Friday, October 18, 2013

Eclipse and asteroid DOOM

One of the big astronomical news items tonight, at least according to number of searches, is tonight's lunar eclipse.  However, the article in the Washington Post on the event--Hunter’s Full Moon, and a penumbral lunar eclipse this evening--mentions that it is likely to be a dud.
The sky presents two lunar spectacles for the price of one tonight. The full “Hunter” moon rises, while at the same time, sections of it are darkened by the outer part of the Earth’s shadow, an event known as a penumbral eclipse.
EarthSky emphasizes the subtle aspect of the eclipse because, coinciding with evening twilight in the U.S., the sky will not yet be that dark.

“You may not notice any shading at all on the moon’s surface if you see the eclipse from the Americas,” Earth Sky writes. “Even as the eclipse is happening, you’ll be seeing the moon low in the sky, peering at it through more atmosphere than when the moon is overhead. This is a very, very subtle kind of eclipse. Will it be noticeable? Maybe to photographers! We’ll hope for some good photos.”
I can vouch for this.  I went outside to look and expected to see just a great full moon, as the eclipse should be very subtle.  That's exactly what I saw.  So, I wasn't disappointed.  It is a great full moon.

The other big astronomical new tonight based on web searches is the 2032 asteroid.  Here is what NASA had to say about it, with the their attitude evident in the title and becoming more dismissive in the body: Asteroid 2013 TV135 – A Reality Check.
Newly discovered asteroid 2013 TV135 made a close approach to Earth on Sept. 16, when it came within about 4.2 million miles (6.7 million kilometers). The asteroid is initially estimated to be about 1,300 feet (400 meters) in size and its orbit carries it as far out as about three quarters of the distance to Jupiter's orbit and as close to the sun as Earth's orbit. It was discovered on Oct. 8, 2013, by astronomers working at the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory in Ukraine. As of Oct. 14, asteroid 2013 TV135 is one of 10,332 near-Earth objects that have been discovered.

With only a week of observations for an orbital period that spans almost four years, its future orbital path is still quite uncertain, but this asteroid could be back in Earth’s neighborhood in 2032. However, NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office states the probability this asteroid could then impact Earth is only one in 63,000. The object should be easily observable in the coming months and once additional observations are provided to the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., the initial orbit calculations will be improved and the most likely result will be a dramatic reduction, or complete elimination, of any risk of Earth impact. 

"To put it another way, that puts the current probability of no impact in 2032 at about 99.998 percent," said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "This is a relatively new discovery. With more observations, I fully expect we will be able to significantly reduce, or rule out entirely, any impact probability for the foreseeable future."
So, despite the claims of ‘Dangerous’ asteroid headed toward Earth in the New York Post that could collide with Earth in August 26, 2032, it's most likely a false alarm.  Besides, we all know Apophis Day is April 13th and has been postponed until 2068.

That written, has a video about the close encounter: 1300-Foot-Wide Asteroid 2013 TV135's Near-Earth Flyby | Orbit Animation.

The space rock was discovered on October 8th, 2013 by the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory in Ukraine. It came within 4.2 million miles and currently has a 1 in 63000 chance of impacting Earth in 2032.
Before I move on from this story, I want to express my relief that the shutdown is over and that NASA is up and running again.

Finally, here is something Elaine Meinel Supkis linked to over at her blog from the Daily Fail Mail: Could life on Earth end on March 16, 2880? Scientists predict giant asteroid will collide with our planet at 38,000 miles per hour.
  • Asteroid 1950 DA has a 0.3 per cent chance of hitting Earth in 867 years
  • This represents a risk 50% greater than an impact from all other asteroids
  • If it were to hit, it would do so with a force of 44,800 megatonnes of TNT
By Ellie Zolfagharifard
PUBLISHED: 05:42 EST, 11 October 2013 | UPDATED: 03:31 EST, 14 October 2013
Doomsday, it seems, has come and gone countless times.

But one particular prediction for the end of the world has been weighing on the mind of astronomers for more than half a century.

Scientists at Nasa have been watching an asteroid, named 1950 DA, which is currently on a path to collide with Earth on March 16, 2880.
2880?  That's on a time scale more in tune with Bruce Walker Ferguson's interests than mine.  I have enough to worry about with what's happening during the 21st Century, let alone the 29th.