Monthly Archives: December 2010

Lunar Eclipse, Sprinkled With Fireballs

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The 2010 solstice lunar eclipse is one for the books, but check out these images from two cameras in the Canadian all-sky meteor camera network.These cameras are similar to the ones used for observation at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center: all-sky, black-and-white, and detecting bright meteors, or fireballs. Below are two stacked images of the eclipse:


Stacked image of the eclipse using images taken every five minutes from McMaster University
between 6:32 and 9:32 UT.


A similarly stacked image, combining pictures every five minutes between 5:27-9:37;
it was taken from Orangeville, ON, Canada.

Just as a reminder, the eclipse event timings in UT were:

  • Partial begins: 6:33
  • Total begins: 7:41
  • Mid eclipse: 8:17
  • Total ends: 8:53
  • Partial ends: 10:01

 
So both cameras captured the full moon as it normally appears, then imaged it as it was eclipsed through the partial and total phases. Unfortunately, bad weather rolled in before the eclipse ended!

The Canadian cameras also detected meteors during the eclipse. Here are a few good ones:

The following two images were also taken from McMaster and Orangeville at about 7:38 UT, just before the total eclipse began, but after the partial eclipse had started. These pictures show an image of a meteor fairly close to the moon in the field of view.




The following three images were recorded from Elginfield, ON, Canada, McMaster, and Orangeville, respectively, at about 9:00 UT, just after the total eclipse phase ended, but before the partial eclipse ended. This meteor ablated by a height of 83 kilometers, or 52 miles.



Images courtesy of the Meteor Physics Group at the University of Western Ontario in London, ON, Canada
Text courtesy of  Danielle Moser, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Meteoroid Environment Office

Cloudy Skies? You Can Still Watch the Lunar Eclipse!

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Cloudy skies over much of the U.S. might make for challenging viewing tonight for the solstice lunar eclipse.


This screenshot shows a view of the skies over Marshall Space Flight Center in
Huntsville, Ala., at approximately 6:45 p.m. on Dec. 20. (See Current View)

To help work around the mercurial weather, here’s a list of web sites that are offering live web views. Many of these are located in parts of the country where the weather is clear – and you can still check out the Marshall Space Flight Center Web cam. We’ve had some breaks in the clouds, and we’re hoping for the best as the eclipse time draws closer. Check back on this page throughout the evening for added links. Happy viewing!

List of links – please check individual sites for their viewing times and instructions:

› SpaceVidCast Lunar Eclipse Coverage→
› WPBT2/Miami Science Museum→
› Lunar Eclipse by Coaster Storm’s Weather Center→
› South Florida Amateur Astronomers Association & The Fox Observatory→
› Columbus State University→
› Rothney Astrophysical Observatory→
› Night Skies Network, Jack Huerkamp→
› Astronomers Without Borders Camera Network→
› Lunar Eclipse from Santiago, Chile→

Note: All of the links above are to external sites controlled by organizations other than NASA.

Tonight is the Solstice Lunar Eclipse!

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The first total lunar eclipse in two years will grace the sky the night of Monday, Dec. 20, and we want you to be there. Sure, it’s a school night, but with winter solstice and a new year upon us, what better time to gather your family and friends to see the moon in a new light?

At NASA, we’re pretty excited for this year’s lunar eclipse, so we’re offering a number of features and activities for astronomy buffs and moon-gazers alike. To learn about the science behind eclipses, visit NASA’s Eclipse page, where Mr. Eclipse provides information about viewing the eclipse from all over the United States.

Want to know more about the lunar eclipse? Lunar experts from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center will be hosting two live Web chats to discuss the eclipse. On Monday, Dec. 20 from 3-4 p.m. EST, Dr. Rob Suggs will answer your questions. Later on Dec. 20, make plans to stay “Up All Night” with astronomer Mitzi Adams at she answers your questions from midnight to 5:00 a.m. EST.

Starting now, you can subscribe to NASA JPL’s “I’m There: Lunar Eclipse” text campaign to connect with others in your area by texting us your viewing location and comments on the night of the eclipse. To sign up, text IMTHERE to 67463 and we’ll send you a reminder to go out and watch on Dec. 20 (message and data rates may apply).

Want to share or flip through photos of the eclipsed moon? Join NASA JPL’s lunar eclipse Flickr group and connect with other professional and amateur photographers as they capture the moon’s path through the Earth’s shadow. We’ll choose one lucky photographer to have his or her work featured as official JPL wallpaper at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/wallpaper.

