Near Earth Object 2020 GH4

April 13, 2020

There is a class of asteroids called NEO’s (Near Earth Objects).  As the name implies they hang around where the Earth does.  None have been found to threaten the Earth with collision, but some come close – if a quarter million miles may be considered “close”.

On April 15th 2020 an NEO designated 2020 NH 4 will pass closer to the Earth than the Moon.  Since its closest approach is still over two hundred thousand miles – about 25 Earth diameters – it is nothing to worry about.  The diagram in figure 1. Shows its trajectory through the Earth-Moon system. 

There is a subclass of NEOs called “Potentially Hazardous Objects” (PHOs), but that requires a diameter of 140 meters and this one is only 18 meters (59 feet) across. 

Figure 1: The Earth, the moon and 2020GH 4

To answer the inevitable question, yes this asteroid, had it hit the Earth, would have made a very big explosion.

To close on a comforting thought, NASA has a Planetary Defense Coordination Office and there are ways to use existing technology to avoid such things.

Use the “Reply” window below for questions, please. If the reply window is not visible, just click on the title at the top of the page. That will bring up the individual post instead of the categorical collection – and with it, a reply window.

Hasta Luego, Steve

Comet 2019 Y4 04/11/20

Homepage  5 Decades, 5 Comets

 By Steve Campbell     April 11, 2020

Comet 2019 Y4 (hereinafter called simply “Y4”) is still approaching the inner Solar System and still being observed.  It occurs to me that I have not posted an actual image of this comet, So, that will be figure 1:

Figure 1: This is Y4 as of March 21, 2020. It comes from a 16 inch telescope, see link below.

 I promised a diagram to explain Y4’s path through the Solar System.  To quote my previous comment:

“ I’ll include a diagram in the next update. But, for now, imagine yourself as very small and standing on an old-school LP record. The gaps between songs are the orbits of the planets. You are on the third gap and the comet is at the 4th gap but high above the LP. It will come in past all the rings and dive into the record inside Mercury’s orbit (1st gap) on May 30th. It will emerge on the bottom side and make a similar, but mirrored, exit path. It is moving at a tremendous velocity because it has been falling toward the Sun since about 1844. -Steve”

With this verbal imagery and the diagram below (figure 2), I hope the situation is well-explained.

Figure 2: The path of Y4 through the Solar System

I have plotted the position of the Y4 on March 13th and April 10th.  Those dates were chosen from the a magnitude chart because the comets was at the same brightness on both.  In the meantime, the comet has moved much closer to the Sun.   Please see the magnitude chart below and pick up the story below that.

Figure 3. Note the maximum brightness observed on March 13 the and April 10 are about the same at about magnitude 8.7

Comets don’t shine like stars, they only reflect the sunlight that shines on them.  Before I go further, please remember that magnitude is a smaller number for brighter objects.

If the comet were unchanging, then the fact that it is closer should mean that the brightness would increase from magnitude 8.7 to about 7.9 (just take my word for that:-).  Clearly, something did change, because the comet brightened too quickly and then dimmed again.  What happened is why comets are so unpredictable. 

The comet body, warmed by the sun will begin to “evaporate”.  Frozen gasses are vaporized and form a gas cloud around the “nucleus” and are blown away by the radiation from the Sun and the rush of sub-atomic particles called the “solar wind”.  That is what makes the comet’s “tail”.  The bigger ball of gas reflected more light and so the brightening. 

The dimming?  Maybe:

  • The vaporizing gas may have “unglued” the body of the nucleus and it started falling apart.
  • The stuff beneath the frozen gasses is darker rock and reflects less light.
  • The ice that was volatile at this temperature has all vaporized.

What will happen next?  Maybe:

  • The comet may fall apart completely and disappear.
  • Less volatile ices may vaporize when the comet is closer – and therefore hotter – and that will renew the brightness

That last option at least leaves open the possibility that the show is not over.

