Moon Biggest,Brightest and Closest - Mars Opposition

Mars Opposition on 30th Jan,2010:
On 30th January, 2010 Planet Mars would be directly opposite to Sun from our viewpoint on Earth. At which point Mars and the sun are on directly opposite sides of Earth. This Phenomenon is known as Mars Opposition. Because of this Planet mars will be visible all through the night i.e. Mars rises in the east just as the sun sets in the west. Then, after climbing up in the sky at midnight, Mars sets in the west just as the sun rises in the east.

Presently Planet Mars is shining brightly only next to brightest star Sirius and Moon. Mars would continue to be this bright till end of March. While people can continue to spot it until beginning of year 2011 placed at different directions at start of evening every month with decreasing brightness, size as the planet finally gets away from our view. General public can Join us by typing SKYNEWS and send to 56070 for knowing the position of Planet Mars every month along best time, direction to spot, joining observation sessions at various locations.

A small Note before we proceed further:
Like all the planets in our solar system, Earth and Mars orbit the sun. However Earth being closer to the sun, races along its orbit more quickly than Mars, Jupiter etc..Earth makes two trips around the sun in about the same amount of time that Mars takes to make one trip. Mostly the two planets are on opposite sides of the sun, very far apart, and other times, Earth catches up with its neighbor and passes relatively close to it.

How to Spot with Naked Eye: General Public can spot the Mars with naked eye after sunset. One hour after Sun set looking towards the sky opposite to sunset, in the evening one can spot Planet mars between East and North East direction. Whereas at midnight one can see it above his head while in the morning it can be spotted in West and North West Direction. On 30th Jan Mars can be found just towards left of Moon in the evening and towards right of moon on 31st Morning.

How does it look Naked eye - Telescope? Mars would appear as warm yellow gold with a hint of rouge red star like object for naked eye. However if one can see through telescope one can appreciate ice caps in the Northern tip of Mars.

Then here is another news of Moon.

Biggest, Closest, Brightest Moon: On 30th Jan Moon will be only 3, 56,566 km away, which is 49,890 km closer than the farthest full Moon of this year on August 24. In fact it will look 13 % bigger and 30% brighter. This full Moon will look its biggest just after sunset on 30th Jan and just before sunrise on 31st.

Here is the table of Perigee and Apogee :

Here is the list of Full or New Moon in 2010

Effort by Society: Planetary Society, India in order to create awareness about Planet Mars is launching “Mars Watch Campaign 2010”. As part of this campaign sky observations beginning second week of Feb will be organized in Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Visakhapatnam, Tirupathi and across the state depending on number of people interested to join.

Mars Closest To Earth on 27th Jan - Next oppurtunity 2012

You can click on following links to know details about Mars opposition and closest approach.

How to Locate Mars :

Here is how you can locate with your own eyes. Telescope is needed only if you want to appreciate finest features of mars.

People can spot Planet Mars with naked eye after sunset. One hour after Sun set looking towards the sky opposite to sunset, in the evening one can spot Planet mars between East and North East direction. Whereas at midnight one can see it above his head while in the morning it can be spotted in West and North West Direction.
Mars can be spotted until beginning of year 2011 placed at different directions at start of evening every month with decreasing brightness, size as the planet finally gets away from our view. further if you are Interested you can subscribe for year long alerts from us for just Rs.60p.a. by typing SKYNEWS and sending to 56070.

Annular Solar Eclipse 15th January, 2010

Planetary Society, India in association Andhra Pradesh State Council of Science and Technology (APCOST) and Dr.K.V.Rao Scientific Society as part of Annular Solar Campaign 2010 with a motive to create awareness among school students has undertaken state wide activities with the help of 23 District Coordinators and 5 Regional coordinators of the APCOST. Activities like Space Simulator (Students created simulations of solar eclipse as seen from 50 different countries), Media Discussions on the subject and others are already planned. Importantly at State Level Press conference Compact Disk, Poster, Presentation of Simulated Animations of Eclipse with experts like Prof. G. Yellaiah, Dept of Astronomy, O.U., N. Sri Raghunandan Kumar, General Secretary were conducted.

