Monday, February 23, 2009

Comet Lulin: When the Moon is In the 7th House

Long, long ago (ok, not that long ago) in a galaxy far, far away (actually, it was in our own galaxy), there was a song made popular by a group known as The Fifth Dimension. The song's opening lines went like this:

When the moon is in the seventh house
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars

This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius...

Coincidentally (or not), it seems the moon is (or will soon be) in the seventh house, and Jupiter is aligned with Mars (as well as Mercury). The moon, too, will be in close conjuction with Venus on Feb. 27. Once more, one can only think of those famous lines from Shakespeare: "There are more things in heaven and on earth..."

Is ours the dawning of the Age of Aquarius? Let's hope not because, despite the song lyrics, it is not the kind of New Age to desire. At any rate, should we choose to gaze at the current celestial events, we might also consider sharing with the kiddos that little historical tidbit on an old song.

In the meantime...

Look at that awesome photograph of Comet Lulin's tails (the blue tail is the anti-tail). Astro-photographer Phil Jones recently took the fantastic photo [seen upper right], accomplished with a long exposure through a 4-inch Takahashi refractor, from the grounds of the Central Texas Astronomical Society Observatory in Clifton, Texas.

Btw, for those of us who are not professional astronomers, there are two ways to see Comet Lulin this very night:

1) With your own eyes (aided by binoculars or telescope is best for viewing if the skies are clear)

In the Northern hemisphere, look to the south-southwest for constellation Leo (the backward question mark with six stars in its formation). Btw: It's easy to confuse the Leo constellation with Leo Minor, which has seven stars - and usually, only three stars in Leo Minor are very bright. If you first find Leo Minor, look below it for the constellation Leo: the backward question mark with six stars.

When looking at Leo the Constellation: Visually go straight for the very bright "dot" of the question mark. That's Regulus, aka "Cor Leonis" (the Heart of the Lion).

From Regulus, let your glance travel straight across the heavens (to the left) until you see a very bright spot; that's Saturn. Just two degrees away is Comet Lulin!

2) With a live webcast

If you’ll miss Comet Lulin because your skies are cloudy tonight, you still have a great option! Real-time webcast viewing will be made available by the Coca-Cola Space Science Center in Columbus, Georgia.

"We're going to transmit the view through our observatory's 16-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope," says astronomy professor Rosa Williams of Columbus State University.

Tonight’s webcast of Comet Lulin:
Mon., Feb. 23 (starting tonight at 11 p.m, EST) - through 5 a.m. EST tomorrow morning, Tues., Feb 24 from this observatory!

May you truly enjoy the beauty of the heavenly skies this night!

Comet Lulin Update: Tonight One Hour Past Midnight

What's the best time to view Comet Lulin tonight? After all, in about 5 hours (EST), the comet is going to converge with Saturn, in the constellation Leo. Also tonight, four of Saturn's moons will "transit the disk" and should be viewable with clear skies and family backyard telescopes. (For details on celestial events, from tonight through Feb. 27, please see the post directly below this one, entitled Comet Lulin: More Things in Heaven and on Earth, Horatio.)

Here's a great tip for tonight (technically, 'tomorrow' since the timing is one hour after midnight):

Where ever you are in the world and whatever your time zone, most reports are now claiming the best viewing time for Comet Lulin and the triple-planetary conjunction will occur early this morning at 1:00 a.m.

That's right: If local skies are clear, Comet Lulin can be seen by everyone around the world, tonight - just after midnight.

In the Northern Hemisphere, look in the south-southeast sky at 1:00 a.m. In the Southern Hemisphere, look in the north-northwest at 1:00 a.m. Remember, Comet Lulin is traveling 'backward" and it will also be close to the triple-planetary conjunction now lining up.

Unaided "naked eye" viewing will probably see a small, faint patch of gas (next to Saturn) - that's the comet. Help from binoculars or a telescope, however, will allow those with clear skies to see comet details, as well as witness Comet Lulin's actual motion as it moves across the stars.

