Norwegian skydiver has close shave with falling meteorite – and gets video!


Complete video/story of the possible meteorite that flew by Norwegian skydiver Anders Helstrup. You’ll see the meteor in real time at 1:54 and in slo-mo at 4:25.

Thought you’d like to see this remarkable video of what may be the first-ever recording of a meteorite tumbling through the sky right in front of a human being! Norwegian skydiver Anders Helstrup didn’t even know he’d recorded it with the two cameras fixed to the back and front of his helmet during the dive made back in 2012, but upon later review, he discovered a fast-moving, apple-sized rock flying through the footage.

While you’ve no doubt seen pictures and videos of meteors streaking through the atmosphere, no one has ever recorded the next-to-impossible “dark flight” phase of a meteorite. Somewhere between 9 and 12 miles (15-20 km) high, most incoming meteoroids slow down, cool and cease to make the air glow. From here, they continue to drop until reaching speeds of 200-400 mph before striking the Earth. While that sounds fast,consider that a typical meteoroid first enters the atmosphere between 25,000 and 160,000 mph!

A frame from the video showing the possible meteorite tumbling rapidly by within feet of Anders Helstrup. Had he jumped a second or two earlier he would most likely have been killed by the speeding stone. Credit: NRK

While it’s certainly not beyond the realm of possibility to capture a falling, non-luminous meteor on camera, the odds are extremely remote. That’s why many think the story and video are either a monumental April Fools’ joke or a deliberate hoax. Hard to blame them with all the goofy stuff spun as truth on the Web.

However, the staff at Universe Today got in touch with Norwegian physicist Pal Brekke. He confirmed that the story was true and kept secret for two years so Helstrup and a small band of scientists and meteorite hunters could track the meteorite down. Using the videos, they calculated a trajectory and possible landing locations. Unfortunately, the fall area is wooded and braided by streams. Lots of places for a meteorite to hide from curious eyes.

After two years of hunting and coming up short, the video was released in hopes of recruiting more people to the effort. Skeptics would argue instead that scientists fell for a good story and are wasting their time looking.

Frame grab from the video showing geology professor describing the possible meteorite. The fractured side faces to the left. The pale gray color could be a clean break to the lighter interior of the stone or covered with a thin coating of secondary fusion crust. Credit: NRK

In the video (above) by Norwegian broadcaster NRK, geologist Hans Amundsen had no doubt it was a meteorite based on appearance alone. The stone has one flat side, likely due to fracturing seconds earlier in its flight, and the other half is rounded from heating and melting due to air friction. A fracture also implies there might be more than one fragment out there.

Morton Bilet, Norwegian meteorite expert, organized a search near Rena in eastern Norway where the object fell. Bilet is “100% certain” the video is not a fake, but whether it’s a space rock or something else, neither he nor anyone else knows for sure. Hopefully more searches are planned for this spring. For more information, photos and graphics check out the Norwegian Meteorite Society and NRK

Frame grab from a security camera video of the largest piece (circled) of last year’s Russian fireball falling into Chebarkul Lake. Click for a video, and be sure to also see the video below.

UPDATE April 4: While not photographed by a human being, I’d almost forgotten about the security camera video of the final moments of dark flight of the largest hunk of the Chelyabinsk meteorite crashing into the ice on Chebarkul Lake recorded last Feb. 15.
Video of clips of the Russian meteorite fall Feb. 15, 2013. Go to 10:30 to see a quick view of the meteorite falling into the lake.

Two monster meteors flare and boom over Minnesota and Midwest

A spectacular fragmenting fireball described by some as as bright as the sun crosses the sky in this frame grab from a security camera video at 5:44 p.m. Dec. 26 in North Liberty, Iowa. Click to watch video.

The sky’s been rumbling with two bright fireball sightings in Minnesota across the Midwest this past week. On Dec. 26 a monster fireball that garnered more than 1,050 reports on the American Meteor Society’s website turned night into day across parts of Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota. The fireball traveled from east to west and flashed into view in late twilight around 5:45 p.m.

Map showing the possible trajectory of the Dec. 26, 2013 fireball over Iowa. It was also seen from parts of Missouri, Kansas and other states.  Click for more info and updates. Credit: Mike Hankey / AMS

Although many people witnessed the the meteor there were no reports of sounds associated with the event. No so with the second fireball.

That one came out of nowhere (not strictly true – most originate from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter) around 10:30 p.m. Friday Dec. 27.

