Each Monday I pick out the northern hemisphere’s celestial highlights (mid-northern latitudes) for the week ahead, but be sure to check my main feed for more in-depth articles on stargazing, astronomy, eclipses and more.
What To See In The Night Sky This Week: June 27-July 3, 2022
It’s not easy going stargazing in summer at this time of year in the northern hemisphere. The nights are just so short. The best reason to stay up late and go somewhere dark is the sight of the spiral arms of our Milky Way galaxy arcing across the night sky. Look to the southeast and south for that this month—and this week in particular, which will be largely moonless.
When our satellite does emerge from its New Moon conjunction with the Sun expect lush views of a slender crescent Moon. Who said summer was no good for stargazing?
Monday, June 27, 2022: Boötids meteor shower and a crescent Moon meets Mercury
The June Boötids meteor shower—occasionally called the June Draconids or Boötid-Draconids meteor shower—runs annually between June 22 and July 2, but peaks in the early hours of June 27, 2020.
If you are out stargazing late tonight keep an eye out for the 50 or so “shooting stars” per hour expected. The shower’s radiant point—the apparent source of the shooting stars—is the constellation of Boötes.
If you’re still up before dawn you might just catch the planet Mercury just 3.9º from an incredibly slender 2.6% crescent Moon, but be very careful if you use binoculars to help you because the rising Sun is NOT something you want in your field of view.
Tuesday, June 30, 2022: A super-slim crescent Moon and ‘Asteroid Day’
Today is Asteroid Day. With any luck there won’t be anything to see hurtling towards (or even smashing into) our planet, but it’s a good chance to consider the threat posed to Earth of incoming space rocks. What’s really going to change everything is the Vera Rubin Observatory, which from 2022 will deploy a wide-angle camera to map the night sky in real-time—and identify many thousands of hitherto unfound asteroids.
Friday, July 1, 2022: ‘Earthshine’ on a crescent Moon
You should get a much clearer view of a crescent Moon today. Now 8% illuminated, in a clear sky it will be a stunning sight, not least because you’ll be able to see sunlight being reflected onto the Moon by the Earth as “Earthshine” or “planet-shine.” It’s a subtle sight, but once seen cannot be unseen; look at the Moon’s darkened limb with your eyes, or better still, with a pair of binoculars, to appreciate this fine sight.
As a bonus it will be just 3.5° from the Beehive Cluster, though you’ll need a pair of binoculars to see its 30 or so easily visible stars.
Saturday, July 2, 2022: ‘Earthshine’ on a crescent Moon and Regulus
Tonight just after sunset look west for a 14% crescent Moon, once again displaying Earthshine. The stars around it will be those of the “sickle” in the constellation of Leo. The brightest, about 5º left of the Moon, will be Leo’s brightest star, Regulus. It’s one of the brightest stars in the night sky and about 78 light-years distant.
Object of the week: noctilucent clouds
This time of year the twilight seems to last forever at northerly latitudes so consider looking for a “ghostly” display of noctilucent or “night shining” clouds (NLCs). At their best in northern twilight skies during June and July (at latitudes between 50° and 70° north and south of the equator), NLCs are very delicate high altitude clouds of icy dust that form about 50 miles/80 kilometres up. Because the Sun is never too far below the horizon at these latitudes they get subtly lit up for a short time. They’re best seen with the naked eye or a pair of binoculars.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.
This solar storm strike on Earth triggered a Mysterious phenomenon called ‘STEVE’ – HT Tech
On August 7 and 8, an unexpected solar storm event on Earth displayed a mysterious and rare sky phenomenon called STEVE or Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement. What is it and how can it affect us? Find out.
We have always associated solar storms with aurora displays, damage to man-made satellites, radio blackouts and GPS disruptions, but it turns out that solar storms can trigger more mysterious phenomenons than that. The August 7 and 8 solar storm, which came as a surprise, caused a strange space phenomenon that left even the scientists puzzled. Many reported seeing a bright stream of light across the sky which was not like any aurora even seen. The question that arises now is what was that stunning light and can it affect us somehow?
The event was first reported by SpaceWeather.com which noted on its website, “During yesterday’s surprise geomagnetic storm, hot ribbons of plasma flowed through Earth’s magnetosphere. The name of this phenomenon is ‘STEVE’ — short for Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement. It was also sighted in Montana and Pennsylvania”.
The mysterious phenomenon to be born out of a solar storm is called STEVE
STEVE was seen in many locations in the higher latitudes of the northern hemisphere and reportedly lasted about 40 minutes to an hour. While not much is known about these purple streams of light, we do know some facts about it.
STEVE is a very recent discovery. It was first observed in 2017 by citizen scientists and aurora hunters in northern Canada, according to Live Science. The purple glow is formed due to excessively hot (more than 3000 degrees Celsius) gas ribbons that move through the magnetosphere of the Earth. These gas ribbons typically move much faster than the air surrounding it and when it comes in contact with the radiation of solar storms, it gives out a band of glowing color. These are different from auroras because they are not caused by solar radiations colliding with atoms of oxygen and nitrogen through a process called refraction.
While this is still a superficial understanding of the chemical and physical activities that are taking place to cause this strange phenomenon, it does make for a stunning view across the sky. As for whether it can affect us, so far no evidence shows that these light displays are in any way harmful for us or the planet.
Meteor Showers Taking Place Thursday and Friday Night – NorfolkToday.ca
A meteor shower you won’t want to miss.
Gary Boyle, The Backyard Astronomer, tells us we are currently passing through the dusty debris of Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle.
It last appeared in 1992, and will return again in 2125.
He said the shower is lasting all night long, but 2 a.m. would be the time to see the most meteor.
The Backyard Astronomer suggested keeping an eye out for other things in the sky, as well.
