Sunday, March 2, 2008

What March 2008 will bring to your skies

Not nearly as much exotic stuff as February, I'm afraid, but there's at least something happening this month:
  • March 4 to 12: Comet Holmes slides by the California Nebula, a feast for astrophotographers as images from Feb. 24 and 27 demonstrate. See also below for Holmes' behavior.

  • March 5, around noon UTC: Moon close to Venus & Mercury (here's a recent morning view from Hongkong).

  • March 23: Unusually early Easter Sunday (spring began on March 20 at 5:48 UTC, Full Moon was on March 21 at 18:41 UTC). Only in the year 2160 will we again have such an early Easter Sunday (the last one was in 1913) - to be beaten only in 2285 with the earliest possible Easter Sunday ever, March 22 (which last happened in 1818).
In other news the third-largest scattered disk object in (or rather beyond) the Kuiper Belt has been discovered, with only Eris and very scattered Sedna being bigger. Comet Holmes has changed its coma quite markedly, as a comparision of Feb. 25 vs. Feb. 5 shows, and there is now a combined lightcurve (from this site) which may or may not tell us what the comet's been doing ...

A small nebula around RY Tau that made news 3 years ago as an amateur target for the Gemini telescopes has now also been imaged with an amateur instrument, albeit a pretty large one. The first images of annularity of the Feb. 7 eclipse over Antarctica have been published as have been another nice view of the subsequent lunar eclipse from Hawaii (which was observed in many countries), a comparision of 12 eclipses and a stark demonstration of libration.

Finally USA 193 or what's left of it after been attacked quite precisely with a Standard Missile 3 is still making headlines: Some 45 fragments have now been numbered - and a most unusual NOTAM regarding falling debris has been issued! Pilots are asked to report anything unusual they see between now and March 9. The orbits of the numbered fragments look impressive indeed, but a "ring of steel" they are not: Space above Earth is still mostly empty, and we're just going through a minor spike - which also won't affect the next shuttle launch, although an unmanned one has been affected ...

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