VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – For the next couple of weeks, space enthusiasts will be searching the night sky, looking for a comet that won’t be seen again for thousands of years.
Photographers and stargazers are losing sleep trying to spot the comet NEOWISE, a one in a lifetime opportunity as the comet won’t be nearing Earth for another 6,800 years.
Vancouver’s Aaron Von Hagen is one of many photographers looking upwards into the late hours of the evening, all in the hopes of capturing the perfect shot of the recently discovered comet.
He was able to photograph the sight and says calls the experience thrilling.
“I just got back from shooting the comet, and I’m pulsating,” he says. “Not knowing where it’s going to show up in the sky but knowing it is going to show up. You see a little light on the horizon and you are thinking is that it? And it’s not. And then all of a sudden, when it got a little bit darker you could just see the tail that appeared out of nowhere.”
The comet is a visitor to our solar system and NASA says it won’t be back for another 6,800 years.
NEOWISE made a close approach to the Sun on July 3rd and is now crossing outside Earth’s orbit on its way back to the outer parts of the solar system.
Despite this, you’ll still be able to see the comet for a while.
Rachel Wang is an astronomer and explains you still have at least the next two weeks to search for the comet.
“It will be visible well until the end of this month but it is dimming in brightness so you’ll want to go out as soon as possible,” she says. “The best time to go is right after dusk, an hour after sunset. That’s around 10 pm to 11 pm looking North and North West.
The comet is attracting so much attention, in part, because you can see it clearly with the naked eye.
Von Hagen suggests it’s a rare opportunity to try and catch an awe-worthy photo, and you may even be able to do it on your phone.
Over the last few days, Von Hagen has spent about 20 hours capturing the comet, and he’s not alone, saying everywhere he goes he sees so
Experts believe that a large, explosive sound and fireball reported over Ontario and New York state Wednesday afternoon was likely caused by a meteor.
Denise Eighteen, a Port Dover resident, says she was driving towards Dover on Radical Road when she saw the light in the sky.
“I saw this huge fireball coming out of the sky, it was massive,” she said in a phone interview on Thursday. “It must have been going towards the lake because the tail was growing, and it was flaming.”
People in other areas, including Mississauga and Hamilton, also reported seeing the fireball.In Onondaga County, N.Y., there were reports of a large explosive sound being heard from above, Syracuse.com reported.
Eighteen said her husband, who was also in the vehicle with her, just caught the end of it and thought it might have been a blade flying off of a wind turbine.
“It was the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in my life, it was just breathtaking,” she said. “It was some sort of cool event in my life, it was special. I need to keep it in my mind’s eye for as long as I can.”
The Eighteen posted about the sighting in a Facebook group and received several messages from others saying they also spotted it around the county.
York University physics and astronomy professor Paul Delaney told 680 News the fireball was likely a meteor.
Delaney said the meteor would likely have to be fairly large in order to be seen in the sky midday. As a meteor enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it heats up, causing the air around it to glow.
Robert Lunsford of the American Meteor Society told Syracuse.com the large boom heard was likely caused by a sonic boom from the meteor. A sonic boom occurs when the meteor flies through the atmosphere, said Lunsford.
Lunsford said it’s uncommon to see a meteor in broad daylight, stating most rocks burn up while still high in the atmosphere.
“This must be a big one,” he said. “It has to be a pretty large size chunk of rock to survive.”
Delaney told 680 News there’s no risk of the meteorite causing a fire on the ground because it’s cooled off by the time it lands.
Tracking organisation records 90 reports of the fireball seen across states including Michigan, New York and Virginia.
A daytime boom that was heard and felt from southern Ontario to Virginia was likely caused by a disintegrating meteor, according to an organisation in western New York that keeps track of such phenomena.
Witnesses across the area reported hearing the boom or seeing a fireball in the sky shortly after noon (17:00 GMT) on Wednesday, said Robert Lunsford of the American Meteor Society in Geneseo. By 5pm (22:00 GMT), the organisation had recorded 90 reports of the fireball seen in Maryland, Michigan, New York, Ontario, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Police agencies and fire departments around central New York received 911 calls reporting a boom that shook windows, but clouds prevented sightings in much of the area. Since most reports of the boom were around Syracuse, that is likely where the meteor blew to bits, Lunsford said.
