Giant Asteroid Heading To Earth, Will Miss Planet By “Cosmic Hair’s Breadth”

This is not a Hollywood movie.

An asteroid with a diameter of 400m will make its closest approach to Earth later this year.

Known as YU55, the asteroid would fly within the moon’s orbit narrowly missing Earth, according to reports.

“The space rock will hurtle past our planet at a distance of just 201,700 miles (324,600km) during its closest approach on November 8,” The Daily Mail has reported.

“That is closer to Earth than the moon, which orbits 238,857 miles (384,400km) away on average.

“With a width of some 400m and weighing 55 million tons, YU55 will be the largest object to ever approach Earth.”

But US space agency NASA said there was no cause for concern.

“Although classified as a potentially hazardous object, 2005 YU55 poses no threat of an Earth collision over at least the next 100 years,” NASA said.

“However, this will be the closest approach to date by an object this large that we know about in advance and an event of this type will not happen again until 2028.”

Look Skyward For Double Fly-By

I have to believe that somewhere there are clear skies in order to see this.

DOUBLE FLY-BY ALERT: This morning, March 7th, space shuttle Discovery undocked from the International Space Station. This sets the stage for a spectacular series of double flyby sighting opportunities. The station and shuttle will be flying over parts of the United States and Europe tonight and tomorrow, appearing in the night sky as a closely-spaced pair of bright lights. This is also a last chance to see Discovery in flight, because the orbiter will be retired after landing in Florida on Wednesday, March 9th.

Check the Simple Satellite Tracker (http://spaceweather.com/flybys) or download our smartphone flybys app (http://simpleflybys.com) to find out when to look.  If you’d like a phone call when the ISS is about to fly over your location, sign up for Space Weather Phone: http://spaceweatherphone.com .

All Will Ride In Spirit With Astronaut Mark Kelly

I suspect America shares my thoughts tonight.

From day one when the headlines announced that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was critically injured from a gunshot wound to the head this nation has had two folks in their thoughts and prayers.

First the Congresswoman.  

That a public servant was shot while conducting a time with constituents is one of the most upsetting and tragic stories in many months.   After a near death experience one can only be amazed at Giffords’ recovery.  She seems to be progressing  at a level of speed that inspires those able to see it.  Clearly, this is a major blessing and answer to prayers.

Shortly after the shooting took place America started to become aware of another victim to this senseless gun crime.

Astronaut Mark Kelly.

The space shuttle commander was ready to do whatever was required to assist his wife following the shooting.  That was never in doubt.  Kelly sat by Giffords’ bed, encouraged her, and remains committed to the long recovery that anyone with a  gun injury of this type requires.

As Kelly sat by his wife’s bedside we were also aware there was another seat he needed to occupy.

Today came the news that many of us wanted to hear.  

Mark Kelly will command the shuttle Endeavour for its final mission come April.    Everything was thrown up in the air at the  time of the shooting  but with Giffords making progress in rehabilitation it is clear that Kelly’s place this spring is in space.

When the dramatic images of the launch take place this spring, and millions around the globe watch the rocket lift away from earth, we can again know that with prayers and the strength of the human spirit all things are possible.

Several weeks ago there were many, and I suspect Mark Kelly was one of them, who thought Frederick Sturckow would command this shuttle flight.   Sturckow was named by NASA to prepare for the flight had Kelly been unable to do so in light of the severity of  Giffords’ gunshot wound.

While Frederick Sturckow surely wants to travel like any other astronaut into space, this is the time to champion the fact that Kelly will fulfill the mission he was called on to accomplish. 

Good will overcome the evil that took place when Giffords was shot.  We need to have moments like this, not as Americans but as humans, when the good guys prevail.  When in the face of utter hell things work out. 

America will ride in spirit, for so many reasons, when Mark Kelly is launched by a rocket towards the heavens. 

Godspeed to Gabrielle and Mark.

Over 1,200 Possible Planets Found…Taxpayers Money At Work

Treasure trove in space.  Might I add this is the taxpayer’s money at work…..work that would be threatened if conservatives have their way and slash federal spending.

NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler space telescope detected 1,235 possible extra-solar planets during its first four months of operation, astronomers announced Wednesday, including 68 approximately Earth-size worlds. Five of those are orbiting in the parent star’s habitable “Goldilocks” zone where liquid water could exist in environments favorable for life.

The planetary “candidates” must be confirmed by additional observations and analysis and it will take another two years to collect enough data to determine how common Earth-like worlds might be. But based on the initial results, “Kepler’s blown the lid off everything we know about extra-solar planets,” said Debra Fischer, an astronomer at Yale University.

Launched from Cape Canaveral on March 6, 2009, Kepler’s 95-megapixel camera is aimed at a patch of sky in the constellation Cygnus that’s the size of an out-stretched hand, a 10-degree-wide target zone that contains more than 4.5 million detectable stars.

Of that total, some 300,000 are believed to be the right age, have the right composition and the proper brightness to host Earth-like planets. More than 156,000 of those, ranging from 600 to 3,000 light years away, will be actively monitored by Kepler over the life of the mission.

Jupiter’s Missing Strip Returning, So Large One Can “Notice It In The Eyepieces Of Backyard Telescopes”

Hmmm….

The revival of Jupiter’s South Equatorial Belt (SEB), missing for nearly a year, is now well underway. The roiling, turbulent disturbance that heralds the brown stripe’s full return stretches almost halfway around the giant planet. “Here is a projection map showing the revival on Nov. 29th,” says amateur astronomer Wayne Jaeschke of West Chester, Pennsylvania. Note the region bracketed by arrows:

“I made the map by combining two pictures of Jupiter I took using my 14-inch Celestron telescope,” says Jaeschke. “The disturbance has grown dramatically since it first appeared in late October.” Indeed, it is now so large that even novice observers are starting to notice it in the eyepieces of backyard telescopes.

The spreading disturbance is not the SEB itself. Instead, it is thought to be a progressive clearing of high clouds that will eventually reveal the brown stripe hiding below. When the SEB finally returns, Jupiter will have two brown stripes again and the planet’s appearance will return to normal. Meanwhile, amateur astronomers are encouraged to monitor the revival. Point your optics south after sunset: sky map.

more images: from Wayne Jaeschke of West Chester, PA; from Geoff Chester of Alexandria, Virginia; from John Nassr of Baguio, Philippines