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ASTEROID FLYBY--DONE! Asteroid 2010 TD54 flew past Earth this morning (Oct. 12) at 6:50 am EDT only 46,000 km above the planet's surface. For comparison, geosynchronous satellites orbit at 36,000 km, so the asteroid was not far beyond Earth's satellite fleet. No damage was done--to spacecraft or to the planet below. Amateur astronomer Patrick Wiggins photographed the flyby using a 14-inch Celestron telescope: movie.
NORTHERN AND SOUTHERN LIGHTS: The geomagnetic storm of Oct. 11th lit up both ends of Earth with bright auroras. Minoru Yoneto sends this picture from Queenstown, New Zealand:
"Lights were spilling out of the sky. It made the Southern Cross look like Niagra Falls," says Yoneto.
The display was triggered by a "south-pointing IMF." In other words, the interplanetary magnetic field near Earth tilted south, opening a crack in Earth's magnetosphere. Solar wind poured in and fueled a G1-class geomagnetic storm. The storm is subsiding now, but the lights are still danciing in the gallery.
UPDATED: October 2010 Aurora Gallery
[previous Octobers: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001]
PHOTOGENIC SUNSPOT: An enormous magnetic filament is perched directly above sunspot 1112 near the sun's southeastern limb. If the filament collapses (as they often do) and hits the sunspot below, the resulting explosion could be impressive. Actually, it's already impressive:
Dutch amateur astronomers Jo Dahlmans and Wouter Verhesen took the picture yesterday using a Lunt solar telescope. "We inverted (made negative) the sun's surface for a stunning display of the snaking filament," says Dahlmans. "In the distance you can see prominences dancing like flames along the limb of the sun. What a vista!"
Readers with solar telescopes, you know what to do.
more images: from Dave Gradwell of Birr, Ireland; from Jimmy Eubanks of Boiling Springs, SC; from Robert Arnold of Isle of Skye, Scotland; from James Kevin Ty of Manila, Philippines; from Michael Buxton of Ocean Beach, California; from Gianfranco Meregalli of Milano, Italy
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 12, 2010 there were 1149 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.
| ||The official U.S. government space weather bureau |
| ||The first place to look for information about sundogs, pillars, rainbows and related phenomena. |
| ||Researchers call it a "Hubble for the sun." SDO is the most advanced solar observatory ever. |
| ||3D views of the sun from NASA's Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory |
| ||Realtime and archival images of the Sun from SOHO. |
| ||from the NOAA Space Environment Center |
| ||the underlying science of space weather |