By Shepard Ambellas
February 5, 2013
RUSSIA — Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok of Roscosmos discovered Comet ISON last September. Named after their International Scientific Optical Network, which is essentially a night sky survey program aimed toward Jupiter, it appears as just a faint spec in the sky at this point.
“Comet ISON is a sungrazer… The orbit of the comet will bring it very close to the sun, which we know can be a spectacular thing.”, said Karl Battams from the Naval Research Laboratory.
As ISON makes its way closer to the sun later this year it will be visible to the naked eye possibly even in the daylight.
It was mentioned by a caller named Robert on The Power Hour radio show hosted by Joyce Riley that ISON could potentially strike up an electrical charge with the sun as the sun is already reacting to the Comet physically.
The caller also noted, “An event is coming.”
The publication RedOrbit.com reports;
Comet ISON will travel through the sun’s atmosphere on November 28, passing just over one million kilometers from the stellar surface.
It may not survive, but if it does, it could appear as bright as the Moon in our night sky. It could even be visibly near the sun, in broad daylight, for a short amount of time – leading some reporters to dub ISON the “Comet of the Century,” according to the agency.
However, the moniker may be premature, NASA officials argue.
“I’m old enough to remember the last ‘Comet of the Century’. It fizzled. Comets are notoriously unpredictable,” said Don Yeomans of NASA Near-Earth Object Program.
Yeomans is referring to the 1973 comet known as Kohoutek, which failed to live up to expectations similar to those now attached to ISON, and even wound up becoming a punch line for late night comedians such as Johnny Carson, according to NASA.
“Comet ISON has the potential to live up to the hype, but it also has the potential to do nothing,” added Battams.
Solar radiation and tidal forces could destroy the comet, as happened to Comet Elenin when it approached the sun in 2011. Alternatively, Comet Lovejoy – which, while smaller than ISON, was closer in size to the current comet than the much tinier Elenin was – survived its journey through the sun’s atmosphere and emerged with a spectacular tail.
“Comet ISON is probably at least twice as big as Comet Lovejoy and will pass a bit farther from the sun’s surface,” Knight said. “This would seem to favor Comet ISON surviving and ultimately putting on a good show.”
The comet could also experience a partial split, which would make it look like “a string of pearls” when viewed using a telescope, Battams said. He added that, should such a phenomenon occur, ISON could wind up looking like “the famous Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 that hit Jupiter in 1994.”
Could this be the event NASA has warned about that might possibly trigger an Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) on earth, as mentioned in an episode of Jesse Ventura’s Conspiracy Theory TV show?
February 3, 2013 – SPACE – A giant gas cloud is on collision course with the black hole in the center of our galaxy in 2013. This is a unique opportunity to observe how a super massive black hole sucks in material, in real time. The black hole at the centre of the galaxy, formally known as Sagittarius A*, fascinates scientists. By mid-2013 a gas cloud is expected to pass in its vicinity at a distance of only 36 light-hours (equivalent to 40.000.000.000 km), which is extremely close in astronomical terms. So-called super massive black holes are the largest type of black holes. Their mass equals hundreds of thousands to a billion times the mass of our sun. The centre of all galaxies is thought to contain super massive black holes. But their origin is not fully understood and astrophysicists can only speculate as to what happens inside them. Hence the imminent collision is of great interest to scientists as it should provide some new insights. Reinhard Genzel leads the team of astronomers from the European Southern Observatory which has discovered the gas cloud about to collide with the black hole at the heart of our galaxy and studied its trajectory. According to their observations, its speed has nearly doubled in the last seven years, reaching more than 8 million km/h. The cloud’s edges have already started to shred and it is expected to break up completely over the coming months. As we near the collision, the cloud is expected to get much hotter. It will also probably start to emit X-rays as a result of the interaction with the black hole. This event will provide astronomers and astrophysicists a unique opportunity to observe how a gas cloud behaves so close to one of the most mysterious objects in our universe. Black k holes are invisible because their extreme gravity even light swallowed. However, if a black hole accretes matter from its surroundings, this material is heated and glows brightly in X-rays. In addition to the accretion disk around the black hole often form-energy particle beams, called jets, in which high-energy plasma leaves the system. These jets are also driven by the gravity of the black hole and emit a strong radio signal. Accretion disks and jets are thus two aspects of the same phenomenon, and by astronomers examine both simultaneously, they can take a close look at the physical processes that occur in the vicinity of a black hole.
In 2011, NASA scientists discovered two enormous “gamma-ray-emitting bubbles” which appear to emanate from the center of the galaxy, each extending 25,000 light years “north and south of the galactic center.” The Milky Way has a diameter of about 100,000 light years in total, and the structure covers more than half of the visible sky. According to USA Today, “each one emits the energy of about 100,000 exploding supernova stars.” The solar system is under constant bombardment from high energy particles.
