September 24, 2020 Close Encounter


On September 24, 2020 tiny asteroid 2020 SW ( roughly 6 – 10 meter diameter ) will pass between Earth and the Moon at 7.7 Km per second ( that’s 27,900 km/h ). At closest approach 28,254 kilometers away, a mere 7% of distance to the Moon. Closer than communication and meteorological satellites locked in orbit at 38,000ish kilometers above our planet. Close enough for gravity to alter velocity and bend 2020 SW’s trajectory.

Astronomers confidently stress there’s nothing to fear, 2020 SW won’t unleash calamity. Not now or for the next fifty years of calculated orbit.

Infinitely more remarkable than online chatter surrounding a “near miss”, is the fact 2020 SW was discovered on September 18, 2020, completely unknown until a few days ago. It’s been orbiting Earth every 372 days for who knows how long, nobody noticed until now. Brings to mind Chelyabinsk, Russia on February 15, 2013 – global eyes fixated on known asteroid DA 14 making a close fly-by. Without warning, unidentified cosmic rubble struck our atmosphere from another direction. Exploding over Chelyabinsk, injuring over a thousand residents to the dismay of stunned astronomers.

Long green line swooping around and away from earth, and yellow arrow pointing out from Earth.

Small asteroid 2020 SW will pass so close to Earth on September 24, that our planet’s gravity will alter the space rock’s speed and bend its path through space. The green line indicates the asteroid’s trajectory, while the yellow line points to the sun. Gray line represents the Moon’s orbit, but not to scale. Illustration by the Minor Planet Center, with modifications by Eddie Irizarry.

2020 SW won’t be visible to the naked eye, but interested sky watchers can watch live online at Virtual Telescope Project in Rome. Linked below –

Poster advertising live event for viewing asteroid 2020 SW on September 23.

View larger. | The Virtual Telescope Project in Rome will be showing asteroid 2020 SW live a few hours its closest approach. The live feed is scheduled for September 23, 2020 starting at 22 UTC; translate UTC to your time. To join online, go to Virtual Telescope’s website.

Cosmic gak abounds, the universe undulates in incomprehensible maelstroms of its own design. For every identified potentially hazardous asteroid, countless more tiptoe in obscurity. Be it light pollution, sunward approaching objects, observational limitations, rogue insurgents ejected from the asteroid belt, there’s no end to reasons why near Earth objects catch us off guard.

Sky chart with constellations, Mars, and tick marks for location of asteroid.

Location of Asteroid 2020 SW on the night of Wednesday, September 23, at around 10:30 pm CDT (03:30 UTC on September 24). Facing east, as seen from U.S. The space rock will be located not too far from where we see the star Algenib (Gamma Pegasi), in the Great Square of Pegasus. Illustration by Eddie Irizarry using Stellarium.

600 Moons of Jupiter


Jupiter has 79 known moons, second only to 82 identified moons of Saturn. That’s a lot of moons, but what if Jupiter had 600 moons? How cool would that be? University of British Columbia researchers Edward Ashton, Matthew Beaudoin and Brett Gladman studied archival images of Jupiter taken over a 3 hour period on Sept. 8, 2020 at Canada, France, Hawaii Telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Factoring in variation of movement across the field of view, they digitally combined images from 126 different viewpoints. Voila – 52 possibly unknown Jovian moons appeared, Further analysis kicked 7 to the curb (known moons with irregular orbits), leaving 45 eager applicants vying for official Jovian moon status. Curiously, all in retrograde orbit. ( orbiting backward in relation to Jupiter’s orbit ).

So why 600 unidentified moons of Jupiter? Their search was limited to one square degree of view of space surrounding Jupiter. Extrapolation concluded as many as 600 or more unknown moons of Jupiter. Lead researchers will present their findings virtually on Sept. 25, 2020 at the Europlanet Science Congress 2020.

Admittedly these moons are small, 800 meters or so, struggling or barely within reach of IAU (International Astronomical Union ) rules requiring one kilometer in diameter to qualify as moons. Stark contrast to Ganymede – Jupiter’s largest moon, largest moon in our solar system, a moon larger than planets Mercury and Mars.

See the source image

https://www.sott.net/article/441048-New-detections-suggests-Jupiter-could-have-600-moons

Not a day goes by without science learning more about the cosmos, 600 possible moons of Jupiter is remarkable. Hats off to science.

Finding Polaris – Embrace the North Star


Ah Polaris, commonly known as the North Star – humanities guide since the dawn of time. Located directly above the north celestial pole, northern hemisphere skies rotate around this near constant pole star. Knowing where to find Polaris means you’ll always know which direction to travel. Face Polaris, stretch your arms out sideways – the right hand points due east, the left due west. About face and you’re pointed south.

Very many bright concentric circles in sky around a bright irregular dot, trees in foreground.

Ken Christison captured these glorious star trails around Polaris, the North Star. He wrote, “For the most common and often the most spectacular star trails, you want to locate Polaris and compose the image so it is centered horizontally and hopefully you can have a bit of foreground for reference.”

