Meteor Activity Outlook for June 11-17, 2016 by Robert Lunsford – American Meteor Society

The Northern June Aquilids (NCZ) were discovered by Zdenek Sekanina through his Radio Meteor Project at Havana, Illinois. These meteors are active from June 10-26, which maximum activity occurring on the 16th. The current position of the radiant is 19:37 (294) -11. This position lies in a remote area of southern Aquila near the Sagittarius border. The nearest notable star is 3rd magnitude Algiedi (Alpha Capricorni), which lies 9 degrees to the east. Rates, even at maximum, are expected to be less than 1 per hour. With an entry velocity of 41 km/sec., the average Northern June Aquilid meteor would be of medium speed.

Northern June Aquilids_m

During this period the moon reaches its first quarter phase on Saturday June 11th. At this time the half-illuminated moon will lie 90 degrees east of the sun and will set soon after midnight for most locations located at mid-northern latitudes. As the week progresses the window of opportunity for viewing meteors in dark skies decreases with each passing night. Toward the end of the period the nearly full moon will lie above the horizon nearly all night long, making meteor observations difficult.

The estimated total hourly meteor rates for evening observers this week is near 2 for observers located in the northern hemisphere and 3 for observers located in tropical southern locations (25S). For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near 8 as seen from mid-northern latitudes (45N) and 12 as seen from tropical southern locations (25S). Evening rates are reduced during this period due to interfering moonlight. The actual rates will also depend on factors such as personal light and motion perception, local weather conditions, alertness and experience in watching meteor activity.

Note that the hourly rates listed below are estimates as viewed from dark sky sites away from urban light sources. Observers viewing from urban areas will see less activity as only the brightest meteors will be visible from such locations.

The radiant (the area of the sky where meteors appear to shoot from) positions and rates listed below are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning June 11/12. These positions do not change greatly day to day so the listed coordinates may be used during this entire period. Most star atlases (available at science stores and planetariums) will provide maps with grid lines of the celestial coordinates so that you may find out exactly where these positions are located in the sky. A planisphere or computer planetarium program is also useful in showing the sky at any time of night on any date of the year.

Activity from each radiant is best seen when it is positioned highest in the sky, either due north or south along the meridian, depending on your latitude. It must be remembered that meteor activity is rarely seen at the radiant position. Rather they shoot outwards from the radiant so it is best to center your field of view so that the radiant lies at the edge and not the center. Viewing there will allow you to easily trace the path of each meteor back to the radiant (if it is a shower member) or in another direction if it is a sporadic. Meteor activity is not seen from radiants that are located far below the horizon. The positions below are listed in a west to east manner in order of right ascension (celestial longitude).

The positions listed first are located further west therefore are accessible earlier in the night while those listed further down the list rise later in the night.

These sources of meteoric activity are expected to be active this week.

The center of the large Anthelion (ANT) radiant is currently located at 18:16 (274) -23. This position lies in western Sagittarius, 3 degrees south of the 4th magnitude star known as Polis (mu Sagittarii). Due to the large size of this radiant, Anthelion activity may also appear from the nearby constellations of Scutum, Serpens Caput, southern Ophiuchus, and southeastern Scorpius as well as Sagittarius. This radiant is best placed near 0200 local daylight saving (LDST), when it lies on the meridian and is located highest in the sky. Hourly rates at this time should be near 2 as seen from mid-northern latitudes and 3 as seen from tropical southern latitudes. With an entry velocity of 30 km/sec., the average Anthelion meteor would be of slow velocity.

The June Rho Cygnids (JRC) is a shower of short duration discovered by Damir Šegon and associates of the Croatian Meteor Network. These meteors are only active from June 14-16, with maximum activity occurring on the 14th. The radiant position at maximum lies at 21:22 (320) +45. This area of the sky lies in northeastern Cygnus, 4 degrees west of the 4th magnitude star known as rho Cygni. These meteors are best seen near during the last dark hour of the night when the radiant lies highest in a dark sky. These meteors are better seen from the northern hemisphere where the radiant rises higher into the sky before the start of morning twilight. Hourly rates, are expected to remain less than 1. With an entry velocity of 48 kilometers per second, a majority of these meteors will appear to move with medium velocities. This shower is synonymous with shower #521 JRP in the IAU Meteor Catalog.