Of the 96 sightings so far reported, 29 people heard associated explosions and booms, likely signs that pieces of the original meteoroid survived the searing heat and pressure of atmospheric entry and landed as meteorites. Here’s how Justin D. of Brainerd, Minn. described it:

Map with green markers showing sightings of the Dec. 27 fireball. Although seen in neighboring states most reports were from Minnesota with explosive sounds heard in the north central part of the state.  The meteor traveled along an approximately south to north direction. Credit: LunarMeteoriteHunter / Google Earth

“While driving at night I witnessed the sky in north central Minnesota start flickering in the clouds as if there was lightening, and then the clouds started turning light blue, purple, pink, bright orange, and then from horizon to horizon went bright white and then reversed. Lasted about 4-6 seconds, I slowed down and rolled down my window and also focused on driving when an enormous boom followed a short time later. Reminded me of video from last years Russian meteor.”

Brightness estimates of this fireball run the gamut from the equivalent of a half moon to as brilliant as the sun. If you’d like to report sighting either (or any) fireball, please fill out an AMS report form.

A Missouri Highway Patrol trooper driving south of Sedalia, Missouri spotted the Dec. 26 fireball and activated his dash cam. Watching the video took me back to February’s huge fireball in Chelyabinsk, Russia. Click to see for yourself.

Marc Fries of Galactic Analytics, an organization which provides real-time information to on meteorite falls to scientists, hunters and meteorite collectors, reports that some of the Doppler weather radars in the upper Midwest picked up “returns” or reflections from possible falling meteorites from the Dec. 26 fireball.

Meanwhile the National Weather Service of Duluth, Minn. noted on its Facebook page that “KDLH Doppler radar has picked up on several objects that appear to be meteors, moving quickly from east-to-west across the sky” in the Brainerd Lakes area.

Unfortunately no TV or security camera videos have turned up for the Dec. 27 fireball. That’s one of the reasons I’m writing this – to seek more information. If you had a camera running that evening or know someone who did, please contact Mike Hankey (mike.hankey@gmail.com) at the AMS and Dirk Ross at the Latest Worldwide Meteor/Meteorite News. Video, especially from multiple angles, can help scientists determine the meteoroid’s orbit and where any fragments may have landed.

If meteorites fell, I’m envisioning black rocks on snow. Sounds like an easy hunt right? Except that any potential celestial stones would likely fall in deep snow now blanketing the woods and fields. We can hope that the Doppler information will help pinpoint a fall location that hunters can explore in the spring. Or maybe kids will scrounge up an unusual black rock when looking for eyes for their snowman.

Fireball explodes over Columbus, Ohio – 2nd Midwestern light show in 2 days


Video of the fireball and its lingering trail over Ohio Friday night Sept. 27 caught on NASA’s All-Sky Cameras operated by Bill Cooke

Last night around 11:30 p.m EDT., sky watchers living in at least 14 states were treated to one of the most spectacular fireballs ever. It was the second major Midwestern fireball in two days. The first lit up skies across Missouri, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Ohio Thursday morning around 7:05 a.m. CDT.


Thursday early morning fireball across the Midwest

Within hours, the Thursday fireball quickly became the American Meteor Society’s 2nd most reported of all time with over 730 reports. Friday night’s fireball will likely overtake that with 450 reports reviewed and more than 400 pending.

Last night’s meteor blazed a trail almost directly over the city of Columbus, Ohio speeding through the upper atmosphere from east to west at more than 114,000 mph (227,000 km/hr). Observers describe a brilliant blue ball and yellow-orange tail; some heard sonic booms and concussions.

Ground track of Friday night’s fireball over Ohio. Credit: Bill Cooke, NASA

Based on its brightness, Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office estimates the meteoroid’s size at around 3 feet (1-meter) across. I’m crossing my fingers meteorites might eventually be found on the ground.

More on the fireballs HERE and HERE.


Report on a hand-sized meteorite that fell in Brazil on Monday

Far from Ohio, an actual meteorite landed with a loud noise in a homeowner’s front yard in Vicencia, Pernambuco, Brazil on Monday Sept. 23. The TV video footage shows the new arrival. To read the story in the garbled language of your choice (use Google Translate) and view much clearer photos, click HERE.

