Thunderpig’s Mirror

Archive for the ‘astronomy’ Category

The Tunguska Mystery 100 Years Later

Posted by Thunder Pig on June 30, 2008

June 30, 1908, 7:14 a.m., central Siberia—Semen Semenov, a local farmer, saw “the sky split in two. Fire appeared high and wide over the forest…. From … where the fire was, came strong heat…. Then the sky shut closed, and a strong thump sounded, and I was thrown a few yards…. After that such noise came, as if . . . cannons were firing, the earth shook …”

Such is the harrowing testimony of one of the closest eyewitnesses to what scientists call the Tunguska event, the largest impact of a cosmic body to occur on the earth during modern human history. Semenov experienced a raging conflagration some 65 kilometers (40 miles) from ground zero, but the effects of the blast rippled out far into northern Europe and Central Asia as well. Some people saw massive, silvery clouds and brilliant, colored sunsets on the horizon, whereas others witnessed luminescent skies at night—Londoners, for instance, could plainly read newsprint at midnight without artificial lights. Geophysical observatories placed the source of the anomalous seismic and pressure waves they had recorded in a remote section of Siberia. The epicenter lay close to the river Podkamennaya Tunguska, an uninhabited area of swampy taiga forest that stays frozen for eight or nine months of the year.

Ever since the Tunguska event, scientists and lay enthusiasts alike have wondered what caused it. Although most observers generally accept that some kind of cosmic body, either an asteroid or a comet, exploded in the sky above Siberia, no one has yet found fragments of the object or any impact craters in the affected region. The mystery remains unsolved, but our research team, only the latest of a steady stream of investigators who have scoured the area, may be closing in on a discovery that will change our understanding of what happened that fateful morning.

Source: Scientific American
Related: Wikipedia
The Stupid: Rense Article “Great 1908 Tunguska Explosion – UFO Meets Comet?
The Nonsensical: The Vurdalak Conjecture

Tunguska Epicenter

I have enjoyed reading about this event all my life, and especially remember the wilder claims of the conspiracy nuts that it was an alien craft that had blown up in the atmosphere, or even the speculation that it was a tiny black hole that happened to evaporate as it intersected our atmosphere.

I have always believed it to have been a piece of a comet, more specifically, the short-period comet Encke. I forget where I read that, and a quick Google Search tells me that British Astronomer Fred Whipple suggested that in 1930. I read very heavily in the area of Astronomy, so I could have read that anywhere, and tend to go with the scientific explanation where it fits Occam’s Razor.

Posted in astronomy, history, mystery, science | Leave a Comment »

ISS and STS-124 Flyover Exposure

Posted by Thunder Pig on June 9, 2008

Here is one of the exposures I took of the International Space Station and the space shuttle Discovery as they orbited over my house this evening.

The ISS keeps getting brighter and brighter as more modules keep getting added to the station. I was hoping I would catch a flare off one of the solar panels, but alas, not tonight. I hope to have more of these in the future, and possibly even snippets of video.
ISS 2008 0608
The squiggly line at the beginning was me taking a step back from the tripod, and the camera captured the ground vibration.

Tomorrow night, the station will pass in front of Mars, Saturn, and the Moon. I hope to be able to capture that if it is not cloudy.

Posted in astronomy, Human Spacefilght, photoblog | Leave a Comment »

(LIVE EVENT) 212th AAS Meeting in St. Louis

Posted by Thunder Pig on June 3, 2008

The wonderful people at Universe Today are providing a live feed of the conference today of the 212th AAS Meeting in St Louis today:

Posted in astronomy, Live Event, Online Media, science | Leave a Comment »

Newly Discovered Asteroid Is A Fast-Spinner

Posted by Thunder Pig on May 29, 2008

British amateur astronomer Richard Miles has discovered the fastest rotating natural object known in our solar system.

His observations, made using a telescope normally shared by students and professional scientists, have proved that the newly-discovered asteroid, 2008 HJ, is revolving once every 42.7 seconds, classifying it is as a superfast rotator. His discovery will boost our sparse knowledge of near-Earth asteroids and is another successful find for the Faulkes Telescope near-Earth asteroid project.

Miles made his discovery April 29 using the Faulkes Telescope South at Siding Spring, Australia, which he operated remotely via the Internet from his home in Dorset. Confirmation of his discovery was formally announced by the International Astronomical Union on May 22. The previous record holder was asteroid 2000 DO8, discovered eight years ago and found to rotate once every 78 seconds. The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) was involved in the initial set-up of the Faulkes Telescope Project and continues to provide support.

Source: Astronomy Magazine
Related: Earth Impact Risk Summary
Related: Neo DyS Object List

Since the asteroid masses around 5,000 tons (It is 12 x 24 meters) , that means on most of the surface, visitors would be tossed off the surface by the velocity of the rotation!

The asteroid passed nearest to earth on April 29th at about 670,000 miles away.

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Lunar Photo Opportunity

Posted by Thunder Pig on April 2, 2008

If you are interested in taking some interesting photos of the moon in a star cluster, then mark your calenders for April the 8th just after the sun sets. Check out this Astronomy Picture of the Day from April 2005!

The crescent moon will be very close to the Pleiades cluster of stars:

For more information, visit Astronomy Magazine

Posted in astronomy, moon, stars | Leave a Comment »

Earth and Moon As Seen From Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

Posted by Thunder Pig on March 5, 2008

Photo Courtesy Universe Today

I found this photo at Universe Today, and couldn’t help swiping it. The photo was taken from a hundred million miles away. [Windows to the Universe]

Everyone you know, and everyone who has ever lived, has trod on the blue marble, and a dozen have earned the opportunity to trod on the silver marble a quarter of a million miles away. The view, as the title suggests, is from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in orbit around Mars. The instrument used to take the photo is the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE)and it managed to capture photos of an avalanche in progress on Mars. The current thinking is that the springtime warm up sublimated a layer of frost/ice (carbon dioxide) into vapor, and the material above slid down the 60 degree slope.

