A meteor and the barred spiral galaxy NGC-2903 grace the top of this October 14 image of an area of space near the head of the constellation Leo. The meteor and the galaxy were purely coincidental, as it is what is not visible in the image that is important. Two telescopes operated by astronomers at the Marshall Space Flight Center just stopped scanning the skies for Comet Elenin, which began fading and breaking apart back in August. Its close approach to the Sun on September 10 apparently caused the comet to disintegrate even further, into objects so small they are unable to be seen by ground-based telescopes like the 20″ instrument which took this picture. An anticlimatic end to the so-called “Comet of Doom”, with only empty space to mark its close approach (22 million miles) to Earth.
By the way, the galaxy NGC-2903 is 30 million light years distant from our own Milky Way.
Discovered only a few days ago, the house-sized asteroid 2011 MD whizzed by at only 7,600 miles above Earth’s surface on June 27 at approximately 1:00 p.m. EDT. This approximately 10-yard rock came closer than many communications satellites and will rapidly recede over the next few hours and days. Rob Suggs, operating a Marshall Space Flight Center telescope in New Mexico, captured several images of the asteroid on the night of June 26.
At the time these 30-second exposures were made, the asteroid was about 80,000 miles away from Earth. At such a close distance, the asteroid appears as a streak due to its motion relative to us, even in a short exposure.
Image courtesy of Rob Suggs, NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
The animation below shows the motion of Comet Ikeya-Murakami on Nov. 13, 2010, captured with a New Mexico-based telescope operated remotely by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. The images were taken near dawn and show the comet’s movement over a period of 45 minutes. Each exposure was three minutes in length, and the faint angled streak around 0:10 in the animation is a satellite trail. At the time of these images, the comet was some 229 million miles away from Earth.
Comet Ikeya-Murakami was discovered very recently on Nov. 3, 2010, by Japanese amateur astronomers Kaoru Ikeya and Shigeki Murakami. Their discovery is unusual because they both used manual observations through optical telescopes to identify the comet. Such observations are rare in recent times when astronomers use cutting-edge digital imaging to study the skies.
Ikeya-Murakami is classified as a long-period comet, or those comets having eccentric orbits ranging from 200 years millions of years to make one circuit around the sun.
Courtesy of Rob Suggs, NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
Using the Marshall Space Flight Center 0.5 meter telescope in New Mexico, NASA astronomer Rob Suggs captured this view of the tiny asteroid 2010 TG19 as it made its way among the stars of the constellation Pegasus.
Taken before sunup on Oct. 15, the animated sequence shows the movement of the asteroid, then 4.25 million miles away from Earth, over 45 minutes. Only 75 yards across, 2010 TG19 is very faint at magnitude +18 , which is near the limit of the telescope. It will continue to approach during the next few days, finally coming within 268,500 miles of our planet, or almost as close as the moon, at noon EDT on Friday, Oct. 22.
Courtesy of Rob Suggs, Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.