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[ 20050426 ]

The Night of the Lyrids

I'm surfacing briefly from my current workload to comment on Lyrid meteor shower alarms New England residents, in which the Portland Press-Herald picks up an AP story you've probably already grazed through:

Witnesses apparently mistook the shower for a plane crashing near New London, Conn., the FAA's Holly Baker said. "We've checked all around. There are no aircraft unaccounted for," she said.

As Arthur C. Clarke once wrote, "the reason I don't believe in UFOs is that I've seen far too many." Amateur astronomers quickly learn that most people cannot even perceive, much less recognize, most things in the night sky. It's not that they see things that aren't there, or attach fanciful explanations to ordinary events: rather, they don't see things that are there, and they attach mundane explanations to events which, properly described, are simply astounding. An evanescent rain of ice and iron falling from the sky, sleeting into the upper atmosphere at fifty times the speed of a rifle shot, forming immense glowing tubes of ionized air far hotter than the fiercest terrestrial blaze, lighting up thousands of square miles, and leaving faintly luminous trails lasting for minutes on end.

Or a plane crash. Take your pick.

For a list of annual meteor showers, graze on over to Meteor Shower Calendar 2005; a page on the Lyrids is here (and another is here). This year, the ever-popular Perseids will not be interfered with by bright moonlight; and the peak is on a Friday night!

Jay Manifold [7:58 PM]

[ 20050412 ]

Yuri's Night and Astronomy Day

For info about Yuri's Night, graze on over and read Rand Simberg's anniversary posting; for Astronomy Day, see this site. Locals, read this. I have volunteered to help staff Powell Observatory from 7:30 - 9:30 PM CDT this Saturday; sunset is at 7:57 PM CDT in Louisburg, and the Moon will be at First Quarter. Both Saturn and Jupiter will be visible as well.

And on Friday night, locals are urged to drop in to the MARAC35 Invited Lecture, which is open to the public. I definitely intend to be there.

Jay Manifold [4:14 PM]

[ 20050407 ]

Partial Solar Eclipse Tomorrow

Lest I forget: this event is imminent. And around here, it's really partial -- 0.9% coverage. In the South Pacific, it will actually be a "hybrid" eclipse, which phenomenon is described in detail part-way down this page.

Jay Manifold [5:04 PM]

[ 20050401 ]

Liquid Water Found on Mars

APOD has a picture!

Jay Manifold [7:12 AM]