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The Urban Astronomer January 11, 2010

Posted by baldricman in astronomy, News.
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The more observant among you may have noticed a very recent addition to my blogroll, of The Urban Astronomer, the recently birthed brainchild of Allen, my older brother.

For as long as I can remember, Allen has been passionate about everything in the night sky (except perhaps clouds), and his enthusiasm certainly rubbed off over his younger two brothers. But now, he finds himself in deepest, brightest suburbia, with little time for astronomy… But he says:

How to keep the passion alive in a suburban backyard, with no telescope, trees blotting out most of the sky, and bright security lights drowning out the stars?  Check my updates regularly and find out how I do it!

Now I know I may be biased, but I have to say, I’ve found the site and its articles very interesting, as well as quick and easy to read (perfect for at-your-desk browsing). It is one of the most consistent and engaging sites on the topic I have seen, and it is written in a manner that is completely non-threatening to the amateur or aspiring astronomer, no matter how “un-scientific” they may feel. And yet, (and this is my favourite part) you’ll be hard-pressed to find any bias, nor any irresponsible over-simplification and outdated information that most sites (and even a few books) are just too lazy to explain properly, verify, or update with new theories or research.

But seriously, take a look at it, bookmark it, whatever, if you’re even the least interested in science, astronomy, or the universe.

Spectacular Meteor November 25, 2009

Posted by baldricman in astronomy, News, VOTD.
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Wow. It really takes a spectacular cosmic event to get me to blog….. Luckily for me, last Saturday, 21 Nov, there was a very bright meteor seen streaking across the skies of northern South Africa. I first was made aware of it by my brother Allen (who is “into all that stuff”), when he started trying to collect eyewitness accounts on Facebook. He had written

A spectacular Fireball over South Africa, visible from Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumulanga lit up the sky like daylight for a few seconds on Saturday night. Anybody who saw this, please message me with details? We’re trying to gather as much information as possible. I need to know time, your location, and what you saw. If you saw the actual fireball then I’m especially interested!To learn more, check http://www.planetarium.co.za

Naturally, my curiosity was aroused. Friends started responding, and most recently Allen has pointed us to this site here, which gives several excellent descriptions of people’s experiences of the phenomenon. I highly recommend you check out that site, which is where I found this video, taken from a security camera in Midrand:

 

Asteroid to swing by today! March 2, 2009

Posted by baldricman in astronomy, General, News.
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I just found this great piece of news (actually, its pretty boring if you know about this stuff, but heck, I thought I’d sensationalise it a bit, eh wot?), so I thought I’d share it with you.

At 13:44 UTC 2nd March (that’s today), a small asteroid designated 2009 DD45 (small, but still bigger than its bra-size namesake) will buzz by at a mere 0.00047 AU’s (astronomical unit) from us. That is, about 63500 kms or so. Now that may seem quite far (and it certainly isn’t anything to worry about), but what I thought was extra cool, was that that is well within our moon’s orbit! As another reference, that is roughly twice the altitude of most communication satellites. Or, about 5 Earth’s next to each other (if my dubious arithmetic holds)

Its certainly not the closest shave we’ve had (the closest recorded “buzz” I could find was about 6600 kms or so). However, more importantly, its worth noting/remembering that Earth gets hit by these things all the time. Just last October, a little beastie “no bigger than a car” landed gracefully somewhere in Sudan… read about it here.

Apparently it would be visible through a semi-decent backyard telescope, but its brightest point (magnitude 10.5) is somewhere over the Pacific, making it tougher for most of us. (That, and you’ve got to know where to look – due to it’s close proximity to earth and the resulting error of parallax, this is quite specific)

All in all, I’m a little disappointed that I’ve had to step in here, as the media in general has this time, for some reason, not decided to cause widespread panic about it. Oh well, better luck next time….