February 3, 2013 – EARTH – Clouds of “cold plasma” reach from the top of Earth’s atmosphere to at least a quarter the distance to the moon, according to new data from a cluster of European satellites. Earth generates cold plasma—slow-moving charged particles—at the edge of space, where sunlight strips electrons from gas atoms, leaving only their positively charged cores, or nuclei. Researchers had suspected these hard-to-detect particles might influence incoming space weather, such as this week’s solar flare and resulting geomagnetic storm. That’s because solar storms barrage Earth with similar but high-speed charged particles. Still, no one could be certain what the effects of cold plasma might be without a handle on its true abundance around our planet. “It’s like the weather forecast on TV. It’s very complicated to make a reasonable forecast without the basic variables,’ said space scientist Mats André, of the Swedish Institute of Space Physics. “Discovering this cold plasma is like saying, Oh gosh, there are oceans here that affect our weather,” he said. Researchers already knew that some cold plasma existed in the ionosphere, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) above Earth’s surface. But few researchers had looked for the clouds between 12,400 and 60,000 miles (20,000 and 100,000 kilometers) high. André and his colleague Chris Cully suspected the plasma could be out there, but they knew the positive charge of spacecraft wasn’t helping any search efforts. Similar to the way cold plasma is created, sunlight strips electrons from spacecraft materials, making their hulls positively charged. Like two matching magnetic poles, a spacecraft would simply repulse any cold plasma around it. to find the stuff, André and Cully instead analyzed anomalies in data from the European Space Agency’s Cluster II spacecraft. This group of four satellites swings around Earth in a highly elliptical orbit. At the orbit’s peak, the probes reach nearly halfway to the moon. The enormous distance gives researchers a chance to sweep through and monitor Earth’s magnetic field and electrical activity, including the influence of “hot” charged particles emitted by the sun. Anomalies in the Cluster II data turned out to be shockwaves from cold plasma particles moving around the satellites. In the end, the pair found that cold plasma makes up between 50 and 70 percent of all charged particles within the farther reaches of Earth’s magnetic field. André says it’s now time to start updating space-weather models to take the extra cold plasma into account—at this point, for instance, nothing is known about how the plasma might affect solar storms. This influence is “not a minor thing in space weather,” André said. “It’s an elephant in the room.”
February 2, 2013 – GREEN COMET LEMMON – 2013 could be the Year of the Comet. Comet Pan-STARRS is set to become a naked eye object in March, followed by possibly-Great Comet ISON in November. Now we must add to that list green Comet Lemmon (C/2012 F6). “Comet Lemmon is putting on a great show for us down in the southern hemisphere,” reports John Drummond, who sent us a picture from Gisborne, New Zealand: “I took the picture on Jan. 23rd using a 41 cm (16 in) Meade reflector,” says Drummond. “It is a stack of twenty 1 minute exposures.” That much time was required for a good view of the comet’s approximately 7th-magnitude coma (“coma”=cloud of gas surrounding the comet’s nucleus). Lemmon’s green color comes from the gases that make up its coma. Jets spewing from the comet’s nucleus contain cyanogen (CN: a poisonous gas found in many comets) and diatomic carbon (C2). Both substances glow green when illuminated by sunlight in the near-vacuum of space. Discovered on March 23rd 2012 by the Mount Lemmon survey in Arizona, Comet Lemmon is on an elliptical orbit with a period of almost 11,000 years. This is its first visit to the inner solar system in a very long time. The comet is brightening as it approaches the sun; light curves suggest that it will reach 2nd or 3rd magnitude, similar to the stars in the Big Dipper, in late March when it approaches the sun at about the same distance as Venus (0.7 AU). Northern hemisphere observers will get their first good look at the comet in early April; until then it is a target exclusively for astronomers in the southern hemisphere.
Press Trust of India : Kolkata, Thu Jan 31 2013, 06:29 hrs
Asteroid 2012 DA14, which was discovered a year ago when it came closest to the Earth , will come closer to the planet again on the night of February 15. The asteroid, about 148 ft in diameter and weighing 1.30-lakh tonne, will be as close as 34,100 km from the centre of the earth — the point of closest approach. But it will come closer than some of the geostationary satellites orbiting the earth, said M P Birla planetarium director D P Duari on Wednesday. Given the radius of the Earth, it will be about 28,000 km from the earth’s surface, a small distance in terms of astronomical figures, he said.
Half the size of a football field, asteroid 2012 DA14 will give the Earth a “record-setting” close shave, passing closer to our planet than many satellites when it buzzes by later this month, NASA scientists announced.
The asteroid is set to whiz past Earth Feb. 15, and will come within 17,200 miles of the planet when it makes its cosmic fly by. Asteroid 2012 DA14 will approach the Earth even closer than the moon, well inside the paths of navigation and communications satellites, according to Space.com.
“This is a record-setting close approach,” Don Yeomans, the head of NASA’s asteroid-tracking program, said in a statement.
“Since regular sky surveys began in the 1990s, we’ve never seen an object this big get so close to Earth.”