Spectacular Mexico meteor recalls Great Daylight Fireball of 1972


Video of the Aug. 21, 2013 Mexican daylight fireball. No sounds were heard by eyewitnesses

On the afternoon of Aug. 21 a fireball strikingly reminiscent of the Great Daylight Fireball of 1972  streaked across the sky near San Luis Potosi in central Mexico. Fortunately, a few people caught its passage with video cameras and cellphones.


Another video of the fireball taking from a moving car

Since there’ve been no reports of falling meteorites, it’s possible the space rock responsible for the spectacular display either skipped off the atmosphere and returned to outer space or fragmented and disintegrated.

A fireball similar to the Mexican one streaked over Wyoming on August 10, 1972 and came as close as 35 miles before skipping back into space. See video below. Credit and copyright: Antarctic Search for Meteorites program, Case Western Reserve University, James M. Baker

The meteor’s speed is amazing. My hunch is in the neighborhood of 40-50,000 mph (56-80,000 km/hr) based upon a similar daylight fireball that etched a chalky streak above the Grand Tetons in Wyoming on Aug. 10, 1972.  A tiny asteroid estimated at 10-32 feet (3-10 meters) in diameter entered Earth’s atmosphere over Utah at 50,000 mph that afternoon and traveled some 2,000 miles to a point over central Alberta, Canada. There it bid a fond farewell and returned to space. Easy come, easy go.


Video of the Great Fireball of 1972

Like a rock skipped on a pond, the truck-sized meteoroid briefly skimmed the rarified air 35 miles (57 km) above Earth surface and “landed” back in space to continue an orbit around the sun. To this day, the object known as US19720810, remains an Earth-crosser, though its orbit was changed by the close encounter. The burned and bruised space rock last passed near the planet in August 1997.

How do we know so much about an object that dashed by so briefly so long ago? Beginning in the early 1970s the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has kept an eye on missile launches and the like using classified satellites equipped with infrared sensors. These space based eyes also routinely record brilliant fireballs and exploding meteoroids in Earth’s atmosphere.

Path of the 1972 fireball adapted from an illustration by Donna Wolke

The 1972 atmospheric impact was the first fireball to be recorded with the new technology. Later analysis showed it was an Apollo-class asteroid first detected at an altitude of about 45 miles (73 km). It dipped as low as 33 miles (53 km) over the Idaho-Montana border before climbing back out of the atmosphere and into space. The entire passage lasted about 100 seconds.

Apollos are Earth-crossing asteroids. The February 15 Russian Chelyabinsk meteor fireball also belonged to the Apollo class. Astronomers have found about 240 of an estimated 2,000 of the largest Earth-grazers, those one kilometer or larger. The bad news (or good news if you like fireballs) is there are about 80 million Apollo-ettes buzzing around out there.

For the latest on the Mexico meteor including more videos, click over to Dirk Ross’s fab Latest Worldwide Meteor / Meteorite News.

** Bright fireball update: A major fireball brighter than the half moon blazed over the southeastern U.S. at about 2:27 a.m. CDT Aug. 28. Sonic booms were heard, and it’s likely meteorites from the breakup of the object reached the ground near Cleveland, Tennessee. Click HERE for photos, a video and updated info.

Fireball in a paperclip? Why Perseids pack a punch

A bright Perseid meteor caught by video over Ohio Sunday morning Aug. 4. Credit: John Chumack

Thought I’d tease you with a recent photo of a bright Perseid meteor. It was taken at dawn on Aug. 4 at Chumack Observatory using a video camera. Click HERE to see a movie of highlights from the video feed. You might be surprised at how little it takes to make a spectacle when it comes to meteors.

The Perseid meteor shower, which peaks on the the mornings of August 12 and 13, produces meteors ranging in brightness from telescopic to brighter than Venus. Traveling at 41 miles per second (66 km) guarantees a lot of bang for your buck. At that speed even a small grain can create a brilliant streak of light when it slams into the atmosphere.

To give you an idea, here’s a table comparing meteoroid size and brightness for Perseid meteor shower members (source M. Campbell-Brown, P. Brown). The brightness estimates are for meteors hitting the atmosphere directly overhead at an altitude of 62 miles (100 km). Weights are in grams; one ounce weighs 28.3 grams:

* 1/1,000 gram (weight of the smallest snowflake or seven grains of fine sand) = magnitude 3 or one brightness level fainter than the Big Dipper stars
* 1/100 gram (four grains uncooked rice) = magnitude 0.5 or similar to the bright star Vega
* 1/10 gram (a toothpick) =  -2 magnitude or a little fainter than Jupiter
* 1 gram (the cap of a pen, metal paperclip) = -4 magnitude and similar to Venus
* 10 grams (a pencil or two nickels) = -7 magnitude and bright as the thick crescent moon

Vintage lithograph of a meteor flaring over the countryside. Entering Perseids meteoroids that reach fireball status can weigh as little as a gram.

