Jupiter and Venus Conjunction

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On Tuesday, June 30, there will be a conjunction of Jupiter and Venus. A conjunction is a celestial event in which two planets or a planet and the moon or a planet and a star appear close together in the night sky. Conjunctions have no real astronomical value, but they are nice to view. While conjunctions aren’t as rare as one might think, this conjunction of Jupiter and Venus will be more impressive than most.

The casual backyard observer may have noticed that these two planets have been moving closer together for the past few weeks. On June 30, they will be so close that one will be able to hold a finger up and cover both Jupiter and Venus at the same time. In reality, the planets are hundreds of millions of miles apart. On June 30, Venus is about 46 million miles from Earth, and Jupiter is 560 million miles from Earth. Looking up at the sky, Venus appears to be much brighter than Jupiter. That is only because Venus is so much closer to Earth. Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, is actually over 11 times bigger than Venus, but it is dimmer when looking at the sky because of its great distance from our planet.

Typically the best conditions for stargazing involve a dark sky, so getting away from urban areas will make stars and faint objects like nebulae and galaxies more visible. The Jupiter and Venus conjunction will be easily bright enough to see from any location, even large cities. The best hours for viewing will be during evening twilight and up until 10:30 PM local time, when the planets will set behind the western horizon.cooke

Bright Sky Event Over Southeastern United States – June 29

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Meteor across SEComposite image showing bright event located near Rosman, North Carolina.

There was a bright event seen across several Southeast states last night at 12:29:30 AM CDT (1:29:30 EDT). Based on the data we currently have, this object was not a meteor or fireball. Tracked by 5 NASA cameras in the SE, it is moving at roughly 14,500 miles per hour, which is too slow to be a meteor. As you can see in the video, it has also broken into multiple pieces, which, combined with the slow speed, indicates a possible reentry of space debris. There are over 120 eyewitness accounts on the American Meteor Society website (www.amsmeteors.org)

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The 2015 Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower

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Each spring as Earth passes through the debris trail from Halley’s Comet (1P/Halley), the cosmic bits burn up in our atmosphere and result in the annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower. This year the peak will occur on May 6 about 9 AM EDT with meteor rates of about 30 meteors per hour near peak. Best viewing is just before dawn on May 6. Eta Aquarids zoom around the solar system at speeds near 148,000 mph.  Unfortunately for meteor shower observing enthusiasts the moon will seriously hampered viewing of the ETAs this year. reducing the peak rate to under 20 meteors per hour.

The Eta Aquarids are pieces of debris from Halley’s Comet, which is a well-known comet that is viewable from Earth approximately every 76 years. Also known as 1P/Halley, this comet was last viewable from Earth in 1986 and won’t be visible again until the middle of 2061. The annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower gets its name because the radiant — or direction of origin — of the meteors appears to come from the constellation Aquarius.

To read more about fireballs, go to NASA All Sky Fireball Network.

An image of an Eta Aquarid meteor from the NASA All Sky Fireball Network station in Tullahoma, Tennessee  in May, 2013.

An image of an Eta Aquarid meteor from the NASA All Sky Fireball Network station in Tullahoma, Tennessee in May, 2013.

 

Lyrid Meteor Shower Peaks Tomorrow, April 22

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Dust off the lawn chairs and get ready for the peak of the Lyrid meteor shower which will occur on the night of April 22.

“The Lyrids are really unpredictable,” Cooke said. “For the 2015 shower, I’m expecting 15 to 20 Lyrid meteors an hour. Peak rates should occur after 10:30 PM on April 22 your local time, for observers in the northern hemisphere. For observers in the southern hemisphere, Lyrid rates are not significant until after midnight your local time.”

Viewing tips for the Lyrids

No special equipment is needed to watch a meteor shower. Simply find a dark, open sky away from artificial lights. Lie down comfortably on a blanket or lawn chair, and look straight up.

A camera, provided by scientists at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, will offer a live feed of the Lyrids beginning at 10:00 PM CDT.The camera is light-activated, and will switch on at nightfall. During daytime hours, the webcast will show recorded views of past meteor showers.

Watch the live feed here.

About the Lyrids

Lyrids are pieces of debris from the periodic Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher and have been observed for more than 2,600 years. In mid-April of each year, Earth runs into the stream of debris from the comet, which causes the Lyrid meteor shower. You can tell if a meteor belongs to a particular shower by tracing back its path to see if it originates near a specific point in the sky, called the radiant. The constellation in which the radiant is located gives the shower its name, and in this case, Lyrids appear to come from a point in the constellation Lyra.

