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OF THE MISSING DEBRIS: On June 3rd, amateur
astronomers were startled by a bright flash of light on Jupiter.
It appeared to be an impact event--a comet or asteroid hitting
the planet's cloudtops. Curiously, though, the strike left
no obvious debris. Was it really an impact--or something else?
story from Science@NASA discusses the possibilities.
OUT FOR THAT COMET: One wonders... Did the
inhabitants of galaxy NGC
891 duck when Comet McNaught flew past the edge-on spiral
on the morning of June 8th? Mike
O'Connor and Tristan Dilapo took this picture of the cosmic
close encounter from Colden, New York:
"The comet was only 10 degrees above the horizon,"
says O'Connor. "Nevertheless, we got a good picture using
a 12-inch telescope and an SBIG ST9-E camera."
And, no, the denizens of that distant galaxy did not flinch,
flee, duck or take notice in any way. NGC 891 is 30 million
light years away, far removed from the willowy tail of Comet
We Earthlings are having the true close encounter. Comet
McNaught (C/2009 R1) is gliding through the inner solar system,
due to approach our planet only 100 million miles away on
June 15th and 16th. The approaching comet looks great in small
telescopes, and may yet become a naked-eye object before the
end of the month. Because this is Comet McNaught's first visit,
predictions of future brightness are necessarily uncertain;
amateur astronomers should be alert for the unexpected.
Get the full
story and a finder
chart from Sky & Telescope. See also: ephemeris,
more images: from
Kerry-Ann Lecky Hepburn of Grimsby, Ontario; from
Gregg Ruppel of Ellisville, MO; from
Michael Jäger of Turmkogel, Austria; from
Scott Tucker of Tucson, Arizona; from
Jeff Greenwald of Laramie, Wyoming; from
Feys Filip at the Public observatory "Sasteria"
in Crete; from
Gary of Fort Davis, TX; from
Baqir of Quetta, Pakistan
UNREST: The magnetic field of sunspot 1078
is in a state of considerable unrest. Explosive reconnection
events are happening every few minutes, resulting in a
staccato rat-a-tat of low-level solar flares. The following
movie from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory gives a one-hour
sampling of the action:
MB mpeg; 0.6
MB iPad; 0.4
Eventually, this growing sunspot could unleash
a truly significant flare. Our planet, however, is not in
the line of fire. Sunspot 1078 is turning away from Earth
and will soon disappear over the sun's western limb. Readers
with solar telescopes are encouraged to catch it before it
more images: from
John C McConnell of Maghaberry Northern Ireland; from
Peter Paice of Belfast, Northern Ireland; from
Pavol Rapavy of Observatory Rimavska Sobota, Slovakia
2010 Aurora Gallery
[previous Mays: 2008,