Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Gamma Ray Burst might have been visible naked-eye this morning

Probably nobody looked at the right spot at the right time - but when GRB 080319B erupted this morning at 6:13 UTC, it would have been visible as a star of at least magnitude 5.8 for a few seconds at 14h 31m 40.7s +36° 18' 14.7" (2000.0)! According to THE ASTRONOMER Electronic Circular No 2432 a camera "located at Las Campanas Observatory imaged the region of GRB 080319b before, during and after the GRB with 10s exposures (IR-cut filter only)." Nothing was visible from 6:12:33 to 6:12:43 UTC down to 12th mag., but from 6:12:47 - 6:12:57 UTC a 10 mag. "star" was seen which from 6:13:01 - 6:13:11 UTC had risen to a maximum brightness of about 6th mag. Now a call is out whether someone by chance photographed this sky field at the right time - and observers with larger telescopes are encouraged to take deep exposures even now.

In other news the death of Arthur C. Clarke has brought out numerous items of interest on the web such as the last ever interview he gave (transcript), a statement by NASA, a BBC piece with videos, an NPR piece with a radio feature, and obituaries galore from everywhere around the world, e.g. from the Planetary Society, the New York, Los Angeles and London Times', the Washington Post, ABC, the Guardian, CNN, the BBC, CBC and And in the blogosphere responses came e.g. from SpaceRef, SpaceWeather, Wired, AstroProf, Planetary Soc., Nature, SpaceWriter, Voltage Gate, New Scientist, Univ. Today, Centauri Dreams, Cocktail Party Physics and NASA Watch.

• Meanwhile, the storm on Saturn seems to be fading, the 2009 ring plane crossing is approaching, and it has been decided that we now have an Encke Gap - and not Division - in Saturn's rings. • Here's a DIY Deimos. • And March 29 features both an (international) Earth Hour in which cities should turn off their lights for one hour at 8 p.m. local time and the start of the (U.S.) Nat'l Dark-Sky Week, as the International Dark-Sky Association reminds us. Light pollution has become a big media topic now.

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