Perseids are zippy. Slower meteors like the Geminids that light up December nights  are breeze in at a mere 22 miles per second (35 km). A 1/10 gram Geminid meteoroid shines weakly at 3rd magnitude compared to a similar-sized Perseid. That’s at least part of the reason why the Perseids are famous for their fireballs - meteors the equal of Venus or brighter.

Speedy motion (kinetic energy) is transformed into the energy that creates the light streak and vaporizes the cookie-crumb meteoroid. Faster-moving meteoroids possess more kinetic energy and flare more brightly. Now you can see why even the small and meek can wow us skywatchers.

Comet Lemmon passes near the star Beta Cephei on August 6. While it has faded over the summer, Lemmon remains the current brightest comet visible from the northern hemisphere. Click for full size. Credit: Rolando Ligustri

While we’re on meteors, it’s good to remember that most originate as dust boiled off comets by the sun. The Perseids originate from Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle which swings around the sun every 133 years. Each August, Earth passes through the comet’s orbit; any bits of Swift-Tuttle in our path get fried by our atmosphere.

No bright comet currently graces the August sky. Comet C/2012 F6 Lemmon remains the best of the bunch, still shining at a respectable 10.5 magnitude; it looks like a fuzzy blob with a short southward-pointing tail in 8-inch and larger telescopes.

Amateur astronomer Rolando Ligustri recently took a beautiful portrait of Lemmon as it passed near the star Beta in Cepheus the King. The image reminds us of the dynamic process that cycles meteors to Earth’s skies by way of dust shed from comet tails.

Grab this free meteor e-book in time for the Perseids

Front page of the new Sky and Telescope e-book titled “Shooting Stars: The history, art and science of meteor-watching. Copyright: Sky and Telescope

Sky and Telescope magazine has published a handy e-book on meteors you can download HERE for free. The 8-page, well-illustrated guide has lots of interesting historical background on the upcoming Perseid meteor shower plus sections on meteor terminology, estimating sky darkness and prospects for this year’s shower.

Take a read and consider contributing your own naked eye meteor observations to the International Meteor Organization. More information how to do it HERE.

Beautiful mornings for skywatchers; Perseid meteor shower warming up

This morning’s lunar crescent through the branches of a spruce tree. The crescent is lit by the sun; the remainder by light reflected from the Earth to the moon and back again. Credit: Bob King

Is there a more peaceful experience than standing under a dawning sky with a crescent moon to greet your gaze? I hope you’ve had a clear morning recently to follow the march of the moon toward the trio of Jupiter, Mars and Mercury.

View to the east 50 minutes before sunrise this morning shows the moon and a beautiful planet lineup. Credit: Bob King

For skywatchers in across North America the International Space Station started up a round of bright passes at dawn last week and will continue through the third week of August. Add in the first  Perseid meteors and there’s always something to see in the greatest wilderness that ever was – the night sky.

A 2-minute time exposure caught the International Space Station traveling to the southeast to the right of the moon (overexposed) and Jupiter. Click photo to find when the station is visible over your town. Credit: Bob King

The Perseid shower will peak on Monday morning August 12 with 60-80 meteors per hour expected from a dark location. After the Geminids of December, this is the best meteor shower of the year and the most easily watched. No need for a heavy parka in August. Just put on a sweater and relax in the recliner or hot tub as hot bits of Comet Swift-Tuttle race to oblivion overhead. We’ll have more on the shower and what to expect in a few days.

Perseid meteors appear to radiate for a point in the sky just below the W of Cassiopeia in the constellation Perseus the Hero. Watch for early arrivals tonight through next week. Created with Stellarium

Like many meteor showers, it’s a good idea to watch for early arrivals a few days in advance. I saw a Perseid two nights ago and have heard reports of several nice fireballs. Characteristic of the shower, many meteors leave streaks or what astronomers call “trains”. These may look like dust trails but they’re glowing “tubes” of ionized air molecules.