Brief about Solar Eclipse: A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth such a way that the Sun is wholly or partially obscured. This can only happen during a new moon, when the Sun and Moon are in conjunction as seen from the Earth.

Annular Solar Eclipse: An annular eclipse occurs when the Sun and Moon are exactly in line, but the apparent size of the Moon is smaller than that of the Sun. Hence the Sun appears as a very bright ring, or annulus, surrounding the outline of the Moon.

Antumbra: This is that part of Moon’s shadow from which Sun appears larger than the Moon which is seen in complete silhouette. An annular eclipse is seen by an observer when he is located on path of antumbra

Importantly as part of this campaign “Student Space Simulators” project is being carried out at Hyderabad involving school students from three regions of the state.


Annular Solar Eclipse will occur on 15th January, 2010. This eclipse is visible partially in major parts of the country. This is first Solar Eclipse of the Year and best until year 2019 Dec 26th. As the next solar eclipse in 2011 on Jan 4 is visible to people in Northern parts of the country and few places in Gujarat. Whereas the solar eclipse in 2016 though visible in India begins and lasts only for few minutes close to horizon in early hours of March 9

Path of the Eclipse : The annular path of the eclipse will pass through the region covering southern tip of Chad, the Central African Republic, the northern Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Kenya, the southern tip of India, northern Sri Lanka, the south-eastern tip of Bangladesh, Myanmer and south-eastern China. After leaving Africa, the path crosses the Indian Ocean where the maximum duration of annularity reaches 11 min 08 s.

It will be seen as annular within a narrow stretch of 333 km width covering across Central Africa, Maldives South Kerala, South Tamil Nadu, North Sri Lanka, Burma and China. Whereas this eclipse would be seen as partial from eastern Africa, south-east Europe, the Middle East, and south-east Asia

Importantly the duration of annularity which is 11 minutes 8 seconds during this annular eclipse on 15th Jan,2010 will not be exceeded for over 1000 years (3043 Dec 23).

Timings of the Eclipse :

World Wide:
Astronomically speaking the phenomena of Eclipse begins (first contact with earth) at 9.35 a.m. and ends at 3.38 p.m (last contact with earth) in the evening. In which the Central Phase of Eclipse begins at 10. 48 a.m. and Ends at 2.25 p.m. Wherein Greatest Eclipse Phase (when the eclipse is maximum occurs) at 12.36 p.m The duration of Annular Phase of Eclipse at maximum phase is 11 minutes and 4 seconds when people would witness sun as bright outline around moon disk like a ring.

Timings – Across India :
However in India people in southern part of India will be the first to see the eclipse as the path of eclipse traverses across India before entering Bangladesh, Burma. People in western and south India would see the beginning of eclipse between 11.00 to 11.30 a.m. Whereas people from central to north India would see the beginning of eclipse from 11.30 to 12 noon.

Importantly people in eastern part of India would see the beginning from 12 Noon onwards. People in northern eastern states of India would see the eclipse beginning from 12.15 onwards.

In India Kavaratti island in Lakshadweep would be one of the first to see the beginning of eclipse at 10.55 a.m. Whereas Dibrugarh would be one of the last to see the beginning (at 12.29 a.m.) or ending (3.39 p.m. ) of eclipse.

Timings in Andra Pradesh - Percentage of Visibility when eclipse is maximum : In Hyderabad the solar eclipse begins at 11.29 a.m. and Ends at 3.15 p.m. At Nellore eclipse begins at 11.28a.m and ends at 3.16 p.m. Kurnool Eclipse begins at 11.25 a.m. and ends at 3.14 p.m. Rajmundry eclipse begins at 11.38 a.m. and ends at 3.20 p.m. Vijayawada eclipse begins at 11.34 a.m. and ends at 3.18 p.m. Vizag eclipse begins at 11.44 and ends at 3.22 p.m. Tirupati 11.23 a.m. to 3.14 p.m.

