Three Dawn Planets On A String

My fingertips are still tender after today’s happy morning. I drove out to the country in hopes of seeing three comets — V2 Johnson, ER61 PANSTARRS and U1 NEOWISE — before dawn. I tracked them all down from an icy road in the –24°F shivery silence, my fingers curled around hand warmer packets inside lined gloves. My hunt…
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One Last Christmas Present — Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova

I hope you’re having a warm and wonderful holiday today. Perhaps you’ve already opened your gifts. If so, I’ve got some good news. Christmas isn’t over yet. One package remains to be opened the next clear night — an evening sky comet named 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova. Why the long name? It was discovered by three people all about the…
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Geminid Meteor Shower Puts On A Show This Week

Every December the Geminid meteor shower roars to life. It’s now the year’s richest shower and can spitball up to 100 meteors an hour when observed under optimal conditions from a dark sky site. Let me be honest at the outset. This year’s shower will be compromised by none other than a supermoon. Yes! That bad boy’s…
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Jupiter Joins The Zodiacal Light Before Dawn

To calm my mind on Election Day morning, I took off before dawn for Lake Superior. Just a quick hop to a beach 10 minutes from home. There along the silent shore stood a slanted feather of comet dust dotted by the bright planet Jupiter. Winds were light, so Jupiter left a gleam line on…
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Space Sure Is Busy — Near-Earth Asteroid Count Tops 15,000

15,000 and counting, baby. That’s the number of known near-Earth asteroids (NEAs), with an average of 30 new discoveries added each week. Astronomers define “near Earth” as objects that come within 121 million miles of the sun at their closest, a distance is equal to 1.3 astronomical units (a.u.). An a.u. equals the distance between the…
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