Babe Among the Stars

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Galaxy Babe's column banner, showing a full moon and some little folk looking up at the sky

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

Cupid's Aurora

Something really strange happened on 14 February. It's not something I have heard of before, but then I have only just started studying space weather. What occurred was a ripple in the Earth's magnetic field, similar to what happens when the solar wind interacts with the Earth's atmosphere creating the magnificent aurora. Except for the fact that there was nothing noted by the instruments which monitor CMEs (Coronal Mass Ejections), which could have caused it. The geomagnetic activity increased to a storm the following day, which was put down to the IMF (Interplanetary Magnetic Field) shifting south. This caused a crack in the Earth's magnetic field, allowing solar particles through. The phenomenon even has the experts puzzled, but there were benefits. The aurorae which this event produced were seen as far south as Great Falls, Montana, in the USA. And for couples who had taken an aurora trip to Sweden to celebrate St Valentine's Day:

On several occasions the sky was full of auroras from horizon to horizon. [...] Most of our guests agreed that it was the best Valentine's Day that they had ever shared together.

– Chad Blakley (photographer and aurora tour guide) of Abisko National Park, Sweden

March Diary Dates

Comet Garradd begins March near Ursa Minor; on 5 March it will have reached its closest approach to Earth, 118m miles (190m km). It will move into Draco around the 11th, before heading into Ursa Major. The comet has not attained a high visibility; its best magnitude reached +6. By the end of March it will have dimmed to +7 mag. That doesn't mean it hasn't been a spectacular attraction for astrophotographers! Here are just a few of the amazing results: tails; with M92; with M15; with the 'Coat Hanger'; passing 10,000 stars.

  • 01-03: Mercury, Venus and Jupiter all visible in the west after sunset
  • 03: Mars appears at sunset and will be on view all night; it will be in the constellation Leo the lion
  • 05: Mars closest to Earth (63m miles/101m km)
  • 05: Comet Garradd closest to Earth
  • 06: The Moon will form a close triangle with Mars and Regulus (alpha Leonis)
  • 08: Full Moon; the Worm, Crust, Windy or Lenten Moon
  • 12: Venus and Jupiter less than 3° apart
  • 20: Spring equinox (Northern Hemisphere)
  • 20: The Moon is 6° north of Neptune
  • 22: New Moon
  • 25: New crescent moon just 3° north of Jupiter
  • 26: Venus less than 2° north of Moon

  • 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.

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