Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Comet Lulin update & Satellite Debris

Space Weather News for Feb. 18, 2009

COMET LULIN UPDATE: Comet Lulin is approaching Earth and brightening rapidly. Observers say it is now visible to the naked eye as a faint (magnitude +5.6) gassy patch in the constellation Virgo before dawn. Even city dwellers have seen it. Backyard telescopes reveal a vivid green comet in obvious motion. Just yesterday, amateur astronomers watched as a solar wind gust tore away part of the comet's tail, the second time this month such a thing has happened. Lulin's closest approach to Earth (38 million miles) is on Feb. 24th; at that time the comet could be two or three times brighter than it is now. Browse the gallery for the latest images:

SATELLITE DEBRIS: More than a week has passed since the Feb. 10th collision of Iridium 33 and Kosmos 2251 over northern Siberia, and the orbits of some of the largest fragments have now been measured by US Strategic Command. Today's edition of features global maps showing where the debris is located. Only 26 fragments are currently plotted, but that number will grow as radar tracking of the debris continues. Check back often for updates.

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society