TGT #34 - Dangerous NEA Nearby?; + 7 more [Nov. 1, 2022]
This Just In--NEAs Near The Sun, The Oldest Star Catalog Found, Supernova Warning!; New Pub InDepth Preview; Sky Calendar--Total Lunar Eclipse, Moon Passes 5 Planets, 2 Meteor Showers; Arabic AEL
Cover Photo - NEA Near Sun
In This Issue:
Cover Photo — NEA Near Sun
This Just In —
- Dangerous NEA Nearby?
- Pieces of the Earliest Star Catalog Found
- Supernova Warning System in Nature?
Welcome to Issue 34!
- Active Evening Sky
- Introducing The Galactic Times — InDepth!
InDepth Article Preview —
Sky Planning Calendar —
* Moon-Gazing -
- Total Lunar Eclipse November 8
- Use the Moon to See Brightness Differences, and Find FIVE Planets.
* Observing—Plan-et - Uranus Easy to Find, Two Meteor Showers Radiate from Taurus
* Border Crossings
Astronomy in Everyday Life — Arabic New Moon and Stars in the Air
The Classroom Astronomer Newsletter - Inbox Magazine Issue 38 Highlights!
Welcome to The Galactic Times Newsletter-Inbox Magazine #34 !
In this issue of The Galactic Times, the sky is very active! The Planning Calendar and the Moon points us to five planets (use the Online Calendar to keep up!) and the Moon blushes during a total lunar eclipse. Meteor showers, though not yet major ones, are increasing—two this fortnight. And we’ve found some Arabic real world Astronomy in Everyday Life items for this month! Enjoy!
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Coming to your Inbox will be an announcement for our newest publication, The Galactic Times — InDepth. TGTID will explore a topic in each issue, as stated, in depth, like a New York Times Sunday Magazine piece, rather than running a story over two or more regular Galactic Times issues. The first issue will be essentially the first chapter of a hoped-for future book and occasional series on US meteor craters you can visit and see features on the landscape, in this case, the ~6-mile diameter Wetumpka, Alabama crater. The article will take you on a tour of its features, with driving instructions and photos, and also what else is in the area in order to make a real trip out of the experience. As the article will be longer than a regular issue, the issue will have a downloadable PDF link for subscribers.
Other articles anticipated include excerpts from two upcoming books—an article on Polaris and the true North Celestial Pole—and Star Trek astronomy. Interviews, possible short podcast excerpts, indepth summary articles based on plenaries and talks at astronomy and astronomy education conferences, and articles authored by others are also anticipated (and requested!).
InDepth will be a premium publication. It will start as a monthly magazine with an occasional bonus issue as topics warrant. The introductory subscription through Substack will be $18.00 per year, becoming $24 beginning February 2023.
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Click here https://www.thegalactictimes.com for our Home Page, with all past issue Tables of Contents and stories indexed by topic. You can also hear and find useful materials for education from our former podcast on the website (plus links to other Hermograph products and periodicals).
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Publisher — Dr. Larry Krumenaker Email: email@example.com
This Just In —
* Large Near Earth Asteroids Playing Hide-and-Seek Near the Sun
We tend to think of looking for dangerous asteroids attacking Earth from “outer” space, i.e. from beyond Mars, from the asteroid belt or the Kuiper Belt, the Oort Cloud or even interstellar space. But it is the punch you didn’t see coming that often gets you knocked out, right? And in the solar system, that would be asteroids coming at us hidden in the bright light of the Sun.
Astronomers using the Dark Energy Camera at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile have caught three NEAs—Near Earth Asteroids—hiding near the Sun. One, 2021 PH27, is the closest known asteroid to the Sun. Thus it has the largest general-relativity effects of any object in our Solar System and its surface gets hot enough to melt lead. Another, 2022 AP7, is of a more serious concern. It is a 1.5-kilometer-wide asteroid with an orbit that may someday place it in Earth’s path.
Astronomer Scott Sheppard notes that they can only observe ten minutes during each twilight, when skies are dark enough AND they can look close enough to the Sun. So far there are only 25 known asteroids with orbits completely within Earth’s orbit, and only two 1-kilometer or greater “planet killers.” So far….
* The Earliest Star Catalog Surfaces
Anyone who has studied the history of astronomy has heard of Hipparchus. This ancient Greek astronomer was the creator of the magnitude system used to measure the brightnesses of stars. Many other ancient astronomers wrote of his work, and his catalog of the objects in the sky, and more recently, the Hipparcos satellite was sent aloft to measure with great accuracy those same stars, an honorary precursor to the Gaia mission. But the original catalog was lost to history. Until now.