Footage of the incident captured in Toronto showed a bright white flash in the sky above the city.
On the society’s website, an observer in western New York reported the fireball was bright white with shades of yellow. An observer in Hagerstown, Maryland reported a fireball with red and orange sparks, smoke and a persistent train. A report from Welland, Ontario, described a long, bright green train.
“Sunny day so it looked like a gold metallic flash against the blue sky,” said a report from Winchester, Virginia.
“Astonishing, amazing, still get goosebumps talking about it,” wrote an observer in Port Dover, Ontario. “The train was flaming white, wide and long, no smoke.”
“We tend to notice fireballs more at night because they stand out better, but it’s not terribly unusual for very bright ones to be noticed during the day. It happens several times a year over populated areas,” said Margaret Campbell-Brown, a member of the Meteor Physics Group at the Western University in London, Ontario.
All fireballs, which are bright meteors, produce sound waves, sometimes detectable only by sensitive microphones, Campbell-Brown said by email. A large one may produce a thunder-like sonic boom with possible extra bangs from fragmentation, she said.
The second-largest radio telescope in the world collapsed on Tuesday morning.
The Arecibo Observatory’s 900-ton platform, which sent and received radio waves and was suspended 450 feet in the air, crashed into the 1,000-foot-wide disk below. When it fell, it pulled down with the tops of three surrounding support towers.
But the platform fell before engineers made much headway in the deconstruction process.
Jonathan Friedman, who has been part of the Arecibo Observatory’s scientific staff since 1993, told local news outlet NotiCentro the collapse sounded like the rumble of an earthquake, a train, or an avalanche.
The video below, captured from a nearby control tower, shows the platform falling at 7:54 a.m. local time. A cable takes out the catwalk that allowed engineers to access the platform. The top of the tower where the cables broke, visible in the background, then falls. Then the top of another broken tower comes rolling down the hillside on the left.
“As you can see, this was a very violent and kind of unpredictable failure,” Ashley Zauderer, NSF program manager for the Arecibo Observatory, said in a briefing on Thursday.
In a separate video, drone footage shows the cables snapping and the resulting crash from above. The drone happened to be doing reconnaissance over the telescope’s platform at that moment, since drone surveillance was a key source of information for engineers trying to figure out how to deconstruct the telescope. Due to the known risk of collapse, nobody had been allowed to approach the unstable structure since the fateful cable break in mid-November.
The vicinity around the dish and the three towers had been cordoned off, so nobody was injured in the collapse, the NSF said.
A inevitable collapse
Arecibo’s downward spiral began in August, when a 3-inch-thick auxiliary cable popped out of its socket on one of the telescope’s three towers and crashed into the dish. It tore a 100-foot gash in the panels.
Then the second failure, a snapped main cable, surprised the telescope’s managers in November. An engineering assessment afterward found that the remaining cables were liable to break at any time and send the platform tumbling.
Since the structure was too unstable to save without risk of it collapsing on technicians while they worked on the repairs, the NSF decided to say goodbye to Arecibo, decommissioning the world’s most iconic radio telescope.
A blow to the search for alien life
In its 57 years of operation, Arecibo hunted for hazardous near-Earth asteroids, searched for signs of alien life, and discovered the first planet beyond our solar system.
Arecibo’s massive dish antennae, built into a depression on the Puerto Rican jungle floor, reflected radio waves from space to its suspended platform.
Abel Mendez, director of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, said the loss of the telescope is a major blow to humanity’s search for radio waves sent by other lifeforms. That’s because Arecibo and China’s Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) were Earth’s “two big eyes” in radio astronomy.
“If you lose Arecibo, then you lose the ability to monitor — 24 hours a day — a faint source of radio signals,” Mendez told Business Insider before the collapse, adding, “if you are monitoring a source of interest which is in the weak radio spectrum, you need two big radio telescopes: one pointing toward something during the day and the other through the nighttime.”
Other National Science Foundation facilities — the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Virginia and the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia — could take on some of Arecibo’s data collection, but they’re not as sensitive to weak radio signals as Arecibo was.
Dave Mosher contributed reporting.
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