Only the ESA satellite Proba 2 could observe it as the zone of visibility off Antarctica was as remote as it gets - but the tiny partial eclipse of the Sun early today was special: It marked the beginning of a new solar eclipse cycle, with the number 156; the last one with number 155 had been "born" on 17 June 1928. "We will not have to wait as long for the next new solar eclipse saros cycle to start," explains Jordan Sutton on the Solar Eclipse Mailing List: "just under 47 years until saros 157 is born on June 21, 2058. Saros 156 contains 69 eclipses, starting with eight partial eclipses, [...] followed by 52 annular eclipses, and concluding with nine partial eclipses." No total eclipses are included but that's not unusual. • After months of secret preparations it's now official: The 4th Solar Eclipse Conference will take place in India in December; Details are still sketchy, though. • There is already a paper on the umbra on the June 15 lunar eclipse (two more reports from Turkey and Austria). • On June 30 the Moon occulted Venus in places like Jordan, or there was a close appulse as on La Palma (more, more) or a wider conjunction as in the U.K. (more, more); the day before the Moon was near Mars.
Sky highlights in July (see here, here, here and here) consist mainly of a mediocre evening visibility of Mercury which has already begun, the coincidence of peri- and apogee of the Moon with 1st and last quarter and the occultation of a faint star by asteroid (52) Europa which can be observed in the U.S. • Some more reports also on the stellar occultations by Pluto (more, more). • Two more small moons of Jupiter were announced recently. • The best visuals of the close visit of NEO 2011 MD were shown and linked to here already; more images from June 28 (and earlier), early June 27 (more, more, more), late June 26 (more, more) and late June 25 (more), some news coverage here, here, here, here, here and here (another contender for the worst headline; "asteroid grazes atmosphere" ...) and informative previews here, here and here.
• There is a new object on a comet-like orbit, but 2011 MM4 shows no activity, in contrast to C/2011 M1 (LINEAR). • More previews for Elenin and PANSTARRS (more). • Comet Garradd on June 29 and June 26 (more). • Further criticism of claims that solar activity is about to cease. • A growing gallery of NLC pictures; there was a great show in the U.K. this morning (in motion), also observed from another location (more, more, more); earlier reports from the U.K. on June 29, Canada on June 28 and Poland on June 26 and June 19. • Finally a fine green segment on the Sun - and a weird sky bubble seen from Hawaii on March 22 (another video): obviously linked to a rocket test, but the physics of the bubble remain mysterious.