Duck And Cover For Martian Probes.

The comet Sliding Spring flew past Mars yesterday giving us our first view of a comet from a different planet.

Hubble Space Telescope picture of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring as observed on March 11, 2014. At that time the comet was 353 million miles from Earth. When the glow of the coma is subtracted through image processing, which incorporates a smooth model of the coma's light distribution, Hubble resolves what appear to be two jets of dust coming off the nucleus in opposite directions. This means that only portions of the surface of the nucleus are presently active as they are warmed by sunlight, say researchers. Credit: NASA, ESA, and J.-Y. Li (Planetary Science Institute)

The images weren’t available in time for this post, but the Hubble image above shows how it looked earlier in the year.

Siding Spring went past Mars at 125,000mph (56km per second) and missing the planet by 86681 miles (139,500 km).  Earlier projections didn’t have enough data, so there was a possibility that the comet would actually hit Mars.

There are currently eight active spacecraft operating either on the surface, Opportunity and Curiosity, and . The orbiting Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, MAVEN, Mars Orbiter Mission and the newly arrive Indian MRO spacecraft.

http://space.jpl.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/wspace?tbody=499&vbody=1001&month=10&day=19&year=2014&hour=00&minute=00&rfov=90&fovmul=-1&bfov=30&porbs=1&showsc=1&showac=1

The simulated image above from the JPL/NASA simulator at http://space.jpl.nasa.gov/ show all the orbiters hiding behind the planet.  Due to the close flyby, the comet is going to leave a lot of debris as it passes by.  Any dust or debris traveling at that speed can severely damage these craft, so everyone moved their craft to the far side of the planet to wait for the all clear.

Comet debris can last for a very long time so this is something that may become happen every Martian year.  We see the residue of comets regularly in the form of meteor showers.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Summer Showers with a Chance of Rock.

As we move into the middle of the summer it is time to start planning your meteorite shower parties!

2012 Meteor shower chart

The chart above will help you plan to watch these awesome events.  Well, some are more awesome than others.

Of course some of the most popular meteor showers are the Perseid and the Geminid showers.  As my birthday is in August, I am partial to the Perseids.  Also, it is warmer.  A lot warmer.

I mean really, the Geminid’s are nice and everything, but come on!  All night in the middle of December!  I live in California, I freeze if it drops below 50 degrees F any more.

So what exactly causes these annual displays in the night sky?  Meteor showers always seem to come from one point in the night sky.  Basically these meteors are caused by streams of cosmic dust and debris, called meteoroids, entering Earth’s atmosphere. The dust and debris come from comets.  Every time a comet passes the Sun, it leaves a little trail of debris and dust behind.  As the Earth rotates around the Sun, we run into the remnants.

All the meteorites seem to come from the same place because they are all on  parallel paths, like looking down railroad tracks.

So how do you observe a meteor show?  Lucky for you I have a sure fire method of catching the best view possible for any given meteor shower:

Step 1:  Find a picnic table, or bring your own under a clear, dark sky (it really doesn’t even have to be that dark, just clear).

Step 2: lay back on said picnic table.

Step 3: Open eyes at scheduled time (set alarms as needed).

Step 4: Enjoy the show.

By the way, you can bring the whole family along.  All meteor showers are rated G by the MPAA (Many Perusing Astronomers Association).

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

I Need A Shower – Leo Style.

Not only is there a total eclipse of the sun this week, but it is time for the annual leonid meteor shower.  This year is a bit unusual in that the Leonid shower is expected to show two peaks of activity, one on Saturday morning (Nov. 17) and another on Tuesday morning (Nov. 20).

Normally, this meteor shower is one of the more spectacular sights.  But this year the peaks are expected to only produce 10 to 15 meteorites an hour.  Not bad, but last years display was up to 40 per hour.

The meteorites themselves are remnants of comet Tempel-Tuttle that hit the atmosphere as the Earth passes through the dust and debris left behind from the comets last journey through the inner solar system.  It is estimated that 12 or 13 tons of particles are deposited across the entire planet during the annual event.

The map below will show you where to look for the most meteors.  No special equipment is needed, but a nice soft pad to lay back on so that you can gaze upwards and watch the shower.

 

Bundle up and stay warm…bring something warm to drink and enjoy the show.