Hasta Luego,

Steve

Comet 2019Y4 4/7/20

Update on C/2019Y4  April 7, 2020

(See all updates by clicking on the comets icon at the top of my home page)

Readers may remember that I wrote about this comet:

“As it nears the sun, it will brighten quickly.  It could become the brightest object in the sky.  However, it may just break apart and disappear.  See the text on figure  1 at This link

So, you were warned – and that last part may well be happening now.  Below is a collection of all photometric (CCD) observations of Comet 2019Y4 from March 7.  Below that is a graph of the distance from the comet to the Sun (orange) and from the comet to Earth (blue) for the same period.  The distances are in Astronomical Units – the distance from the Earth  to the Sun – about 93 Million miles

You see that:

* The comet was brightening until about April first.  Then it declined rapidly until today April 7th.

* In that time, it has gotten closer to the sun, which illuminates the comet better than before and closer to the Earth – where we should see it brighter than before – even without the additional illumination by the Sun.

* See the Conclusions below  the charts

3-7to4-7CCD_E-S-Dist
  • One expects a comet to lose mass as it is blown away by the solar wind – that is what makes the “tail”. That would cause a dimming due to a smaller reflective surface and smaller “gas ball” surrounding.  This will be offset by brightening by being nearer to the Sun and Earth.
  • In this case, the dimming is faster than the brightening due to being nearer. The comet is probably wasting away quickly – on its way to disappearing for good.
  • But, I could be wrong. 🙂
  • Hasta Luego, Steve

P.S. If you have any questions please use the comments section (Leave a Reply) below and I will answer for all the readers who may have had the same question. Thanks SBC

Comet 2019Y4 April 3

April 3, 2020 – update on Comet 2019Y4

The weather has been even worse than usual for astronomy.  Don’t misunderstand – around here, there are just awful conditions for viewing at the best of times.  But cloudy weather has been unusually frequent lately.  The comet is still not very bright, in an area of the sky that is devoid of any bright stars for guidance and in a direction that is particularly afflicted with trees and city-light.  Nevertheless, I have attempted to spot the comet with binoculars several times – without success.

Attempting to photograph what could not be seen visually of Comet 2019 Y4, I am struggling with an unfamiliar DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera.   Just the camera on a tripod and guessing at various settings of exposure, “film” speed, focus and aperture.  No, I didn’t see the comet.  I was barely able to detect any stars in the city-light washed-out sky.

One thing that stood out was some much more concentrated and colorful points of light.  I wondered what these could be since they were far to point-like to be anything in the sky that was not even properly focused.  Despite that these were intense and focused bits of light.

Figure 1: In the blue circle, a star. Doubt me if you must, but it is there – about half the diameter of that blue circle. In the red circle, an unexplained cluster of bright pixels

Figure 2: Zooming on a longer exposure frame, this is a star, blurred by incompetent focus and unstable air.

The bright spot in the red circle  of figure 1 – what could make such undeniable point-like events?  The answer came back – after considerable snaky-eyed concentration – these must be traces of cosmic rays.  As it turns out – I was right.  The lens of the camera has nothing to do with these images.  The high-energy particles pass through the camera body from any and all directions.  If at a low angle to the “chip”,  the image extends to an oblong shape, like the examples below.

Figure 3. Left: the example of a cosmic ray trace in a DSLR camera at the website found by googling cosmic rays. Right: Extreme zoom, on what I found on my DSLR during my attempts to photograph the comet.

The irony is that the comet, which is right here in the Solar System – along with stars that are in the visible “neighborhood” are so elusive, while cosmic rays, which may originate half-way across the universe, are showing up  clearly as “volunteers”

It has become clear that I will have to make a trip out to a dark sky location to see this comet.  That may take a while, so I will hone my skills with the binoculars and camera, in the meantime.

 Others are not so unfortunate in their efforts to see this comet. Collected observations of the comet show that it has dimmed in the last week.  Please see figure 4.

Figure 4. It can be seen that the brightness fluctuates, but is in a down trend in the last few days.

Hasta Luego,

Steve

https://www.cloudynights.com/articles/cat/articles/capturing-cosmic-rays-with-a-digital-camera-r3046

Comet 2019 Y4

Comets show up all the time and are observed by telescope. The rarity is of “naked eye visible” comets. My personal experience is that they show up about once per decade (click here).

I was due for another comet and it has shown up.

Figure 1.

The media are incorrectly calling it “Comet Atlas”. Search for that name and about three dozen comets will pop up because ATLAS is the acronym for the name of the observing system that discovered it, not that of the comet itself. The Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System is – as the name reveals – a project to find asteroids. It does occasionally discover a comet and it finds thousands of supernovas – in other galaxies – none are even close to “naked-eye objects”.

