They came from outer space--and you can have one! Genuine meteorites are now on sale in the Space Weather Store.
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DRACONID METEOR OUTBURST: On October 8th, Earth will pass through a network of dusty filaments shed by Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner. Forecasters expect the encounter to produce anywhere from a few dozen to a thousand meteors per hour visible mainly over Europe, northern Africa and the Middle East. The meteors will stream from the northern constellation Draco--hence their name, the "Draconids."
Peak rates should occur between 1600 UT and 2200 UT (noon - 6 pm EDT) as Earth grazes a series of filaments nearly intersecting our planet's orbit. Analysts at the NASA Meteoroid Environment Office prepared this plot showing how the meteor rate is likely to vary:
If the maximum around 1900 UT reaches 1000 meteors per hour, the 2011 Draconids will be classified as a full-fledged meteor storm. The question is, will anyone see it? Bright moonlight over Europe, Africa and the Middle East will reduce the number of visible meteors 2- to 10-fold. The situation is even worse in North America where the shower occurs in broad daylight.
One way to enjoy the Draconids, no matter where you live, is to listen to them. The Air Force Space Surveillance Radar will be scanning the skies over the USA during the shower. When a Draconid passes through the radar beam--ping!--there will be an echo. Tune in to Space Weather Radio for live audio.
In Europe, an international team of scientists plans to observe the shower from airplanes flying at ~30,000 feet where the thin air reduces the impact of lunar glare. In Bishop, California, a team of high school students will launch an experimental helium balloon to higher altitudes, 100,000 feet or more, where the sky is black even at noon. Cameras in the balloon's payload might catch some Draconid fireballs during the peak hours of the outburst.
Stay tuned for updates as Earth approaches the debris zone.
TIANGONG-1 SIGHTINGS: China's first space station, an 8.5-ton experimental module named Tiangong-1 (Heavenly Palace-1), is flying over the United States this week. On Oct. 4th, photographer Tavi Greiner saw it gliding over Shallotte, North Carolina:
"The Tiangong 1 passed between Cygnus and Cassiopeia shortly after sunset," says Greiner. "It was surprisingly bright, easily seen with the unaided eye."
Readers, check Spaceweather's Satellite Tracker for sighting opportunities in your hometown. You can also turn your smartphone into a Tiangong-1 tracker by downloading the Simple Flybys app.
more images: from Jim Saueressig II of Burlington, Kansas; from Justin Cowart of Carbondale, Illinois; from Stuart McDaniel of Lawndale, North Carolina; from Giuseppe of Fisciano, Italy
September 2011 Aurora Gallery
[previous Septembers: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004]
Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs
) are space rocks larger than approximately 100m that can come closer to Earth than 0.05 AU. None of the known PHAs is on a collision course with our planet, although astronomers are finding new ones
all the time.
On October 7, 2011 there were 1250 potentially hazardous asteroids. Notes: LD means "Lunar Distance." 1 LD = 384,401 km, the distance between Earth and the Moon. 1 LD also equals 0.00256 AU. MAG is the visual magnitude of the asteroid on the date of closest approach.
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