A fragment of this 2nd Century BC masterpiece was recently found by examining some much later manuscripts that had been recycled by medieval monks. Rather than obtaining or creating new parchments, the monks took old manuscripts, washed away the ink (though incompletely it turns out) and wrote on top of the old parchment. Modern technology using multi-spectral analysis can separate new ink from the older ink and ancient impressions and reread the older manuscript. This particular fragment has information from Hipparchus on four constellations, with positional data that are not only surprisingly accurate, but more accurate than that which was quoted by Claudius Ptolemy four centuries later, proving Ptolemy wasn’t as accurate or trustworthy as thought. If only if we could find the other pages! [Journal for the History of Astronomy, 18 October 2022. DOI:10.1177/00218286221128289]
* A Supernova Warning System?
Astronomers from Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Montpellier have devised an ‘early warning’ system to sound the alert when a massive star is about to end its life in a supernova explosion. The work was published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (in Press), ‘Explosion Imminent: the appearance of Red Supergiants at the point of core-collapse’ (October 13 announcement).
“In this new study, researchers determined that massive stars (typically between 8 and 20 solar masses) in the last phase of their lives, the so-called ‘red supergiant’ phase, will suddenly become … fainter in visible light in the last few months before they die. This dimming is caused by a sudden accumulation of material around the star, which obscures its light.”
Old telescope archives show images of stars that went on to explode around a year later. The stars appear normal in these images, meaning they cannot yet have built up the theoretical circumstellar cocoon. This suggests that the cocoon is assembled in less than a year, which is considered to be extremely fast.
Benjamin Davies, astronomer and lead author of the paper, says “The dense material almost completely obscures the star, making it 100 times fainter in the visible part of the spectrum.” That is about 5 magnitudes dimmer. He adds, “Until now, we’ve only been able to get detailed observations of supernovae hours after they’ve already happened. With this early-warning system we can get ready to observe them real-time, to point the world’s best telescopes at the precursor stars, and watch them getting literally ripped apart in front of our eyes.”
InDepth Article Preview—
Imagine, in the near future….
All you hear is your breathing in your space suit. You walk gingerly through the lunar dust and rubble, up a rocky slight incline, to the edge…of the lunar crater. The sky above you is dark and star-filled but below you is a gaping, hundreds of feet deep, chasm. Miles ahead is a jagged set of mounds in the crater’s center, rising sharply in the mostly flat crater floor, pockmarked with smaller holes and narrow, dry, crooked cracks. What appeared a sharp edge rim in the distance is actually a rapid curve, like some frying pans, and like that pan, heads left and right into the distance to a far distant, barely visible meeting place. How to get safely down into the crater to explore that peak you have not yet figured out.
Alas, neither SpaceX nor Blue Origin, nor any other private space company, and not even NASA’s Artemis Moon program is yet contemplating lunar excursions for the common folk. Getting into Earth orbit, or a stay in a space station, is still not yet in the cards for them. But if it were, what would you do there? By sheer abundance, you’d go visit a crater! The things you’d likely most want to do would be to go right up to the lip of one of these cosmic holes in the ground and peer down into it. Or take a walk around its perimeter. Another interesting sight would be to climb down into the crater and head to its center and look around its interior in some 360-degree panorama, whether it is from its central lowest point on the bottom, or its central peak. And if the crater has an elevated rim, climbing up there for the view in all directions would be so grand, too! What if the crater had other features, such as terraces along the rim, or ejecta or rays outside? These would be bear exploring, too, right?
Until that day happens, we’ll have to make do with exploring craters on Earth. In the United States, there are over a dozen astroblemes—star wounds—with visible surface structure. Some are dramatic, others quite hidden under modern landscapes but if you know where the structures are, you can visit and view them. Some have peaks. Some have elevated rims and flat floors instead of deep depressions into the ground. Some are mere feet in diameter, others miles across; some are obvious as craters, some are disguised as mere rolling hills or buried under forests or subdivisions.
In this first exploration, call it EarthX(?), let more than your imagination roam over one such impact feature, a crater hiding in plain site. The Wetumpka Crater, in Alabama. Researched notably by Auburn University geologist Dr. David King Jr., it was created in a 100-foot deep shallow sea an estimated 85 million years ago, this 4.7 to 6 mile diameter--depending on where you want to draw your circle, we’ll call it 5-miles for short--astrobleme has a not-quite-complete rim ring and a central elevation. Both were formed by the rebound of the Earth’s temporarily molten surface as the 1000-foot-wide (0.2 –mile) meteor crashed into this Cretaceous sea. Any T-Rexes swimming within an area of about 4-5 miles farther out from the impact zone was likely hailed over with ejected matter inside the crater, evidenced by geological core samples; surface destruction likely ranged out another 25 miles, sea or no sea. Of the impactor itself, none of it survived, vaporizing upon contact and any remaining bits swept away into the now long-gone sea.