I leave you with our good friend Orion the Hunter peeking over the eastern horizon about 75 minutes before sunrise this morning. Can you find the famed trio of stars that form his Belt? Credit: Bob King

The meteoroid – what a bit of comet grit is called before it becomes a meteor – plows into the air at many thousands of miles per hour, energizing the molecules. Upon return to their rest states, each gives off a brief flash of light contributing to the evanescent train.

Fingernail moon pops in on three dawn planets this week

The ever-thinning moon glides by three separate planets in the dawn sky – Jupiter, Mars and Mercury. Mars will be rather faint and may still require binoculars to see well. Jupiter and Mercury will be easy to spot. The map shows the sky facing east about an hour before sunrise. Stellarium

There’s some cool stuff going down in the dawn sky with the crescent moon and planets starting tomorrow and continuing through Monday.

The show begins tomorrow morning Aug. 2 with the moon midway between bright Jupiter and the Bull’s Eye Star Aldebaran in Taurus. On Saturday an even thinner crescent shines to the right of Jupiter. Come Sunday the sliver moon forms a diamond with Jupiter, faint Mars and brighter Mercury low in the northeastern sky. Great stuff for early risers!

For a fun challenge, you might still see the crescent on Monday morning Aug. 5 directly below Mercury 40 minutes before sunrise. The moon will be only one day before new moon phase and breathtakingly thin.

John Chumack of Ohio caught this very nice southern Delta Aquarid meteor late on July 29 using a 17mm lens, ISO 800 and 20-second exposure.

You’ll also notice winter’s taskmaster Orion coming up in the eastern sky and maybe even catch a few southern Delta Aquarids flying around. I saw two last night.  One crossed the Great Square of Pegasus in the east at 11 p.m. and left a wonderful chalky trail. The other zipped through Corona Borealis the Northern Crown in the western sky. Expect meteors any time these August nights, even early Perseids. You’ll be able to tell those from the others if their trails point back to the northeastern sky near the W of Cassiopeia.

Delta Aquarid meteor shower kicks off summer meteor-watching season

The Delta Aquarid shower will appear to radiate from a point in the sky in the zodiac constellation Aquarius about two outstretched fists above Fomalhaut, the sole bright star in the southern sky at the time. The map shows the sky facing south at 2 a.m. Created with Stellarium

Wahoo! It’s that time of year again. Meteor showers are back on the menu beginning with the southern Delta Aquarids which peak Tuesday morning July 30. This long-duration shower begins around July 14 and finally peters out more than a month later on Aug. 18. Tuesday morning we might see between 15-20 meteors per hour.

Southern Delta Aquarid meteor caught on video in 2009 by astrophotographer John Chumack

The Delta Aquarids radiate from low in the southern sky as seen from mid-northern latitudes. A low radiant means many of a shower’s meteors are out of view, streaking away below the horizon. Expect lower counts if you live in the northern half of the U.S. , Canada and Europe. Most of the Delta Aquarids will shoot north, east and west from the constellation Aquarius. The farther south your location then, the more meteors you’ll see.

The Delta Aquarids make for a consistent shower even if the numbers for northerners aren’t particularly good. Lest you lose heart, we experience the same situation every May with the Eta Aquarid meteor shower. Despite the radiant’s location low in the east at the start of dawn, that stream put on a fine show this past May with a volley of memorable Earth grazers.

I got lucky once and caught a portion an Earth-grazing Leonid meteor trail during the November 2009 shower. The trail was white to my eye but shows up green in the photo. I suspect the color comes from oxygen atoms that were ionized or “excited” by the meteor’s passage in the upper atmosphere. Credit: Bob King

Earth grazers are meteors that strike the Earth’s atmosphere at a very shallow angle, coming up from below the horizon and vaulting across more than half the sky. They’re more likely to be seen when the meteor radiant is near or below the horizon. Keep an eye out for them Tuesday morning.

It’s takes fortitude to catch a meteor shower during the work week, but I plan to be out there and hope you will too. To see the bestest, mostest meteors, find a dark location with a good view to the south. Set up a comfortable lounge chair facing south-southeast and plan to watch between about 1 a.m. and dawn. If you wanted to limit your sleep sacrifice to one hour, go for 3-4 a.m. This is when the radiant will be highest in the south just before dawn.

Be aware the last quarter moon, located well off to the east in Aries, will brighten the sky enough to compromise the fainter meteors. As you kick back, you’ll see gritty bits of Comet 96P/Machholz flash to incandescence above. Comets shed dust and small rocks as they round the sun on repeated trips to the inner solar system.

