Please help keep this Site Going

Menopausal Mother Nature

News about Climate Change and our Planet

Space

Top 10 stories of 2022 from EarthSky

Long-exposure photo, with very bright fireball.
An astronomer discovered an asteroid approximately 2 hours before it struck Earth’s atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean on March 11, 2022. The fireball in this image – from January 21, 1999 – is an example of what the 2022 meteor might have looked like, if any witnesses had been in the Arctic to observe it. Image via Czech station No. 16 of the European Fireball Network/ Planetary Science Institute.

Top 10 stories of 2022

From a year that saw a successful mission for Artemis 1 (first step in our human return to the moon) and a space mission that moved an asteroid – to dried-up lakes that revealed human bodies and more – there’s been a lot to talk about! With an active sun, planetary conjunctions and eclipses, both space and Earth news kept us enthralled this year. Come along with us as we review our top 10 stories of 2022.

Check out the 2023 EarthSky lunar calendar. A unique and beautiful poster-sized calendar showing phases of the moon every night of the year. It makes a great New Years gift.

#1 – Asteroid discovered hours before Earth impact

The first of two newly discovered asteroids to hit Earth in 2022, EB5 arrived north of Iceland with no security cameras to watch it burn up in the atmosphere. Hungarian astronomer Krisztián Sárneczky at the Piszkésteto Mountain Station – part of Konkoly Observatory near Budapest – discovered the small asteroid on March 11, 2022, just two hours before it struck Earth’s atmosphere at 21:22 UTC. The asteroid is believed to have started out about 10 feet (3 meters) wide. Read more about EB5.

#2 – Asteroid hit Canada, may have dropped meteorites

Astronomers spotted an asteroid just hours before it struck Earth on November 19, 2022, near Lake Erie in Canada. It was not the first time this year astronomers discovered a rock from space just hours before it hit Earth. But this time, it entered Earth’s atmosphere over a populated area, crossing the skies of Toronto, Canada. We have video and witnesses who saw, heard and felt the impact. And astronomers said locals may be able to find meteorites from the impact. Read more about the Canadian impact.

#3 – Geomagnetic storms: Will you lose power where you live?

When the next big geomagnetic storm comes, will you lose power? Researchers studied past storms, including the most intense storm of the space age – the March 1989 geomagnetic storm – to determine future risk. The 1989 storm caused a nine-hour blackout in Quebec, while in parts of the United States it caused disruption to electric power and damaged a high-voltage transformer. The researchers created maps based on strong, historic geomagnetic storms and concluded that, in the United States, some of the more vulnerable areas include the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, and the upper Midwest. Read more about the geomagnetic storm map.

Map of the United States with colored dots on the upper tier and stretching east down into Florida.
In this map, the dots show where the March 1989 geomagnetic storm induced the most currents in North America, resulting in corresponding power disruptions. The greatest concentration was over the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and upper Midwest. A new study looks at historic geomagnetic storms to determine who is most at risk. Image via AGU.

#4 – Why are the Voyager spacecraft getting closer to Earth?

For a few months each year, the distances between the Voyager spacecraft and Earth actually decrease. You might know that both Voyager spacecraft were launched into space in the 1970s and visited the outer planets through the 1980s. They’ve been heading out of our solar system ever since. In 2012, Voyager 1 entered interstellar space. Then, in 2018, NASA announced that Voyager 2 had entered interstellar space, too. They are both headed outward, never to return to Earth. So, how do they get closer from February to June? The answer relates to Earth’s orbit. Read more.

#5 – July 8 … 99% of the world’s population in sunlight simultaneously?

Konstantin Bikos, lead editor at timeanddate.com, fact-checked the claim that 99% of the world’s population receive sunlight simultaneously on July 8. Timeanddate shared that it is technically true that 99% of the world’s population experiences some sunlight at 11:15 UTC on July 8. But some of those experiencing it will think it’s the night. Read more.