As most nerdy people know, comets frequently defy prediction and disappoint millions of viewers. Thus far, Comet 2019 Y4 has only defied prediction by rapidly brightening far in excess of prediction. Please see graphic below.

Figure 2. Note that “Magnitude” goes to smaller numbers as things get brighter.

The green line plots the predicted brightness. Points in blue are from actual observations. Note that this comet has grown to near naked eye visibility (from a dark sky, not in city lights).

Where to see this? A screen grab of a sky map from Heavens-Above.com for 3/25 to 3/27 (with text and markings by your humble narrator to “Un-nerd” same) appears below.

Figure 3.

Update: I tried, unsuccessfully, to see this comet with binoculars – in glaringly lit-up Houston skies on March 24. The latest brightness observed (by professionals) is Mag. 7.6 as of 3/25. But, it will get brighter, soon.

Update: No luck on the 25th, either.

An up-to-date sky map for locating Comet 2019 Y4 is here.

That Heavens-Above.com map is at the link below:

Hasta Luego,

Steve

The Experience of Cataract Surgery

Steve Campbell February, 2016

   You may never have thought about surgery on your eyes, and with any luck you may never have to experience this problem.  Or, you may be facing this problem and wonder about what to expect.  It sounds very serious and, with any imagination at all you can come up with some really scary possibilities.

Well, you can stop worrying after you read about my surgery.

_________________________________________________________________________

   I vaguely remember – from my very early years – my Great Uncle Ben, who wore what we called “coke bottle bottom” glasses and was legally blind.  He came in to our house one time (yes, somebody drove him there) and he tried to hang his hat on the corner of the mirror on the wall.  I reckon he made out a vague figure of some old man trying to hang a hat there and when in Rome…

  I don’t know what Ben’s ailment was, but I doubt it was cataracts, since surgery has been possible for that, actually for centuries.  I mention him because I, too was losing my vision – and at a younger age (60) than Ben.  In my case, it was cataracts.  I looked up this definition:

“Normally, the lens in the eyes are clear or transparent. However, a cataract is an abnormal clouding or opacity of the eye’s crystalline lens. The opacity can lead to a decrease in vision and possibly blindness.

Cataracts are thought to develop as a result of age-related degenerative alterations to the proteins in the lens. Smoking, diabetes and steroid use may also be contributing factors to the development of cataracts.” (1) 

   It started when I noticed that my eyeglass prescription was quickly becoming inadequate.  In fact, I could now see better without my glasses.  However, the stars at night were now all “doubles” and all oriented the same way.  That orientation changed when I tilted my head.  A natural reaction to double vision – closing one eye – did nothing to change this.  This is called an astigmatism and I thought that was the only problem.  I even tried the Driver’s eye test, and to my surprise, my left eye could not read, nor even tell that the numbers existed.  With the right eye and with both eyes I could clearly read.  At no point did I notice any “clouding”.

  I made a visit to the eye doctor and he found that my vision had changed dramatically, especially on the left.  He also diagnosed cataracts developing in both eyes.  My father had cataracts when he was my age so, I was not surprised.  Worried yes, but not surprised.    While I had been a smoker, I quit in 1994, when my father was permanently on oxygen with chronic obstructive pulmonary syndrome, due directly to 50+ years of smoking.  Oddly, I still smoke in my dreams, but that is another story.  So, I don’t know if smoking did it, or just age, but the eye-doc referred me to a surgeon, who evaluated the left eye and scheduled surgery.

Choices

  There are several ways to do this and it will be your decision how your vision changes.

   First, you can opt, as I did, to have a fixed-focus lens implanted. This will give you 20/20 vision at a distance, but you will still need reading glasses.

   You can have one lens set for distance and one for reading.  That will let you read without glasses, but require glasses for driving.

   You can have a “multi-focal” lenses implanted, eliminating any need for corrective lenses, altogether.

   I did not choose the multi-focal option.  I asked how the eye “selected” which focus to use.  As I understand it, the brain pick which focus to use.  Think of a screen on a window.  You can focus on the view out the window or the screen itself.  I am afraid it was not very convincing.  I can only afford to do this once.  I did know some people with fixed-focus lenses and they seemed quite happy with them.  The multi-focus option also costs more.