Comet 96P/Machholz, discovered by amateur astronomer Don Machholz on May 12, 1986 is the comet responsible for the southern Delta Aquarid meteor shower. Credit: NASA

When Earth’s orbit intersects the stream of debris, as it does every summer with Machholz, we smack right into the grit, which vaporizes in a streak of light called a meteor. The Delta Aquarids hit the atmosphere at around 90,000 mph (145,000 km/hr), which sounds and is incredibly fast, yet that about average for a meteroid entry.

The northern Delta Aquarids (July 16 – Sept. 10), Alpha Capricornids (July 15 – Aug. 10) and several other minor showers active at the same time as the southern Delta Aquarids add even more spice to late July and August nights.

Like a fireworks display that ends in a grand finale, the Perseid shower will cap off the show on August 12-13 with 60-100 meteors per hour and no moon to interfere. Happy hunting!

 

Morning aurora topped off by avian cheer

A pretty series of rays sprouts above a pair of green arcs this morning around 3 a.m. CDT. Photo: Bob King

I got up for the stars but stayed for the birds. Clear skies overnight allowed for a look at a surprise aurora display, comets PANSTARRS and Lemmon, a handful of spectacular Eta Aquarid meteors and an attractive lunar crescent early this morning.

Three images from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory were combined to create this spectacular view of last Friday’s flare. Credit: NASA

No auroras were predicted and true-to-forecast all looked quite at least through midnight. But at 2:30 this morning a bright green band spanned the northern horizon punctuated by one, two and occasionally an entire series of faint, rosy rays.

Sunspot group 1734′s largest spot – at left – is several times the diameter of Earth. This photo was taken this morning May 6, 2013. Credit: NASA

Expect more excitement courtesy of our parent star. Last Friday, a big flare erupted along’s the sun’s eastern edge, hurling a dragon-like tongue of incandescent hydrogen gas 120,000 miles (193,000 km) above the surface. Although this storm wasn’t directed toward Earth, the large sunspot group 1734 is currently nearly face-on to the planet and has the potential for strong flares. Cross your fingers.

A bright Eta Aquarid streaks across the northern sky and aurora this morning around 2:45 a.m. Photo: Bob King

I had planned to look at a variety of objects in the telescope but kept getting “distracted” by both the northern lights and regular appearances of incredibly fast, long-trailed meteors streaking across the northern sky from the east – Eta Aquarids.

Because the shower has a broad peak I encourage you to go out for a look yourself. Being so far north, I figured only a few might be seen here in Duluth, Minn. but was happily proven wrong. Had I simply sat in a lawn chair and stared skyward I’m certain I would have seen many more. Click HERE for more on the shower and how to view it.

A wide-field photo of Comet C/2011 L4 PANSTARRS shot on May 4, 2013. The comet is oriented the way it would appear shortly before dawn with the anti-tail pointing down and broad dust fan opening to the left. Credit: Joseph Brimacombe

Let me tell you about Comet PANSTARRS. In 10×50 binoculars I was surprised by how much there was to see under a dark sky. The V or fan-shaped tail spread is still obvious marked at its base by the small, brighter comet’s head. A second, straight anti-tail (debris left by the comet along its orbital path) stuck out like a pinkie finger from one side.

I estimated the whole works measured 1 degree or two full moon diameters across. While faint and smoky-looking at magnitude 7, the comet was very easy to pick out. In a 15-inch telescope PANSTARRS and its dual tails were brighter and better-defined; a tiny star-like nucleus peeped through the gases and dust concentrated in the its head. Very beautiful.

A morning topped off by the crescent moon is never wasted. Photo: Bob King

On to Comet Lemmon. I didn’t see it until 4 a.m. when dawn’s first light had already put its pale stamp on the eastern sky. I found it with difficulty in binoculars as a small, dim soft patch of light below the lower left star in the Square of Pegasus VERY low in the northeastern sky. It’s about as bright as PANSTARRS but low altitude and the onset of twilight combined to make it look fainter. In the scope, Lemmon was a big pale green fuzzball with a hint of a tail pointing southwest. Care to find it yourself? Here’s a map.

Wherever you are, enjoy the coming nights. If the moon’s your thing, an even thinner crescent will rise an hour before sunrise tomorrow in the east. Check for northern lights before you turn in tonight and use the map from yesterday’s blog to try your luck at Comet PANSTARRS … one last time.