Thursday, May 22, 2008

One rotation every 43 seconds: the fastest rotator known in the solar system

This news item - from today's Electronic Telegram No. 1382 of the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams - could make you dizzy: Photometric "observations of minor planet 2008 HJ obtained using the 2.0-m Faulkes Telescope South during Apr. 28-29, reveal that this Apollo-type object has the shortest known rotation period of any natural body in the solar system at 42.67±0.04 s. It exhibits a light curve comprised of two similar maxima and minima with an amplitude of 0.8 mag. [...] 2008 HJ has presumed approximate dimensions 12 x 24 m. The fastest previously known rotator was 2000 DO8, which has a rotation period of 78 s".

In other news a third Red Spot has formed on Jupiter, close to the other two - and this Berkeley/Keck press release hails the observations of amateurs, augmenting Hubble and Keck data. Indeed in late April a German methane-band movie clearly shows the storm triplet! • Mars is now inside the Beehive star cluster. • A nice prominence movie from yesterday. • A quasar at z=3.6 has been observed visually with an 18" scope. • A Nature commentary on amateur astronomers today. • And the final HST shuttle mission is now planned for Oct. 8.

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