Tonight! Comet Lulin!

February 23, 2009

Earth and Sky reminds us that tonight is a good chance to see Comet Lulin, if you can see it at all from where you are.

Earth and Sky shows where to see Comet Lulin on February 23, 2009

Earth and Sky shows where to see Comet Lulin on February 23, 2009

Comet Lulin probably won’t be high enough in the east for decent viewing until 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. Later at night is even better. At mid-evening, two respectively bright starlike points of light bedeck the eastern sky. The higher of these two lights is the star Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo the Lion. Saturn is to the lower left of Regulus, its golden color contrasting to that of sparkling blue-white Regulus. If you can’t distinguish their colors with the unaided eye, try looking at Saturn and Regulus with binoculars.

Comet Lulin and Saturn will remain within each other’s vicinity all night long, until morning dawn finally washes them from the sky. Look for Comet Lulin and Saturn to swing highest up for the night around 1 a.m. on February 24, at which time they’ll be due south. If you’re up before dawn on February 24, look for Comet Lulin and Saturn in your western sky.

Astronomers believe this is Comet Lulin’s first trip into the inner solar system. There’s always an element of unpredictability associated with comets, especially a pristine comet like Comet Lulin. Comet Lulin may match, exceed or fall short of expectations, but there is no way to know for sure unless you look!

If you miss Comet Lulin by Saturn on February 23-24, try again on the night of February 27-28, when Comet Lulin will cozy up with Regulus!

I understand t The comet’s discoverer is a school boy 19-year-old university student in China, who found the comet in photos taken at Taiwan’s Lulin Observatory (usually comets are named after their discoverer, but not this time).  Way to go, amateur astronomers!  Way to go, cooperation between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China.

And, if you have really great telescope, here’s what you can see:

NASAs APOD caption:  Explanation: Sweeping through the inner solar system, Comet Lulin is easily visible in both northern and southern hemispheres with binoculars or a small telescope. Recent changes in Lulins lovely greenish coma and tails are featured in this two panel comparison of images taken on January 31st (top) and February 4th. Taken from dark New Mexico Skies, the images span over 2 degrees. In both views the comet sports an apparent antitail at the left -- the comets dust tail appearing almost edge on from an earth-based perspective as it trails behind in Lulins orbit. Extending to the right of the coma, away from the Sun, is the beautiful ion tail. Remarkably, as captured in the bottom panel, Comet Lulins ion tail became disconnected on February 4, likely buffeted and torn away by magnetic fields in the solar wind. In 2007 NASA satellites recorded a similar disconnection event for Comet Encke. Dont worry, though. Comet tails can grow back.  Photos copyright by Joseph Brimacombe

NASA's APOD caption: "Explanation: Sweeping through the inner solar system, Comet Lulin is easily visible in both northern and southern hemispheres with binoculars or a small telescope. Recent changes in Lulin's lovely greenish coma and tails are featured in this two panel comparison of images taken on January 31st (top) and February 4th. Taken from dark New Mexico Skies, the images span over 2 degrees. In both views the comet sports an apparent antitail at the left -- the comet's dust tail appearing almost edge on from an earth-based perspective as it trails behind in Lulin's orbit. Extending to the right of the coma, away from the Sun, is the beautiful ion tail. Remarkably, as captured in the bottom panel, Comet Lulin's ion tail became disconnected on February 4, likely buffeted and torn away by magnetic fields in the solar wind. In 2007 NASA satellites recorded a similar disconnection event for Comet Encke. Don't worry, though. Comet tails can grow back." Photos copyright by Joseph Brimacombe

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Tiger justice, with a hint of poetry

February 23, 2009

Wild Sumatran tiger.jpg  Face on with wild tiger in Sumatra. This animal didnt like camera traps and destroyed three over a weekend. Photo by Michael Lowe, 2006, Wikimedia Commons

Wild Sumatran tiger - "Face on with wild tiger in Sumatra. This animal didn't like camera traps and destroyed three over a weekend." Photo by Michael Lowe, 2006, Wikimedia Commons. See William Blake's poem, below.

Reuters reports from Jakarta, on six people killed by tigers in Indonesia recently:

On Sunday, a tiger attacked and killed a man carrying logs near an illegal logging camp, Wurjanto said. Two other loggers in the same area were mauled and killed on Saturday.

Preliminary findings suggested the attacks were taking place because people were disturbing the habitat of the tigers, Wurjanto said.

*   *   *   *   *

The Sumatran tiger is the most critically endangered of the world’s tiger subspecies.

Forest clearances, killings due to human-tiger conflict, and illegal hunting for the trade in their parts, have led to tiger numbers halving to an estimated 400-500 on the Indonesian island from an estimated 1,000 in the 1970s, conservationists said.

Under Texas law, a homeowner may use deadly force to  stop trespassers, especially someone who poses a threat to the homeowner and the property.  I wonder whether the tigers will even get a trial.

A tree poacher mauled to death by the endangered tigers whose habitat he destroys:  Perfect example of poetic justice.

The Tyger

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright,
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire in thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, and what art?
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand, and what dread feet?

What the hammer? What the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb, make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright,
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

– William Blake

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Four Stone Hearth, archaeology not quite ready for Social Security

February 23, 2009

Four Stone Hearth #60 is up, hosted by Middle Savagery.

Yes, I know, I’ve been remiss in carnivalling lately.  Heck, I’ve been remiss in posting.  The water in the Bathtub is actually too cold for bathing at the moment, as I’m away metaphorically, working on serious curriculum matters.

So, it’s a good time to take a look at something like the best archaeology blog carnival around.  It’s up to edition Number 60?  Great news, really, that there is so much material to cover.  There is some delightful morsel in every edition.

Bad Death Ritual - See the entire post at Ideophone: A bad death ritual in Ghanas Volta Region. On the village cemetery, relatives of a man who died in a hunting accident listen anxiously to a woman who is possessed by the spirit of the deceased. The hunters, who have just brought the spirit home from the place of the accident deep in the jungle, keep their distance. Red is the colour of danger, black that of death.  Photo by Mark Dingemanse

Bad Death Ritual - See the entire post at Ideophone: "A 'bad death' ritual in Ghana's Volta Region. On the village cemetery, relatives of a man who died in a hunting accident listen anxiously to a woman who is possessed by the spirit of the deceased. The hunters, who have just brought the spirit home from the place of the accident deep in the jungle, keep their distance. Red is the colour of danger, black that of death." Photo by Mark Dingemanse

FSH #60 is heavy on photos — grist for your better slide presentations, no?

Zenobia, Empress of the East looks at a project that used lasers to scan a bas relief on a rock in the 3rd century A.D. Parthian empire — er, maybe Persian — but wait!  Is that Greek influence in that carving?

This extraordinary relief is carved on a huge limestone boulder at the cliff edge of a remote, not to say ‘hidden’ valley in the rugged mountains of northeastern Khuzistan [at the southwestern edge of the Iranian plateau, sharing a border with southern Iraq (= the big red blob on the map, below right)]. In ancient times, this was the heartland of Elymais, sometimes a small empire, more often a vassal to more powerful states.

21st century technology and science applied to help solve a 700-year-old mystery.  Does archaeology get much better than that?

Especially if you’re inclined to study Neanderthals, or for a great sidebar on the value of biodiveristy, take a look at Remote Central’s post on the last stand of Neanderthal, on Gibralter.

There is much more in Four Stone Hearth #60.


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