The Percentage of Sun’s Disk at when eclipse is maximum (around 1.32 p.m) is Rajahmundry 83%, Vijayawada at 82%, Kurnool 79%. For Hyderabad its 77 %. Whereas Nellore District in our state is best place to witness this spectacle where covering of Sun’s disc by Moon would be 85%.

Percentage of Visibility – The More one his away from the Annularity Path – Less the Percentage of Sun Disk Coverage – at Maximum Phase : However this event can be seen only partially from major parts of the country. Depending on the location of the observer one can see the sun’s disk being covered from 42 % or less as one gets away from the ant-umbral path of eclipse.

When the eclipse reaches the maximum point. For an observer in Hyderabad would see 77 % of Sun’s disk. Whereas an observer in Ahmadabad can see only 56% or 42 % in case of observer in Jammu who is far away from the path of annularity. Even closely a person observing from Chennai would see only 89 % of sun being covered, whereas one from thanjavur being in antumbral path would enjoy Moon’s entire disk silhouetted against the Sun. Which allows him to see sun as bright ring, or annulus, surrounding the outline of the Moon.

Best Places to be at : Some of the best places through watch this eclipse where path of annularity passes is Karaikal, Madurai, Nagapattinam, Nagercoil, Rameswaram, Sivaganga, Tanjore, Thiruvarur, Tirunelveli, Trivandrum. i.e. is from these places and around people would witness Moon’s entire disk silhouetted against the Sun. Rameshwaram would witness highest duration during maximum phase i.e. 10 min 8 sec followed by Kanyakumari where it will be 9 min 58 seconds.

Importance of 15 Jan,2010 Eclipse – One who misses now need to wait for 9 years - Last prominent Solar Eclipse until 2019 -:

2011 4th January: this eclipse is visible to people in north India and few places in Gujrat. This eclipse is partial.

2016 9th March : The next opportunity to observe solar eclipse which is partial will occur on 9th March 2016 covering major parts of country . However eclipse begins well before sunrise in the morning and lasts upto 6.47 a.m when sun is close to horizon. This is very difficult to appreciate.

26th December, 2019: The best next prominent opportunity covering larger parts of the country of a Solar Eclipse will only happen on 26th December, 2019 which begins late in early morning when sun is sufficiently above horizon and continuing up to noon.
This means people in major parts of India missing the opportunity to observe the eclipse on 15th January, 2010 will not have opportunity to observe the solar eclipse for next 9 years until year 2019. Importantly the duration of annularity which is 11 minutes 8 seconds during this annular eclipse on 15th Jan,2010 will not be exceeded for over 1000 years (3043 Dec 23).

Tips for Observations: Solar eclipse should not be directly with naked eye or things like x ray films etc. As it may cause injury to eye. Hence people should use certified solar filters. Or use indirect projection method i.e. people can take a white paper and make a round hole into it. While facing one’s back toward sun one should hold the paper in such a way that Sun rays pass through the hole and fall onto wall. This way one would see projected image of sun light slowly getting darken as the eclipse progresses and get clear once the eclipse is complete.

Asteroid 2010 AL30 - Earth Flyby

Here is a post i am writing in urgentness after long time. Object 2010 AL30 will make its closest approach to earth at 12:48 GMT on Wednesday.Its 1.50 a.m. IST now and this object is expected to flyby by 6.18a.m IST nearly 4.30 hrs left. However as you may see its goes around in a year and misses us many occassions.

This unusual object will make a close flyby of Earth coming within only 128,000 km (about 80,000 miles), or at a distance about three times less than the moon’s orbit.

At closest approach on Jan. 13th, 2010 AL30 this object will streak through Orion, Taurus, and Pisces and glow like a 14th magnitude star.

Here is another view of the same.

