On Wednesday, I reported on the approach to the Sun by Comet Lovejoy, the first "sungrazing" comet to be discovered by a ground-based observer in over 40 years. Most comet experts had predicted that the comet, officially known as C/2011 W3 (Lovejoy), would disintegrate on Friday, vaporized by its passage just a fraction of a solar radius from our star. Clearly, the comet had other ideas.
To the delight of astronomers, it survived its close encounter with the Sun, retaining much of its brilliance as seen in images from spaceborne observatories. It’s now receding from the Sun and should become visible in the night sky within days for observers at southerly latitudes.
Yesterday, as seen in images from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), Comet Lovejoy rapidly closed in on the Sun, brightening (as evidenced by the "wings" on either side of the comet’s head—an artifact due to "pixel blooming" as the camera’s CCD censors became oversaturated by the comet’s brilliance, flooding adjacent pixels with brightness) and then fading in its final approach to the Sun.
I love the old Rankin-Bass holiday classics, but my favorite is Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. It used to be appointment TV, but then along came DVD and the ability to watch it anytime.
Now that I have kids, we watch it pretty much year-round. In 2009 so far, I’ve racked up at least 20 viewings. And when you watch something that many times, you start to notice some things that escaped me when I would just see it once a year. Here’s my list:
Mrs. Claus: She’s a chubby chaser and an enabler. Santa finally gets his weight down during the off-season - which no doubt would help his cholesterol and blood pressure and help him live longer - and yet she can’t wait to start stuffing him again, upping the ante by reminding him that everyone loves a fat Santa, including her I’m guessing.
Santa Claus: First off, he’s a jerk. Rudolph is a super-achiever compared to the others in the Reindeer Games, and Santa’s too worried about the red nose thing. Since no one on Santa’s route will ever actually see Rudolph, this is really all about Santa’s issues.
Read More | CBS
The Comet C/2007 N3, also known as Lulin, was discovered in July of 2007. If you would like to take a peek at it, now is the time. It can be seen with binoculars if the sky is clear and there are reports that some have seen it without them. If you have a telescope you might get to see its tail and antitail. Lumin will be closest to the earth February 24. Hit the link if you want more details, like where it can be spotted in your area. And after reading that, go outside and look for it!
Read More | Sky & Telescope