Thursday, November 28, 2013

ISON: Dead, Alive, or Faking It?

ISON update 11/28/13 6:30PM EST.

Well, well, well. After making about a bajillion posts on Facebook about ISON, the long 50 million year journey from Mr. Oort'd Cloud, its perilous and much watched advance toward the Sun, its perihelion journey, and its apparent death, it now looks like some of it may have lived! Damn comets!

Above image is compliments of It shows what MIGHT be a small bit of ISON still traveling in the trajectory it was heading in hours ago. Reports from ESA, European Space Agancy, via CNN claim this is nothing more than some of the original tail of ISON, but the nucleus (solid part) is gone.

Stay tuned, this may be the Little Comet That Could.

Comet ISON Updates 11/28/2013

I've been busy running a few online things about ISON, including a TV appearance on WTNH Ch8 show called CT Style, and have neglected my own blog... A few online updates at

1. 09/16 Tracking Comet ISON (Interview with Meteorologist Erika Martin)
2. 10/18 ISON Coming Into View (Interview with Meteorologist Erika Martin)
3. 11/20/ ISON Comes Alive

4. My TV appearance on CT Style show chatting about ISON. Here's a few updates on ISON! It's looking GOOD!

Both above images compliments of NASA's SOHO.

In the last few days, NASA and the proverbial ton of amateur astronomers have been keeping their collective eyes on ISON as it makes its “death” plunge toward the Sun. The above images are stills from a sequence of 97 shots taken by NASA’s SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) yesterday and today (Wed & Thurs). Note a few things:

1. ISON brightens drastically overnight! This is great news! It means the Sun is blowing off gases by sublimating ice and not just making ISON fall apart by shedding dirt and rocks. The indication here is that ISON is still intact and MAY make it all the way. He says with fingers crossed…
2. ISON’s double tail is evident! The brighter “upper” tail is dirt & dust falling off after the ice holding it in place is gone. The longer fainter tail is the ion tail caused by solar winds (high energy protons & electrons) smacking into the gases surrounding the comet, knocking electrons off these atoms, then as the electrons scramble to reform with these now positively charged gas molecules, they emit light by dropping back to their ground state.
3. In both images, solar CME’s are evident. In the first image, you can clearly see a Coronal Mass Ejection expanding downward. In the 2nd image, one is seen heading toward the seven o’clock position. Had one of these smacked ISON directly, it may have spelled an early doom.

This image is a composite of three observatories.

According to Dr. Phil Plait at (personal friend and hero):

The picture above is a combination of three different views from space-based solar observatories taken at 16:45 UTC (11:45 EST) today [Wednesday 11/27/2013]. I’ll explain, but the important thing to note is that ISON looks intact, despite earlier worries, and is poised to put on quite a show. In the picture, the inner (orangish) circle is the disk of the Sun seen by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, observed in the far ultraviolet. It’s there to give you a sense of scale; mind you, the Sun is about 1.4 million km (860,000 miles) across. The red ring is from the NASA/ESA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, showing the space directly around the Sun. The streamers are from the solar wind, subatomic particles flung out by the Sun’s fierce magnetic field. The blue is also from SOHO, but shows a much larger area around the Sun (the black line to the upper right is an arm that holds a disk of metal used to block out the direct light from the Sun, allowing fainter objects to be seen).
Above image compliments of Damian Peach (UK Astrophotographer) &

Want to watch ISON live today as it makes the perihelion trip? NASA is running a live Google+ hangout with real honest-ta-goodness scientists and live telescope views from around the world and space. Again, according to Phil Plait:

But you can watch the whole thing live, with me, and a pile of NASA scientists on Google+! NASA is holding a live video Hangout on G+ during ISON’s perihelion passage (peri = close, helion = Sun, so perihelion is the closest point in an object’s orbit to the Sun). The event is from 18:00 – 20:30 UTC (1:00 – 3:30 p.m. EST). There will be live feed from NASA’s SOHO Sun-observing satellite (that should be spectacular) and from the Kitt Peak Observatory solar telescope. Guests include astronomers C. Alex Young, W. Dean Pesnell, Karl Battams (who runs theSunGrazingComets feed on Twitter), and me! I’ll be on from 1:30 – 2:30 EST to talk about the comet, the Sun, and what we’ll be seeing on the screen. We’ll also be answering questions live from Twitter; ask away using the hashtags#ISON and #askNASA.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Absolutely Incredible Video of a Perseid Meteor EXPLODING!

