Sunday, January 17, 2016

Five Planet Alignment This Week, Supernovas Rule! and Incoming Space Junk

From Northern Hemisphere
A Planetary Party January 20th - February 20th All five visible planets will sit in a line from the horizon to the moon - for the first time since 2005. According to Dr. Tanya Hill, senior curator at the Melbourne Planetarium, there will be another chance to view the planets lined up in August, but then not again until October 2018. Venus and Jupiter will be easiest to see and Mars, while a little harder, will have a distinctive red glow to look out for. Saturn is also in the mix.

“The big challenge will be Mercury,” said Alan. Because Mercury is so close to the horizon, there is only a small time period when it has appeared before the sun comes up. Tall buildings and trees could also block your view of the final planet. 

From Southern Hemisphere
Viewing Tips 

• The alignment will be visible to the naked eye about an hour and a half before sunrise. 
• Hold your arm up in a straight line from the horizon to the moon and the planets should fall along that line. 
• Try to find a flat horizon and a dark sky. 
• Don’t give up! It may take more than one early morning to see the full alignment. 

Supernova 1987A in Large Magellanic Cloud
Supernovas Rule! An international team of astronomers may have discovered the biggest and brightest supernova ever. The explosion was 570 billion times brighter than the sun and 20 times brighter than all the stars in the Milky Way galaxy combined, according to a statement from The Ohio State University, which is leading the study. Scientists are straining to define its strength. 

A supernova is a rare and often dramatic phenomenon that involves the explosion of most of the material within a star. Supernovas can be very bright for a short time and usually release huge amounts of energy. Tune in this Thursday at the Blogging A to Z Challenge for my post on Supernovas. You’ll be glad you did! 

Space Junk
Did You Know According to NASA more than 500,000 pieces of debris, or “space junk,” are tracked as they orbit the Earth. They all travel at speeds up to 17,500 mph, fast enough for a relatively small piece of orbital debris to damage a satellite or a spacecraft. 

Man-made objects orbit about the Earth which no longer serves a useful function. Such debris includes nonfunctional spacecraft, abandoned launch vehicle stages, mission-related debris and fragmentation debris. There are many millions of pieces of debris that are so small they can’t be tracked. 

Not So Fun Fact Sometimes Space Junk re-enters our atmosphere and falls to the Earth with and without warning. Check out this quick clip of falling space junk just last week. Reference

Question Are you excited about this rare five planet lineup? Are you going to look for it? Get a set of binoculars or even a cheap telescope and you’ll be in for a real celestial treat!

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