Categories: "Science"

Meteor fail from the Daily Fail

So the Daily Mail picked up a story about a brilliant meteor moving across the sky over Peru.

First up the Daily Fail incorrectly call it a meteorite - which is what they're called when they're on the ground. They're meteors when seen in the atmosphere, meteoroids when in space and meteorites on the ground. It isn't hard, if they had just asked you know, one of the expert type people they wouldn't have made such a play-school mistake.

Astonished residents watched as the impressive natural phenomenon eventually disappeared over the horizon.

Natural is it?

Trouble is it isn't a meteor at all, it's actually an aircraft. The only reason it looks odd is because its orange. It's orange because it's high enough up to still be lit up by the Sun (it's shortly after sunset on the ground). As we've often seen the tops of clouds can be orange before or shortly after sunrise or sunset.

The next clue comes from the contrail being left, the sort of thing you get from an aircraft jet engine at high altitude. As we can see it's probably a four engine jet aircraft. You can also see the effect high altitude winds are having on it. Meteors typically don't last long enough to get low enough to encounter these sort of winds.

The clue after that comes from the speed of the thing across the sky. Meteors travel very fast. Fast enough they'd cross the sky in seconds.

Local officials and the National Police are currently trying to determine where the meteorite may have landed and are speaking to farmers south of the city.

It probably landed at an airport somewhere. Have fun wasting your time.

WorldWide Telescope, controlled by Kinect

With Microsoft shortly to release the Kinect SDK for Windows, its time for them to demo some of the stuff people could come up with.

Here it is controlling the awesome WorldWide Telescope which I've written about at length. In short every computer should have WWT installed. :-)

108 minutes that changed everything...

...Almost (see my previous entry on Cosmonaut day).

50 years ago today, Yuri Gagarin successfully orbited the Earth, paving the way towards the stars.

But disappointingly all we've done in the last 40 years is orbit the Earth. It's time human space flight was properly funded.

Some astronomy bits in the Lake District

As regular readers will know in early August Catherine and I went off on a little trip to the Lake District which was largely enjoyable (bar the rubbish Virgin trains and to a lesser extent the rain). We stayed in Near Sawrey a few miles south-west of Windermere.

Of course it was solely coincidence that we would happen to stay under dark skies, in a village where a conveniently placed hill would block any light pollution from Windermere, during the week of the Perseid meteor shower. :-) However as always the atmosphere is out to destroy me, and we probably only got about 90 minutes of clear skies in total, pretty poor for 4 nights.

My plans for photographs of the Milky Way reflected in Esthwaite Water, or magnitude -12 fireballs reflected in the lake never materialised due to the extent of the cloud cover. There was no point in wasting what little clear skies we had trekking down to the lake only to find it had clouded back up, the wind speeds would also have been prohibitive. So we mainly just hung out the front of Buckle Yeat, hiding behind a wall to block the lights.

Nevertheless the clear skies we got were nothing short of brilliant. The Andromeda galaxy easily visible, the Milky Way was positively glowing right the way across the sky with the dust lanes easy to make out. You didn't have to look away to try and make out the details in it like there is in Yeovil, and dream on trying to see it in Aldershot. It was just there, glowing and glowing rather brightly I might add.

What really surprised me the most however was stars close to the horizon were just as brilliant and plentiful as stars near the zenith. As someone who has always lived in a town of >30,000 people we're not used to seeing that much stuff lower down in the sky. The lower 30° is usually a total write-off even on a good night. On the first of my get-up-and-see-if-its-clear checks during the night I took one look out the window hoping to maybe see a couple of stars, and bang the whole constellation of Perseus and dozens of stars behind it were just sat there on the horizon. Within about 10 minutes I counted 6 meteors, and that's just looking through the window at the radiant, and that was on the Tuesday night, the peak was on Friday morning. A couple of dozen more awaited us outside in the 30 minutes or so of clear skies we had that night.

In the brief time we had I did take a few images of course.

Milky Way and the Summer Triangle

First up, the Summer Triangle made up of the stars Deneb, Vega and Altair and of course the Milky Way behind them. And of course a huge lump of cloud. Exposure time was about 30 seconds at ISO1600. The amount of detail that this image picked up is remarkable; this was only a 30 second exposure. Back in Yeovil I'd need almost double that to get as much detail. And of course the entire image would be orange from all the light pollution, not just the clouds.

