02 - Full Moon
at 19:14 UT
05 - Taurid
(south) meteor shower peaks. Active
between 25 Sept and 25 Nov.
Associated with Comet 2P/Encke.
09 - Moon near
Mars (morning sky) at 14h UT. Mag. +0.3.
12 -Taurid (north) meteor
shower peaks. May produce the occasional
17 -Leonid meteor shower
peaks at 9h UT. Arises from debris ejected
Comet Tempel-Tuttle in 1533. Expect about 25
to 30 meteors per hour under
dark skies. Predictions of enhanced activity
between 21-22h UT on 17 Nov
(favours sky watchers in Asia).
21 -Alpha Monocerotid meteor
shower peaks at 15:25 UT. A usually minor
shower active 15-25 Nov. Radiant is near Procyon.
Predictions of enhanced
activity this year. Timing favours Far East
Asia, Australia and across the
Pacific to Alaska.
00 0 0
0 0 0//
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Monday, January 30, 2006
An Up-close with Comet Fragments
This close-up picture of comet Wild 2 fragments was recently published on JPL website. The image shows a particle impact on the aluminum frame that holds the aerogel tiles from the Stardust collector grid. The debris from the impact shot into the adjacent aerogel tile, producing the explosion pattern of ejecta framents captured in the material. Click here for the high resolution image. (- image credit:JPL)
Astronomers Detected An Earth-Like Planet Outside Solar System
For the first time, a low mass, rocky planet like our Earth was discovered. The new planet lies 25,000 light years away, close to the galactic core of the Milky Way. The planet, designated OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb, is located 390 million km from its parent star, the distance that will put the planet orbit between Mars and Jupiter in our solar system. The planet's surface is a frigid -220 C (-365 F) that the chance of life spawning on the planet is almost null. The parent star that hosted the planet is red dwarf, just like our Sun but relatively cooler. The astronomers used a method called "gravitational microlensing" to detect the presence of the planet. A methode which is relatively new but it's said more effective in finding low mass planets. So far, there's about 170 planets outside the solar system have been discovered, but most of them are at the size of the giant planet, Jupiter.
Stellar disks around two stars may resembles our Kuiper Belt. That's the newest discovery of Hubble Space Telescope on its survey over 22 nearby stars. The two stars lies about 60 light years away and bring to nine the number of stars with dusty debris disks observable at visible wavelengths. The new ones are different, however, in that they are old enough - more than 300 million years - to have settled into stable configurations akin to the stable planet and debris orbits in our own solar system, which is 4.6 billion years old. The other seven, except for the sun, range from tens of millions to 200 million years old - young by solar standards. In addition, the masses of the stars are closer to that of the sun.
The finding was reported by Paul Kalas and Michael Fitzgerald of the Univ of California, along with Mark C. Clampin of Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
A Nine Years' Voyage to Pluto Has Just Been Started
The first challange to explore the last planet has been passed. NASA's New Horizon probe aboard Atlas 5 rocket lifted off from Cape Caneveral and now heading to Pluto. After 3 days delayed due to weather and power failure at the mission controller, the superfast Atlas 5 rocket finally blasted off from its launch pad. The nuclear powered spacecraft will travel at the breaking record speed at 10.07 mile per seconds - 36, 256 mph. With that speed the spacecraft is expected to cross the moon's orbit in just nine hours after liftoff and 13 months to reach Jupiter for a velocity boosting flyby. It will take nine years for New Horizon probe to reach Pluto due to enermous distance between Earth and Pluto (almost 50 times Earth - Sun distance).
Carrying the ashes of Pluto's discoverer, Clyde Tombaugh, New Horizons will race by the frozen planet July 14, 2015, passing within 5,500 miles of the icy, 1,460-mile-wide planet at 31,300 mph. Fourteen minutes later, the spacecraft will pass by Charon at a distance of 16,800 miles.
New Horizons' close encounter with Pluto will last a full day, 12 hours before and after. The spacecraft cannot enter orbit around the planet because no current rocket can launch a probe carrying enough fuel to arrest the velocity needed to get it there in a reasonable amount of time.
The next target after flying past Pluto will be objects in the region called Kuiper Belt. It's where recently two planet-sized objects were discovered. This mission is going to be a mission of exploration and discovery because no such mission has been carried out into such distant worlds.
The Stardust capsule descended flawlessly on Sunday morning bringing primitive samples from comet and interstellar dust. The capsule entered the Earth's atmosphere at high speed producing streaks of light in the sky and released a small parachute at 32 km altitude to slow its descent before landing on Utah desert. The mothership that jettisoned the capsule will end up in permanent orbit around the Sun. The probe has travelled for more than 4 billion km and took up 7 years journey to complete its mission. The goal of this mission is to unlock the secret of our solar system, by studying the comet particles and interstellar dust which is believed to be remnants of pristine materials of the solar system earliest history.
...Coming up next! Pluto New Horizon Probe is ready on the launch pad for the NASA's new grand tour to explore the ninth planet and its moon, Charon. Enrouted to the outskirt of our solar system, the probe will be launched on January 17 atop Atlas 5 rocket. The probe will travel for nine years to reach Pluto, and continue its grand tour into the Kuiper Belt region, a region that contains many icy bodies and is still unexplored by any spacecrafts to date.
I finally took out the t'scope yesterday night. There was a clear sky outside, the best time we have here since terrible viewing condition with cloudy sky and rains for couples of days. The most wanted-object to capture that night was Saturn. Saturn will be at brightest and closest to our planet at the end of this month. Then it would be a simple target to scan. But this time around not, as we are still in the early month. With the naked eye, Saturn was a bit hard to find, although I know it is somewhere in the eastern sky. Then, I used the sky map as a guide to search for the location. You can get the monthly calendar, including the skymap here. At around 11 pm, I pointed the t'scope towards the constellation Cancer, somewhere at one o'clock position to the east. It's there. The bright, yelowish star-looking planet shone brilliantly. With my small t'scope, I could see the ring. Fantastic, first time ever for me to see this planet with my small new t'scope. My friends, who are not enthustiastic in space and so eager to look at it, also enjoyed so much seeing this magnificent planet. The ring is now at the oblique angle seeing from earth.
Also, there were many brilliant objects visible that night. Mars -far to the western sky, the supergiant star Betelgeuse, Aldebaran, the seven sister Pleiades star cluster (outshine by the brightness of the moon that time), the brightest star of all Sirius, and the second brightest star Canopus.
Oort cloud, is a postulated spherical cloud
of comets situated about 50,000 to 100,000 AU from
the Sun. This is approximately 1000 times the distance
from the Sun to Pluto or roughly one light year, almost
a quarter of the distance from the Sun to Proxima
Centauri, the star nearest the Sun. The Oort cloud
would have its inner disk at the ecliptic from the
Kuiper belt. Although no direct observations have
been made of such a cloud, it is believed to be the
source of most or all comets entering the inner solar
system (some short-period comets may come from the
Kuiper belt), based on observations of the orbits
of comets. Source: Wikipedia