The Pi Piscids (PPS) were discovered by Dr. Peter Brown in his meteoroid stream survey using the Canadian Meteor Orbit Radar. This shower was later verified by Dr. Peter Jenniskens and David Holman using data from the CAMS network in northern California. These meteors are active from June 11 through July 25 with maximum activity occurring on July 1st. The current position of the radiant is 00:00 (000) +18. This position actually lies in southeastern Pegasus, 4 degrees northwest of the 3rd magnitude star known as Algenib (Gamma Pegasi). Rates are currently expected to be less than 1 per hour no matter your location. With an entry velocity of 68 km/sec., the average Pi Piscid meteor would be of swift speed.

The radiant for the Daytime Arietids (ARI) only lies 45 degrees west of the sun. Therefore these meteors can only be seen between the time the radiant rises and dawn. This is a small window of opportunity that lasts for about an hour before the break of dawn. Maximum activity for this shower was expected on June 7th. The current position of the radiant is 03:16 (049) +24. This position lies in eastern Aries, a little more than 5 degrees west of the naked eye open star cluster known as the Pleiades or 7 Sisters. Despite being a strong source of meteors, visual members of this shower are rare due to the low altitude of the radiant. If this radiant was better placed in the sky it would rival the better known Perseids of August. These meteors are the strongest source of radio meteors for the entire year. With an entry velocity of 42 km/sec., the average Daytime Arietid meteor would be of medium speed.

As seen from the mid-northern hemisphere (45N) one would expect to see approximately 6 sporadic meteors per hour during the last hour before dawn as seen from rural observing sites. Evening rates would be near 1 per hour. As seen from the tropical southern latitudes (25S), morning rates would be near 9 per hour as seen from rural observing sites and 2 per hour during the evening hours. Locations between these two extremes would see activity between the listed figures. Evening rates during this period are reduced due to moonlight.

Meteor Activity Outlook for June 4-10, 2016

During this period the moon reaches its new phase on Sunday June 5th. At this time the moon will lie close to the sun and will be invisible at night. Later in this period, the waxing crescent moon will enter the evening sky but will not interfere with meteor observing.

cluster

The estimated total hourly meteor rates for evening observers this week is near 3 for observers located in the northern hemisphere and 4 for observers located in tropical southern locations (25S) . For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near 9 as seen from mid-northern latitudes (45N) and 12 as seen from tropical southern locations (25S).

The actual rates will also depend on factors such as personal light and motion perception, local weather conditions, alertness and experience in watching meteor activity. Note that the hourly rates listed below are estimates as viewed from dark sky sites away from urban light sources. Observers viewing from urban areas will see less activity as only the brightest meteors will be visible from such locations.

The radiant (the area of the sky where meteors appear to shoot from) positions and rates listed below are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning June 4/5. These positions do not change greatly day to day so the listed coordinates may be used during this entire period. Most star atlases (available at science stores and planetariums) will provide maps with grid lines of the celestial coordinates so that you may find out exactly where these positions are located in the sky.

A planisphere or computer planetarium program is also useful in showing the sky at any time of night on any date of the year. Activity from each radiant is best seen when it is positioned highest in the sky, either due north or south along the meridian, depending on your latitude. It must be remembered that meteor activity is rarely seen at the radiant position. Rather they shoot outwards from the radiant so it is best to center your field of view so that the radiant lies at the edge and not the center.

Viewing there will allow you to easily trace the path of each meteor back to the radiant (if it is a shower member) or in another direction if it is a sporadic. Meteor activity is not seen from radiants that are located far below the horizon. The positions below are listed in a west to east manner in order of right ascension (celestial longitude). The positions listed first are located further west therefore are accessible earlier in the night while those listed further down the list rise later in the night.

These sources of meteoric activity are expected to be active this week.

The center of the large Anthelion (ANT) radiant is currently located at 17:48 (267) -23. This position lies in western Sagittarius, near the border with Ophiuchus. The nearest bright star is 3rd magnitude theta Ophiuchi, which lies 5 degrees to the southwest. Due to the large size of this radiant, Anthelion activity may also appear from the nearby constellations of western Sagittarius, Serpens Caput, and southeastern Scorpius as well as Ophiuchus. This radiant is best placed near 0200 local daylight saving (LDST), when it lies on the meridian and is located highest in the sky.

Hourly rates at this time should be near 2 as seen from mid-northern latitudes and 3 as seen from tropical southern latitudes. With an entry velocity of 30 km/sec., the average Anthelion meteor would be of slow velocity.

