| Where's Saturn? Is that a UFO--or the ISS? What's the name of that star? Get the answers from mySKY--a fun new astronomy helper from Meade. || || |
FIREBALL! This morning at approximately 5:30 am Pacific time, people in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana witnessed a spectacular fireball. "I did not see the fireball itself, but I did observe two flashes over the eastern horizon like transformer explosions," reports climatologist Jan Curtis of Portland, Oregon. "They were as bright as city lights." Much is uncertain about this event, but it was probably a small asteroid breaking up in Earth's atmosphere. Early reports of landfall are unconfirmed. Did you see it? Submit reports here.
TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE: On Wednesday evening, February 20th, the full Moon over Europe and the Americas will turn a delightful shade of red. It's a total lunar eclipse—the last one until Dec. 2010. When should you look? Click here for an animated timetable.
As explained in a recent Science@NASA story, red isn't the only color to look for when the Moon glides through Earth's shadow. Observers of several recent lunar eclipses have reported a flash of turquoise. For example, note the upper left corner of the above photo taken by Jens Hackmann during the European lunar eclipse of March 2007.
The source of the turquoise is ozone. Earth's ozone layer absorbs red sunlight while allowing blue rays to pass. This has the effect of turning Earth's shadow turquoise-blue around the edges. Look for it during the first and last minutes of totality (10:01 pm EST and 10:51 pm EST).
SPY-SAT UPDATE: Rumor has it that the US Navy may make its first attempt to hit USA 193 this Wednesday evening as the satellite passes over the Pacific Ocean. An air traffic advisory warns pilots to avoid a patch of ocean near Maui from 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Hawaii time on Feb. 20th (0230 - 0500 UT, Feb. 21st). This would center the missile strike on the darkness of Wednesday's lunar eclipse and possibly render reentering debris visible from the west coast of North America. [comment]
Until the satellite is shot down, it remains visible to sky watchers who know when to look. Amateur astronomer Dan Bush photographed USA-193 last night as it passed over Albany, Missouri:
"It was moving right along (quickly) and gave the appearance of being out of control," says Bush. "This is a 15 second exposure using my Nikon D200 at ISO 640." Experienced sky watchers estimate the brightness of the satellite in the magnitude range +1.5 to -0.5, i.e., similar to the stars of Orion and an easy target for off-the-shelf digital cameras.