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The star disappears: a small cosmic spectacle also visible to ordinary people

The star disappears: a small cosmic spectacle also visible to ordinary people

Science star disappears

Small cosmic spectacle, also visible to ordinary people

Illustration of an asteroid.  Even in the main belt, the density of the asteroid is very low.  On average, distances of millions of miles separate even the closest members.  Most of them, as the impression of this artist shows, are solo wanderers. Illustration of an asteroid.  Even in the main belt, the density of the asteroid is very low.  On average, distances of millions of miles separate even the closest members.  Most of them, as the impression of this artist shows, are solo wanderers.

Asteroid at the edge of our solar system (illustration)

Quelle: Science Photo Library / Getty Images

When a celestial body enters the optical axis between the Earth and the star, it darkens to ground observers. On November 11, it was that time again. Early in the morning a star “comes out”.

sSolar eclipses can be predicted with great accuracy. Total solar eclipses in particular are remarkable events because suddenly in the middle of the day the stars are visible in the sky and the sun is surrounded by a shimmering halo.

It is not amazing to see a dark star at night. Such an event will take place in the sky of Germany on the night of November 11, 2021. At approximately 3:50 am, the star UCAC4 616-007599 in the constellation Triangle will be invisible for a maximum of 21 seconds.

Because this 11.7-degree star is perfectly visible – assuming a cloudless sky – even ordinary people will have a chance to observe the miniature cosmic spectacle. Anyone who gets up at night for this will surely have familiarized themselves with the UCAC4 616-007599 location beforehand using star charts.

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(Files) This NASA file image obtained on August 11, 2020, shows an artist's view of the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft descending toward asteroid Bennu to collect a surface sample of the asteroid.  The big day of the American Osiris-Rex probe has arrived: after four years of travel, it will collide with the asteroid Bennu on October 20, 2020 to pick up a few dozen grams of dust, a high-precision process 320 million kilometers away from Earth.  (Image via Publications / NASA / Goddard / Arizona State University / AFP) / Restricted in editorial use - mandatory accreditation "Photo by AFP/NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Handout " - No marketing - No advertising campaigns - Distributed as a service to customers

But why this star will be darkened? Because, similar to a solar eclipse, another celestial body in the line of sight between us and the star will slide and temporarily cover it. This body is a planet that moves its orbit around the sun beyond the planet Neptune.

Celestial body via Neptune without a name

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So far, this trans-Neptunian orb doesn’t have an attractive name, but it trades as 2002 TC302 – despite its discovery in 2002 by a research team from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena at the Palomar Observatory.

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German spacewalk astronaut and materials scientist Matthias Maurer trained at the European Space Agency during spacewalk training at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) near NASA's Johnson Space Center, in Houston, Texas, in April 2017. Credit: ESA – Stephane Corvaja

Astronaut Matthias Maurer

2002 TC302 orbits the Sun in a strong elliptical orbit. The distance from the central star is between 39 and 71 astronomical units (AU), where AU is defined as the average distance between the Earth and the Sun.

It should also be noted that the orbital plane of the asteroid is inclined by 35 degrees to the ecliptic of the solar system, that is, the plane at which the planets revolve around the sun.

Precise per-second prediction is not possible

Unlike a solar eclipse, researchers cannot predict exactly when the eclipse will begin and how long it will last. The main reason for this is that you do not know the exact size or shape of the 2002 TC302.

It cannot be ruled out that the celestial body is orbiting a smaller asteroid or that it is surrounded by a disk of matter. It is also conceivable that the 2002 TC302 consisted of two roughly equal segments revolving around a common center of gravity. All of these different scenarios have an impact on the time course of a stellar eclipse.

In fact, astronomers hope to draw conclusions about the actual shape and size of the asteroid by observing the event with as many telescopes as possible. From measurements of the Spitzer Space Telescope, an initial 1,145 km diameter for 2002 TC302 was derived.

Brocken has a size of about 600 km

However, it was clear from the start that the actual size could vary by several hundred kilometers. In 2013, the planet was measured again by the Herschel Space Telescope and a diameter of 584.1 kilometers (plus 105.6 and minus 88.0 kilometers) was determined.

It is common to talk about a diameter of 600 km. In any case, these dimensions are one of the largest objects in the so-called Kuiper belt at the edge of our solar system.

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This image was taken with the FORS2 instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope in late 2019, when Comet 2I/Borisov passed close to the sun.  As the comet was traveling at a breakneck speed, about 175,000 kilometers per hour, the background stars appeared as streaks of light as the telescope followed the comet's path.  The colors in these lines give the image some flair and are the result of combining notes in different wavelength ranges, highlighted by the different colors in this composite image.

In order to gain new knowledge about 2002 TC302, research stations in Europe and North America will point their telescopes at the star UCAC4 616-007599 and rendezvous with 2002 TC302 on the night of November 11.

After cruising rapidly over Europe, the planet’s shadow will continue to migrate across the Atlantic and will also provide observational opportunities on the American continent.

The exact size of the asteroid also depends on whether it will acquire the characteristic of a dwarf planet. By then, at the latest, it will be given its own name. There are so far five dwarf planets in our solar system, but several hundred celestial bodies, such as 2002 TC302, are still on the list of candidates.