The June Mu Cassiopeiids (JMC) were discovered by Dr, Peter Brown and associates using data from the Canadian Meteor Orbit Radar (CMOR) installation. These meteors are active from May 31-June 5, with maximum activity occurring on June 1st. The radiant position at maximum lies at 01:29 (022) +56. This area of the sky lies in southern Cassiopeia, just east area occupied by the 4th magnitude star known as theta Cassiopeiae. These meteors are best seen near during the last dark hour of the night when the radiant lies highest in a dark sky. These meteors are better seen from the northern hemisphere where the radiant rises higher into the sky before the start of morning twilight. Hourly rates, are expected to remain less than 1. With an entry velocity of 42 kilometers per second, a majority of these meteors will appear to move with medium velocities.

The radiant for the Daytime Arietids (ARI) only lies 45 degrees west of the sun. Therefore these meteors can only be seen between the time the radiant rises and dawn. This is a small window of opportunity that lasts for about an hour before the break of dawn. This shower is expected to peak on the morning of June 7th. The current position of the radiant is 02:48(042) +23. This position lies in central Aries, 10 degrees southeast of the 2nd magnitude star known as Hamal (Alpha Arietis). Despite being a strong source of meteors, visual members of this shower are rare due to the low altitude of the radiant.

If this radiant was better placed in the sky it would rival the better known Perseids of August. These meteors are the strongest source of radio meteors for the entire year. With an entry velocity of 42 km/sec., the average Daytime Arietid meteor would be of medium speed.

As seen from the mid-northern hemisphere (45N) one would expect to see approximately 6 sporadic meteors per hour during the last hour before dawn as seen from rural observing sites. Evening rates would be near 2 per hour. As seen from the tropical southern latitudes (25S), morning rates would be near 9 per hour as seen from rural observing sites and 3 per hour during the evening hours. Locations between these two extremes would see activity between the listed figures.

Robert Lunsford – American Meteor Society

 

 

BREAKING NEWS: Serious Plausibility of Undetected 9th Planet in Our Solar System

The reason for why this new proposed discovery has not made headlines (my personal conjecture), must be related to minimize a hysteria reaction from the “Planet-X” community – and I would side for such reason having witnessed this wild unfounded speculation in the past. However, for such a proposed finding to go “undetected” until now is a bit unsettling.

solar-system-4-63

It is still unclear to this writer, if this finding is separate from Caltec’s assertion earlier this year. I would suggest it is the same – but provides further evidence towards confirmation. The assertion is the 9th Planet was orbiting another star and then was captured by our Sun during the time of its stellar cluster breakout – which basically suggests the 9th Planet has been in orbit from the time of our solar systems creation.

Before I go into this just published claim, let me layout the strict criteria a researcher must meet to assert that of a 9th planet in our solar system. a) The encounter must be more distant than ∼150 AU to avoid perturbing the Kuiper belt. b) The other star must have a wide-orbit planet – a ≳ 100 au  c) the planet must be captured onto an appropriate orbit to sculpt the orbital distribution of wide-orbit Solar System bodies.

9th planet

Astronomers at the University of Lund show a computer simulation study of the so-called 9th Planet meets a high probability of sustaining an orbit in our solar system. Alexander Mustill, astronomer at the University of Lund, says “It is most ironic that while astronomers often find extrasolar planets hundreds of light years away in other solar systems, this one had been hiding in our own backyard”.

An extrasolar plane (exoplanet) has by definition been a planet located outside our own solar system. Now it seems the definition is not viable anymore. According to astronomers in Lund, indications show a 9th Planet was captured by our young Sun, has gone undetected until now, and is part of our solar system.

stellar_cluster_m

Stars are born in clusters often pass in very close proximity. It is in these meetings that a star can capture one or more planets in orbit around another star. This is probably what happened when our own Sun caught the 9th Planet.

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Science of Cycles w/ Mitch Battros News Service Update

_science-of-cycles33

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The Task of Measuring the Milky Way

Measuring the mass of our home galaxy, or any galaxy, is particularly difficult. A galaxy includes not only stars, planets, moons, gases, dust and other objects and material, but also a big helping of dark matter, a mysterious and invisible form of matter that is not yet fully understood and has not been directly detected in the lab. Astronomers and cosmologists, however, can infer the presence of dark matter through its gravitational influence on visible objects.

Milky-Way-Formed-From-the-Inside-Out

The short answer, so far, is 7 x 1011 solar masses. In terms that are easier to comprehend, that’s about the mass of our Sun, multiplied by 700 billion. The Sun, for the record, has a mass of two nonillion (that’s 2 followed by 30 zeroes) kilograms, or 330,000 times the mass of Earth.

