Looking South 2131 IST
Summer is here and one cannot miss Saturn and Mars in the night sky. Looking south-east, Saturn is a stunning magnitude 0 star right now, appearing towards the west limb of Scorpius ( more in Ophiuchus ). Saturn hits opposition tonight so its really bright. Also its rings are tilted 26 degrees to us earthlings, which means that small telescopes can get a really good viewing including the famous gap in the rings called the Cassini division. Mars also hit opposition a few days back so both planets should make backyard astronomers and enthusiasts extremely happy
Now don’t just sit there and read this. Grab your gear and get out and have fun under the sky.
Greetings Fellow Earthlings
Tonight step outside the house for a change and look West at sundown. You’ll be greeted with a spectacular planetary pair of Jupiter and Venus almost hugging each other in a nice visual conjunction. Kind of ironical considering Jupiter is God of War, and Venus is the God of Loveeee. This treat will continue for a few days so do not worry if you’re sitting under the clouds right now.
Sky and Telescope astronomy magazine suggested that the event closely resembles the Star of Bethlehem which, according to Christian tradition, revealed the birth of Jesus to the Biblical Magi, and later led them to Bethlehem.
Check out this dramatic time lapse footage of earth seen from the int’l space station at night. Pretty darn cool
You can see all the air glow, auroras and thunderstorms. The city lights are not real but an overlay captured using a special IR camera called Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS)
All in, a pretty spectacular video.. the music is quite dramatic too
Physicists R. Nemiroff (of APOD fame) and his student Teresa Wilson, recently published their results of a grand internet search to look for evidence of time travelers. In a nutshell they were looking for ‘time traveler activity’ over the internet, say a timer traveler used his time machine to move back in time and say…send an email, or put information online about world events that just happened way before it actually did. Time travel to the future is allowed by special relativity, however there is much debate if we can actually go back in time.
The search as you may have expected didn’t turn out much …. but made for a pretty good story.
To read more you can download their preprint paper here
The Autumn equinox happens today Sept 22nd at 2044 UTC. This moment marks the official end of summer in the Northern hemisphere and hopefully New Delhi too! Hopefully the weather gods will get the memo too. The autumn equinox marks the time of equal length days and nights. From now on nights will become longer than days in the northern hemisphere. Hopefully that would mean that mortals can sleep a bit more.
In 2004, astronomers at Kitt Peak Observatory in Arizona, USA discovered a near earth asteroid, dubiously named 99942 Apophis. The asteroid is about 200 m across in diameter. It became famous for being an asteroid with a rating of 4 on the Torino Imapact Hazard scale. Since 2006, the asteroid had been demoted to 0. However recent studies into the asteroid’s orbit has questioned the accuracy of this rating. Scientist in Russia think that there is a very real chance this asteroid will impact earth in 2036.
This observation has been refuted by NASA. According to Donald Yeomans, director of NASA’s near earth objects office claims that the probability of impact is currently 1/250,000.
Apophis will come within 5 earth radii distance of the earth in 2029. However if the asteroid passes within a region of space called the “keyhole” during this period, the orbit might change enough to cause impact with earth.
The predicted date of impact is April 13, 2036.
Apophis carries a massive Kinetic energy of 5.1e+02 Mega Tonnes of TNT equivalent. To put numbers in perspective, the Hiroshima nuclear bomb had a 20 Kilo tonnes yield.
However from preliminary calculations we did based on this article, a Apophis class asteroid will create a 4 Km wide impact crater on a direct hit.