Meteors, Pluto’s Woes and Space Junk…

I received my latest Astronomy magazine yesterday and wanted to share a few juicy astronomical tidbits with you.  I know…I am a geek with my eye to the telescope… 

The Aurigid Meteor Shower

Apparently folks along Western and Pacific regions of North America will be treated to a rare Aurigid meteor shower in the wee early morning hours of September 1 (very early Saturday morning with the peak predicted time occurring around 5:36 am MDT, 4:36 am PDT).  Look to the mid to lower Eastern, Southeastern and Southern skies for this phenomenon.  Scientists are hesitant to make too much of this spectacle because the waning gibbous moon’s light might interfere with viewing (plus, they are not sure how spectacular the sighting will be giving the inability to predict the intensity of the show from it’s behaviour in previous years…ie.  “trickle of stars” or “bursts of meteors” that make you go “oooohh….” and “aaahhhhh….”).  My bet is that the show will be somewhere in between knock your socks off and “ah…that was ok…, but not quite worth a 5 am wake up call, sans coffee.”  Oh, by the way…the attraction of the Aurigids?  You’ll be spotting meteors that originated from the time of Julius Caesar…(so you can put on your Astronomical Toga for full effect…).  See the NASA article here.  I am hoping that the Keiss Comet can deliver it’s sparkly spectacle.  The last “viewing” was thirteen years ago.

[Now…where did that pesky coffee cup go….Ah, there, hiding behind my laptop….sip].

Poor Pluto

Kicked in the metaphorical space “junk” yet again, this poor planet is suffering from a serious identity crisis.  Last year, this poor planet was demoted to a “dwarf planet” (after it’s coveted position as this solar system’s 9th visible planet).  I don’t know about you, but having a planet demoted in our life-time should be considered a rather remarkable event in human history.  Now, it seems as though technology is once again conspiring against this “dwarf planet.”  The Hubble Space Telescope and 10 m Keck Telescope in Hawaii have recently discovered that Pluto, is not the largest dwarf planet out there.  Apparently, a nearby dwarf planet called Eris is 100 km larger than Pluto (and 1.27 X it’s mass).  It was discovered in 2005, thus sparking the initial debate of Pluto’s planetary status.  Poor Pluto.  It’s been confirmed.  Your diameter is lacking by a mere 100 km and you are now the second largest “dwarf planet”.  But, we should look on the bright side (pardon the pun), the International Astronomical Union (in 2006) felt bad enough for you to designate a new class of solar system object called “dwarf planet.”  Hold your orbit for now Pluto….no catapulting yourself into the cosmic depths in solar misery.  We love you “second dwarf planet from the sun!”

Genesis of More Space Junk

Did you know that an environmental disaster occurred in the Earth’s orbit zone?  I did not.  But, apparently the Chinese government decided to destroy an orbiting, ageing weather satellite (Fengyun-1C) in the Earth’s orbit on January 11, 2007 with a ballistic medium-range missile (ground based).  The Chinese have offered no explanation for the act, other than describing that it was a non-hostile attempt to destroy the satellite.  So now, 750 kg of dispersed satellite shrapnel are whizzing about at 8 km/sec, bumping into very expensive and sensitive pieces of astronomical kit in the Earth’s orbit.  A photo from NASA shows the impact effects of a 0.2 mm (millimetre!!!!!) paint chip on one of the space shuttle Challenger’s windows.  I know.  I still shake my head in disbelief when I see that image.  I really don’t have any smart ass comments for this story, other than I hope to hell that these fragments disintegrate when they enter the Earth’s atmosphere on re-entry.  All I need is a bloody rocket propellant tank for a lawn ornament.  I wonder what a crop of white begonias would look like in that thing?!

Happy Stargazing!


2 responses to “Meteors, Pluto’s Woes and Space Junk…

  1. I would so hope this stuff disentigrates on entry. There is too much litter up there! Haven’t we learned anything yet?

    Poor Pluto. They really should have kept him around on planet status, just for posterity. Seems so harsh just to yank his credentials like that. Couldn’t we have grandfathered him in as Planet Before Hubble (PBH?)

    Can I get one of those astronomical togas in a nice indigo blue color? I think the fact that the meteors originated in the time of Julius C is damn cool. Too bad we can’t see this shower in the heartland.

    I must crown you the “Wittiest Commentor of the Week” OB! Lol! Poor Pluto is a bit of a poor bloke, isn’t he? I second the motion to honour the spherical chap with a PBH title! Oh! And indigo blue is “your” colour darling…It will enhance that wonderful Mediterranean skin tone of yours. I myself, might chose a shade of emerald green. Yeah…too bad about your location in the Heartland. If anything weird or unusual happens from my end (meteor gazing), I’ll give you a shout! Peace and love Sister!

  2. Hi PM,
    I understand there are a number of dropped tools floating about up there such as spanners. They’ve had to be officially listed as ‘satellites’.
    As for poor Pluto, we can save its dignity by the correct use of language. The word ‘planet’ originally meant ‘wanderer.’
    So there you are, as it wanders, it’s a planet.
    Oh dear, just like than damn spanner.

    Hi Anthony! Lol! I love British terminology. I had to look up the word “spanner” this morning…we call it a “crescent wrench” in my part of the world (I love comparing terminology!). Anyways, I did not know that…So we have spanner (crescent wrench) satellites?! Ooops…I mean Spanner Wanderers. Or, if we call it a Crescent Wanderer, then it at least implies some type of “phase” (as in the moon’s phases!!). Oh my….this is very twisted and convoluted! And, yes, I am all for restoring Pluto’s dignity. We should call it “Pluto the Party Pooping Wanderer” or something like that. Cheers!

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