“And our galaxy isn’t even the biggest galaxy,” says Gwendolyn Eadie, a PhD candidate in physics and astronomy at McMaster University.

The orbits of globular clusters are determined by the galaxy’s gravity, which is dictated by its massive dark matter component. What’s new about Eadie’s research is the technique she devised for using globular cluster (GCs) velocities.

The total velocity of a GC must be measured in two directions: one along our line-of-sight, and one across the plane of the sky (the proper motion). Unfortunately, researchers have not yet measured the proper motions of all the GCs around the Milky Way.

Eadie and her academic supervisor William Harris, a professor of Physics and Astronomy at McMaster, have co-authored a paper on their most recent findings, which allow dark matter and visible matter to have different distributions in space. They have submitted this work to the Astrophysical Journal, and Eadie will present their results May 31 at the Canadian Astronomical Society’s conference in Winnipeg.

Astronomy Student Discovers Four New Planets

Michelle Kunimoto’s bachelor degree in physics and astronomy sent her on a journey out of this world—and led to the discovery of four new worlds beyond our solar system.

four new planets

The planets, designated “planet candidates” until independently confirmed, are exciting discoveries. Two are the size of Earth, one is Mercury-sized, and one is slightly larger than Neptune. But it’s this last one, the largest of the four, that is of special interest.

Officially catalogued as KOI (Kepler Object of Interest) 408.05 and located 3,200 light years away from Earth, the planet occupies the habitable zone of its star where the temperature would allow liquid water and maybe life.

“Like our own Neptune, it’s unlikely to have a rocky surface or oceans,” said Kunimoto, who graduates today from UBC. “The exciting part is that like the large planets in our solar system, it could have large moons and these moons could have liquid water oceans.”

“Pandora in the movie Avatar was not a planet, but a moon of a giant planet,” said Jaymie Matthews, a UBC professor of astronomy.

While the possibility of life is enticing, Kunimoto was excited about the discovery for other reasons. As part of a course designed to give astronomy students research and career experience, she spent months sifting through data from NASA’s Kepler satellite, trying to find anything that other scientists overlooked.

The Kepler space telescope spent four years staring at about 150,000 stars in our own galaxy, looking for periodic changes in the brightness of stars over time and collecting data known as light curves.

“A star is just a pinpoint of light so I’m looking for subtle dips in a star’s brightness every time a planet passes in front of it,” said Kunimoto. “These dips are known as transits, and they’re the only way we can know the diameter of a planet outside the solar system.”

The larger the orbit, the fewer transits you see. Which is why the discovery of this warm Neptune is so rare. It takes 637 days for the planet to orbit its sun. Of the nearly 5,000 planets and planet candidates found by the Kepler satellite, only 20 have longer orbital periods than KOI 408.05.

Kunimoto and Matthews have submitted their findings to the Astronomical Journal. In September, she’ll be returning to UBC to begin a master’s degree in physics and astronomy, hunting for more planets and investigating whether they could support life.

In the meantime, the new graduate and Star Trek fan got the chance to meet a real-life star and space explorer. On Saturday, she met William Shatner backstage at the UBC100 What’s Next? event and told him about these possible new destinations for a future Starship Enterprise.

UPDATE: Earth’s Magnetic Field Shifts Much Faster Than Expected

It was back in January 2014, when NASA’s Balloon Array for Radiation-belt Relativistic Electron Losses (BARREL)’s payload of thallium-activated sodium iodide, NaI(Tl) a crystalline material widely used for the detection of gamma-rays in scintillation detectors, saw something never seen before. During a moderate solar storm in which magnetic solar material collides with Earth’s magnetic field, BARREL mapped for the first time how the storm caused Earth’s magnetic field to shift and move.

earth's magnetic field lines

The fields’ configuration shifted much faster than expected – ‘on the order of minutes’ rather than hours or days. The results took researchers by such surprise causing them to check and re-check instruments and hypothesized outcomes. As a result, their findings were not published until last week on May 12 2016.

barrel

During the solar storm, three BARREL balloons were flying through parts of Earth’s magnetic field that directly connect a region of Antarctica to Earth’s north magnetic pole. One BARREL balloon was on a magnetic field line with one end on Earth and one end connected to the Sun’s magnetic field. And two balloons switched back and forth between closed and open field lines throughout the solar storm, providing a map of how the boundary between open and closed field lines moved.