  As for the near/far combination option, I figured that if I need glasses for driving, they would be prescription.  And, I would need a spare pair and sunglasses.  However, if I need glasses for reading, I can buy them at most dollar stores or get a six-pack at Sam’s for cheap.

Pre-Op

   As I pointed out to the pre-op crew, everything you do in this place would make your mom yell at you!  Do I put on pajamas?  No, they just cover my street clothes with a hospital gown.  Take off my shoes to go to bed?  No, they just cover those with a couple of shower caps.  The eye is rendered numb by some eye -drops that (rather inappropriately) sting like the Dickens!  After that they roll me off to keep my eye open while they poke it with sharp things.  Mom wouldn’t like that, either.

 Surgery

   The surgery sounds scary at first.  They will break up my natural lens and suck it out with a small tube.  The artificial lens will then be inserted through the same incision where it will expand and anchor itself in the “pouch” where the natural lens had been.  When you add in the fact that I will be conscious and that eye will be open –  I don’t know about you – but that scared the “willies” out of me!

   You may doubt me, but it is not as bad as it sounds.  The anesthesiologist served up an I.V. dose of something that made me think, “Shoot, this ain’t so scary!”.  They stain the natural lens with some dye, so all I “saw” was some shifting colors.  Once the implant lens is in place, the improvement is startlingly, impressively obvious. 

   The colors are suddenly brighter and more vivid.  The implant even allows a bit of the ultraviolet light that a natural lens would block.  During World War two the British used cataract patients to pass secret messages in light that was invisible to everyone else. I did some research on this and could only find a Car Talk puzzler that mentions this phenomenon. (2) I can tell you, though, that I heard this from an Astronomy professor back in the 70’s.  Also, it is mentioned somewhere in Isaac  Azimov’s vast body of work and an Astronomer named Walter Scott Houston used his new “super-vision” to observe stars that “normal” people could not see. (3)

   Comparing the “good” eye to the “bad” one was something I could not stop doing.  The “clouding” of the still-cataract affected eye was now “blindingly” obvious.  The walls in the recovery room were a light brown through the right eye or pure white through left.  The Moon is dirty brown (right) or bright silvery color (left).  The gas flame on the stove is a pale, grayish blue (right) or a deep, rich blue (left).

   You will need someone to drive you home. (And let me take this opportunity to thank Carmen and Cecilia, my drivers for the two separate operations.)  The eye will feel “scratchy” and inflamed for a few days and you may notice the edge of the lens in your peripheral vision.  Bright lights cause some headaches and I wore dark glasses (kindly provided in my hospital “swag bag”) for weeks afterward. 

   They told me that once I had the worst eye fixed, I would notice how bad the other really was.  I did and it got worse, so we did the right eye about two months later.  It is a different and very distinctly visible world, now.  I really did not know what I was missing. This is one thing that has really made me quite happy in the last few months, which have tried my soul otherwise.

  1. Cataracts Definition:     http://www.symptomfind.com/dictionary/c/cataracts/
  2. World War II Car Talk Puzzler: http://www.cartalk.com/content/inky-shadows-mystery
  3. UV Astronomy (scroll down):  http://ehilbert.wso.net/Starlight/deep_sky_wonders.htm

One Climate Fact – Introduction

stevetrucker2   Homepage GoingwalkaboutMorseSkinnypng
Scroll Down for More Posts   –   At the bottom, click “Older Posts”
    Once, I accepted – without examination – the idea that human activities might cause Global Warming.
   A Geologist colleague did not debate me, but rather challenged me to research the topic and come to an informed  conclusion.
   He was right and I am a Geophysicist with the tools, talent and temperament to do such  research.  That was over twenty years ago and I have since “done the math”, “paid my dues”, “done the due diligence” and examined the facts.
   My conclusion is that the idea of Man-made climate change is a political fiction.
   If I can get people to sit still and listen to me present the facts for an hour or so, I can show them (with facts, charts, graphs, data, references and quotes) exactly how I came to that conclusion.  That has happened a few times.  But, most people do not or will not willingly sit in a room and listen to a lecture.  It’s too much like going to school and they spent a large fraction of their youth doing that and most of them don’t want anything to do with further such activity.
   So, I have come up with this idea.  Take ONE FACT about the subject and present it with clarity and completeness.  Then, do that again with another fact.
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I Went Back to Ohio

SteveTrucker2Sign123_Lone

Burbank, Ohio

August 10, 2016 – (“Republished” from the WordPress site on 11/01/2019)

The sentence in Purgatory was complete and I had a load assignment.

