December 23 2011 Astronomy Newsletter
Here is this week's article:
The Wizard Earl, the start of astronomy with a telescope, Sir Walter Raleigh, Virginia, the Gunpowder Plot, and the Smithsonian. What does all of this history have in common? Syon Park, a stately home on the River Thames.
This is a sun-grazing comet discovered by Terry Lovejoy, an amateur astronomer. Sun-grazing comets are very vulnerable to breaking up as they pass near to the Sun. Everyone expected this comet to meet that fate and that as it rounded the Sun, it wouldn’t be seen again. However it not only reappeared and had a magnificent tail – it had *two* tails! (For an explanation of comet tails, see http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art33712.asp .)
Northern hemisphere viewers are (sigh) missing a great treat, but if I lived south of the Equator I’d sure get up before dawn to see this splendid sight. But for those of us who live too far north – or aren’t good at getting up early – here is the next best thing.
This superb photo was taken by Australian Colin Legg: http://www.universetoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/cometlovejoy1.jpg
And here is a timelapse issued by NASA made up of the pictures taken from the ISS by astronaut Dan Burbank. It’s stunning on full screen. http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/videogallery/index.html?media_id=125774121
*Happy birthday, Isaac Newton*
Isaac Newton was born on Christmas Day 1642. Well, this was Christmas Day by the Julian calendar in use at the time. If we place it on the current Gregorian calendar, it’s more like the 4th of January, but that's not as seasonal.
*My seasonal greetings to all of you and your family and friends.*
That's all for now. Wishing you clear skies.
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