This object is an Apollo-type asteroid, which are Near-Earth asteroids that have orbits which cross the Earth's orbit and pass approximately 1 AU or less from Earth. Immediately after its discovery there were many doubts whether its Asteroid or perhaps a piece of space junk, like a spent rocket booster?

This object 18 meters long, and astronomers say there is no chance it will hit the planet.

Kindly Click here to read earlier posts on this subject.

Three Celestial Events Welcome Year 2010

On 3rd/4th January three celestial events would occur for people to appreciate. It’s just like a perfect welcome for the new year 2010 providing an opportunity to people to appreciate science.

Earth at Perihelion: On 3rd January 2010 Planet Earth will be at closest point to sun in its elliptical orbit around Sun. Astronomically this is phenomena is known as “Perihelion”. Whereas on 7th July Earth will be at Aphelion i.e. it will be at farthest point from Sun.

Spot Mars with Naked Eye Using Moon On 3rd Jan – Moon Conjunction with Mars: On Jan 3 Moon is in conjunction with Planet Mars. i.e. both moon and Mars appear to be near to each other as seen from earth.

Where to see /time:
At 10.30 p.m. if one looks at East Direction one would see Bright moon and a Non twinkling red star like object just above left side. Which is nothing but planet Mars. At 3.30 a.m. one can find mars above ones head near to zenith and at 5.30 a.m. it can be found on the right side of moon in western direction. Telescopes are not needed to spot planets however to appreciate details one would need it. How to identify other planets in sky and how to differentiate a star from planet look brief notes.

Quadrantids Meteor Shower (3-4th Jan) :
on 3rd/4th Jan the annual event of Quadrantid Meteor Shower will occur. Where to look/time: That away from city light at 4.a.m. if one looks at the area between East and North East direction one can see shooting stars. In other words one can see bright streaks of light zipping across the sky and would seem as if they are emanating from the constellation of Bootes. This shower is called “Quadrantids Meteor Shower” because the radiant of this meteor shower lies in Bootes constellation. Telescopes/binoculars are not required to see.

Asteroid Apophis - Russian Proposed Effort to stop - New Year Wake Up Call

99942 Apophis (pronounced /əˈpɒfɪs/, previously known by its provisional designation 2004 MN4) is a near-Earth asteroid that caused a brief period of concern in December 2004 because initial observations indicated a small probability (up to 2.7%) that it would strike the Earth in 2029.

As of October 7, 2009, the impact probability for April 13, 2036, is calculated as 1 in 250,000.

Apophis expected to pass close-by the Earth in 2029 and again in 2036. It is the 2036 passage that is causing some concern, as there is a small risk of impact. The 2029 passage has been calculated to be as close as 30,000 km of the Earth's surface – closer even than the geosynchronous satellite orbit height of 36,000 km.

Golos Rossii, Anatoly Perminov (Head of the Russian Space Agency): Attack on asteroid
During an interview on Russian radio station Golos Rossii, Anatoly Perminov (Head of the Russian Space Agency) said the agency was considering the creation of a mission to send a spacecraft to the Asteroid Apophis to cause a deflection in its orbit.
Apophis, a moderate-sized asteroid is reported to be around 800 feet in length and weighing around 1,000,000 tonnes. This would cause huge damage if it were to impact with the Earth – tsunamis of much greater force that the recent Boxing Day event; huge earthquakes and an significant effect on the atmosphere.

In Anatoly Perminov own words source : HRF/MTM/MMN):
"We will soon hold a closed meeting of our collegium, the science-technical council to look at what can be done,"

"People's lives are at stake. We should pay several hundred million dollars and build a system that would allow us to prevent a collision, rather than sit and wait for it to happen and kill hundreds of thousands of people,"

"Calculations show that it's possible to create a special-purpose spacecraft within the time we have, which would help avoid the collision. The threat of collision can be averted,"

According to Perminov, the Russian space agency would invite the European Space Agency, NASA and others to participate in the project.

