Monday, December 20, 2010

Eyes Upward

I'll admit it. I took Astronomy I and II to avoid as many formulas as possible. And luckily for me, it worked! When I left that class though I really could say that I understood astronomy better than going in, which is definitely something I would never be able to say about biology or chemistry.

Last month NASA realized that their probe was going to go right through the tail of Hartley 2. Of course it caused some worry, but in the end they got some fascinating pictures, such as the one above, as well as information on a comet's behavior. If you click the picture at the top, you can see more pictures and read more about their mission. I love comets. The picture above inspired this Thank You card design:

Of course, one look at the other two inspired designs and you'll see that my inspiration turned whimsical quickly. I do love shooting stars. The last meteor shower I saw was the Leonids Meteor Shower in 2009. We got really lucky that night, actually. It was nearly clear and it was only a little chilly. I went down to the park with my boyfriend and we were looking up at the stars. At first they were rather small, garden variety pieces falling through the sky.

Did you know that Meteor Showers are named by the constellation they appear to fall from?

At one point, as the shower was starting to calm down, a piece streaked right across the middle of the sky. Most meteors to this point had been pretty small, living up to the name "shooting star" as they were small enough to be about the same size as the many distant stars. This one was easily large enough to be mistaken for a full comet, or a fireball. Up until this point we had been trying to point out particularly beautiful shooting stars, but this one left us completely silent.

For half a second, we debated whether or not there was a chance that it could have landed, as by the size (even if it did streak across the entire sky, you would have to have been blind to miss it) there was a chance it did not burn up entirely. We went home shortly after that. There wasn't any way for the show to top itself after the fireball went by.

Meteor showers are usually caused by pieces of a comet's tail breaking off in the earth's path.
Then when the earth passes through the debris it burns up in the atmosphere.

In related news, tonight is the lunar eclipse, which occurs when the earth gets between the sun and the moon. I hope those of you with clear skies will be able to see it tonight!

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