Friday, December 11, 2009

Moon-free Geminids and a lunar micro-eclipse conclude International Year of Astronomy

From an observational point of view the International Year of Astronomy was not that outstanding, with respect to both planned and unplanned sky events, apart perhaps from the longest total solar eclipse of the century and surprisingly strong - but Moon-lit - Perseids. The final month, though, brings perhaps the best "unlit" meteors of the year and concludes with a shallow partial lunar eclipse on new year's eve (though it's already 2010 then in Asia).The celestial "highlight" of the past two weeks was man-made: A failed Russian military rocket test launch created an amazing luminous spiral in Norway's skies early on Dec. 10. News and blog reports, often with great pictures, are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, hier, hier, hier, hier, here, here (earlier), here, here and here. Amazingly the phenomenon was repeated over Siberia just a day later ... • Talking about natural sky shows, a late report on the South African bolide, an analysis of the Utah bolide - and comet 107P did not form a coma on Dec. 4 (or before or since), so it's probably truly dead but still raises questions galore.

In other news the stellar occultation of (234) Barbara led to this shape, discussed in this movie and based on these observers. So the U.S. effort worked very well; in Europe only a few were successful, too. • Epsilon Aurigae news from Dec. 8 and amateur spectra; also of Nova Scuti and Nova Eridani (which is really one). • A solar prominence on Nov. 28. • Exciting lunar (also discussed here) and solar halos from Finland - and the top places to see the aurora. • Stories about the Chromoscope website here, here, here, here and here, a Hubble advent calendar, a comic (!) about the 1994 Jupiter impact observations with Hubble and the whereabouts of all our spacecraft in the solar system this month.