Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth - Ptolemy
Babe Among the Stars
The Astronomy Picture Of the Day people normally publish their 12 Astronomy Pictures of the Year (APOY) around the end of December, so I thought I'd publish my own thoughts on their daily selections over the past year, not sticking to their choice of 12, but it's 20 outstanding (for me). I'm ignoring recycled ones except for a couple, one of which was an important anniversary and only appeared on APOD on Christmas Eve.
Here we go then:
- Earthrise: this picture is 40 years old. Fast-forward 40 years for an astronaut's gaze at gorgeous planet Earth.
- Lunar Diamond just to show you don't have to be an expert photographer to join in the fun!
- Smile in the Sky just makes me smile. This alignment created a buzz around the world with lots of people sending in their snaps to the BBC News website.
- Venus in the Moon same alignment, different angle.
- The Image of the Century according to 1966 journalists, restored by modern technology and painstaking work.
- An image of an extra-solar planet! Fomalhaut is also known as alpha Piscis Austrini and its planet, Fomalhaut b, is a gas giant whose year is equivalent to over 870 (Earth) years.
- You've heard of the kiss of death, here's the dance of death...
- The anniversary celebration of Comet Holmes, which has still got all the experts scratching their collective heads a year after the phenomenal event of 2007...
- Spot the spaceman speaks for itself: I'm reminded of my son's Lego and Lego men, and pleased I'm an astronomer on Earth, not an astronautical engineer fixing the ISS. Take a moment to gaze at Earth's atmospheric layer on the horizon.
- A supernova ribbon: and this is where it came from: Remains of an exploded star — long live the Hubble Space Telescope.
- Celestial artistry you can do none other than nod to the cosmic artist of that vista.
- The northern lights and a shooting star in the same photo? For an astronomer, it doesn't get much better than that. Anyone who's ever gone meteor-hunting knows how notoriously fleeting they are, they literally last a fraction of a second, and you barely have time to alert your companion before it's gone. Someone who succeeds in capturing one on film for posterity deserves a medal!
- Sun Pillar: this is something I've never seen and not something that can be planned, like you can make a trip to the North Pole in the hopes of viewing the Aurora Borealis. Sun Pillars can happen anytime, anywhere, so long as conditions are just right. Please do always practice eye safety awareness when viewing Sun phenomena and teach children to never look at the Sun.
- Hanny's Voorwerp; possibly the most talked-about astronomy object of the year. I was even inspired to write an Entry for the EG about it!
- A Fire Rainbow — an unusual image of the colours of the spectrum.
- Baby Moon, that's not even a Cheshire cat grin!
- Battle of the heavyweights. There's something enthralling about cosmic train wrecks and their titanic struggles, we know it's happening but we won't know what the outcome will look like.
- Arm of the Milky Way: so difficult to choose a Milky Way shot, but that one was published on my birthday so it got a shoe-in. You'll have to scroll to the right to appreciate the panorama.
- Sunrise on another world: an artist's impression of sunrise on a newly-discovered extra-solar planet. Each time I reference these worlds it makes me realise just how perfect our planet is, and how rare other Earth-like planets must be throughout the Universe.
- The view from False Kiva — that's my Astronomy Picture Of the Year. I saw that and was blown away, well worth braving mountain lions for! (but then, I wasn't the photographer). Kudos to Wally Pacholka!
January 09 Diary Dates
All month: shooting stars and possible fireballs. There are so many meteor showers due in January — all deemed 'minor activity' — that I'll just advise you to go out and look on any clear dark night. I was lucky enough to be at my sister's home out in the country on Boxing Day, and as darkness fell a few of the guests wanted an astronomy lesson, so outside we trooped. In between popping in and out with other guests whose curiosity was piqued by the first few, I managed to clock a fireball and three shooting stars, one of which streaked right through magnificent Orion. When I got home I checked my meteor shower calendar, only to find we weren't due a shower, never mind near the maximum! You don't even have to stay up late, the first one my sister and I saw was around 5pm, we were admiring Venus at the time! So it just goes to show, you may get lucky when you least expect to.
- 09 Jan: M35 is an open star cluster in the constellation Gemini. Due to its close proximity to the ecliptic, other, much closer objects can form alignments and indeed, occultations do happen. Tonight the almost-full Moon will give M35 a celestial hug.
- 11 Jan: Full Moon - January's full moon is called the 'Wolf Moon', the 'Old Moon', the 'Ice Moon', or the 'Moon after Yule' in different cultures.
- 15 Jan: Saturn 6° north of Moon
- 21 Jan: Antares (alpha Scorpii) 0.02° south of Moon
- 23 Jan: Venus 1.4° north of Uranus
- 26 Jan: New Moon
- 26 Jan: Annular solar eclipse (Indian Ocean)
- 27 Jan: Neptune 1.8° south of Moon
- 30 Jan: Venus 3° south of Moon
- 30 Jan: Uranus 5° south of Moon
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