To find Polaris locate the Big Dipper, focus on Dubhe and Merak, two stars forming the outermost edge of Big Dipper’s bowl. In your mind’s eye draw a straight line to the tip of Little Dipper’s handle – voila, that’s Polaris the North Star.

Think of northern hemisphere skies as a clock with Polaris at the centre, the line from Dubhe and Merak to Polaris as the hour hand. The Big Dipper rotates once around Polaris every 23 hours, 56 minutes. A few minutes short of a day, equivalent to 361 degrees in 24 hours. As such the North Star moves ever so slightly with each passing day. What never falters is the hour hand from the outermost bowl of Big Dipper to Polaris. Find the Big Dipper, you’ll locate the North Star. Do that and you’ll never be lost in the woods.

Diagram: White sky with four black Big Dippers in a circle around Polaris.

If you’re in the northern U.S., Canada or at a similar latitude, the Big Dipper is circumpolar for you, always above the horizon. Image via burro.astr.cwru.edu.

Cloud Streets


Cloud streets are long rows of cumulus cloud oriented parallel to the direction of wind. Cloud streets are a product of convection – rolling waves of rising warm air met by sinking layers of upper atmosphere cold air. Atmospheric science 101 – clouds form when water droplets contained in rising warm air condense on introduction to sinking cold air.

http://www.eumetrain.org/satmanu/CMs/ClStr/navmenu.php?page=2.0.0

Morning cloud streets over Vancouver Island. Image via CTV News Vancouver Island.

Thin parallel lines of clouds extending from ice shelf in black-and-white orbital photo.

The MODIS instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite captured these cloud streets over the Bering Sea on January 20, 2006. Image via Jesse Allen/ NASARead more about this image.

Cloud streets are technically called horizontal convection rolls. Typically observed from satellite eyes above, cloud streets generally form over vast expanses of ocean water. Unique to cloud streets are cloud free zones on either side created by sinking cold air.

Every cloud has a story, explanation and reason for being there. Next time you look up, remind yourself of exquisitely balanced natural forces responsible for life as we know it.

Calming Adrien Mauduit Timelapse


Still reeling from forced WordPress block editor assault, I need to calm down. What better way than Milky Way timelapse by Adrien Mauduit at Night Lights Films?

Take a deep breath Notes, you’ll figure this out. So what if adding a “classic editor” plugin requires upgrading to a $33 monthly business plan? Nice try WordPress, who do you think you are? Has WordPress forgotten millions of users like myself? Think users thirst for layers of bloated navigation? Fancy itself a social media influencer? Is nothing sacred? Nothing spared pressure to monetarize, distribute click bait or promote private enterprise for personal gain?

Milky Way timelapse represents hope. Hope I figured out how to post a video using block editor, hope I’ll learn intricacies of WordPress Gutenberg block editor and hope WordPress doesn’t forget what made it special.

Dogs Trained To Sniff Out Coronavirus


Lead researcher Dominique Grandjean at France’s National Veterinary School of Alfort is training dogs to sniff out COVID-19. Since March eager canine noses have been exposed to sweat samples from people infected with coronavirus. Accurate detection requires 6-8 weeks training for dogs already primed to detect other triggers, 3-6 months training for rookie canines. Once dialed in, dogs exposed to a line of sweat samples can identify COVID with close to 100% accuracy. Notably identifying asymptomatic persons with remarkable acuity.

These dogs are trained to sniff out the coronavirus

Muzzle of a white dog, closeup on its nose.

On average, dogs have about 220 million scent receptors. Image via Shutterstock/

Today, COVID sniffer dogs are being trained in the UAE, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Belgium. In the UAE (United Arab Emirates) COVID-19 detector dogs now patrol airports. The ability to identify asymptomatic infection is huge, perhaps the difference between boarding a plane safely, or sitting next to someone unaware they’re carrying the virus.

Is That a Half Moon?


In astronomy there’s no such thing as a half-moon. Only quarters, be it first or last quarter of a lunar month.

What appears as a half moon is actually one of the Moon’s quarter phases. Tonight (August 25, 2020) marks a first quarter moon. Viewed from anywhere on Earth, it appears at sunset, sets after midnight. Gazing skyward we see half a moon pie, What you’re seeing is half the moon’s day-side, but only a quarter of the whole moon. Measured from one new moon to the next, it’s one quarter around its orbit of Earth. Reason why there are no half moons in astronomy.

First quarter moons are characterized by “Lunar X and V”, specific locations illuminated by sunlight. A spectacle known as pareidolia.

Half of the moon with tiny labeled X and V shapes along straight edge.

“Lunar X and Lunar V appear when the moon is near its 1st quarter phase. They aren’t really Xs and Vs on the moon. They’re just high areas, catching sunlight, creating an example of pareidolia on the moon. Aqilla Othman in Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia, caught them both in May 2017. Notice that he caught Lunar X and Lunar V.”

Telescopic closeup of band of mountains on moon with a few large craters.

