Week Of Incredible Things 2/11-2/17

Week Of Incredible Things 2/11-2/17

Today In Space History- 2/17/13 WEEK OF INCREDIBLE THINGS

This week was an unbelievable week of  astronomical phenomena asteroids, meteor strikes, comets, and earth-shattering discoveries. Today, I’ll try to list them all, in a weekend recap!

Monday, February 11th

On Monday, February 11th, NASA sent two rockets up into space, one containing an environmental satellite, and the other containing a supply ship called Progress 50 that blast off from Khasakstan at 9:40 AM Monday, and docked with the International Space Station at 3:40 PM EST. Here is a video of that event from our friends at NASA, specifically the mission control officer Tom Erkenswick

Also, Monday night, six hours after Pope Benedict XVI resigned his post, a huge bolt of lightning hit St. Peter’s Basilica, making some question as to whether his boss was pleased with the lack of notice. Benedict was the first pope to resign in over 700 years.

Tuesday, February 12th

Image of Comet Panstars taken by an amateur astronomer in Victoria, Australia
Image of Comet Panstars taken by an amateur astronomer in Victoria, Australia

For astronomers in the southern Hemisphere, Tuesday was an ideal night to observe Comet Panstarrs, which has been passing close to Earth since February 1st. Here is an image uploaded an Australian observatory on Tuesday February 12th, 2013

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the best time to see the comet will be around March 15th. I’ll be keeping a close eye on any updates, and put plenty of juicy photos and videos up when I find them, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 13th

On February 13th, Researchers at MIT announced that they had found an object that just might be the youngest black hole in the galaxy! The object, known as W49B, is a supernova remnant about 26,000 light years away. The researchers now believe that this remnant is hiding a collapsed star because of its peculiar shape. You can read about the whole study here.

Thursday, February 14th (Valentines Day)

NASA’s Fermi Telescope proved conclusively that high energy cosmic rays are produced in the bellies of supernova explosions, observing objects like M44, and IC 443, (AKA the Jellyfish Nebula).

Friday, February 15th

Today the asteroid DA 14 came its closets to the Earth. At 150 feet (45 meters) wide, it was half the size of a football field, and came so close to Earth, that it passed close to our communications satellites. This was the first time an asteroid of this size has ever come close enough to Earth for scientists to study it in detail! DA 14 was actually discovered last year by Spanish scientists

Once again, the Australians seemed to get the best view of DA 14, just like the comet that passed over Victoria earlier this week. If you go to Space.com, you can view its path as photographed from an Australian observatory.

Of course, another asteroid stole the thunder of the night from DA 14- the infamous meteor that crashed in Russia’s Ural Mountains, injuring over 1,100 people. The meteor crashed 9:20 AM local time, (around 3AM for us). The meteor left a trail of smoke visible 200 km away, and had the explosive power of about 300,000 tuns of TNT. This was the most powerful meteor explosion since the Tungusta blast of 1908, which leveled an area nearly the size of Rhode Island. It set roofs on fire, and sent a powerful shock wave that sent broken glass flying through the region.  NASA described this as a “little asteroid,” 55 feet in diameter. Although it came the same day, this asteroid was actually not connected to DA14, which was actually passing in the opposite direction. As yet, no major injuries or fatalities have been reported.

Saturday, February 16th

Fortunately, after the excitement and tragedy of Friday, the only major space event was the conjunction of the Moon and Jupiter, which is currently the brightest planet in the sky and never sets during the night. This continues tonight.

So I’m happy to say that this night, we shouldn’t have any Earth-shaking surprises from above, but in the next few weeks, we can see the comet Panstarr, the return of many of our favorite planets to the night sky, and a new star sign beginning February 20th.

So enjoy this weekly recap, and happy stargazing!


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