#6 – Did alien technology crash in Pacific in 2014? Harvard astronomer says ‘maybe’

Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb is known for thinking out of the box. For example, in 2018, he suggested that ‘Oumuamua – the object from a distant solar system that’d passed near our sun the year before – might be alien technology. On April 20, 2022, in an article in The Debrief, Loeb suggested that a meteor known to have crashed in the Pacific Ocean in 2014, might also be technology from an alien civilization. Read more about Loeb’s claims.

#7 – ‘Hobbits’ among us? An anthropologist says maybe

Anthropologist Gregory Forth at the University of Alberta in Canada authored a controversial opinion piece in The Scientist on April 18, 2022. In it, he claims that a relic population of elf-like ancient hominins might still roam the jungles of a remote Indonesian island. Read more about the hobbits that may walk the Earth with us.

#8 – A black hole jet aimed at Earth

When astronomers saw an immensely bright flash of light in deep space earlier this year, they naturally wondered what caused it. Now, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and other institutions from around the world say they’ve solved the mystery. The flash – brighter than 1,000 trillion suns – originated from a jet of material shooting out from a supermassive black hole. They say the black hole was likely devouring a star. The flash of light was so bright because the jet was aimed toward the Earth. Read more about this black hole jet aimed at Earth.

#9 – A moment of global darkness on December 6

Konstantin Bikos and Graham Jones of timeanddate.com explored the idea of when the majority of people on Earth experience nighttime at once. They discovered that the moment of maximum darkness happens at 19:56 UTC on Tuesday, December 6, 2022. At that instant, the sky is completely dark for about 85.92% of the world’s population. At that moment, night reigns across the three most populous continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe (with very minor exceptions). But depending on your definition of night, there are some other options. Read about them here.

Flat map of Earth showing darkness over Eastern Hemisphere.
The moment of global darkness – for the largest percentage of Earth’s human population – fell at 19:56 UTC on Tuesday, December 6, 2022. Surprised? Consider that China and India are Earth’s 2 most heavily populated nations. And both were in darkness at that time. Meanwhile, the Americas, New Zealand, and most of Australia were bathed in sunlight. Now consider that North and South America combined only make up about 13% of the global population. Image via timeanddate.com.

#10 – Astronomers confirm a 2nd Trojan asteroid for Earth

Remember the excitement in late January, when the James Webb Space Telescope reached Lagrange point 2, or L2? That’s a gravitationally stable point in the Earth-sun system where a spacecraft (or a natural object) can orbit the sun while maintaining its position relative to the sun and Earth. There are five Lagrange points. Two of these points – L4 and L5 – are on Earth’s orbit around the sun. Asteroids located at the Earth-leading Lagrange point (L4) and the Earth-trailing Lagrange point (L5) are known to astronomers as Trojan asteroids, or Earth Trojans. Astronomers already knew Earth had one Trojan. Now we know it has two, with the second announced on February 1, 2022. Read more about the new Earth Trojan, labeled 2020 XL5.

Telescope dome in snowcapped mountain range and a large oval drawn in the sky.
We can’t see the new Earth Trojan asteroid – announced in February, 2022 – in our sky. It’s exceedingly dim. But if this asteroid (labeled 2020 XL5) left a visible track on our sky’s dome, over time we’d see its motion as a big oval. This imagined view is from Cerro Pachón in Chile, where astronomers confirmed that the asteroid 2020 XL5 orbits at L4. A Lagrange point in the Earth-sun system is where objects tend to stay fixed relative to the sun and Earth. It’s only the 2nd-known Trojan asteroid for Earth. Image via NOIRLab/ NSF/ AURA/ J. da Silva.

Bottom line: The top 10 stories of 2022 is a review of what we’ve learned in the past year from our home planet, Earth, out to the vast universe.

Available now! 2023 EarthSky lunar calendar. A unique and beautiful poster-sized calendar showing phases of the moon every night of the year! And it makes a great gift.

LEAVE A RESPONSE

Please help keep this Site Going