Only those living on the Pacific Rim, however, will see the quadruple transit of Saturn's four moons (3 a.m., PST).

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Comet Lulin: More Things in Heaven and on Earth, Horatio

There’s a lot happening in the heavens, especially from Feb. 23 (the eve of Ash Wednesday) and right through Feb. 27! All within five days, Comet Lulin will be at its closest proximity to Earth, sharing a visual conjunction with Saturn. We’ll see a new moon and a conjunction of Jupiter, Mars and Mercury – with the result that Ceres (the 590 mile-wide asteroid recently reclassified as a “dwarf planet”) cameo appearance might be overlooked as it orbits between Mars and Jupiter.

Since Comet Lulin won't be visiting this neighborhood for at least another 1,000 years, skywatchers might want to hie themselves and the children outside to view the upcoming heavenly, once-in-a-millenium show! Below you'll see a a generous handful of spectacular pix and "forecast" graphics of Comet Lulin and the conjunction of the new moon and three planets.

Below: Three different views of Comet Lulin's parabolic orbit on Tues., Feb. 24, 2009 (the evening before Ash Wednesday).

Comet Lulin is traveling backward in orbit - that is, from east to west. The planets and our moon travel west to east. (For color-coding explanations, please see the note directly under the three following graphics.)

Note: "The orbits shown above are color coded. The planets are white lines, and the asteroid/comet is a blue line. The bright white line indicates the portion of the orbit that is above the ecliptic plane, and the darker portion is below the ecliptic plane. Likewise for the asteroid/comet orbit, the light blue indicates the portion above the ecliptic plane, and the dark blue the portion below the ecliptic plane." To see and play with a "moving" diagram of Comet Lulin's orbit with an applet from which these graphics came, please visit Solar System Dynamics (NASA).

Already brighter than expected, Comet Lulin is now visible to the naked eye (if the sky is clear). However, as it nears earth on Ash Wednesday, the use of binoculars or a telescope will allow one to actually watch its steady movement against the background of stars.

Just two nights before, on Sun., Feb. 22, the waning crescent moon itself will be in conjunction with Mercury and Jupiter. (On Mon., Feb. 23, Mars joins the conjunction.)

Below: The south-eastern sky in the pre-dawn hour (5:30 a.m.) on Mon., Feb. 23, 2009. The waning crescent moon is close to Mars, Jupiter and Mercury.

Next "forecast" picture below: In the early morning hours of Tues., Feb. 24 (eve of Ash Wednesday), Comet Lulin joins the party (appearing directly below Saturn, in constellation Leo, in the south-southeast sky), while the moon will be "new." On this same morning (just before dawn), Mercury and Jupiter will appear very close together – seemingly side-by-side.

Interesting Tidbit: As the moon moves away, it will be "on" earth's equator – possibly leaving earth 'wide open' to solar winds that have twice ripped off one of Comet Lulin's tails.

Below: Three days later, on Fri., Feb. 27, the waxing crescent moon moves into conjunction with Venus – a spectacular sight all on its own!

With all the gravitational forces in simultaneous array and play, there has been some conjecture on the potential effect on earth. Since the moon's movements have so much to do with the ocean tides, it is theoretically possible that the gravitational effects from the moon, Comet Lulin, Ceres, and the triple-planetary conjunction could cause severe storms, if not earthquakes and/or volcanic eruptions, anywhere from Thurs., Feb. 26 to Sun., Mar 1, here on Terra Cotta.

Let's hope the above conjecture is simply reserved caution, and that we may view these amazing heavenly line-ups with awe of God's creation, offering a thankful "Godspeed" to Comet Lulin as it returns to whence it came.

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy..." - Shakespeare

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pope Asks for Prayers: At the Ship's Helm

On February 11, Keeping It Catholic initiated a 54 Day Rosary Novena appeal for the Holy Father's intentions. The Rosary Novena begins on February 18 and continues every every day up to and including Easter. We're asking (and still requesting) thousands of Catholics to add their names to join us in the "Promise of Rosary Prayers" list, which will be sent to the Pope within a few short days!

