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St. Croix: Radio Astronomy in the Caribbean

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Newswise — When the morning sun rises over the lands of the United States, it rises first over St. Croix. Located within the Virgin Islands, St. Croix is the easternmost U.S. territory. Originally inhabited by the Igneri and Taino peoples of the indigenous Caribbeans, it was colonized by the Dutch in the 1600s. Over the centuries control of the island passed between several colonial powers before becoming a United States territory in 1917. 

Once an agricultural power in the islands, it is now a popular tourist destination. It has a rich culture with a unique island flair. Within the main city of Christiansted, Spanish, Arabic, and Virgin Island Creole can be heard, scattered among the predominant English dialect. From the old but brightly painted buildings at the center of Christiansted to its modern storefronts, the town is a wonderful mix of past and present.

St. Croix is rich with wildlife, often as relaxed as the tourists around them. The outdoor tables of seaside restaurants are visited by iguanas, colorful birds, and even mother hens with their brood. As with its people, much of the island fauna can trace its origin from faraway lands, brought to the island by colonists and traders. With its warm days and cool nights, it’s easy to call the island home.

Because St. Croix marks the easternmost territory of America, it is a perfect location for an antenna of the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA). The purpose of the VLBA is to observe the radio sky at an extremely high resolution. High enough that it can pinpoint the locations of distant quasars and use them to measure the Earth’s rotation, and even the geological drift of continents. To achieve such precise measurements, the VLBA requires an array of antennas spread as far apart as possible. It currently consists of ten antennas located on the big island of Hawaii, various locations across the continental U.S., and St. Croix. Thanks to St. Croix, the VLBA can achieve a baseline of nearly 9,000 kilometers, giving it the highest resolution of any single radio observatory.

Although the location of St. Croix is perfect for a VLBA antenna, the island poses significant challenges for using and maintaining a radio antenna. The St. Croix dish is located on the eastern side of the island, almost at sea level. So it is constantly bombarded by salt air, ocean rains, and even the occasional tropical storm. The tropical ocean climate is terribly hard on a radio telescope, so the maintenance crew must work hard to protect it from rust and mechanical stress. Data gathered by the antenna must be gathered on data tapes and shipped back to the Very Large Array in New Mexico to be processed.

But one thing the St. Croix antenna has on all the others is the view. Nowhere else does a VLBA dish have an ocean beach view. Nested within the green hills of the eastern shore, the white dish gleams against a brilliant blue sky. It calls St. Croix its home, and if you are lucky enough to visit St. Croix, you’ll understand why.

Source:  National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Brian Koberlein, PhD

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The Close Encounter of Asteroid 2008 OS7: Understanding Near Earth Objects and Potentially Hazardous Asteroids

Asteroid 2008 OS7, a cosmic visitor, will pass Earth safely, sparking curiosity about our cosmic neighborhood.

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Photo by Justinne Camacho on Pexels.com

On the afternoon of February 2, 2024, a cosmic visitor will make its closest approach to Earth. Named 2008 OS7, this asteroid will dash past our planet at a staggering speed of about 18.2 km/s, or roughly 40,700 mph. To put this into perspective, this velocity far surpasses that of a speeding bullet, which typically ranges between 600 and 2,000 mph.

Asteroids, remnants from the early formation of our solar system, mostly inhabit the Asteroid Belt, positioned between Mars and Jupiter. While most are relatively small, some, like the colossal Ceres measuring about 600 miles across, are truly massive. Occasionally, due to gravitational forces from Jupiter or collisions, these space rocks find themselves hurtling into the inner solar system, leading to encounters with Earth.

2008 OS7 falls into the category of Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and is also labeled a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA) due to its size and close proximity to Earth. NEOs are defined as celestial objects within 30 million miles of Earth, encompassing a staggering 31,000 items within our solar system. PHAs, a more critical subset, are those that approach within 4.6 million miles and boast a diameter exceeding 460 feet. Currently, NASA keeps tabs on around 2,350 PHAs.

Read Newsweek’s story.: https://www.newsweek.com/nasa-asteroid-empire-state-building-size-flyby-1865684

Martin Barstow, a professor of astrophysics and space science at the University of Leicester, explained the PHA classification to Newsweek, underlining the potential regional damage such an object could cause if it were to collide with Earth. Despite this classification, 2008 OS7 poses no threat to our planet, as it will not come anywhere near colliding with us.

Minjae Kim, a research fellow at the University of Warwick, emphasized in a statement to Newsweek that although 2008 OS7 has been labeled as a PHA, it won’t enter Earth’s atmosphere. Kim also pointed out the multitude of asteroids in our solar system, with approximately 2,350 classified as PHAs, and highlighted the next significant approach to Earth by a PHA, which will be the 99942 Apophis on April 14, 2029.

For sky enthusiasts hoping to catch a glimpse of this celestial passerby, 2008 OS7 will be disappointingly difficult to spot. Kim noted that the asteroid’s orbit around the sun takes approximately 962 days, and its estimated diameter ranges from 0.221 to 0.494 kilometers, placing it in the category of a small to moderately-sized asteroid, akin to the size of a football field. Unfortunately, due to their faintness, asteroids are generally challenging to detect using current observational techniques, making them virtually impossible to see with the naked eye.

