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September was Historic, astronomically

For the first time ever, a meteor has grazed in and out of Earth's atmosphere, slowing enough to become a temporary satellite that lasted a full orbit. In other astronomical news, a comet was discovered by a couple of Russian astronomers that appears to have all of the ingredients to be one of the greatest comets in our lifetimes, and maybe one of the greatest in human civilization's history. New comet might blaze brighter than the full Moon This will be the second great comet of 2013.
posted by spock on Oct 3, 2012 - 72 comments

Solid Sunlight

Libyan Desert Glass is strewn over an area of hundreds of square kilometers in the Great Sand Sea, a region desolate even by the high standards of the Sahara. As one account of a recent trip to acquire Libyan Desert Glass puts it: "Out there, death sits on your shoulder like a vulture." While some would have you believe that Libyan Desert Glass is evidence of ancient atomic warfare, it is probably evidence of a massive meteorite or comet explosion nearly thirty million years ago, similar to Tunguska, but much bigger. The stone age Aterian peoples made tools from it, but the remoteness and inhospitality of the Great Sand Sea has ensured that until recent times it has mostly been undisturbed. However, a breast ornament buried in Tutankhamen's tomb has a scarab made from Libyan Desert Glass, the only piece made of the material to have been found by Egyptologists, and how Tutankhamen's jewelers acquired it has remained a mystery. Until now. [Previously]
posted by Kattullus on Dec 8, 2011 - 38 comments

It's SOHOt

On July 5th the SOlar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) captured video of a comet, known as a sungrazer, in route to collide with our star. SOHO is equipped with an occluding coronograph that blocks direct sunlight and reveals the corona, but also prevents direct study of the terminal impact of sungrazers. But on July 6th, with the help of the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), astronomers were able to observe the comet (slyt) streaking in front of the surface of the sun for the first time in history. It likely disintegrated before impact due to extreme heat and radiation.
posted by troll on Jul 8, 2011 - 18 comments

Puny Earthlings, you will be reduced to a smoldering sphere

The International Academy of Astronautics is holding the Planetary Defense Conference: Protecting Earth from Asteroids May 9-12, 2011. in Bucharest, Romania [more inside]
posted by IvoShandor on May 12, 2011 - 13 comments

Tempel 1 Part Deux

On February 14 NASA's Stardust-NExT mission revisited the comet Tempel 1. Tempel 1 was first visited by NASA's Deep Impact, which smashed into the comet back in July 2005. [more inside]
posted by IvoShandor on Feb 21, 2011 - 16 comments

"The planet . . . was scarcely any larger than a house!"

The Planetary Society's Emily Lakdawalla has prepared a scale image of every asteroid and comet ever visited by a spacecraft. [more inside]
posted by IvoShandor on Jul 21, 2010 - 15 comments

"We know you; you'll never be just a speck of light again."

The European Space Agency's Rosetta craft has returned stunning images of the asteroid 21 Lutetia, including this one which couples Lutetia with a member of our planetary family. [more inside]
posted by IvoShandor on Jul 13, 2010 - 21 comments

The Comet Hunters

The Story of a Comet Hunter (see also his web page which contains a link to the story of his discover of Comet Seki-Lines in 1962). Visual comet hunting has a long and intriguing history. Today visual hunters are adapting their ways to make visual discoveries in an age of automated searches. The amateur can still win. Now, ANYONE can discover a comet(?) Or perhaps 1000. A Guide for SOHO Comet Hunters. More SOHO and Sungrazing Comet Links. [Previously]
posted by spock on Apr 18, 2008 - 2 comments

Hello, you have reached moviephone spaceweatherphone

Tired of missing astrological events such as comets, eclipses, or meteor showers? With Spaceweatherphone's service, when auroras appear over your hometown, your phone will ring. When the space station is about to fly over your back yard, your phone will ring. When planets align ... you get the idea.
posted by localhuman on Jan 12, 2007 - 16 comments

Comet Machholz and the Comet Hunters

"Naked Eye" Comet Machholz (binoculars recommended) nears maximum brightness in the coming days ( starchart here and here). How to photograph a comet and other objects. The story of its discovery (his 10th). Comet hunters are an interesting breed. Now you can discover comets from your 'puter with SOHO imagery. If stargazing interests you, you may also like the Wunderground astronomy web application (based on U.S. zip codes).
posted by spock on Jan 4, 2005 - 7 comments

Shooting Stars

Step away from the computer. Go outside. Have a look. The annual Perseid meteor shower is gracing our skies for the next 48 hours, looking better than ever, as Earth passes through a filament trailing from a comet's tail. (Hopefully, the comet won't smash into us in 2126.)
posted by digaman on Aug 10, 2004 - 12 comments

O'Leary's cow, or comet?

Physicist Robert Wood is reviving a 120 year old theory that the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was started by cometary debris from Beila's comet that had previously been observed to fragment after a close encounter with Jupiter. Wood's orbital analysis puts a fragment of Beila near Earth at the time of the fires. The theory would explain a number of previously unexplained events like multiple eyewitness accounts of fire falling from the sky, and how a single-source blaze from a barn spread to include a large portion of the city. Perhaps most importantly, the Great Peshtigo Fire in Wisconsin that killed 1,200 people ignighted on the some night. However the comet theory has been discarded by Peshtigoand Chicago Fire historians who note that the upper midwest was dry with a multitude of smaller fires in the same season. The truth may never be known but the speculation is interesting.
posted by KirkJobSluder on Mar 7, 2004 - 2 comments

Oh, the humanity!

Asteroid orbits Enter the designation or name of any asteroid or comet, and a 3D orbit visualization tool will appear for that object. If Chicken Little had this link he might have calmed down a little. Or not...Find out if your favorite asteroid is about to rock your world.
posted by konolia on Sep 2, 2003 - 5 comments

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