Need a break from all the drama. Go out and look to your southern sky (from the northern hemisphere).
The two largest planets in our solar system are rapidly approaching their first conjunction since 2000 and their closest conjunction since 1623.
Conjunction is an astronomical term for two objects appearing close together in the sky when viewed from Earth.
All summer, Saturn has appeared to chase Jupiter across the sky each night. On December 21, the Winter Solstice, the heavenly bodies will appear just 0.1 degrees apart. That’s 1/5th diameter of a full moon.
Here they are tonight zoomed all the way with my phone camera. This image was with a three second exposure.
Just in case no one else has reminded you today, you are awesome!
Halley’s Comet is certainly history’s most famous comet, but many other comets have unique distinctions. Often new technological advances make things possible that had not been before. This mix timing and technology happened with Donati’s Comet (aka The Great Comet of 1858).
We were now 32 years into the age of photography and almost 10 years beyond the first successful photograph of the moon when Italian astronomer Giovanni Donati observed a comet approaching Earth in June 2, 1858.
By August the comet was visible to the naked eye. By late September the comet was exceptionally bright and close to Earth. Early astrophotographers began training their equipment on the comet. It’s debatable who captured the first image of the comet, but there’s no doubt it was history’s first photographed comet.
The first officially recognized photograph was taken by Brit W. Usherwood. He used a f/2 portrait lens with a seven second exposure on September 27. The following evening, September 28, G.P. Bond at the Harvard College Observatory caught the first image of a comet with a telescope. He used a 15-inch plate and a 6-minute exposure.
The comet reached its brightest on October 10. It was the second brightest comet of the 19th century after The Great Comet of 1811. It was observable for 270 days a record that held until the appearance of Hale-Bopp on 1997. The exact period of the comet is unknown, but estimates at the time were between 1880 and 1950 years. If accurate, it means we won’t see this comet again until late in the fourth millenium.
Usherwood’s photograph has not survived. The above image is another photo taken that same week in September 1858.
In case no one els3 has reminded you today, you ARE awesome!
I am heir to the Universe’s abundance. I need only claim it. Today I do.
Few things in this world fire my imagination or inspire my soul like the night sky. Of course, there are the occasional comets and other extraordinary events that happen a few times in a lifetime. However, each and every year there is a guaranteed show in August – The Perseid Meteor Shower or “The Perseids” for short.
This meteor shower has happened every August for at least 2000 years. It is the result of the Earth passing through the tail of comet Swift-Tuttle each year as the two bodies work their way around the Sun. The comet is usually not visible but its tail creates a massive display of shooting stars.
Here are some very cool time lapse videos I found on YouTube showing this year’s display. This year’s show peaks August 12 and 13, but progressively fewer shooting stars can still be seen for several nights after.
There are miracles all around us! Our world is filled with them. It’s easy in our hustle, bustle lives to forget to breathe and see those miracles.
Thankfully, in our modern age, more of our world’s miracles are right there for us see from the comfort of our computers. I’ve always had a strong interest in the night sky. I don’t know all my Messier objects. In fact, that much awareness would ruin the experience for me.
I have always found looking into the depths of space an exercise in looking face-to-face with eternity. How vast and ancient those stars are. Are there other civilizations out there going about their business as unaware of us as we are of them? Finally, there is just the raw beauty of it.
Today’s miracle is a time lapse video of the night sky I discovered on YouTube. It was captured at Ayers Rock – one of the most remote locations on Earth in central Australia. So far away from city lights, this magnificent view of the night sky is practically unrivaled anywhere in the world.
Hope it provides a moment’s reflection and reminder of the miracles all around us.
This past Friday one of the rarest and most amazing astronomical events occurred. Total solar eclipses only happen once every few years anywhere in the world. In your lifetime, you’d be fortunate to see two in your area.
A total solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes directly between the Earth and the Sun and covers all but the extreme outer edge of the Sun. These eclipses are a total coincidence of nature. The sun is almost exactly 400 times larger than the moon, but the moon is almost exactly 400 times closer to Earth than the Sun.
In the first 15 seconds of the video, you can see solar prominences extending out from the surface of the Sun. The video captures totality – when the Moon momentarily completely covers the Sun.
This creates the optical illusion that allows the Moon to appear to blot out the Sun. It is one of nature’s true miracles. We truly live on a remarkable planet in a remarkable universe. It’s source of absolute joy and peace to recall it.
Last week’s eclipse was seen only in Canada, The Arctic, Russia, Mongolia, and China. The following video was shot from Canada.
Enjoy this miracle and stay inspired!
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