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Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Note: As always, a list of links is at the end.
Our solar system- where the ancient past really is present (sometimes as big rocks less than a hundred kilometers above your head).

I've found myself with some time on my hands, so I'd like to direct your attention to the video below on youtube. This oddly beautiful piece of animation comes to us from Scott Manley and [1]Armagh Observatory, [2]orbital elements by Ted Bowell. It did the rounds of the space community last week, and I've been meaning to post about it:

This video shows the discoveries of small objects, asteroids mainly, since 1980. Red blips are Earth orbit crossers, yellow are Earth orbit approachers, anything giving us a fairly wide berth is green.

Not only is the image beautiful, and the choice of soundtrack right up my street, but by the time 2010 rolls around its impossible to hold onto the view that our eight planets move through the dark in serene isolation. In fact we're clearly embedded in a swirling disk of meter and kilometer sized chunks of matter- the descendant of the protoplanetary disk and its planetesimals. Each of those chunks carries a story leading back to our solar systems creation. And as this video of a meteorite coming down over Edmonton, Canada shows, the violent process of planet building by accretion hasn't stopped, its just slowed down a tad:

This one was less than meter across, and pieces of it made it to the ground to be collected by hunters of space rocks. Video courtesy of a Canadian police officers dashboard camera.

Image above: A fragment of the Edmonton meteorite sits on the surface of a frozen lake. This bit is about 30cm long.

The modern disk is much much sparser, but it goes to show- the night sky is a far busier place than anyone would think just by looking up at night.

Worryingly the first video gave me a nice serene feeling, which it really shouldn't given the number of red blips....

Before I sign off I'd also like to direct every ones attention to [3]this excellent blog entry by Emily Lakdawalla on the flight of the falcon (Hayabusa), and its attendant podcast.

List of links:


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