Star trails around Polaris

The traditional star trails around Polaris image. This was an exposure of about 12 or 13 minutes at ISO200. Again this would have been good reflected in a lake with say an hour's worth of exposure.

And on the Thursday night, the only Perseid meteor that was bright enough and happened to fly in front of the camera. It was clouding over rapidly at this point and this was the last part of the sky to remain clear within about 10 minutes it had completely become overcast. This was a 20 second exposure at ISO1600.

What's in store for the future? Well I'll get the full resolution images over on my gallery at some point. And perhaps next time I'll run some statistical analysis of cloud cover in the region so I can predict the best week to go and we'll forget the meteor showers, and this time I'll take an equatorial mount with me, a 10 minute exposure on the Milky Way under those skies would been awesome.

Why is the day exactly 24 hours long?

This has got to to be the best question so far, continuing in the questions for "evolutionists" series. It disappoints me such people don't even understand the shape and structure of the very local universe.

Darwinists, if Intelligent Design isn't true, then why is a day exactly 24 hours long?

If by Darwinist you mean biologists, then you're asking the wrong group of people. Try asking some astronomers.

A (solar) day is 24 hours long because we decided to break a day up into 24 segments for the purposes of time keeping. We could have just as easily broken it into 10 hours, or 100 hours. Or even 54 hours!

Nowadays however we know that a day isn't 24 hours long. A single day can vary by around 20 seconds depending on the location of the Earth along its orbit. When closer to the Sun near perihelion solar days become longer as the Earth is moving faster in its orbit and has to rotate further to bring the Sun back to the same position on the sky and vice versa. Over the course of a year it will average out to 24 hours, although due to the Moon the Earth's rotation is decelerating.

There's also the sidereal day to take into account which is the time it takes the Earth to rotate relative to the stars. This is truest gauge of how long the Earth takes to rotate. And it is 23 hours 56 minutes and 4 seconds.

Now if the sidereal and the solar day were the same, then maybe you could invoke an intelligent designer to explain why the Earth is a relatively nice place to live, as it would look a little different to how it is now, it would have either fallen into the Sun or remain in orbit with one side boiling and the other freezing while remaining tidally locked to the Sun.

Also, the sun reaches its highest point at noon every day. Why do Darwinists claim this all happened by 'accident' and deny this evidence of intelligent Creator?

The Earth rotates and is angled away from the Sun so it has be at its highest point at some time; we decided to call this the solar noon, which when the Sun crosses the meridian (an imaginary circle crossing between the poles angled at 90° to the local horizon). If by noon you mean 12:00 then this is false. In most countries solar noon will be sometime between 11:00 and 14:00 but due to how large time zones and the fact we like taking hours off and putting them on the solar noon and 12:00 are very rarely equal unless you're stood just in the right spot.

Biologists don't claim this happened by accident. Neither do astronomers. The solar system is a product of the laws of nature. It wasn't put into place as-is by some supernatural intergalactic dictator; it developed from a cloud of hydrogen and dust over millions of years. It seems to be you like using arbitrary names or systems that we came up with to describe the universe as evidence of a designer. The only designer it is evidence for is ourselves.

"Magnified" lunar eclipse? I don't think so

The BBC last week ran a story on Saturday's partial lunar eclipse. I have no objections to the BBC coverage lunar eclipses, but I do have problems with non-science writers covering them.

Just a bit of background, for viewers in Asia and the Americas this lunar eclipse would have appeared while the Moon was near the horizon. The Moon is bigger near the horizon right? Kinda.

The article of the title was "Lunar eclipse 'magnified' in US". A pathetic attempt at trying to make it seem more interesting. The article went on to say:

A partial lunar eclipse taking place on 26 June will appear magnified in the US by an effect known as the "moon illusion". [...] According to Nasa, low-hanging Moons look "unnaturally large when they beam through trees, buildings and other foreground objects". The reason for this is not understood.

NASA huh, well you could have just asked your local amateur astronomer and got an answer. The reason for the effect is NOT unknown.

The Moon, or the Sun for that matter (please don't look directly at the Sun), do look larger when they're near the horizon compared to high in the sky. However you can take a simple measurement to show they're the same size regardless of where they are in the sky, about half a degree across.

The effect is an optical illusion created by our brains. Our brains use other objects to estimate the size of things. Trees and houses, things you'd see on the horizon are pretty big. The Moon looks like it's close to them and about the same size or bigger, so hmmm the Moon must be big too. When the Moon is off by itself high up in the sky we have nothing else to compare it to.

Effect not unknown.

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