2] Excerpt from Paul LaViolette’s 1983 Ph.D. dissertation, “Galactic Explosions, Cosmic Dust Invasions, and Climate Change.”

[3] Morgan, Laul, Ganapathy, and Anders (1971 Morgan, J. W., Laul, J. C., Ganapathy, R., and Anders, E. “Glazed Lunar Rocks: Origin by Impact.” Science 172(1971):556

[4] Zook, H. A., Hartung, J. B., and Storzer, D. “Solar Flare Activity: Evidence for Large Scale Changes in the Past.” Icarus 32(1977):106

[5]Anthony L. Peratt, Fellow, IEEE, John McGovern, Alfred H. Qoyawayma, Life Member, IEEE, Marinus Anthony Van der Sluijs, and Mathias G. Peratt, Member, IEEE, “Characteristics for the Occurrence of a High-Current Z-Pinch Aurora as Recorded in Antiquity Part II: Directionality and Source,” IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science, Vol. 35, NO. 4, August 2007.

[6] Markus Landgraf, Max Plank Institute.

[7] http://www.viewzone.com/comanche2.html -also- http://www.viewzone.com/firsttongue.yemen.html -also- http://www.viewzone.com/oklahoma11.html

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