Two small asteroids zipped close by Earth in back-to-back flybys of the planet on May 28 and on May 29. As said NASA scientists while both space rocks came well within the moon’s orbit, they posed no danger to our plane. The newfound asteroid 2012 KP24, which measures approximately 69 feet (21 meters) across, zoomed by Earth on May 28, coming within 32,000 miles (51,000 kilometers) on its closest approach, according to astronomers at NASA’s Asteroid Watch at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made its closest approach to Saturn’s tiny moon Methone as part of a trajectory that will take it on a close flyby of another of Saturn’s moons, Titan. The Titan flyby will put the spacecraft in an orbit around Saturn that is inclined, or tilted, relative to the plane of the planet’s equator. The flyby of Methone took place on May 20 at a distance of about 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometers).
A so-called annular solar eclipse, which took place on May 20, was seen across the globe from late afternoon to early evening, beginning in East Asia and traveling across to the western United States. In an annular solar eclipse, the moon does not completely block the sun, but leaves a fiery ring around its circumference. Observers along a narrow path were well placed to see the full annular solar eclipse, but skywatchers elsewhere (with the exception of the U.S. East Coast) caught a stunning partial eclipse.
On May 20 a solar eclipse will block out most of the sun, leaving a spectacular “ring of fire” shining in the sky for observers located along the eclipse’s path. The event is what’s known as an annular solar eclipse, from the Latin “annulus,” meaning “little ring”, and its full glory should be visible from much of Asia, the Pacific region and some of western North America, weather permitting. At its peak, the eclipse will block about 94 percent of the sun’s light.
An asteroid with the size of a school bus gave Earth a close shave on May 13, passing well inside the orbit of the moon. According to NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif the near-Earth asteroid 2012 JU, which is thought to be about 40 feet (12 meters) wide, came within 119,000 miles (191,500 kilometers) or so of our planet before zooming off into deep space.
Astronomers have discovered at least one unseen alien planet, and possibly another, around a distant star by observing the odd behavior of a planet already known to orbit the same star. The newfound planet has about the mass of Saturn and orbits its host star once every 57 days. It was revealed by its gravitational effects on the previously known planet around the parent star KOI-872. The find is an apparent validation of what scientists call the transit timing variation method of finding extrasolar planets.
Astronomers are planning to use NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to observe next month’s historic transit of Venus across the sun’s face. But there’s a twist. Astronomers can’t point Hubble anywhere near the sun, because our star’s bright light could damage the telescope’s super-sensitive instruments. So Hubble will watch the June 5-6 Venus transit by using the moon as a mirror. The goal is to see if Hubble can determine the makeup of Venus’ atmosphere by studying sunlight that has poured through it.
The biggest full moon of 2012 is due to arrive this weekend. The moon will officially become full on May 5 at 11:35 p.m. EDT. And because this month’s full moon coincides with the moon’s perigee, its closest approach to Earth, it will also be the year’s biggest. The moon will swing in 221,802 miles (356,955 kilometers) from our planet. Аccording to meteorologist Joe Rao and not only does the moon’s perigee coincide with full moon this month, but this perigee will be the nearest to Earth of any this year, as the distance of the moon’s close approach varies by about 3 percent.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will be flying within about 46 miles (74 kilometers) of Saturn’s moon Enceladus (Enceladus is the sixth-largest of the moons of Saturn, it was discovered in 1789 by William Herschel) on May 2, aiming primarily to learn more about the moon’s internal structure. The flyby is the third part of a trilogy of flybys, the other two took place on April 28, 2010, and November 30, 2010, for Cassini’s radio science experiment.