On February 12, the FSSP (in English, Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter) made an appeal for a 9 day Novena for the Pope, from Feb.14-22. Specifically, they asked for a 9 day Novena to the Holy Ghost.

On February 13, the Pope himself asked for prayers for "the ship of Peter."

The Holy Father said, "Let us ask the Lord, Who guides the fortunes of the 'Ship of Peter' among the not-always easy events of history, to continue to watch over this small state."

"Above all," he urged, "let us ask Him to help, with the power of his Spirit, Peter's Successor who stands at the helm of this ship, that he may faithfully and effectively undertake his ministry as the foundation of unity of the Catholic Church, which has its visible center in the Vatican whence it expands to all the corners of the earth."("Pope Urges Prayers for Ship of Peter," Zenit)

The Holy Father's choice of words again bring to mind a prophetic dream of St. John Bosco's, in which the saint saw a Pope STANDING AT THE HELM OF A GREAT SHIP (the Barque of Peter) under assault from enemy ships. The saint also saw smaller ships, attached to the great ship, which represent those lovingly attached to the Church. Those ships defended the Barque while enemy ships attacked it. The saint also saw the captains of the smaller ships attend TWO different councils with the Pope [Vatican I and Vatican II?]. After both councils, storms on the sea battered the ship as the Pope stood at the helm, trying to make the Great Ship advance and rest between two great pillars (the Holy Eucharist and Mary Most Holy)...In St. John Bosco's dream, it was after the second council that the raging storm intensified, until finally the Church's enemies actually boarded the Barque and engaged in hand-to-hand combat! It was then that the Pope was gravely wounded, fell, and lifted up by faithful servants, only to be wounded again - and die. (For more details about this dream, please read Fatima and the Great Et Cetera.)

Was it then a mere coincidence that Pope Benedict XVI chose to ask for prayers with these words:

"Let us ask the help, with the power of his Spirit, Peter's Successor who stands at the helm of this ship, that he may faithfully and effectively undertake his ministry as the foundation of unity of the Catholic Church, which has its visible center in the Vatican whence it expands to all the corners ofthe earth."

Once more, we at Keeping It Catholic ask for what amounts to three simple requests:

1) Beginning this Wednesday, February 18th, please join us in the 54 Day Rosary Novena so that we may respond to the Holy Father's very gentle request to pray for his intentions!
2) Please ask others to also join the 54 Day Rosary Novena by forwarding this message (just click the small white envelope at the bottom of this post to send it to family, friends and co-workers).
3) To all who will participate in the Rosary Novena: Kindly email with your full name and (if applicable) title or degree, so your name can be added to the "Promise of Rosary Prayers" list and sent to the Holy Father.

May we all respond to the Holy Father's request for prayers for PETER'S SUCCESSOR who STANDS AT THE HELM OF THE BARQUE OF PETER!

We have only three days before sending the "Promise of Prayers" gift, which will be sent to Pope Benedict XVI. Can we - will we - pray one Rosary every day for the Steward of the Catholic City?

In recent weeks, the outpouring of outrage against the Pope - from within the Church as well as outside of it - is a signal that we must act in defense of the true Church and Her Vicar. As always, the best defense is the Rosary, which St. Pio called "the weapon." Through the Rosary, the Virgin Queen of the Catholic City willingly grants a "storehouse of blessings" (as Blessed Alan de la Roche beautifully phrased it) and graces to those who pray the Rosary and to those for whom we pray!

The time is well-overdue for the Church Militant to spiritually band together and advance forward, like the Romans of old, shields up in 'tortoise' formation. But we can do even better because --- the Rosary is not only our shield but also our best weapon!