My load was sitting on the Yard waiting for someone to haul it to Ohio.  It was due to be there yesterday at 5:00 AM.  It came it from Laredo, having crossed the border from Mexico to the Yard, then apparently sat there until they assigned it to me. I don’t pretend to understand why things happen that way, they just do.

The cargo weighs 31080 pounds and is made up of 3215 pieces on 47 pallets.  It is described as “Freight – All Kinds” and must be maintained at 65° Fahrenheit.  The only clue as to what it is will be the destination – Nabisco.  It is a sealed load that I will probably never see. I did not bother to scale or balance the load, since it made it this far.

The first I do is make a trip plan, so I did that in about an hour.  The fuel stops are picked for me, so mostly I pick my 30 minute break stops (to qualify for the last three hours of driving time) and where I settle for the night for the ten hour break that gets me another eleven for the next day.  By this time I had been awake and busy with the new truck, safety and training for fourteen hours, so the first thing on the trip plan is to go to sleep.

You may find it odd, but I have found that the best time to start a trip is a half hour after midnight.  The road out of town is clear and traffic is at a minimum.  The bars are still open so the patrons are not yet driving.  Things are quiet and calm and that is appropriate for driving an unfamiliar truck on the first leg of a journey of 166 miles.  Usually there is a “deadhead” mileage to add to that, but for this case, it is one mile.  And I didn’t use that much.  As I eased to the stop sign at the gate, the guard came out and waved me to the inbound side because the outbound gate was under repair.  Off to a flying start!

The midnight advantage was working since backing out of the gate would be impossible in the exodus of Purgatory-fleeing drivers all day Monday.  I find the selection of music available on the radio to be unimpressive.  I won’t be the first old man to say this:  Music today is rather disappointing.  The Instructor listened to what “country” music has become.  Willie Nelson it ain’t.

Fortunately, I had found my old CD’s in a closet and brought along a shoebox full.  Call me picky but only maybe six of those are worth hearing more than once.  One is the Dire Straits album “Brothers in Arms”.  It includes “So Far Away” which, back in my Field Work Days (42 days in the jungle/desert/mountains, then 14 in Caracas with Marilu) was “our song”.  It is appropriate these days as well.  I am learning it by heart for an eventual Karaoke recording as an anniversary present.  So, don’t tell her, OK?

I will resort to tactics invented by people who are paid by the word and quote the full lyrics:

  • Here I am again in this mean old town
  • And you’re so far away from me.
  • And where are you when the Sun go down?
  • You’re so far away from me
  • So far away from me
  • So far I just can’t see
  • So far away from me
  • You’re so far away from me.
  • I’m tired of bein’ in love and bein’ all alone.
  • When you’re so far away from me.
  • I’m tired of making out on the telephone
  • And you’re so far away from me.
  • So far away from me
  • So far I just can’t see
  • So far away from me
  • You’re so far away from me.
  • And I get so tired when I have to explain
  • When you’re so far away from me
  • See, you’ve been in the sun and I’ve been in the rain
  • And you’re so far away from me.
  • So far away from me
  • So far I just can’t see
  • So far away from me
  • You’re so far away from me.

I promised more photos but the view from the truck is what?

BurbankTruckStop.jpg

Yep, another truck stop.  And, it’s raining so I will do an album of various truck types – later maybe.

There is a unique feature of the Kenworth passenger seat in combination with the non-piece-of-plywood desk.  Photographing it is difficult, given the close quarters in here, but I’ll try:

DEskAndChair.jpg

You see that the passenger chair rotates to face the desk.  And, yes, it is probably the most comfortable chair you will ever sit in.  I spend ten plus hours a day in its twin and I’ll testify that they went all out on designing these chairs.

Back in Ohio

Steve