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Lunar Eclipse Webcasts!

"Live" eclipse webcasts

Too cold to stand outside? Clouds covering the Moon? Watch from the comfort of your keyboard! During the eclipse (see info at right margin) check out the following links recommended by SpaceWeather.com for "live" webcasts of the event. Of course, if the weather is clear be sure and take a look at the eclipse from your own back yard... there's nothing like seeing it with your own eyes! See my earlier post about the eclipse for more information and online resources. Note: there's an error in that post... the Moon will begin to brighten in the wee hours of Thursday morning, NOT Sunday!

Live webcasts: from the Canary Islands; from Norway; from Iran; from Columbus, Georgia; from the Netherlands; from Belgium; from Spain; and another from Spain.

Lunar Eclipse Feb. 20

The weather isn't looking promising but weather or not {get it?} the sky cooperates, there will be a total lunar eclipse Wednesday night, Feb. 20. Given clear skies, it's a show not to be missed and it's a "prime time" event!

You can get a great view of it from their own back yard without need of a telescope. If the sky is clear just step outside and look at the Moon at about 9 PM when the eclipse (technically already underway) should begin to become noticeable. Check back occasionally over the next hour or so as the Moon moves deeper into Earth's shadow. Adding to the spectacle will be the bright ringed planet Saturn which will shine like a golden star near the then-darkened Moon. By 10:00 the Moon will be in full eclipse. It won't begin to brighten again until about 11:00 and will be back to its full brilliance in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

The next total lunar eclipse visible from here will take place in the early morning hours of December 21, 2010.

An observing chart and more details are available via several online sources. Here are two very good resources:

Valentine's Day Computer Virus

The Valentine's Day Storm Worm virus is out there. The Storm Worm virus has used other holidays, especially those associated with greeting cards.

The virus is delivered in a bogus email that directs users to click on a link in order to receive an electronic greeting card. What really happens is some really nasty software (a.k.a. malware) is installed on the user's computer, making it part of what is called a "botnet"--a network of computers that have been taken over by malware for illegal purposes.

Subscribe to our blogs

If there is a blog of ours that you would like to track, go to an entry, click on that blog's name, and go to the bottom of the page. You should see an icon that looks like this: . Click on that icon and it will give you subscription options. If you use an RSS aggregation service, like a MyYahoo or Google Reader account, et cetera, you can add our blog's feed to it.

Getting a tax refund? Watch our for phishing scams!

Lately, you may have received an email claiming to be from the IRS, telling you that you have a refund coming. You are instructed to perhaps click on a link and provide all sorts of personal information, including your social security number. Some emails might imply that you could be in some sort of trouble if you don't comply.

 

These emails represent what are called "phishing" scams, in which con artists send out emails that appear to be from legitimate companies or organizations in order to get your personal information, especially your SSN. With this information, they can rob your identity, opening new lines of credit and sticking you with the bill. For more information about

Mars to get near-miss

Refined orbital calculations brought good news for Martians, disappointment to scientists...

From the NASA/JPL Near-Earth Object Program Office -- January 9, 2008 -- Since our last update, we have received numerous tracking measurements of asteroid 2007 WD5 from four different observatories. These new data have led to a significant reduction in the position uncertainties during the asteroid's close approach to Mars on Jan. 30, 2008. As a result, the impact probability has dropped dramatically, to approximately 0.01 percent or 1 in 10,000 odds, effectively ruling out the possible collision with Mars. Our best estimate now is that 2007 WD5 will pass about 26,000 km from the planet's center (about 7 Mars radii from the surface) at around 12:00 UTC on Jan. 30th. With 99.7 PERCENT confidence, the pass should be no closer than 4000 km from the surface.

Mars... attacked?

You may have seen news headlines referring to an asteroid possibly to hit or "threatening" Mars. It is true that a space rock, about 164 feet across, could hit the Red Planet on January 30. The event isn't a certainty, however, and if it does happen Mars will survive relatively unscathed. At first the odds of an impact were said to be 1 in 75. Recent analysis of other observations has refined the asteroid's orbit and the odds are now at 1 in 25. Astronomers will continue to narrow the odds between now and the end of January and will know in advance and for certain whether Mars will take a hit.

If the asteroid were to hit Mars the result would be a large crater (perhaps half a mile in diameter) but the planet as a whole would be largely unaffected -- Mars is half the size of Earth but it's still much bigger than the house-sized asteroid (if you have a really big house). In fact many space scientists hope the collision takes place because it would provide insight into the makeup of Mars and the dynamics of such a large event. Several spacecraft are currently in orbit around Mars and could make unprecedented observations of the impact and/or its aftermath. The two still-functioning Mars rovers would also make observations. Only space-based and, perhaps, the largest of ground-based telescopes have any chance of seeing the collision, if it happens at all.

Better Mars than us: The energy released by a 164-foot asteroid hitting Earth would cause untold destruction if it impacted anywhere near a population center. In June of 1908 an object believed to be of about the same size as the one we are discussing exploded over Siberia with a yield equivalent to a 10- to 15-megaton nuclear device. The "Tunguska Event" felled an estimated 80 million trees over 830 square miles. Today's tracking of the Mars-bound rock reminds us that there are still dangers "out there" of which we need to be aware and with which we may one day need to cope.

A Website for shoppers: Customer Feedback Central

Customer Feedback Central is a great site that provides lists of product-review Websites in the following categories:

  • automotive
  • books and movies
  • food/dining
  • electronics
  • apartments and real estate
  • entertainment and lifestyle
  • clothing and beauty
  • toys and video games
  • pharmaceuticals
  • colleges and universities
  • travel
  • computers and accessories

These sites provide feedback from actual customers.

Mars opposition Dec. 24

Mars opposes Earth?

It's not really a rivalry. About every 26 months planet Earth passes between the Sun and sister planet Mars. It's also a time when the two worlds are closer together than normal. Because the orbits of the planets are not perfectly circular, the date of opposition and the date of closest approach aren't usually the same and the distance at its closest also varies.

This year the closest approach of Earth and Mars will take place on December 18 when they will be just shy of 55 million miles apart. Opposition takes place December 24 and Mars will be at its brightest for Earth-bound viewers. The close approach and brightness makes viewing the Red Planet its best during opposition and near-opposition periods.

A comet called Holmes in our skies

A formerly very dim comet called Holmes (17P) flared up October 24th growing many magnitudes brighter. It's outside the orbit of Mars and in the southern portion of the constellation Perseus. Last night (Oct. 27), following a day of clouds, mist, and rain, I stepped outside to a clearing sky. It took me only a second to find Holmes and view it through my 10X50 binoculars. It was a beautiful sight, though to the uninitiated, it's just a big fuzzball. That is, of course, how it actually looked... a large, brightly glowing puff with a bright dot in the center; that's how comets look "head-on" with any tail streaming behind and away from the viewer. The glow was slightly yellow or golden... quite an unusual object.