Lyridsequence_20140422_092714_04

Ask an Astronomer About the Shortest Lunar Eclipse of the Century on April 4

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On Saturday morning, April 4, 2015 not long before sunrise, the bright full moon over North America should turn a lovely shade of celestial red during a total lunar eclipse. Join NASA astronomer Mitzi Adams as she takes questions via Twitter @NASA_Marshall. For Twitter questions, use the hashtag #eclipse2015. The question and answer via Twitter will begin at 6 a.m. EDT and continue through the end of the eclipse (approximately 8:00 a.m. EDT on April 4).

The lunar eclipse will be visible from all parts of the United States.  Eastern North America and western South America can see beginning stages of the partial umbral eclipse low in the west before sunrise April 4, whereas middle Asia (India, western China, mid-Asian Russia) can view the ending stages of the partial umbral eclipse low in the east after sunset April 4. Greenland, Iceland, Europe, Africa and the Middle East won’t see this eclipse at all. A world map of eclipse visibility is available here. The total eclipse will last only five minutes. You can find more information  here.

This image shows the Dec. 20, 2012 total lunar eclipse, as seen from Sagamihara, Japan.

This image shows the Dec. 20, 2012 total lunar eclipse, as seen from Sagamihara, Japan.

Fireball Reported in Colorado Early this Morning

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A fireball occurred over southern Wyoming/northern Colorado at 6:01 AM Mountain Daylight Time. The available eyewitness and video information indicates that the meteor moved from East to West at about 45,000 miles per hour and weighed a few pounds (2 to 4 pounds are the preliminary estimates). The fireball belongs to a class of meteors called Earthgrazers, which hit the Earth’s atmosphere at a very shallow angle. They can travel a considerable distance before getting low enough to completely burn up; the eyewitnesses state that this fireball lasted longer than 10 seconds, which matches grazer durations. No meteorites are expected to have been produced by this event – it was too small and too high to drop fragments on the ground.

The numerous reports are typical of fireballs occurring during morning or evening work commute, and are not indicative of the relative brightness of the meteor.

Fireball over Jacksonville, Florida on Feb. 21

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A fireball west of Jacksonville, FL on Saturday, Feb. 21st  at 22:59:45 PM EST was detected by two all sky cameras, located in Melbourne, belonging to the Sky Sentinel Network.

The American Meteor Society has a write-up on this fireball at http://www.amsmeteors.org/2015/02/florida-fireball-with-boom/. There were over a hundred eyewitness reports, and the trajectory determined from these agrees fairly well with a crude triangulation performed using the Sky Sentinel videos. These videos and eyewitness reports indicate that the fireball started just east of Lake City and moved NE at about 40,000 miles per hour, burning up about 30 miles west of Jacksonville. The apparent brightness of the meteor permits a crude estimate of about a foot for the object’s diameter, with a weight around 100 pounds.

NASA places a high priority on tracking asteroids and protecting our home planet from them. In fact, the U.S. has the most robust and productive survey and detection program for discovering near-Earth objects (NEOs). NASA’s NEO Program at NASA Headquarters, Washington, manages and funds the search, study and monitoring of asteroids and comets whose orbits periodically bring them close to Earth. NASA is also pursuing an Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) which will identify, redirect and send astronauts to explore an asteroid. Among its many exploration goals, the mission could demonstrate basic planetary defense techniques for asteroid deflection.

Marshall Scientist to Observe Asteroid 2004 BL86

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On Monday evening, January 26 from 10 p.m. to midnight CST Marshall scientists will observe the large Asteroid 2004 BL86 as it passes by Earth. The public is welcome to follow their observations via the Marshall Ustream feed

The asteroid will safely pass about three times the distance of Earth to the moon, or approximately 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from Earth. Scientists have been tracking the path of the asteroid for 11 years and know its orbit well. Asteroid 2004 BL86 will not approach Earth this close again for at least 200 years.

This is a rare opportunity for observation. Hope you will join us as we observe the flyby.

Go here for more information about Asteroid 2004 BL86.

 

 

Marshall Scientist to Observe Asteroid 2004 BL86

Posted on by .

On Monday evening, January 26 from 10 p.m. to midnight CST Marshall scientists will observe the large Asteroid 2004 BL86 as it passes by Earth. The public is welcome to follow their observations via the Marshall Ustream feed

The asteroid will safely pass about three times the distance of Earth to the moon, or approximately 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from Earth. Scientists have been tracking the path of the asteroid for 11 years and know its orbit well. Asteroid 2004 BL86 will not approach Earth this close again for at least 200 years.

This is a rare opportunity for observation. Hope you will join us as we observe the flyby.

Go here for more information about Asteroid 2004 BL86.

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