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A Trans-Neptunian Comet is Approaching Earth

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Amateur astronomer Michael Jäger made the 41-minute movie at his private observatory in Jauerling, Austria. At the time, Comet Iwamoto was crossing the celestial equator, so there are many streaks in the movie from geostationary satellites. (Update: A new movie from Jäger shows even more satellites including one satellite flare.)

 

Discovered in Dec. 2018 by Japanese amateur astronomer Masayuki Iwamoto, this comet is a visitor from beyond the Kuiper Belt. It comes from the realm of Extreme Trans-Neptunian Objects (ETNOs) more than 5 times as far from the sun as Pluto. This means it could be a relative of other ETNOS such as Sedna, 2012 VP113 ("Biden"), and 2015 TG387 ("Goblin"). 

 

Comet Iwamoto doesn't visit us very often. Following a highly elliptical 1371-year orbit, its last passage through the inner solar system was around 648 AD (unrecorded), and its next won't happen until 3390 AD. Therefore, if you want to see the comet, now is the time to look.

 

Shining with an astronomical magnitude of +6.5, the comet is invisible to the unaided eye. Nevertheless, it will be an easy target for backyard telescopes in the nights ahead as it glides through the constellation Leo the Lion high in the midnight sky. If you have a GOTO telescope, use this ephemeris to point your optics--and submit your images here.

 

http://spaceweather.com/

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ATMOSPHERIC COSMIC RAYS ARE INCREASING:  http://spaceweather.com/

 

Cosmic rays in the stratosphere are intensifying for the 4th year in a row. This finding comes from a campaign of almost weekly high-altitude balloon launches conducted by the students of Earth to Sky Calculus. Since March 2015, there has been a ~13% increase in X-rays and gamma-rays over central California, where the students have launched hundreds of balloons.

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The grey points in the graph are Earth to Sky balloon data. Overlaid on that time series is a record of neutron monitor data from the Sodankyla Geophysical Observatory in Oulu, Finland. The correlation between the two data sets is impressive, especially considering their wide geographic separation and differing methodologies. Neutron monitors have long been considered a "gold standard" for monitoring cosmic rays on Earth. This shows that our student-built balloons are gathering data of similar quality.

Why are cosmic rays increasing? The short answer is "Solar Minimum." Right now, the 11-year solar cycle is plunging into one of the deepest minima of the Space Age. The sun's weakening magnetic field and flagging solar wind are not protecting us as usual from deep-space radiation. Earth to Sky balloon launches in multiple countries and US states show that this is a widespread phenomenon.

 

solarcycle_strip.pngCosmic rays are of interest to anyone who flies on airplanes. The International Commission on Radiological Protection has classified pilots as occupational radiation workers because of cosmic ray doses they receive while flying. A recent study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health shows that flight attendants face an elevated risk of cancer compared to members of the general population. They listed cosmic rays as one of several risk factors. There are also controversial studies that suggest cosmic rays promote the formation of clouds in the atmosphere; if so, increasing cosmic rays could affect weather and climate.

 

 

 

 

 

PHYSICS OF AN EXPLODING COSMIC RAY BALLOON:  http://spaceweather.com/

 

On Nov. 14, 2018, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus launched a balloon to measure increasing levels of cosmic rays in the atmosphere. At the apex of the flight, the balloon exploded and the radiation sensors parachuted back to Earth. A video camera on top of the payload recorded the pop:

 

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Edited by RichP714

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Was confused by the term "Space Weather" since weather layer is the troposphere.

If earth weather allows, I'll look for the comet.

 

This low in the sunspot cycle means only long wave radio communication is possible.

No 10 meters.

 

Neat to see condensation as balloon's gas expands.  Moisture was probably inside the balloon.

 

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12 minutes ago, jvandyke_texas said:

Was confused by the term "Space Weather" since weather layer is the troposphere.

If earth weather allows, I'll look for the comet.

 

This low in the sunspot cycle means only long wave radio communication is possible.

No 10 meters.

 

Neat to see condensation as balloon's gas expands.  Moisture was probably inside the balloon.

 

 

The site typically focuses on solar disturbances.  We have to monitor the exposure of our sensitive arrays up there.  A reconnaissance satellite looks quite a bit like the Hubble space telescope, excepting that it is pointing back down.  That 'flip top' lid can cover and protect the optics if/when we needed to put the bird into safe mode.

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