Boyle added the next large shower will be in mid-December, but this one might be a little warmer to sit outside and watch.
Written by Ashley Taylor
New long-necked dinosaur helps rewrite evolutionary history of sauropods in South America – University of Michigan News
A medium-sized sauropod dinosaur inhabited the tropical lowland forested area of the Serranía del Perijá in northern Colombia approximately 175 million years ago, according to a new study by an international team of researchers published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
The new species is a long-necked, plant-eating dinosaur known from a single trunk vertebra that is about a half meter tall and wide. The vertebra bears a distinct pattern of bony struts that identify it as the new dinosaur species Perijasaurus lapaz (pear-EE-hah-SOW-roos la-PAHZ)—named in recognition of the mountainous region where it was found and for the 2016 peace treaty that allowed scientists to pursue their research decades after the fossil remains were found in 1943.
Perijasaurus is the northernmost occurrence of a sauropod in South America and represents an early phase in their evolutionary history.
“This new genus and species in the paleotropics allows us to understand a little more about the origin of the sauropods in the Jurassic, as well as how they set the stage for later sauropods from the Cretaceous,” said study lead author Aldo Rincón Burbano, professor of physics and geosciences at the Universidad del Norte in Colombia.
The fossil was first discovered in 1943 during a geological mapping campaign by the Tropical Oil Company. The specimen was taken to the collections of University of California, Berkeley and preliminarily described in 1955.
University of Michigan paleontology curator and professor Jeff Wilson Mantilla examined the specimen as a graduate student in 1997 and later developed a project supported by the Fulbright Foundation to study early sauropod evolution in Colombia.
As part of that project, the Colombian specimen was loaned to U-M, where chief preparator William Sanders removed glues and plaster, greatly increasing the visibility of anatomical details and reducing the total weight of the sample.
“Following repreparation of the fossil, we were able to better visualize the delicate bony laminae that interconnect the projecting parts of the vertebra—the spine, the intervertebral articulations, the rib articulations—the architecture of those connections provides critical morphological information that identifies it as a new species and places it within the sauropod family tree,” Wilson Mantilla said.
A 3D model of the specimen is hosted on the University of Michigan Online Repository of Fossils.
A conflict since 1964 between the Colombian military forces, the FARC guerrilla group and paramilitary groups made it unsafe to conduct research in Serranía del Perijá, near the border between Colombia and Venezuela, until the peace agreements in 2016.
Since then, the research team has been working to determine with higher precision where the fossil was found. A satellite image of the region was superimposed upon a hand-drawn map from 1955 showing the location of the fossil. A further clue was provided by sediment removed from the vertebra itself during the preparation process—allowing the team to determine the specific layer from which the bone was
collected. Fieldwork at the site and neighboring localities helped to reconstruct the paleoenvironment the dinosaur inhabited.
“Perijasaurus lived in an environment of low slopes associated with a river and a forested area. We found fine sand and leaf debris in the sediment deposited in the area where the vertebra was originally found, and it is consistent with the sediment within the neural arch of the vertebra, which are only preserved near a floodplain, i.e., near the slopes of a river, a wooded area,” said Daniel Raad, a former geology student at the Universidad del Norte.
Most of the discoveries of dinosaurs in South America come from rocks from the Cretaceous period located in Argentina and Brazil. Dinosaurs from the northern part of South America are much rarer, particularly during the Jurassic and Triassic periods, during the initial radiation of dinosaurs, when landmasses were still substantially interconnected.
“Although Perijasaurus is represented by a single vertebra, that region of the skeleton provides the most information in sauropods, due to a series of laminae and other structures,” said Martín Ezcurra, a paleontologist and associate researcher of the CONICET (Argentina’s National Council for Scientific and Technical Research) and head curator of paleovertebrates at the Argentine Museum of Natural Sciences.
The researchers were able to determine the evolutionary relationships of Perijasaurus through a computational analysis focusing on Early and Middle Jurassic sauropods.
“Perijasaurus is part of the early radiation of sauropods, which includes species from southern South America, Africa, Asia and Europe,” said Harold Jiménez Velandia, a geologist at the University of Caldas.
The presence of Perijasaurus in the paleotropics of South America, together with its close phylogenetic relationship with geographically widespread species that inhabited low latitudes, suggests that sauropods diversified and dispersed fairly rapidly following a major anoxic event at the end of the Lower Jurassic, when portions of the oceans were depleted of oxygen over large geographic areas.
“What we see in the Early Jurassic, both in high latitudes and in the most tropical areas, is that sauropod species were evolutionarily and geographically interconnected, which is something that had also been seen with other groups of carnivorous and herbivorous dinosaurs,” Ezcurra said.
Sauropods are the largest animals to have walked on land, some reaching estimated lengths of 49 meters and weights of up to 57 metric tons. Their ability to support their weight and move their bodies efficiently stems from a series of adaptations to reduce weight and increase bony support.
An anatomical hallmark of sauropods is vertebral pneumaticity. Essentially, extensions of the air-sac system of the lungs extend into the vertebral column and actually remove internal bone, effectively lightening the skeleton.
“By the Late Jurassic, sauropods had evolved highly pneumatic vertebrae riddled with air spaces that removed one-half to three-quarters the bone weight. Perijasaurus represents an evolutionary antecedent in which the pneumatic invasions are much simpler and more limited in extent, removing less than a quarter of bone volume,” Wilson Mantilla said.
He said the team will continue to focus on regions of Colombia that have exposures of Jurassic sediments.
“Colombia is emerging as a country with great potential to contribute to the paleontology of the continent and the world,” Wilson Mantilla said.
Perijasaurus is permanently stored at the University of California Museum of Paleontology in Berkeley, California. The research was funded by the Fulbright Foundation, Universidad del Norte, Sam Welles Fund and CONICET.
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