Via Universe Today,
Personally, I’ve never seen anything like this, and photographer and digital artist Michael K. Chung said he couldn’t believe what he saw when he was processing images he took for a timelapse of the Perseid meteor shower. It appears he captured a meteor explosion and the resulting expansion of a shock wave or debris ring. “It was taken early in the morning on August 12, 2013 from my backyard in Victorville, CA,” Michael told Universe Today via email. “The fade to white is NOT an edit- it is overexposure due to the sun coming up. From what I can tell, the timelapse sequence of the explosion and expanding debris span an actual time of approximately 20 minutes.”
Read more:

Friday, February 15, 2013

Russian Meteor Impacts CONFIRMED!

This is a startling reminder that "Space Is a Dangerous Place"!

Image: RM-Crater Image Credit: RT ] Photo courtesy of the press service of the Interior Ministry's Main Directorate for the Chelyabinsk Region.(RIA Novosti)

News just broke from RT Online ( ) that three distinct impact sites have been located! Two are in a frozen lake (images on next slides) and one in a near-by town. I quote RT: "Army units found three meteorite debris impact sites, two of which are in an area near Chebarkul Lake, west of Chelyabinsk. The third site was found some 80 kilometers further to the northwest, near the town of Zlatoust. One of the fragments that struck near Chebarkul left a crater six meters in diameter.”

Above image is a confirmed meteorite strike. This is, according to the Russian Interior Miisistry, the hole bored into a frozen lake just out of town. Small black “fragments” measuring 1-cm of “black matter”, not to be confused with Dark Matter, were found spread around the impact site. There is apparently another hole in the ice of the same lake and one small crater found 80-km northwest of Chebarkul. This is too cool! Reports also state that a zinc factory in town was struck by a fragment and collapsed. Images are not conclusive and investigators are searching the rubble as I type.

Before you buy into most of the media hype/errors, here is what we know at this point about the Russian Meteor of 02/15/2013.

[IMAGE: Dashcam image from Universe Today Online]
First, the words. A meteoroid is a small-ish rock that happens to be “floating” around in space. They are all over the solar system; floating around like a huge swarm of gnats. Most are sand-grain to large boulder sized rocks. During a typical meteor shower, as I wrote about the December 2012 Geminids extensively, are just “clouds” of sand-grain sized pieces of dirt and ice left over from comet passes.

However, some meteoroids, like this one, are large. Not nearly as large as the asteroid 2012 DA14 that will pass close to the earth later today. As I also wrote about this asteroid previously, 2012 DA14 is about 50 meters wide and ‘weighs’ in at a staggering 190,000 metric tons (tonnes)! If an asteroid this size hits the earth, it would more than ruin your day… This Russian meteoroid is estimated at 8 tonnes. Most if it burned up in the atmosphere as witnessed in the above image from Universe Today. Note the “split trail”. This indicates the meteoroid broke into at least two pieces then further disintegrated from there.

The telltale light trail left behind by a meteoroid streaking through the atmosphere is called a meteor. This is what is commonly and erroneously referred to as a “shooting” or “falling star”. These have nothing to do with stars. Nothing.

If this meteoroid survives the trip through the atmosphere and lands on the surface, it is then called a meteorite. Rest assured, there will be troops of meteor hunters scouring the Russian landscape searching for surviving meteorites.

In fact, as I type this, news just broke from RT Online that three distinct impact sites have been located! Two are in a frozen lake (images on next slides) and one in a near-by town. I quote RT: Army units found three meteorite debris impact sites, two of which are in an area near Chebarkul Lake, west of Chelyabinsk. The third site was found some 80 kilometers further to the northwest, near the town of Zlatoust. One of the fragments that struck near Chebarkul left a crater six meters in diameter.”

Image : Factory RT ]

The above is an amateur shot of the zinc factory downtown that media, particularly FOX, is claiming got hit by the meteorite. NOT CONFIRMED! It is more likely the building was damaged by the huge shock wave (sonic boom) from the passage of the meteor as seen in so many other videos online. YouTube is full of videos showing windows and doors and even garage doors being blown out from the sonic boom.

Meteor streak as seen from Weather satellite Meteosat 10 has taken an image of the meteorite shortly after entering the atmosphere.(Copyright 2013 © EUMETSAT)

So, stay tuned! This should be interesting!