For the first time ever, a meteor has grazed in and out of Earth's atmosphere, slowing enough to become a temporary satellite that lasted a full orbit. In other astronomical news, a comet was discovered by a couple of Russian astronomers that appears to have all of the ingredients to be one of the greatest comets in our lifetimes, and maybe one of the greatest in human civilization's history. New comet might blaze brighter than the full Moon This will be the second great comet of 2013.
This may just be the most peaceful, beautiful 5-1/2 minutes of your entire day: An audio slideshow look at some of the winning images, guided by one of the judges, of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich's 2010 Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition. Interested in "giving it a go"? Here are some guides to photographing different aspects of the night sky.
The Story of a Comet Hunter (see also his web page which contains a link to the story of his discover of Comet Seki-Lines in 1962). Visual comet hunting has a long and intriguing history. Today visual hunters are adapting their ways to make visual discoveries in an age of automated searches. The amateur can still win. Now, ANYONE can discover a comet(?) Or perhaps 1000. A Guide for SOHO Comet Hunters. More SOHO and Sungrazing Comet Links. [Previously]
Over 30 years ago, Robert Burnham Jr. struggled to get his astronomical (in more ways than one) three volume work published. Burnham's Celestial Handbook: An Observer's Guide to the Universe Beyond the Solar System "remains a sort of real-life hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy, a compendium with something to say about nearly every cosmic destination worth visiting. . . It is rarely compared to other books because there simply is none other like it." It remains a beloved and relevant book among star-gazers today. Yet few know much about the life of the author, or of his sad and lonely demise: Sky Writer.
The images produced by today's ordinary amateur astrophotographer rival those produced by the big observatories only a decade or two ago. (This "Two Comets" image alone is worth a look. <-Rollover for close-ups of the comets.) You can get very good results with far simpler equipment, however - even with "old-fashioned FILM". Looking for the BEST skies for astrophotography? If you aren't a weenie, you might try Dome C, Antarctica. [more inside]
In 1627, Schiller's Coelum Stellatum Christianum attempted to replace the mythical constellation figures with Christian figures. More from the Linda Hall Library Digital Services Unit. Art, illustration, and astronomy aficionados will appreciate the beauty of historic celestial atlas illustrations: Bayer's Uranometria 1603 (also the 1661 Edition), Flamsteed - Fortin Atlas Celeste - 1776 (text intro), Celestial Atlas by Alexander Jamieson. HubbleSource is cleaning up scans from one historic atlas and making them available in web and hi-res versions for use in non-commercial applications. (See also: David Rumsey Map Collection, and the exhibition Out of this World (index & T.O.C.), more Images, Artwork and Historical Objects at the US Naval Observatory. [more inside]
Here's an excellent map if you want to see Comet Holmes/17P tonight (the comet that, until a couple of nights ago you would have needed a pretty good-sized telescope to even see. Then (out of the blue, as it were) it unexpectedly brightened by over 1,000,000 times to become an easy object for your naked eye –even with the nearly full moon in the sky). I did not know about CalSky but (despite some less-than-attractive web design) is truly the best of the web for online astronomy info and sky maps! [more inside]
Fireballs are not altogether uncommon. They are often associated with known meteor showers (and other times not). They are sometimes "earth crosser" asteroids, cometary debris, or simply man-made space junk. Sometimes they are extremely well documented. The March 7, 2003 Park Forest fireball/meteorite (pdf) was recovered and recorded by police car cameras: (AVIs: 1, 2, 3) Perhaps the most incredible is the one that got away on August 10, 1972. Recorded by many still and movie cameras as it was seen in daylight over the Grand Tetons, it was also recorded by a previously secret satellite during it's 1-1/2 minute skip off the earth's atmosphere. See also: How to observe, and report fireballs.
"Naked Eye" Comet Machholz (binoculars recommended) nears maximum brightness in the coming days ( starchart here and here). How to photograph a comet and other objects. The story of its discovery (his 10th). Comet hunters are an interesting breed. Now you can discover comets from your 'puter with SOHO imagery. If stargazing interests you, you may also like the Wunderground astronomy web application (based on U.S. zip codes).