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Incoming – almost

Incoming NEOThree newly-discovered space rocks are zipping past our planet this week. The largest, 2013 RT73, is a 49-meter object that passed within 8 LD on Monday, September 16. The closest, 2013 RZ53, is a much smaller 3-meter rock that will slip within the distance to the Moon on Wednesday, September 18! None are bright enough to be seen w/o a large telescope, and none pose any real threat, but each reminds us that we do have frequent, potentially hazardous visitors to our neighborhood.

Read this Planetary Society assessment to learn more about the threat of near-Earth objects.

Check out the Earth Impact Database to see maps of the many confirmed impacts to our planet.

Visit to visually explore dozens of the largest impact sites.

Learning more about the Moon

One of my Moon images, taken last year for Global Astronomy Month and Lunar Week, is featured in a new Mother Nature Network article about lunar phases. The article takes a fun slideshow approach, using actual images from around the world. My image is #5, representing the “gibbous” phase.

In my image, below, we can see Mare Crisium and Mare Fecunditatis at the top, Mare Tranquillitatis (Apollo 11’s landing site) and Mare Serenitatis at center, Mare Imbrium as that largest dark region at bottom-left and Mare Cognitum and Mare Nubium at bottom-right. Imbrium is flanked by tiny round Crater Plato on the left and bright Crater Copernicus on the right. Crater Tycho is that rayed feature to the far-right of Nubium, and Mare Humorum is that distinctly round feature beneath Nubium. I like being able to recognize specific lunar features, especially the Apollo landing sites. It brings the Moon down to Earth, as a vital partner to our planet and as a distant world that we’ve actually visited and may someday inhabit.

Be sure to check-out the MNN lunar phases article and you might even try taking a few of your own pictures of the Moon in its various phases!

(Click here for a larger version of this image; click here to see some of my other Moon images; click here for a nifty Moon map featuring the more-romantic, English names for lunar features.)

Waxing Gibbous Moon, April 2012

Waxing Gibbous Moon, April 2012