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!

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