To repeat: Would you please forward the message below to all those of goodwill: family, friends, priests, nuns, other Catholic email lists, Catholic organizations (from homeschooling groups to pro-life groups), Catholic publications, Catholic schools and colleges - you name it! Ask Catholic webmasters and bloggers to join and to add this entire message to their pages.

Don't Forget: Please ask everyone to alert Keeping It Catholic by email so that their names can be added to the list which will be sent to the Holy Father on the evening of February 18th (this Wednesday!). - MCB, Keeping It Catholic

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Holy Father: Rosary Novena Feb 18 through Easter

Who: The Holy Father

What: Needs our prayers

When: February 18 (St. Bernadette of Lourdes) - April 12 (Easter Sunday), 2009

Where: Everywhere around the world

Why? We should always pray for the Holy Father. However, to withstand the current attacks from without and within, Pope Benedict XVI especially needs our prayers and sacrifices now. As Our Lady of Fatima said, "Pray, pray much for the Holy Father."

How? Via the 54 Day Rosary Novena

Within the next week, Keeping It Catholic will gather signatures from those willing to promise the Pope a succession of Rosary prayers (the 54 Day Rosary Novena) for his intentions. Your name will be added to our "Promise of Rosary Prayers" and sent to the Holy Father on February 18th - the same day the Novena commences.

To join in the "Promise of Rosary Prayers" for Pope Benedict XVI, please email your full name (including title or position, degree, etc.) to Keeping It Catholic (KIC). We'll take care to add your name to the list to the Holy Father.

Why now?

1st) Consider all that is happening within the Church and the world at this very moment. There is no need for a recap on current events, but we must especially pray for the Holy Father at this critical time. We will ask for Our Lady's intercession with the good God that His Vicar is strengthened in all the virtues, for the sake of his own soul and for the good of the Church.

2nd) It is one thing to "talk" and say we are united with the Holy Father. It is quite another to do something for him. So let's take the next step...and, as always, a Rosary Novena is "Prayer in Action."

3.) The timing could not be more perfect: The Rosary Novena commences on the Feast of St. Bernadette of Lourdes and ends on Easter, the day of the Savior's Resurrection.

At Lourdes, Our Lady silently emphasized the Rosary, and through St. Bernadette she spoke to all of us with these three words: "Penance! Penance! Penance!"

At Fatima, She gave the same message in another way: "Pray the Rosary every day" ..."Make all you do a sacrifice"..."Pray, pray much for the Holy Father"...

And finally, there is also this truth: "Love is proven by deeds."

Kindly Remember: If you would like to send a promise of a 54 Day Rosary Novena to the Holy Father, please follow the next three steps:

1.) Send your full name (title, position, degree - if any) and email it to Keeping It Catholic

Your name will then be added to the "Promise of Rosary Prayers" list, which will be sent to the Holy Father on February 18th, the Feast of St. Bernadette of Lourdes.

2) Forward this message to others of goodwill, and ask them to add their names to the "Promise of Prayers" list.

3) Begin the 54 Day Rosary Novena on February 18th!

In the love of Christ and His Virgin Mother,
Marianna Bartold
We're "Keeping It Catholic" on the Net!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Comet Lulin is Traveling Backward

So much is happening within the Church and the world which opposes her, one cannot help but wonder - truly, wonder - over three celestial events occuring this month. For this post, the subject is limited to one heavenly occurence - Comet Lulin. (Picture to the left taken in Austria.) Already, people are wondering if this comet is a warning sign from God. Whispers of "Wormwood" (the bitter star of The Apocalypse) have been heard, evoking a nameless fear.

Naturally, there will always be skeptics who consider ponderings of this nature as nothing more than a 'stretch,' - and I say theirs is a 'natural' response, since they have no belief in the existence of God, His Church, Tradition, Scripture and prophecy. For those who know and trust in the super-natural (the life of God), our aim is always objectivity with a Catholic conscience of history - past and present, because all events impact the future.