Today, the sea is long gone, Alabama here is fairly flat, with only slightly rolling terrain, and so the crater is a bit of an elevated, not a depression into the ground, anomalous feature on the landscape. Furthermore, it is on the edge of a river once used as a somewhat major commerce corridor in days gone by, which has eroded some of the terrain down nearby and revealed some ejected crater material outside of the crater itself.
How We Will Explore the Crater
Personal note: I enjoy getting to places where I can stand and see the history that happened there. As the author of several historical tourism books, I write to create walking, mass transit or driving trails so that others can follow the story to those places. I use the mileages recorded in my automobile to the nearest 0.1 mile, and use landmarks as much as possible for finer precision since an odometer reading can be plus/minus that same 0.1 mile. Directions start from the nearest Interstate exit (or in this case, InterstateS; there are two here), and in the case of multiple trails, when possible, one local starting point we return to as our origin or zero point.
To follow along on the space tourism idea, there will be three trails:
The first and grandest is the Wetumpka Crater Profile Tour. We start far out and come closer and closer, seeing the outer features and rim, climbing upwards on the rim until we can view across the crater to the far rim.
The second tour is the Wetumpka Crater Inside Tour, where we succeed in getting down from the rim, through Wetumpka’s southwestern side rim gap, and head to the area of the Central Peak, which while on private property is quite otherwise evident, and we can do as close to a 360-degree view as we can, including a very good look to the far rim, and some interior features remaining from the actual impact moment.
The last tour, mostly to say we did it, is the Wetumpka Crater Circumference Tour, a drive around the rim.
To continue to read the story, you will have to sign up to read The Galactic Times InDepth! You can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or wait for the invitational email later this week!
Sky Planning Calendar
November is the Fall month following the seasonal quarter-point, between solstice and equinox, when the leaves have become mostly gone, and so are the inner planets. Mercury and Venus are nowhere to be seen, and as if delayed by a week, the Full Moon will appear as The Great Pumpkin on the 8th in a Total Lunar Eclipse. The three bright outer planets are all visited by the Moon, and the dim but technically naked eye Uranus is quite find-able this month.
Moon passages by a star, planet or deep sky object are a good way to find a planet or other object if you’ve never located it before.
November 1 First Quarter for North American East Coast and Europe (was last night, the 31st, for points westward. This evening, find Saturn four degrees distant from the Moon.
November 4 This morning you can find Neptune in a telescope some 3-degrees north of the Moon. Then in the evening much brighter Jupiter is 2-degrees north of our satellite. There is a whopping 10.6 magnitudes difference between the planets. A Full Moon, which the Moon almost is, is magnitude -12.6, while Jupiter is -2.8, a difference of 9.8 magnitudes, almost 10,000 times difference in brightness.
November 6 Daylight Saving Time Ends
November 8 A Triple Play—Full Moon, a Total Lunar Eclipse (see below for details), and Uranus is above the Moon or occulted by the Moon, depending on where you are. The eclipse is a dawn show for the Americas, evening for eastern Asia. The Uranian coverup (doesn’t that sound like a great spy novel phrase?) is mostly an Arctic adventure (even more!) visible in Asia, northern Russia, Alaska and northern and western Canada and northern Greenland and points…north. For the rest of us, look above the eclipsed moon by about a degree or less in the dawn.
November 11 Mars, still brightening and glowing redder, is 2-degrees from the Moon, which is between Mars and the star Beta Tauri, one of the Bull’s horn tips. A tight squeeze. Best seen in the dawn.
November 13 The Moon, at Apogee, is less than 2-degrees south of the star Pollux.
Mercury is lost in the solar glare, trying to enter the evening sky, but won’t take any kind of stage until next month, and a poor stage it will be then.
Venus, ditto. Slightly ahead of Mercury as November starts, it falls behind Mercury in this race, but temporarily, and invisibly in the twilight glare, not to be observed until December as well.
Earth-lings get to have two local phenomena to observe:
November 8th’s Total Lunar Eclipse has an hour and seconds-shy-of-26 minutes of totality. To see all of the eclipse, total and partial, though, you have to be on the North American Pacific Coast, west of a line starting at the Arizona-New Mexico border to the North Dakota-Minnesota border, continuing northeastward into the Arctic. Or, in Japan or Eastern Russia. East of that line mentioned it will be visible only in part. In fact, the Moon will set during totality if you are east of a line starting from Lake Michigan south to the Texas Gulf Coast. Between the two lines, you see totality but not the end partial phases.