If you don’t want to brave the December chill, or if your weather doesn’t cooperate for lunar viewing, we have you covered! A live video feed of the lunar eclipse will be streamed online on Dec. 20. The camera is mounted at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

On Dec. 20 and 21, join the conversation on Twitter by including #eclipse and @NASAJPL in your lunar eclipse tweets, and you may even see them show up among our live comment stream on NASA JPL’s “I’m There: Lunar Eclipse” program.

596 Scheila: An Identity Crisis?

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Things are getting a little stranger in the asteroid belt these days! Objects in this zone of the solar system are known to be rocky bodies, though in the past few years several of these bodies have had cometary features detected. One such body is 596 Scheila, which has always been confidently called a main-belt asteroid, meaning it is a rocky body orbiting nicely between Mars and Jupiter causing no trouble to Earth.

Scheila is 113 km in diameter and was discovered in 1906 by August Kopff in Heidelberg and named after an acquaintance of the discoverer. For the past 104 years Scheila has been pleasantly orbiting without much fuss until last week the Catelina Sky Survey found a coma around the object with a 0.68 meter Schmidt telescope; quickly confirmed by many other observers.Scheila, along with several other bodies in the past few years, have created a new class of solar system objects: main-belt comets. Main-belt comets have the orbital characteristics of main-belt asteroids, but exhibit an outgassing, comae, or a dust-tail that is normally seen on icy comets that came from the outer-reaches of our solar system. These bodies are an anomaly and a mystery since an object this close to the sun should have had its ices vaporized away. This has caused another theory to arise that perhaps they are not icy bodies, but perhaps the trail of debris was caused by an asteroid-asteroid collision.

3200 Phaethon, the parent body of the famous Geminid meteor shower, is another example of this. Phaethon was always thought to be an asteroid, a purely rocky body, and even its meteoroids agreed with this, being denser than an average icy-meteoroid. But in recent times Phaethon has exhibited dust-outgassing, causing observers to wonder whether it once was a comet, or if it has had a recently collision to cause the particles.

Unlike Phaethon, Scheila will not intersect Earth’s orbit and thus we will not have a Scheilid meteor shower. Whether this outgassing and dust production from asteroids is due to vaporization of earth or asteroid collisions, only time will tell. Oh, the mysteries of our solar system!


Orbit of 596 Scheila, as computed by the JPL small-body database browser.


Image of 596 Scheila using a V Filter and 10 stacked images of three-minute exposures each.


Image of 596 Scheila using an R Filter and 10 stacked images of three- minute exposures each.

Images were taken via a remote-operated camera located in New Mexico. Stars are trailed because the asteroid was being tracked. You can clearly see the fuzzy “cloud” or coma about the asteroid in the center.
 

Images courtesy of Bill Cooke and Rhiannon Blaauw, NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.

Live Web Chats Today: Geminid Meteor Shower

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Baby, it’s cold outside — but you can still enjoy the best meteor shower of the year. The 2010 Geminid meteor shower promises to be lively, with realistic viewing rates of 50-80 meteors per hour and potential peaks reaching 120 meteors per hour. Anytime between Dec. 12-16 is a valid window for Geminid-watching, but the night of Dec. 13-14 is the anticipated peak.

You have two opportunities to learn more about the Geminids from meteor experts based at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. On Monday, Dec. 13 from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. EST, meteor experts Danielle Moser and Rhiannon Blaauw will answer your questions, then you can stay “up all night” to observe the Geminids with NASA astronomer Bill Cooke. Have the coffee ready, then join them online from 11:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. EST as the Geminids peak in the skies over Earth.

Joining the chats is easy. Simply go to https://www.nasa.gov/connect/chat/geminids2010.html a few minutes before each of the chat start times list above. The chat module will appear at the bottom of this page. After you log in, wait for the chat module to be activated, then ask your questions. Here’s to a spectacular viewing!

False-color composite view of 2008 Geminid meteor shower is courtesy of Bill Cooke, NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center.
 

Here Come the Geminids!

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Last night the NASA All-sky Meteor cameras detected their first Geminid fireball of 2010!  The fireball, detected from cameras positioned in both Huntsville, Ala., and Chickamauga, Ga., was first spotted over southern Tennessee at a height of 58.7 miles above the ground.  It streaked across the sky over northern Alabama at a speed of 76,300 mph and completely burned up by a height of 53.4 miles.  If the weather remains clear, we should be in for a good Geminid show this year! 


Geminid fireball meteor seen from Huntsville (left) and Chickamauga (right) on December 6, 2010.

Meteor rates should peak early next week, so stay tuned for more news about the Geminid meteor shower!


Image courtesy of Danielle Moser, NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.