Saturday, February 24, 2007

Mystery over Australia

Mystery Over Australia. Credit & Copyright: Ray Palmer

Click on Image to enlarge this stunning view through dark skies over western Australia and the highlights of the southern Milky Way -- including the famous Southern Cross, the dark Coal Sack Nebula, and bright reddish emission regions surrounding massive star Eta Carinae.

The thirty minute long colour film exposure also captured a bright but mysterious object that moved slowly across the sky for over an hour. Widely seen, the object began as a small point and expanded as it tracked toward the North (left), resulting in a comet-like appearance in this picture. What was it?

Reports are now identifying the mystery glow with a plume from the explosion of a malfunctioned Russian rocket stage partially filled with fuel. The rocket stage was marooned in Earth orbit after a failed communication satellite launch almost a year ago on February 28, 2006. A substantial amount of debris from the breakup can be tracked.

Discover the Cosmos with Astronomy Picture of the Day
20MB Video with spectacular explosion from Gordon Garradd
Currently there are approximately 2465 artificial satellites orbiting the Earth and 6216 pieces of space debris as tracked by the Goddard Space Flight Center. Over 16,291 previously launched objects have decayed into the Earth's atmosphere.

Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) are space rocks larger than approximately 100m that can come closer to Earth than 0.05 AU. None of the known PHAs is on a collision course with our planet, although astronomers are finding new ones all the time. On 24 Feb 2007 there were 846 known PHAs

Wishing You All A Magical weekend!

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