“It is very difficult to model the open-closed boundary,” said Alexa Halford, a space scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This will help with our simulations of how magnetic fields change around Earth, because we’re able to state exactly where we saw this boundary.”

solar-earth image cluster_m

We live in the path of the Sun’s outflow of charged particles, called the solar wind. Solar wind particles are accelerated to high speeds by explosions on the Sun or pushed along by plasma – clouds of solar material. Much of this magnetic field loops up and out into space, but then connects back to Earth at the north magnetic pole, near the Arctic Circle.

A portion of Earth’s magnetic field is open as it connects to the Sun’s magnetic field. This open magnetic field gives charged particles from the Sun a path into Earth’s atmosphere. Once particles are stuck to an open field line, they exceedingly accelerate down into the upper atmosphere. The boundary between these open and closed regions of Earth’s magnetic field is anything but constant. Due to various causes – such as incoming clouds of charged particles, the closed magnetic field lines can realign into open field lines and vice versa, changing the location of the boundary between open and closed magnetic field lines.

magnetic-shift

Scientists have known the open-closed boundary moves, but it is hard to pinpoint exactly how, when, and how quickly it changes – and that is where BARREL comes in. The six BARREL balloons flying during the January 2014 solar storm were able to map these changes, and they found something surprising – the open-closed boundary moves rapidly changing location within minutes.

It is possible, but unlikely, that complex dynamics in the magnetosphere gave the appearance that the BARREL balloons were dancing along this open-closed boundary. If a very fast magnetic wave was sending radiation belt electrons down into the atmosphere in short stuttering bursts, it could appear that the balloons were switching between open and closed magnetic field lines.

However, the particle counts measured by the two balloons on the open-closed boundary matched up to those observed by the other BARREL balloons hovering on closed or open field lines only. This observation strengths the case that BARREL’s balloons were actually crossing the boundary between solar and terrestrial magnetic field.

Hubble Finds Clues to the Birth of Supermassive Black Holes

Astrophysicists have taken a major step forward in understanding how supermassive black holes formed. Using data from Hubble and two other space telescopes, Italian researchers have found the best evidence yet for the seeds that ultimately grow into these cosmic giants.

supermassive-black-hole-seed

For years astronomers have debated how the earliest generation of supermassive black holes formed very quickly, relatively speaking, after the Big Bang. Now, an Italian team has identified two objects in the early Universe that seem to be the origin of these early supermassive black holes. The two objects represent the most promising black hole seed candidates found so far.

The group used computer models and applied a new analysis method to data from the NASA Chandra X-ray Observatory, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, and the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope to find and identify the two objects. Both of these newly discovered black hole seed candidates are seen less than a billion years after the Big Bang and have an initial mass of about 100 000 times the Sun.

“Our discovery, if confirmed, would explain how these monster black holes were born,” said Fabio Pacucci, lead author of the study, of Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, Italy.

This new result helps to explain why we see supermassive black holes less than one billion years after the Big Bang.

There are two main theories to explain the formation of supermassive black holes in the early Universe. One assumes that the seeds grow out of black holes with a mass about ten to a hundred times greater than our Sun, as expected for the collapse of a massive star. The black hole seeds then grew through mergers with other small black holes and by pulling in gas from their surroundings. However, they would have to grow at an unusually high rate to reach the mass of supermassive black holes already discovered in the billion years young Universe.

The new findings support another scenario where at least some very massive black hole seeds with 100 000 times the mass of the Sun formed directly when a massive cloud of gas collapses. In this case the growth of the black holes would be jump started, and would proceed more quickly.

“There is a lot of controversy over which path these black holes take,” said co-author Andrea Ferrara also of Scuola Normale Superiore. “Our work suggests we are converging on one answer, where black holes start big and grow at the normal rate, rather than starting small and growing at a very fast rate.”

Andrea Grazian, a co-author from the National Institute for Astrophysics in Italy explains: “Black hole seeds are extremely hard to find and confirming their detection is very difficult. However, we think our research has uncovered the two best candidates so far.”

Even though both black hole seed candidates match the theoretical predictions, further observations are needed to confirm their true nature. To fully distinguish between the two formation theories, it will also be necessary to find more candidates.

The team plans to conduct follow-up observations in X-rays and in the infrared range to check whether the two objects have more of the properties expected for black hole seeds. Upcoming observatories, like the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope and the European Extremely Large Telescope will certainly mark a breakthrough in this field, by detecting even smaller and more distant black holes.