Dawn space station passes for the U.S. will wind down this week, so if you’re a morning person, the next few days will present several nice opportunities to see the magnificent flying machine. Starting this Saturday the station will be making daytime passes only until it returns to the evening sky on or around Feb. 12.
* Tomorrow February 1 beginning at 6:27 a.m. Fine bright pass across the southern sky. At 6:28 the ISS zips under the planet Mars and a minute later under Saturn. Enjoy the ride!
* Wednesday Feb. 2 at 5:33 a.m. Brief, bright pass in the south-southeast
* Thursday Feb. 3 at 6:11 a.m. Low pass in the south
The crater shown in the photo was created by as asteroid about 3 miles in diameter between 206 and 214 million years ago. Geophysicist David Rowley of the University of Chicago along with several colleagues has proposed that the Manicouagan Crater may have been just one of five multiple impact craters that formed at the same time from the breakup of a comet or asteroid. The others are the Red Wing Crater in North Dakota (5.6 miles diameter), Saint Martin in Manitoba (25 miles), Rochechouart in France (13 miles) and Obolon’ in Ukraine (12 miles). To learn more about the many craters identified to date on planet Earth, click over to the Earth Impact Database.
The idea is plausible based upon similar ages and alignment, taking into account tectonic plate movements in the intervening 200 million years. We’ve also seen something like this happen before but not on Earth. Between July 16 and July 22, 1994 Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which was captured by the planet Jupiter, broke up into multiple pieces which rained down in succession into the planet’s cloud tops. Flashes from the explosive collisions with the atmosphere were recorded by the Galileo spacecraft at the time. Back on Earth, amateur astronomers thrilled to the parade of dark impact blotches that ringed Jupiter like an onyx necklace.
I have a personal story to share about the Manicouagan Crater area. On July 10, 1972 the centerline of a total eclipse of the sun passed just south of the crater. My buddies Rick and Larry and I were working in northern Wisconsin at the time and decided to drive up and see the eclipse. We bought a few groceries and piled into Larry’s green Vega for a very long drive across Michigan and up through Canada into Quebec. As I recall, we made a left turn inland at Baie Comeau on the St. Lawrence River and drove until we hit the inevitable dirt road somewhere in the middle of the forest near the centerline. There we set up camp along a river the evening before the eclipse.
I don’t remember when we noticed the black flies, but they became an increasing problem the next day. We wandered along the river looking for a scenic spot to watch the rare event that afternoon. Just before totality, clouds obscured the sun, leaving us with little more than a few minutes of pseudo-darkness. No spectacular corona, no flaming pink prominences, no once-in-a-lifetime spinal chill.
While this was obviously a disappointment, more disturbing were the flies. We were fresh Wisconsin sausage in their tiny eyes and they pursued us now relentlessly. I had so many bites on the back of my neck and ears my fingers were bloody from scratching.
We hurried back to take down the tent, literally ran for the car and got the hell outta there. My fondest memory of the event was relaxing in a bathtub later that night in a motel in Baie Comeau nursing my bitten body. Astronomy’s full of adventure and don’t let anyone tell you differently.