Sample times: Partial begins—4:09 AM EST, 1:09 AM PST; Ends 7:49 AM EST (IF you can see it), 4:49 AM PST. Totality begins 5:16 AM EST, 2:16 AM PST; Ends 6:42 AM EST (IF you can see it), 3:42 AM PST.
Because the two best observing sites are on opposite sides of the Pacific, this would be a great opportunity to find the Moon’s distance using lunar parallax, taking observations of the Moon at the same moment in Japan and the US/Canadian West Coast, and seeing how far the Moon shifts against the background stars. Here are instructions on ways to measure the Moon’s distance, by parallax or by measuring the Moon’s traverse through Earth’s shadow.
There are two middling meteor showers during these two weeks, both radiating out of Taurus the Bull. The South Taurids come first, centered on November 5th, three days before Full Moon, so they truly will be best in the dawn hours when the waxing Gibbous moon sets. It produces only about 10 meteors per hour from a point south and a light bit west of the Pleiades star cluster. Six days later, on the 11th, the slightly stronger North Taurids peak, at 15 meteors per hour, but since the Full Moon just happened three days earlier, you aren’t going to get any dark skies to see many. Both showers linger along for a week before and after their peak dates so one interesting challenge is to observe them, and plot their meteor streaks on the same star maps and see if you can distinguish the two showers at the same time. Also, their radiant points aren’t motionless so watching them drift can be a fun observing project.
Mars was stationary on October 30th so it is just beginning its westward crawl back across the face of Taurus. It will rise at the end of evening twilight, becoming an all-night object, on the 15th. It starts the month at a brilliant magnitude -1.2 and continues to a -1.8 at month end, still rising into December. Check out the Moon near it on the dawn of the 11th. In fact, Mars reaches its closest distance to us at the end of November.
Jupiter, leading Mars in brightness and position, but not by much, and being up all night, too, is unmistakable, and photogenic by the Moon on the evening of the 4th.
Saturn, vainly trying to catch up to Jupiter to its East, can be found easily near the First Quarter Moon on the 1st. It is now an evening-only planet, setting at or before midnight by the 6th.
A side note: Herschel’s Georgian Sidus (aka, George’s Star, aka Uranus) reaches opposition on the 9th, rising as the Sun sets, visible all night and visible to the naked eye in dark skies (i.e. no city lights anywhere near you!) at magnitude +5.6. It is making an equilateral triangle with Pi and Rho Arietis (in Aries the Ram), both the same brightness or slightly fainter than the planet, and 1.8-degrees from Uranus. Rho is a double star with both components the same brightness. Using average home binoculars should locate this triangle of three (four?) stars. They will be near the Moon the night of the Eclipse but even then the Moon might still be too bright to find them, but they will be a good set of markers to use for the lunar parallax experiment mentioned above.
The Sun entered Libra the Scales on Halloween (and stays there thru until the 22nd whereas astrologers say it is in the constellation of Scorpius (called Scorpio by the them) this whole two weeks. Off by one, sigh.
Astronomy in Everyday Life
It is well-known that historically the Middle East is the origin of much of astronomy. Star names, observations, and more go back to ancient times; much of Renaissance astronomy was caused by the re-discovering of ancient Greek and Arabic astronomy preserved by Arabic scholars and rulers.
Some parts of the Middle East have had an awakening into more modern astronomy. The United Arab Emirates has a successful Mars probe going, and more planned, for example. And some astronomy is filtering into everyday life.
In the photo below is a possible hotel being proposed for Dubai, called Moon World Resorts, a 360-degree recreation of the Moon on the outside, with a 2042-foot circumference, and a flying saucer themed interior.
Then there is Emirates Airlines that helps you get some shut-eye by doing more than just dimming the cabin lights—they put up a starry night sky above you:
The Classroom Astronomer Newsletter - Inbox Magazine Issue 38 Highlights!·
Cover Photo - Passage of Moon Through Shadow
Welcome to Issue 38!
- Changes to The Classroom Astronomer
- A New Publication, The Galactic Times—InDepth
Sky Lessons -
- Education With the November Total Lunar Eclipse
- Stellar and Planetary Brightness Differences
- Meteor Radiants Aren’t Stationary
- When The Sun and Moon Look the Same Size, How Big Is a Shadow?
The Galactic Times #34 Highlights
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