How much energy this object can release if on collision course ?
NASA initially estimated the energy that Apophis would have released if it struck Earth as the equivalent of 1,480 megatons of TNT. A later, more refined NASA estimate was 880 megatons.The impacts which created the Barringer Crater or the Tunguska event are estimated to be in the 3–10 megaton range The 1883 eruption of Krakatoa was the equivalent of roughly 200 megatons.
Path of risk where 99942 Apophis may impact Earth in 2036.

View of Lonar Sarovar, from the view point near the MSTDC resort.
This is a merge of two photos, and the patchwork is visible in the middle.

What would happen if it really impacts us ?
The exact effects of any impact would vary based on the asteroid's composition, and the location and angle of impact. Any impact would be extremely detrimental to an area of thousands of square kilometers, but would be unlikely to have long-lasting global effects, such as the initiation of an impact winter.

some scientists believe that the Apophis asteroid, approximately the size of two-and-a-half football fields, could create a desert the size of France, should it strike the Earth.

Lonar Crater, Maharastra India

B612 Foundation - Deflection Srategies - Areas which may be effected:
The B612 Foundation made estimates of Apophis' path if a 2036 Earth impact were to occur as part of an effort to develop viable deflection strategies. The result is a narrow corridor a few miles wide, called the path of risk, and it includes most of southern Russia, across the north Pacific (relatively close to the coastlines of California and Mexico), then right between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, crossing northern Colombia and Venezuela, ending in the Atlantic, just before reaching Africa.Using the computer simulation tool NEOSim, it was estimated that the hypothetical impact of Apophis in countries such as Colombia and Venezuela, which are in the path of risk, would have had more than 10 million casualties.An impact several thousand miles off the West Coast of the US would produce a devastating tsunami.

Here is the list of earlier such blast/closest approach/impact/recovery - as we recorded in our blog :

0ctober 2009:
Asteroids Calling you for Action - Explosion in Indonesia a Reminder - Number of Space Rocks this year

March 2009:
Pieces of Space rock (Meteorites) Recovered - Asteroid TC3 2008

Another New Asteroid 2009 FH Discovered on 17th Mar,09 - Buzz Past Earth

2009 DD45 - New Asteroid Discovered on 27th Feb - Flyby 63,500 km 2nd March, 09

November 2008:
Fireball in the Skies of Canada

October 2008 :
Small Asteroid To Enter Earths Atmosphere - Sudan - No harm

June 2008 :
100 Years of Space Rock: The Tunguska Impact

What are the various solutions ?

The B612 Foundation has published numerous research papers which attempt to define and plan the kind of mission required. They also have a description of the most likely techniques that could be applied to an asteroid such as Apophis.
These include:
* blowing it up (which will probably cause a much larger number of smaller objects to approach us)
* kinaesthetic impact (shooting something big and heavy at it to cause an orbital deflection)
* slow push (resting the nose of a craft against the asteroid and pretending to be a trug-boat)
More obscure methods include painting one side of the asteroid white to modify it's interaction with the sun's rays.

Some Experts Opinion :

Former US astronaut Rusty Schweickart says
"Perminov is right that the capability to deflect an impact threatening asteroid needs to be developed and demonstrated, and that that work needs to be done cooperatively with other space agencies, and he (russian space agency head) should be loudly applauded for that." However Schweickart also warns (at the same link) that the intended target remains a relatively low chance of impact (1:233,000) and it is probably too early to consider such a mission.

“I do think governments should take this seriously. I also know that as of right now, NASA is not taking this seriously enough. Perhaps if Russia gets this ball rolling, and other countries (like India, China, and Japan) join in, then NASA will be forced to take a better look at this situation. I know I was being a little snarky above (this is a blog, after all), but in the end some good may come of this. We just don’t know enough about asteroids and how to push them out of the way. We need to set up and fly missions to a few near-Earth asteroids to understand them better and add to our knowledge of their composition, structure, and behavior.”

Phil Plait - Astronomer skeptic.