Discovered last year by an amateur team of astronomers at the La Sagra Sky Survey observatory in Spain, the asteroid measures roughly 164 feet across. Yeomans emphasized that while the approach of 2012 DA14 will bring it closer than the geosynchronous satellites orbiting 22,245 miles above Earth, there’s no real threat of the asteroid colliding with the planet.
“2012 DA14 will definitely not hit Earth. The orbit of the asteroid is known well enough to rule out an impact,” said Yeomans, who heads the Near-Earth Object Program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The odds that the asteroid could slam into a satellite are also “extremely remote,” he added.
Asteroid 2012 DA14 is a fairly typical type of asteroid. Earth comes into “close” contact with such asteroids about every 50 years, and is only hit by them every 1,200 years, Yeomans estimated. The impact of an asteroid like 2012 D14 would not be catastrophic over a wide area, Yeomans said.
NASA officials explained asteroid 2012 DA14 is roughly the same size as the object that exploded in the atmosphere above Siberia in 1908, which leveled hundreds of square miles in what scientists refer to as the “Tunguska Event.”
An asteroid about the same size as 2012 DA14 slammed into the Earth 50,000 years ago, creating the famous Meteor Crater in Arizona, Yeomans said. Although, that asteroid responsible for the Meteor Crater was made of iron, making its impact especially powerful.
Two years ago, CfA astronomers reported the discovery of giant, twin lobes of gamma-ray emission protruding about 50,000 light-years above and below the plane of our Milky Way galaxy, and centered on the supermassive black hole at our galaxy’s core. The scientists argued then that the bubbles were produced either by an eruption from the black hole sometime in the past, or else by a burst of star formation in that vicinity.
It now appears that these giant bubbles of hot gas can be seen at radio wavelengths as well. Writing in the new issue of the journal Nature, CfA astronomer Gianni Bernardi and eight of his colleagues describe finding humongous lobes of radio emission emanating from the Galactic Center.
Moreover, the emission is polarized, a general property that electromagnetic radiation can have; some sunglasses take advantage of the fact that reflected sunlight becomes polarized. In the case of radio wavelengths, the explanation for polarization is the presence of strong magnetic fields.
The scientists calculate that the radio lobes, which closely match the gamma-ray lobes in overall dimensions but which contain three ridge-like substructures, are probably polarized by the presence of strong magnetic fields that extend out of the galactic plane in both directions for tens of thousands of light-years, and which contain an energy roughly equivalent to the total current output of the Sun for a time equal to the lifetime of the Universe.
They argue that the activity is driven by star-formation activity, rather than black-hole activity, and that it originates in a region around the Galactic Center about 650 light-years in size. Not least, the scientists argue that the ridges seen in the magnetically-shaped outflow are the result of several episodes of star-formation that constitute a phonograph-like record of star formation in this region over at least the past ten million years.
January 26, 2013 – SPACE – INCOMING COMET: In little more than a month, Comet PanSTARRS will cross the orbit of Mercury and probably brighten to naked-eye visibility as it absorbs the heat of the nearby sun. Sky watchers around the world will be looking for it in the sunset skies of early March, when it passes closest to the sun and to Earth. Until then a telescope is required; here is the view last night through a 0.3-meter-diameter reflector in Argentina: A team of astronomers led by Martin Masek took the picture using the remotely-controlled F(/Ph)otometric Robotic Atmospheric Monitor—“FRAM” for short. “The stars are trailed in this 9x120s exposure, which tracked the comet,” explains Masel. Currently, the comet ranks about 8th magnitude, dimmer than the human eye can see, but it could brighten 100-fold on March 10th when it makes its closest approach to the sun (0.3 AU). The latest curves suggest that PanSTARRS will emerge glowing about as brightly as a 3rd magnitude star, similar to the stars in the Big Dipper. There might, however, be surprises in store. Comet PanSTARRS has never been to inner solar system before. It is falling in from the Oort cloud, a great swarm of comets beyond Neptune and Pluto unaltered by the warmth of the sun. When Comet PanSTARRS dips it toe inside the orbit of Mercury for the first time, almost anything could happen ranging from an anticlimatic “bake-out” to a spectacular disruption.
Editor’s note: Greg Bear is an internationally bestselling science-fiction author of many books, including “Moving Mars,” “Darwin’s Radio” and “Hull Zero Three.” As a freelance journalist, he covered 10 years of the Voyager missions at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
(CNN) — Look up at our nearest neighbor, the moon, and you’ll see stark evidence of the dangerous neighborhood we live in. The Man in the Moon was sculpted by large-scale events, including many meteor and asteroid impacts.
In 1994, the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 dove into Jupiter. The result was awesome. The impact caused a brilliant flash, visible in Earth telescopes, and left an ugly dark scar on Jupiter’s cold, gaseous surface.
With the recent fly-by of a 1,000-foot-wide asteroid labeled 99942 Apophis, one of a class of space rocks referred to as “near-Earth objects” or “Earth-grazers,” scientists have revised their worst estimates of its chances of striking Earth. Current thinking is: We’re safe. For the next couple of decades.
But this does not mean the danger is over. Far from it.
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