For a quick overview: The emerging info on the Comet Lulin , newly discovered in July 2007, is now attracting interest outside the astronomical circle. This is one big comet, with an atmosphere allegedly three times the size of the planet Jupiter. Featuring two tails (a tail and an anti-tail), Comet Lulin is a 'green comet' (which means it is issuing poisonous gases, a circumstance sometimes seen in comets), with enough internal energy or forces to quickly replace one of the tails it recently lost...and it is traveling backward.

The following is, shall we say, a stimulating list of tidbits (so far known) on the backward traveling Comet Lulin:

--On February 11 (Our Lady of Lourdes; 151st anniversary of the Virgin's first apparition to St. Bernadette): Currently creeping westward at 2° per day, Comet Lulin will, by February 11, cross into Virgo and pass within a quarter degree of Lambda Virginis. (Catholics the world over might consider that fact a somewhat startling coincidence.)

--The Backward Comet: Comet Lulin is traveling along the same 'plane' as Earth (almost exactly along the ecliptic) — but, as previously noted, it is traveling backward. The comet's nearly parabolic orbit indicates that it has never interacted with our system's planets. Currently, Lulin's orbital inclination is 178.4°, meaning that it is orbiting in the opposite direction from the planets just 1.6° from the ecliptic plane. (In the vastness of space...that's close; very close to Earth.)

--If, as astronomers are currently alleging, Comet Lulin passes through earth's plane every 1,000 years, where is it recorded on ancient star charts? So far, not one contemporary astronomer has openly made reference to ancient star charts - a very interesting oversight. Rather, astronomers are theorizing that this is Lulin's first pass by our sun, with the result that the comet is still encrusted in 'fresh' ices, preserved by the freezing environment of the outer solar system.

--Break Up Possibilities? As Comet Lulin is exposed to the sun's heat for the first time, astronomers conjecture that those ices will vaporize, possibly causing the comet to brighten rapidly or even break apart. Considering the comet's size and its unusual orbit, the degree to which it loses 'chunks' or breaks apart is unforeseeable. (Picture to the right from New Mexico, USA.)

--How predictable is Comet Lulin? The comet's brightness behavior may be unpredictable, because (again) it's on a near-parabolic orbit, (again) suggesting this may be its first visit to the inner solar system. More than how bright the comet shall become, there are other serious considerations (like those mentioned in the paragraph above). As one commentator quipped, "You never know what a pristine comet might do."

--Comet Lulin is definitely in the neighborhood. Comet Lulin - 2007N3 will approach to 0.41 AU -which, from Earth, is only about 38 million miles away. (Once more, that is very close to our "Terra.") Consider and compare: The sun is 93 million miles away from Earth. At closest approach to earth, Comet Holmes was 149 million miles.

--Those two tails. Because Comet Lulin stays nearly on the ecliptic, its tail (which points away from the Sun) aligns with the ecliptic and with the comet's own direction of motion across the sky. The comet is within Earth' plane, so (from our viewpoint) we're likely to see the comet with a very thin tail and an "anti-tail," a spike pointing in almost the opposite direction from the main tail, for months on end. As of January 7th, Comet Lulin did have an "anti-tail." A few rare but recent reports say this tail broke off around February 5th - only to be soon replaced by a new, emerging anti-tail.

--On the Eve of Ash Wednesday: Comet Lulin’s closest approach to Earth, 0.41 a.u. (61 million km), occurs on February 24th, when the comet may reach a peak of magnitude 5°. At this time, it should be visible in late evening (after rising around the end of astronomical twilight) and remains in view for the rest of the night. And it's speeding along at just over 5° per day!

--From where did Comet Lulin come? Comet Lulin is arriving from the far reaches of the solar system on a nearly parabolic orbit — "it's almost as if it comes from infinity and goes back out to infinity," said Mark Hammergren of Chicago's Adler Planetarium.

That last remark can only make one think of God, Our Lord - the Alpha and the Omega, He who has no beginning and no other words, Infinity Himself.

More tidbits on Comet Lulin coming up soon!