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
The Sky At Night
In April 1957, a TV programme called The Sky At Night began broadcasting on the BBC. It's still going strong, with the original presenter Sir Patrick Moore still hosting it. Both are record-breakers, and long may they continue. October's programme was about light echoes and the story of how Tycho Brahe observed a 'new star' in 1572 in the constellation of Cassiopeia. It was in fact an exploding star known as a supernova, a phenomenon that was unknown then, as most people were taught to believe that the heavens were fixed in a celestial sphere. Light from the exploding star had actually been sent out in all directions, and some had hit another object and been bounced back towards Earth. This 'light echo' reached the eyes of astronomers on Earth in 2008, and so we got to see exactly what Tycho Brahe saw over 400 years ago. Sir Patrick finished off the fascinating programme by announcing that the 700th edition is coming up, and his co-presenter Dr Chris Lintott invited viewers to submit questions to a panel of astronomers for the special programme to be broadcast in March 2011. Submit any question you may have on one of the seven topics listed on the online form, and good luck getting selected!
Comet Hartley 2
Comet Hartley 2 passed within 17 million km of the Earth on 20 October, and it is now heading away from us. There's a NASA mission named EPOXI involving a spacecraft called Deep Impact which will rendezvous with the comet on 4 November. The spacecraft will provide cometary scientists with vital data and hopefully a glimpse of the comet's nucleus, which is less than two km diameter.
November Diary Dates
- 05: Taurids meteor shower peak
- 06: New Moon
- 10: Mars 4° north of Antares (alpha Scorpii)
- 16: Uranus 6° south of the Moon
- 17-18: Leonids meteor shower peak
- 21: Mercury 1.7° south of Mars
- 21: Full Moon (The Beaver Moon, Frosty Moon, Trading Moon, Sassafras Moon)
- 28: Comet Hartley 2 appears to pass through open star cluster M47 in the southern constellation Puppis
Chat about your celestial observances at the H2G2 Astronomy Society. Comment on anything in this edition of Babe Among the Stars by starting a new conversation below.