Astronomy/Space Exploration

Articles about astronomy and space exploration.

Year of the Comets

comet-2Thus far, the 21st century has been an underwhelming one for comets. The few comets that have been visible on Earth were dimmer than predicted, or not even visible to naked eye observers. With a little luck, 2013 could be the year comet-watching changes for the better.

During 2013, we will have not one, but two comets potentially visible to the naked eye. …

Asteroid 2012 D14 and the Russian meteor — a connection?

ap_meteor_russiaThe Russian meteor that slammed into Earth’s atmosphere on Friday (injuring over 1,000 people) hit just hours before larger Asteroid 2012 D14 made its closest approach to Earth. Asteroid experts initially have said there was no connection between the two events1 and that it was just a “cosmic coincidence“2 that both events occurred on the same day. …

  1. “It’s simply a coincidence,” Paul Chodas, an asteroid researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), told NBC News. Don Yeomans, manager of the Near-Earth Object Program Office at JPL, told CNN, “They are completely unrelated objects — it’s a strange coincidence they are happening at the same time.” []
  2. “This is literally a cosmic coincidence, although a spectacular one,” Prof Alan Fitzsimmons, of the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen’s University Belfast told the BBC just hours after the fireball streaked across Russia’s skies.
    Ironically, nearly every quote I found from qualified experts about the proximity of these two events contained the word “coincidence,” which itself seems at first an interesting coincidence. I highly doubt, however, there is some vast conspiracy to control media coverage of the Russian meteor — in this case, coincidence really is the best word to describe two highly unlikely events that those experts believe to be unrelated. []

“Pay no attention to that fast-moving asteroid...”

One of my Astrobiology instructors (Eric M. Wilcots) began class this past Monday with a slide labeled “Pay no attention to that fast-moving asteroid...“1 Prof. Wilcots was talking about Asteroid 2012 D14 which will make an extremely close approach to Earth this Friday, February 15, 2013. And ultimately his point was that although 2012 D14 will pass within a mere 17,200 miles of Earth’s surface,2 it will not hit Earth or bring about a Bruce Willis level disaster. …

  1. That line is itself a reference to the classic quote “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” from the film The Wizard of Oz. []
  2. The asteroid will actually pass between Earth and our geosynchronous communications satellites, which orbit 23,000 miles above the Earth. []