“Tom Wildoner wrote: “One of my favorite areas to photograph on the moon near the 1st quarter! I captured this view of the sun lighting up the mountain range called Montes Apenninus. The moon was casting a nice shadow on the back side of the mountains. This mountain range is about 370 miles (600 km) long with some of the peaks rising as high as 3.1 miles (5 km).””

Half-lit Earth from north, and half-lit moon with divisions between dark and light sides lined up.

Click here to see animation. As seen from the north side of the moon’s orbital plane, the Earth rotates counterclockwise on its rotational axis, and the moon revolves counterclockwise around Earth. The terminators of the Earth and moon align at first and last quarter moons, and only the near half of the moon’s day side is visible from Earth.

1st quarter moon is August 25

U.S. Election Day Asteroid Hysteria


Trust internet jibber-jabber to spark cosmic hysteria. Armageddon click bait drools over any opportunity to create viral asteroid calamity. Today it’s asteroid 2018 VP1, a 2 meter rock with 0.4% chance of entering our atmosphere on November 2nd.

See the source image

First identified on November 3,  2018 at Palomar Observatory in California at a distance of 450,000 Km from Earth,  2018 VP1 was observed for 12.9 days. It hasn’t been seen since. NASA scientists at JPL Horizons used distance, angle and speed to calculate a two year orbit. Pipsqueak 2018 VP1 is expected to return on or about November 3, 2020. A lot can happen in two years after only 12.9 days of observation, enter LOV, the line of variation. LOV dictates orbital swing from direct impact to unremarkable pass-by 3.7 million Km away.  Either way,  2018 VP1 doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. Too small to classify as a PHA (potentially hazardous asteroid), so small that atmosphere would fry it long before surface contact.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_VP1

I’m all for cosmic awareness, delight in media coverage off all things space. That said, few things frost me more than doomsday internet froth promoting cosmic annihilation.

Detected 6 Hours After the Fact


On August 16, 2020 undetected asteroid 2020 QG swept past Earth at a distance of 2,900 Km. Described as “truck size” ( 20 feet, 3-6 meters across ), traveling at 12.4 Km per second, 2020 QG approached from a sunward direction. Reason why astronomers didn’t see it until six hours later. Despite post event assurance there was never any danger, it’s sobering to ponder fragility of our existence. Asteroid 2020 QG now holds the record for closest “known” asteroid to pass without an Earth strike.

Animated image of tiny object passing Earth.

View larger. | This illustration shows asteroid 2020 QG’s trajectory bending during its close approach to Earth. The asteroid is the closest known nonimpacting asteroid ever detected. Image via NASA/ JPL-Caltech.

Small Earth, with green line going past it bent around where it comes nearest Earth, and also the moon's orbit shown.

View larger. | The blue ball in the lower left of this image represents Earth. The curved green arrow represents asteroid 2020 QG, whose orbit was changed by its near-Earth encounter on Sunday. The tick marks on the green line represent 30-minute intervals. You can see that this asteroid was really zooming past! Image via Minor Planet Center.

Truck-sized asteroid swept within 2,000 miles on Sunday

Science admits “gaps” in detection of sunward approaching asteroids. Current telescopes can only detect asteroids at night. When identified, orbit is calculated to determine potential for a future collision. Rather clunky if you ask me. NASA is in early stage development of a telescope to detect asteroids and comets coming from the Sun’s direction. If all goes well and funding remains in place, the Near-Earth Object Surveillance Mission could be operational by 2025.

For now all we can do is hope incoming sunward objects aren’t pesky enough to unleash calamity.

Not Too Late to Ponder Comet NEOWISE


On March 27, 2020 C/2020 F3 was discovered by astronomers at WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer), a NASA space telescope launched in 2009. – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wide-field_Infrared_Survey_Explorer . On March 31, 2020 it gained official comet status, April 1, 2020 saw it dubbed comet NEOWISE. In a nutshell comets are cosmic objects comprised of ice, dust and space gak presenting a observable tail courtesy close orbital proximity to the Sun. (hence, ice melt)  NEOWISE, current darling of space and common observers alike, made closest approach to the Sun on July 3, 2020. The rest is history, history which won’t be repeated until NEOWISE returns in 6,800 years.

Comet NEOWISE is a rare naked eye cosmic spectacle. A remarkably bright experience afforded Northern Hemisphere residents willing to find a dark place, look northwest after sunset toward the Big Dipper to catch a glimpse of NEOWISE.

https://www.space.com/comet-neowise-strange-facts.html?utm_source=Selligent&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=9155&utm_content=SDC_Newsletter+&utm_term=3580249&m_i=dStOzCRRSVnQXbejZr4A4D0CjNmLoDniLEav%2BJqEI19uyt1Z%2BawSQE9xCCP7rAta4J4Z08SYh53ttnROnALyZpoYwJSMJNhcIVdLI_dddc

NEOWISE-F3-July-4-2020-Chris-Schur-S.jpg (1140×712)

 

See the source image

https://www.ibtimes.com/nasa-offers-tips-how-see-visible-comet-neowise-3012079