Tag Archives: Observatory

Dead comet / skull / asteroid / spooky Halloween fly-by

31 Oct

Whatever you call it, Asteroid 2015 TB145 was discovered only three weeks ago – on October 10, 2015 by the University of Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS-1.

It is just over half a kilometer in diameter (600 meters) and made its closest approach to Earth today at 1 p.m. EDT. It’s distance to Earth at its closest point was 486,000 km – or about 1.3 times distance from the Earth to the Moon.

Fittingly, since today is Halloween, if you rotate the images just right the comet/asteroid does sort of look like a skull. Spooky.

The above images were created by NASA using radar data from the 305 meter Arecibo Radio Observatory in Puerto Rico. The images were captured October 30, 2015.

Astronomers have determined, primarily by examining the amount of light the object reflects, that it is likely a dead comet. That is to say it’s a comet, but over the eons it has lost its volatile materials, and so is now reasonably dark and doesn’t produce the typical sign of a comet: a tail. This is why it was initially thought to be (and named) an Asteroid.

In any event, observatories around the world are pointed at it to learn everything we can about it’s composition and orbit. It also underscores the need to keep an eye on the sky, since this is a big piece of rock, reasonably nearby in the grand scheme, and we only found it three weeks ago.

Comet ISON lives!

29 Nov

UPDATE: While it appears that some small portion of ISON’ nucleus has survived, there is significant discussion if the surviving ‘piece’ is little more than dust. When concrete information is available as to the fate of ISON, I’ll provide an updated story.

This article, written by Harrison Ruess, was originally posted on Sun News Network.

Initial observations of Comet ISON’s close encounter with the Sun on Thursday suggested that it was vaporized during its solar fly-by. However new observations on Friday morning suggest that at least a portion of the comet’s nucleus – its rocky core – may have survived.

A hint that ISON may have survived appeared in an image from the joint NASA/European Space Agency observatory SOHO, which showed ISON appearing to brighten again.

If ISON had been destroyed as originally suspected, it’s unlikely that it would be seen getting brighter today.

Comet ISON passing the Sun, courtesy SOHO/ESA/NASA
Image sequence from SOHO, courtesy NASA/ESA

“After perihelion, a very faint smudge of dust appeared in the (SOHO) images along ISON’s orbit. This surprised us a little…We watched and waited for that dust trail to fade away. Except it didn’t,” wrote Karl Battams, astrophysicist and computational scientist based at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC.

“Now, in the latest (SOHO) images, we are seeing something beginning to gradually brighten up again,” he continues.

Battams’ working theory is that large chunks of ISON broke off in its journey past the sun, but part of its core remains intact.

As this is a very dynamic situation though, Battams cautions: “just be patient on this and the truth will unfold in time!”

If a large portion of ISON survives intact, it would be visible to the naked eye in Earth’s night sky in the coming weeks.

For the latest, you can check out NASA’s ISON page.

Time-lapse of Atacama night sky

16 Nov

Yesterday I posted a time-lapse video that I made from North Bay, Ontario – a city about 400km north of my home in Toronto.

Well here is a proper time-lapse video of the night sky:

These images were taken by Stéphane Guisard and José Francisco Salgado at the VLT (Paranal), ALMA (Chajnantor) Observatories, and the E-ELT Site (Armazones) in the Atacama Desert, Chile.

Amazing what’s up there.

…and now I have something to work towards with my videos.

Toronto’s Night Sky – Astronomy Forecast

20 Jan

For all my fellow astronomers out there, this is your one-stop page for doing astronomy in Toronto, Ontario Canada. Feel free to bookmark the address: http://www.HarrisonRuess.com/sky to find this page.

Here is a Clear Sky Chart for Toronto.


For the clear sky chart, generally darker = better for astronomy. For full details on how to read the chart, click here. A big “cheers” to Attilla Danko for developing the Clear Sky Chart website using data from the Canadian Meteorological Center. Visit the website to find charts for thousands of other cities around North America.

Click here to view the latest GOES-East Satellite data (IR + Visible; animation available).

A Star Chart for Toronto, courtesy The National Research Council of Canada:

To view a list of upcoming satellite fly-bys (including the International Space Station – ISS) click here.

Toronto’s weather forecast: