Ultima Thule, New Horizons, New Year And Brian May


 

In a few minutes space history will induct New Years Day 2019 into the cosmic hall of  fame. At 12:33 am EST on January 1, 2019 NASA’s New Horizons probe is tasked with making the farthest close approach fly-by of a space object in human history. Ultima Thule, a tiny Kuiper Belt object no more than 30 kilometers wide is about to be buzzed by the little mission that could. Linked below, a look no more definitive guide to NASA news conferences, live fly-by viewing and mission status.

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/Where-to-Watch.php

Moments ago astrophysicist, New Horizons science collaborator and Queen guitarist Brian May premiered his first solo song in twenty years – New Horizons (Ultima Thule Mix), a tribute to twelve years of New Horizons and her brush with Ultima Thule.

Happy New Year.

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Ultima Thule


A billion miles beyond Pluto, deep within mysteries of the Kuiper Belt resides object 2014 MU69 -otherwise known as Ultima Thule. On New Years Day, January 1, 2019, NASA will make space history when New Horizons buzzes past Ultima Thule, solidifying the farthest planetary flyby in human history.

On January 1st, 2019, shortly after the switch into the new year, New Horizons will make its close pass of Ultima Thule. Here’s what we’re poised to learn.NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker

Ultima Thule is the bright yellow spot in the middle. Image courtesy John Hopkins.

Passing at 2,200 miles, science hopes New Horizons can explain anomalous light reflected from Ultima Thule. Is Ultima Thule two orbiting objects, one elongated object, a miniscule planet orbited by many tiny light reflecting moons?

We’ll have to wait and see. Meanwhile, say Ultima Thule out loud – science fiction couldn’t script a better name for a mysterious cosmic object.

https://earthsky.org/space/new-horizons-approaching-ultima-thule-dec-2018

Apollo 8, A Story of Christmas Around the Moon


December 21, 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of NASA’s momentous Apollo 8 mission. Three days after launch, on Christmas Eve 1968, astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders became the first humans to orbit the Moon, the first to see an Earthrise above the lunar surface. Ponder NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine as he looks back on Apollo 8.

https://history.nasa.gov/SP-4029/Apollo_08a_Summary.htm

Astronomy Of Ancient Cave Art


We’ve all seen images of prehistoric cave art. What if I told you primitive cave drawings represent far more than animals? Ponder the possibility they depict astronomical observations.

A paper published on November 2, 2018 by researchers at Edinburgh and Kent Universities in the Athens Journal of History suggest animal symbols represent constellations and document ancient comet strikes.

The Shaft Scene in the Lascaux Caves in France. It’s one of the world’s most famous examples of ancient cave art, featuring a dying man and several animals. Researchers now say artwork might commemorate a comet strike around 15,200 BC. Image via Alistair Coombs.

Researchers carbon dated ancient cave paint, compared their findings with historical star charts and concluded cave paintings up to 40,000 years old represent astronomical awareness.

Pillar 43, Enclosure D, also known as the Vulture Stone of Göbekli Tepe. Image via Martin B. Sweatman and Dimitrios Tsikritsis. From https://earthsky.org/human-world/prehistoric-cave-art-suggests-ancient-use-complex-astronomy?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=229dcdbf28-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_02_02_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-229dcdbf28-393970565

The researchers reinterpreted earlier findings from a study of stone carvings at one of these sites – Göbekli Tepe in modern-day Turkey – which is interpreted as a memorial to a devastating comet strike around 11,000 B.C. This strike was thought to have initiated a mini ice-age known as the Younger Dryas period.”

Until publication of this paper, history credited the Greeks with astronomical recognition of the gradual shift of Earth’s rotational axis, a certainty we call precession of the equinoxes, ( motion of equinoxes along the plan of Earth’s orbit ). New research tells a cosmic tale of an ancient humanity far more sophisticated than we thought possible, ancients who understood the gradual shift of Earth’s rotational axis. People who used this knowledge to track seasons, illustrate astronomical events and navigate intricacies of human migration. That’s worth pondering.

 

Approaching Comet As Big As The Full Moon


Work ground to a halt this afternoon when an alert from http://spaceweather.com/ declared, “A Comet As Big As the Full Moon” was fast approaching Earth. I read on…

On Dec. 16th, Comet 46P/Wirtanen will approach Earth less than 11.5 million km away–making it one of the 10 closest-approaching comets of the Space Age. It’s a small comet, with a nucleus barely 1 km wide, but such proximity makes even a small things appear large. The comet’s gaseous atmosphere is now as wide as a full Moon. Mike Broussard of Perry, Louisiana, photographed the comet on Dec. 2nd and inserted the Moon for scale:”

Logically, a full moon size comet wasn’t about to graze Earth. Kudos for making me click, but the key phrase is “proximity makes even a small thing look large”. 46P is a Jupiter-family comet, one of over 400 identified comets with orbital periods less than 20 years, whose farthest point from the Sun is near the orbit of Jupiter. From https://www.space.com/42575-see-comet-64p-wirtanen-earth-flyby-december-2018.html ….

Jupiter-family comets will occasionally have their orbits perturbed when they make a close approach to Jupiter because its strong gravitational field can alter — sometimes quite significantly — a comet’s path through space.

In the case of 46P/Wirtanen, it underwent two such interactions with Jupiter — in April 1972 and February 1984 — that pushed its orbit about 50 million miles closer to the sun as well as very near to the orbit of Earth. With its current orbital period of 5.4 years, it has been alternating between evening-sky and morning-sky returns. But the evening-sky returns have been getting progressively more favorable.

Comet 46P Wirtanen
Taken by Gerald Rhemann on December 3, 2018 @ Farm Tivoli, Namibia, SW – Africa

Bottom line – On December 16, 2018 at 8:06 a.m. EST, 46P/Wirtanen will pass 11,586,350 kilometers from Earth, making 46P one of the top ten close approaches since 1950 and top twenty since the 9th century A.D.

 

Comet 46P/Wirtanen will be closest to Earth on Dec. 16, 2018. Look for it above the eastern horizon after dusk all month long! It will be bright enough to see with the naked eye, and will look even more spectacular with binoculars and telescopes.

Credit: SkySafari App

 

 

Violet Road


Last week astro-photographer Adrien Mauduit filmed the first ever live concert under the Northern Lights. From the aurora borealis observatory in Senja, Norway – ponder Norwegian band Violet Road performing “Keep on Running” under aurora’s light….

Follow Adrien Mauduit at – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCC0CLzCpM6nuLSAi1JNBjkA