Wednesday, 19 May, 2021

Heavens Come Alive With Planets, Stars


Dr. Rishi Shah

The night skies of this month would come alive with major planets, stars and constellations along with numerous entities that would be spreading all over the heavens. Resplendent red planet Mars could be marveled from evening after sundown in western sky. It would then slowly sink towards western horizon before midnight. It would be gliding across the zodiacal constellations Taurus (bull) and Gemini (twins). Confounding constellations Eridanus (river), Orion (hunter) and Monoceros (unicorn) could be cherished below the Mars’ path. Planets Mercury and Venus cannot be easily admired because of their closeness to Sun.
They would be fleeting across Aries (ram) and Pisces (fishes). Planets Jupiter and Saturn along with far-away planet Neptune could be perceived for a few hours before dawn-break in eastern sky. They could be spotted among shining stars staying in northern section of Capricornus (sea goat). Planet Uranus would be lost in solar glare due to its proximity to Sun. It would be coasting through petit but charming constellation Aries (ram).

Meteor Shower
An average Lyrid meteor shower would be displaying dramatically scant twenty meteors per hour at its peak in eastern sky that would occur typically this year 2021 from the night of the 22 till the morning of 23 April. It has been believed that this shower has been produced by debris left behind by the Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which had been verified in 1861. Its orbital period had been ascertained to be just 415 years.
It had been observed intensively since 687 BC. The comet had sailed by from barely fifty million kilometers from earth in May 1861 and had arrived at perihelion (closest approach to the Sun) on 03 June 1861. C/1861 G1 has been listed queerly as non-periodic comet because it has not been sighted at two perihelion passages. When it would probably come back in around 2283, it could receive the periodic P- designation. The comet has been confirmed to be the parent body of the Lyrids. It had been detected by A. E.Thatcher.
The shower would run every year from 16 to 26 April. These meteors could sometimes demonstrate dazzling dust trails that could linger for several seconds. The lucent moon light could wash away some faint ones, but the scintillating meteors could be relished. They would seemingly emanate from the radiant point residing in the comely constellation Lyra (harp) in the vicinity of the shimmering star Vega (Avijit), which would be perhaps twenty five light-years away.

New Moon
The new moon would befall on 12 April, while the full moon would mesmerize us on 27 April. This full moon has been dubbed the pink full moon, because it would resemble the pink moss or wild ground phlox, which would claim to be the first spring flowers. Another sobriquet of this full moon would be the full fish moon, since during this time of the year shad would swim upstream for spawning. It would become the first of three super-moons for 2021. The moon would creep closest to earth (perigee) and would appear to be slightly larger (by narrowly fourteen percent) and more effulgent (by scarcely thirty percent) than usual when it would be at furthest place (apogee) from us. The popular Ghode Jatra would be enjoyed on 11 April.
The New Nepali year Bikram Sambat 2078 would commence on 14 April. Revered Ram Navami would be celebrated on 21 April. Generally speaking, an asteroid has been defined as rocky body in space hurtling around the Sun. Smaller rocks dashing around the Sun would be tagged meteoroid. If a meteoroid would enter the earth's atmosphere and vaporize, it would become a meteor, which is often called a shooting star. If asteroid or meteoroid would survive its fiery terrain through earth's atmosphere and land on earth's surface, it would be then awesomely acclaimed meteorite. Another related term bolide would be a very lambent meteor that would bewitchingly burst in the atmosphere and would be nicknamed the fascinating fireball.
The huge near-earth asteroid labeled 2001 FO32 had zoomed by earth from deduced distance of dismaying two million kilometers (sparsely 5.25 times the span from earth to the moon) safely without manifesting any warning of collision with earth with a whopping speed of 34.44 kilometers per second. Its way around the Sun has been very accurately calculated and been meticulously traced from the time of its identification merely twenty years ago.

Relic of Past
It has yet again provided outstanding opportunity for the experts to optically study this ravishing relic of the past, when it had been presumably concocted during the formation of our Solar System. It would be swinging away and towards the Sun every 810 days. After its brief encounter with earth 2001 FO32 would begin its lonesome voyage into deep space and would fling by earth again in 2052 from serenely seven lunar lengths (fairly three million kilometers). Its diameter has been estimated to be roughly one kilometer.
Over ninety five percent of near-earth asteroids (NEOs) with the size of 2001 FO32 has been precisely located, tracked and cataloged. The probability that these asteroids would smite earth over the next century has been deemed remote. Still then, efforts would continue relentlessly for revealing asteroids that could pose possible impact hazard.
The latest information on them would be continuously gleaned and gathered, so that they could be useful for mission designers while preparing practical options for deflecting them if any of them would threaten the existence of lives on earth in future. They could potentially slam into earth and inflict enormous damage, like the massive asteroid hit that had wiped out virtually seventy five percent of life including that of the dinosaurs on earth sheer sixty six million years ago. Circa eighty to one hundred tons of material as particles and minute meteorites would fall on earth daily without harming earth.
However, bigger ones could trigger devastating destruction on our planet, as they would be possessing mammoth momentum because of their high velocity. In 2013, an object with width of almost sixty meters had exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, unleashing purely thirty times the power of the nuclear bomb that had been dropped over Hiroshima during Second World War.
Pieces of coruscating meteorite that had exhibited fulgent fireball across the skies above south-west England have been recently recovered in the village of Winchcombe in the Cotswolds, Gloucestershire.
These rare rocks were allegedly made up of carbonaceous chondrite stemming from mixture of minerals and organic compounds with amino acids, the baffling building blocks of proteins and other ingredients for life. The meteorite had plunged into earth's orbit at sensational speed of 13.86 kilometers per second before disintegrating in fantastic fashion.
Astronomers could comprehend and ferret out more about the origin of the Solar System and the life on earth from these ancient stones. A meteor had blown up violently and broken apart in earth's atmosphere basically fifty three kilometers high over the state of Vermont, USA during evening last month. The ensued shock wave could be registered by instruments and many persons could hear and witness this event. In last February NASA's Fireball Network had espied a burning meteor over Ontario which had been captured by multiple cameras and seen by enthusiasts in Michigan, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania USA.

Arcane Asteroid
It had been reported that many people had followed a bright meteor scooting across the sky over Tokyo and surrounding sites in Japan. Similarly, streaking light enkindled eerily by a meteor was noticed during evening in sky over Ust-Nera and Yakutsk in Far Eastern Siberia in Russia.
It has been postulated that an arcane asteroid 99942 Apophis which has been named after the Egyptian deity of chaos could zip past earth on 13 April 2029 from fearsomely close separation measuring questionably thirty two thousand kilometers.
Its girth would indicate 370 meters and its orbital period would express to paltry 0.9 year. Its trajectory has been recorded reliably since 2004. The chance of Apophis striking earth in next one hundred years has been now comfortingly ruled out.

(Dr. Shah is an academician at NAST and patron, Nepal Astronomical Society)