As we prepare for this celestial event, it serves as a reminder of the intricate dance of celestial bodies around our planet and the ongoing work to monitor and understand the potential impact of near-Earth objects. While 2008 OS7 will shoot past our planet without incident, it underscores the importance of continued vigilance and exploration of our cosmic neighborhood.

Source: Newsweek

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Meteoric Marvel: The Berlin 2024 BX1 Asteroid Encounter

Berlin’s cosmic spectacle: 2024 BX1 asteroid fragments unearthed, igniting global fascination and scientific inquiry.

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Early on January 21, 2024, the tranquil skies over Berlin, Germany, were briefly interrupted by a spectacular celestial event. A small asteroid, now identified as 2024 BX1, made a dramatic entrance into Earth’s atmosphere, captivating local observers with a brilliant burst of light as it exploded upon entry. The aftermath of this cosmic visitation has sparked a flurry of excitement as fragments of the meteorite have been discovered in the countryside west of Berlin.

The Natural History Museum Berlin announced on January 26, 2024, that suspected fragments of the asteroid, approximately the size of a walnut, had been recovered by dedicated hunters. This discovery has ignited a surge of interest and enthusiasm within the scientific community and among enthusiasts of astronomy and space exploration worldwide.



In the wake of this extraordinary event, numerous meteorite hunters have taken to social media to share their own remarkable finds, further fueling the public’s fascination with this cosmic occurrence. The collective effort to recover these celestial fragments underscores the enduring allure of space and the unwavering human curiosity about the mysteries beyond our planet.

The discovery of the 2024 BX1 asteroid fragments not only provides a rare opportunity for scientists to study the composition and origins of these extraterrestrial remnants, but it also serves as a poignant reminder of the profound and unpredictable forces at play in our universe.

As we witness the convergence of scientific inquiry, public engagement, and the magnificence of the cosmos, the Berlin 2024 BX1 asteroid encounter stands as a testament to the enduring enchantment of space exploration and the unyielding spirit of discovery that unites us all.

Stay tuned for further updates as the scientific community delves deeper into the secrets held within these newfound celestial treasures, shedding light on the enigmatic journey of the 2024 BX1 asteroid and offering invaluable insights into the boundless wonders of our universe.

Source: EarthSky

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The Great Solar Eclipse of 2024: A Once-in-a-Lifetime Celestial Spectacle

The 2024 total solar eclipse: a rare event uniting millions, set to create unforgettable memories for generations.

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Photo by Drew Rae on Pexels.com

In just 75 days, North America will bear witness to a rare and awe-inspiring event—the total solar eclipse. This celestial phenomenon will cast parts of 15 U.S. states, alongside sections of Mexico and Canada, into an extraordinary darkness during the day. This upcoming eclipse brings to mind the monumental solar eclipse of January 24, 1925, which left an indelible mark on the U.S. northeast, particularly in New York City.

https://q5i.09c.myftpupload.com/get-ready-to-witness-the-breathtaking-total-solar-eclipse-of-2024-across-north-america/

Back in 1925, the eclipse divided the city, creating a unique dichotomy between those who experienced totality and those who witnessed only a partial eclipse. The boundary of the path of totality, initially predicted to be 83rd Street, was expected to split Manhattan into two distinct viewing experiences. However, the actual boundary was revealed to be 96th Street, and the eclipse arrived four seconds behind schedule, challenging the preconceived notions of the event.

As we eagerly anticipate the upcoming eclipse, it’s essential to reflect on the lessons learned from historical mispredictions. The precision of modern eclipse predictions has significantly improved, yet numerous variables still influence each event. Factors such as the moon’s terrain, observer’s elevation, Earth’s rotation speed, and the apparent size of the sun contribute to the uniqueness of each eclipse. Understanding these variables is crucial, especially for those living on the edge of totality, as seen in cities like San Antonio and Austin, Texas.

The upcoming eclipse provides an opportunity for cities like Rochester, New York, to relive a momentous event that last occurred in 1925. With preparations underway for the ROC the Eclipse festival at the Rochester Museum & Science Center, the community eagerly awaits the chance to witness a 3 minutes 40 seconds totality—a significantly longer duration than in 1925.

The anticipation for this celestial event serves as a unifying force, offering a positive shared experience for millions. As Dan Schneiderman, Eclipse Partnership Manager at the Rochester Museum & Science Center, aptly puts it, “We want people to have that positive shared experience they always remember, so random strangers can ask each other ‘where were you during that total solar eclipse?'”

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamiecartereurope/2024/01/24/99-years-ago-today-a-total-solar-eclipse-split-a-major-us-city-and-history-will-repeat-itself-in-75-days/?sh=1d44bb13746f

The forthcoming total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for millions across the 15 fortunate U.S. states. It presents a chance to marvel at the wonders of the universe, uniting communities in an extraordinary shared experience. As we approach this historic event, let us embrace the opportunity to witness the splendor of the cosmos and create lasting memories that will be cherished for generations to come.

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