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
Year in Review 2011
It's difficult to know where to begin in terms of summing up the year of astronomy, what with diamond planets, the Space Shuttle programme ending, the discovery of an Earth-like planet and water on Mars. Who knows what discoveries will be made in 2012?
As most of my readers will know, one of my favourite websites is Astronomy Picture of the Day. It was the first website I looked up the very first time I accessed the Internet. I've been looking at it just about every day since. All of their past publications are featured in date order of publication in the archive, with just a few being recycled. I've been through the year of 2011 and chosen one favourite of mine from each month for your enjoyment:
- Taurean clusters
- 4 Saturnian moons
- Palm Trees and the Milky Way
- Shuttle Swansong
- Mount Teide and the Moon
- Lunar Eclipse and Lightning
- Aurora, Pleiades and Andromeda
- Lightning and Saturn in Sky
- Icy Heart
- Run run run run runaway!
- Galaxy Garden
In 2011 I was lucky enough to be presented with a 15×70 pair of binoculars and I've been putting them to good use: charting the changing positions of the Galilean moons of Jupiter on consecutive nights, comet-hunting and detecting the planet Uranus. My personal tally of planets viewed is now 7/8, with just Neptune to complete. I also fulfilled an ambition to visit the church where Jeremiah Horrocks worked. I wrote about it here. I felt a spiritual connection with him when I viewed the Venus transit in 2004 and so wrote up his biography for h2g2. Seeing the stained glass window dedicated to his viewing of the first Venus transit witnessed by a human that we know of has to rank among my personal highlights of the year. There's another Venus transit coming up this year, on 5/6 June depending on where you are in the world at the time. This is your last chance to see a Venus transit, unless you plan on living past 11 December, 2117!
January 2012 Diary Dates
Comet Garradd is still traversing the constellation Hercules. If you can pinpoint the orange giant star Maasym (lambda Herculis) with your binoculars or telescope during the first few nights of January then the comet will be in the viewfinder as well. On 13 January Comet Garradd lines up with the base of the Keystone asterism. Another grand viewing opportunity is on 25 January when the comet will seem close to the rho Herculis double star system.
- 02: The Moon is 5° north of Jupiter
- 03/04: The Quadrantids meteor shower peaks
- 09: Full Moon (the Wolf Moon, the Old Moon, the Ice Moon, or the Moon after Yule)
- 14: Mars is 9° north of the Moon
- 16-18: BBC Stargazing Live
- 23: New Moon
- 25: Comet Garradd near rho Herculis
- 26: The Moon is 7° north of Venus
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.