On February 24, 2007 a massive west Texas dust storm blew into north central Texas. These images show the extent of the dust in the atmosphere. Drivers had to use their headlights in the afternoon. Folks with breathing problems were warned to stay indoors, etc. The storm left a layer of dust on everything. Note the during and after shot below.
On September 11, 2013 a meteor about the size a Smart Car and weighing about 400 kg, travelling at 38,000 mph vaporized in a brilliant flash as it hit the Moon. This is the longest and brightest confirmed impact flash ever observed on the Moon. The meteor exploded with the equivalent of about 15 tons of TNT and it’s estimated that the resulting crater could be about 40 meters in diameter.
Prof. José M. Madiedo from the University of Huelva in Spain was operating two telescopes that are part of the Moon Impacts Detection and Analysis System (MIDAS) which monitors the moon’s surface for these events. At 20:07 GMT on September 11, 2013 he witnessed an unusually long and bright flash in Mare Nubium. The event lasted for about 8 seconds as the bright flash slowly faded. Watch the video above for complete details on the MIDAS project and see the actual video of the impact.
Interest in watching for satellites has really increased over the past decade mainly due to the International Space Station being assembled in orbit, growing in size and brightness, etc. The amount of hardware orbiting over head has also increased. With all this stuff circling around above, your chances of seeing one of these spacecraft glide across the pre-dawn or evening sky only increases. Perhaps you’ve seen a “moving star” yourself and wondered what it might be? An airplane perhaps? But wait, there were no navigation lights blinking to give it away. Maybe it was a UFO? Chances are what you saw was a satellite silently sweeping across the sky, and possibly looking down at you.
The Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) planetary science mission is scheduled for launch in September 2016. This is the third mission in the New Frontiers Program, along with Juno and New Horizons. OSIRIS-REx will study and return a sample of asteroid 101955 Bennu to Earth in 2023. Material returned is expected to enable scientists to learn more about the time before the formation and evolution of the Solar System, initial stages of planet formation, and the source of organic compounds which led to the formation of life.
After traveling about two years, the spacecraft will rendezvous with asteroid Bennu and start to surface map that object at a distance of approximately 3 miles for about a year and half. Interestingly, the spacecraft will be guided down close enough to Bennu to extend its robotic arm to reach out and collect a sample of the asteroid. That sample will be returned to Earth in a capsule ultimately landing in Utah in 2023. The capsule will then be transported to the Johnson Space Center for processing and research.
You can tag alone with the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. Well sort of. NASA and The Planetary Society are inviting you to submit your name for a round-trip ride to asteroid Bennu. Your name will hitch a ride to the asteroid, spend 500 days there, and return in the Sample Return Capsule. Plus your name will be on the spacecraft, which will remain in space long after returning the sample return capsule to Earth. Sound like fun?
Do you know someone under 17 years of age who loves to write and has a passion for astronomy? If so, you might want to let them know about the Astronomy magazine 2014 Youth Essay Contest. The prompt is “What I love best about astronomy” but you had better hurry! The magazine is accepting entries now through February 14, 2014.
The winner and a parent or guardian will earn a trip to the 2014 Northeast Astronomy Forum in Suffern, New York. The forum runs April 12 to 13, 2014 and as the essay winner you’ll be the special guest of Astronomy Magazine.
All entries must include the writer’s name, address, age, and a parent or guardian’s telephone number and email address. Entrants must be 17 years of age or younger on May 1, 2014. The Astronomy staff will judge the entries. The winner will be announced on the Astronomy.com website February 28. Visit Astronomy Magazine’s web site for complete contest rules.
So sharpen your pencil and tell Astronomy what you love best about the hobby and you just might be picked for a special trip to the “big apple” where you’ll hobnob with the astroriffic at NEAF.
Where: Tarleton Observatory on Hunewell Ranch near Stephenville, TX. When: Friday evening February 28, 2014 beginning @ 5:30 p.m. Who: Open to the Public Questions: Planetarium 254-968-0523 Directions: Click here for map to the observatory.
Have you ever peered through a 32” research grade telescope? If not, here is your chance.
There will be a star party that is open to the public at Tarleton University’s observatory on February 28, 2014. Party goers will be able to look through the big scope in the dome and through scopes provided by attendees. TSU is encouraging you to bring your own telescope if you have one to share the view with others. The alternative date will be March 7, 2014 if weather does not permit.