Tag Archives: meteors

Close Shaves and Alien Volcanoes

Did you hear of the close shave we had with an asteroid yesterday? (The asteroid is the streak)

Check this out from Wired:

When asteroid 2010 RX30 zipped past Earth early Wednesday, observers at the Remanzacco Observatory in Italy were ready. At 12:45 a.m. Mountain time, amateur astronomers Ernesto Guido and Giovanni Sostero remotely controlled a 0.25-meter telescope in Mayhill, New Mexico, through the Global Remote Astronomy Telescope Network. They got four separate exposures of 30 seconds each and stitched them together to make this animation.

At its closest approach, 2010 RX30 was about 154,100 miles from Earth, or 60 percent the distance between the Earth and the moon.

Another asteroid, 2010 RF12, swung past Earth at a distance of 49,000 miles (20 percent the Earth-moon distance) at 5:12 p.m. EDT (0012 UT Thursday). Check back for more photos of these cosmic interlopers in action.

Wow. Maybe we do need those asteroid missions the Obamanator is proposing for NASA, eh?

Close-Shave Asteroid Caught on Camera


From asteroids to volcanoes on alien worlds, can it get any better than that?:

Volcanoes display the awesome power of Nature like few other events. Earlier this year, ash from an Icelandic volcano disrupted air travel throughout much of northern Europe. Yet this recent eruption pales next to the fury of Jupiter’s moon Io, the most volcanic body in our solar system.

Now that astronomers are finding rocky worlds orbiting distant stars, they’re asking the next logical questions: Do any of those worlds have volcanoes? And if so, could we detect them? Work by theorists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics suggests that the answer to the latter is a qualified “Yes.”

“You would need something truly earthshaking, an eruption that dumped a lot of gases into the atmosphere,” said Smithsonian astronomer Lisa Kaltenegger. “Using the James Webb Space Telescope, we could spot an eruption 10 to 100 times the size of Pinatubo for the closest stars,” she added.

Astronomers are decades away from being able to image the surface of an alien world, or exoplanet. However, in a few cases they have been able to detect exoplanet atmospheres for gas giants known as “hot Jupiters.” An eruption sends out fumes and various gases, so volcanic activity on a rocky exoplanet might leave a telltale atmospheric signature.

To examine which volcanic gases might be detectable, Kaltenegger and her Harvard colleagues, Wade Henning and Dimitar Sasselov, developed a model for eruptions on an Earth-like exoplanet based on the present-day Earth. They found that sulfur dioxide from a very large, explosive eruption is potentially measurable because a lot is produced and it is slow to wash out of the air.

“Our first sniffs of volcanoes from an alien Earth might be pretty rank!” Kaltenegger said. “Seeing a volcanic eruption on an exoplanet will show us similarities or differences among rocky worlds.”

The 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines spewed about 17 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere — a layer of air 6 to 30 miles above Earth’s surface. The largest volcanic eruption in recorded history, the 1815 Tambora event, was about 10 times more powerful.

Such gigantic eruptions are infrequent, so astronomers would have to monitor many Earth-sized planets for years to catch one in the act. However, if alien worlds are more volcanically active than Earth, success might be more likely.

“A Tambora-sized eruption doesn’t happen often here, but could be more common on a younger planet, or a strongly tidally active planet — analogous to Io,” said Henning. “Once you detected one eruption, you could keep watch for further ones, to learn if frequent eruptions are common on other planets.”

To look for volcanic sulfur dioxide, astronomers would rely on a technique known as the secondary eclipse, which requires the exoplanet to cross behind its star as seen from Earth. By collecting light from the star and planet, then subtracting the light from the star (while the planet is hidden), astronomers are left with the signal from the planet alone. They can search that signal for signs of particular chemical molecules.

Due to its proximity, a hypothetical Earth or super-Earth orbiting Alpha Centauri would offer a best-case scenario for a sun-like star. A super-Earth orbiting a smaller host star close to our own Sun would show the biggest signal. But any Earth-like planet less than 30 light-years away could show faint signs of volcanism when studied with the James Webb Space Telescope.

I think our telescope ability will out-pace our space probe capability simply because of economic conditions, not technological.

It’ll be cheaper to develop super long range sensor technology and couple that with virtual reality/super computing abilities.

Can you say “Avatar?”

Can we spot volcanoes on Alien Worlds?

Today’s hat tips go to The Daily Grail and Graham Hancock’s Site

Ancient Sumerians Record Meteor Event

From Physorg.com:

The giant landslide centred at Köfels in Austria is 500m thick and five kilometres in diameter and has long been a mystery since geologists first looked at it in the 19th century. The conclusion drawn by research in the middle 20th century was that it must be due to a very large meteor impact because of the evidence of crushing pressures and explosions. But this view lost favour as a much better understanding of impact sites developed in the late 20th century…

…new research by Alan Bond, Managing Director of Reaction Engines Ltd and Mark Hempsell, Senior Lecturer in Astronautics at Bristol University, brings the impact theory back into play. It centres on another 19th century mystery, a Cuneiform tablet in the British Museum collection No K8538 (known as “the Planisphere”).

It was found by Henry Layard in the remains of the library in the Royal Place at Nineveh, and was made by an Assyrian scribe around 700 BC. It is an astronomical work as it has drawings of constellations on it and the text has known constellation names. It has attracted a lot of attention but in over a hundred years nobody has come up with a convincing explanation as to what it is.With modern computer programmes that can simulate trajectories and reconstruct the night sky thousands of years ago the researchers have established what the Planisphere tablet refers to. It is a copy of the night notebook of a Sumerian astronomer as he records the events in the sky before dawn on the 29 June 3123 BC (Julian calendar). Half the tablet records planet positions and cloud cover, the same as any other night, but the other half of the tablet records an object large enough for its shape to be noted even though it is still in space. The astronomers made an accurate note of its trajectory relative to the stars, which to an error better than one degree is consistent with an impact at Köfels. 

Ancient Sumerians were superb observers of the night sky and are credited with the founding of astrology, which surprisingly is still practiced and followed to this day. They passed this practice on to their Assyrian and Babylonian descendents, who spread it to the Hebrews. 

After the Babylonians came the Persian Empire, who no doubt practiced it and when Alexander the Great conquered them, it spread even more through the West. The ancient Egyptians practiced a form of astrology and some argue they taught the Sumerians, but the Sumerians were contemporaries and possibly an older culture, so it might be the other way around, nobody is sure. That is how mainstream historians see it anyway and there are other alternative histories that contradict the main doctrine, but that’s for another post.

It’s interesting to note that ancient Middle Eastern cultures show a certain continuity, because the article says the cuneiform tablet is Assyrian and that it was a copy from a Sumerian original that was 2400 years older. So astronomical observation was a well developed discipline that no doubt had well trained observers. Modern researchers obviously are taking this into account as they verify the meteorite theory.

Ancient Sumerians are also credited with another astronomical observation, an event that might occur every 5000 years like clockwork.

Does ‘Nibiru’ ring a bell?