On a related note, those in the USA might be able to see the occultation of Venus by the Moon later this afternoon if they have the right equipment and a clear sky.

Posted in astronomy, science | Leave a Comment »

Post Eclipse Post

Posted by Thunder Pig on February 21, 2008

I enjoyed watching last night’s eclipse, but was dogged by a desire to experiment with various modes and exposures for most of the night. Out of 286 photos I took, only about a dozen are worth sharing. Of those, I whittled things down to the 6 best.

The Moon rose behind a bank of clouds that began to thin into partly cloudy, with the Moon being visible for a few moments at a time. So, I took this 8 second exposure while the clouds scurried in front of the Moon.

Then, the sky began to be mostly free of the clouds, allowing the Moon to shine forth in all her glory just as the Eclipse was beginning. This was a 4 second exposure to allow some detail of the clouds to be shown.

After a period of time, the Moon became covered by the Earth’s shadow.

This is a slight over exposure of 0.62 seconds to bring out some detail of the eclipsed portion of the lunar disc. It also allows an appreciation for the beautiful red color that the Moon had begun to reflect, as all the world’s sunsets shown through the atmosphere some 240,000 miles away.

This is the Moon in eclipse.

And here is what made this particular lunar eclipse unique, the Moon was with a few degrees of a bright star, and a bright planet. I have labeled the photo so you can identify the players.

Now, we have to wait until December 21, 2010 for the next total lunar eclipse in North America. Bummer. Maybe I’ll have better equipment by that time so I can do some really geeky things during the eclipse!

Posted in astronomy, science | 2 Comments »

Lunar Eclipse Live-Blogging (Redux)

Posted by Thunder Pig on February 21, 2008

Scroll down for daily posts, this will stay on top until after the eclipse tonight.

While you wait, here are some web pages to look at to learn more about the eclipse tonight:

NASA Lunar Eclipse Page

Astronomy Magazine

Sky & Telescope

Tom’s Astronomy Blog

And, the cloud curse forecast has the cloud cover at 7pm being 68%, and 10pm being 54%; chance of rain increasing from 10% to 30%.

**update** 8.24pm

I’m here, and I have be watching the moon play peek-a-boo from behind the clouds. I should be able to get some good shots, provided the cloud cover stays as is. I’ll make another report before 9pm. The event is scheduled to start at 8.43pm. At least it is warmer tonight. New posts will be below. BTW, the Pisgah Researh Institute has their equipment online. You might want to check it out. You will have to refersh your browser every few minutes to download a new image.

Here are the next batch:

Partly Cloudy



**update 1013pm**
I have some more clips uploaded to this album…I don’t have time to process them right now.

**update** 1104pm THe clouds have rolled in, but I got photos up to totality, and am processing them now for presentation in this post. It is too bad that we are gonna have to wait until Dec of 2010 for the next total lunar eclipse.


Here is the moon at totality with the star Regulus above and the planet Saturn below. Saturn is brighter than Regulus.

Here are the rest for now…I will post the rest in a new post tomorrow.

This one was taken at 10.20pm for an exposure of one second to bring out the red color.

This one is the same as the first in the new group, but at totality. It was taken at 10.29pm.

This last one for the night was taken at 10.45pm. The last few photos were just re-sized to 500×375 for quick presentation.

I hope you enjoyed the quick and dirty photos, and will come back to look at the cleaned, cropped, and processed photos tomorrow. I should have them up by noon.

Okay, I couldn’t resist just one before I went to sleep…doggone clouds have ruined the end of the event:

This is the one that was taken at 10.20pm, cropped at actual size. I apologize for the lack of fine focus, but my camera isn’t a D-SLR, and is just a fancy point and shoot digital camera.
Good Night!

Posted in astronomy, science | 3 Comments »

Live-Blogging The Lunar Eclipse (With Photos)

Posted by Thunder Pig on February 20, 2008

I will be live-blogging the total lunar eclipse tonight with photos added every little bit as the eclipse progresses.

I have already been out playing with my camera (specs) and here are a few:

Moon Rise

Canis Major and Orion

Flying Through Orion

I am puzzled…because I should…crap…I am ahead 24 hours….

I should look at this as practice…sorry folks. I hate it when this happens. Come back in 24 hours for the real show…after I spend some time in the corner…

Egads, I feel so stooopid!!!

**update** 02-20-008 (910am):
You can see the rest of the photos I took in this *cough* dry run *cough* for tonight’s show.

Posted in astronomy, moon, photoblog | Leave a Comment »

West Carolona Report for Jan 28th; Venus and Jupiter Near Each Other In Morning Sky

Posted by Thunder Pig on January 28, 2008

I’ve updated the news headlines at West Carolina Report for today, and apologize for not being able to update them over the weekend…a retard took out a power pole down the road, and the phone line got corrupted enough with cross talk to ruin the internet connection.

Maybe the lines will get upgraded enough to allow for DSL instead of the pokey 42K I currently suffer under.

Anyhow, enjoy this photo I took this morning of Jupiter and Venus as they approach each other in the morning sky, reaching just half a degree of each other on February 1st, about the size of the full moon in the sky. If I remember, I’ll post photos of that as well, as well as the moon when it joins them a few mornings later.

Photo Details
Exposure Time: 8 seconds
F-Number: F/3.2
Focal Length: 6mm
Camera: Kodak Easyshare Z710

Posted in astronomy, news, space, West Carolina Report | Leave a Comment »