Saturday, June 28, 2008

1500th SOHO comet found - satellite most prolific comet hunter ever

The ESA/NASA SOHO spacecraft has just - on June 25 - discovered its 1500th comet with its LASCO coronagraph, making it more successful than all other comet discoverers throughout history put together. Not bad for a spacecraft that was designed as a solar physics mission. Of course, LASCO itself does not make the detections; that task falls to an open group of highly-skilled volunteers who scan the data as soon as it is downloaded to Earth. Once SOHO transmits to Earth, the data can be on the Internet and ready for analysis within 15 minutes; enthusiasts from all over the world then look at each individual image for a tiny moving speck that could be a comet. For direct viewing, meanwhile, Boattini is returning to Northern skies.

In other news an amateur may or may not have detected Pluto's moon Charon with an 80-cm reflector (also M. Brown on classifications and a video of the recent occultation). • Jupiter from Germany and Puerto Rico, Mars in daytime and a preview of Mars meeting Saturn. • What a low solar max would mean for space debris, how an asteroid got named John, and NLCs on June 26 - they are surging now. • Dark sky status for Cherry Springs. • Pictures of a weird rocket body. • The strange "Deep ILmpact" web tv event (about a fictional impact in Germany) is coming today. • And here's to the KBA at 5 years (with yours truly featured on page 41)!

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