Babe Among The Stars: looking back over 2013

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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

What a great year for astronomy 2013 was – for some. Here are a couple of damp squibs and an unexpected bonus:

Mistimed Missive

When the Chelyabinsk meteor exploded over Russia on 15 February, astronomers were expecting a close encounter of another kind. Unfortunately asteroid 2012 DA14 chose the wrong day for its fly-by as the world's attention was held by the superbolide, serendipitously captured for posterity thanks to Russian drivers' dashcams.

Comet ISON - the Eulogy

So all the hype led to disappointment when Comet ISON didn't survive its close encounter with the Sun intact. The anticipation was good though, and it was quite exciting having four comets in the skies at one time. Although the comet is now just remnants, we may get a nice meteor shower when the Earth passes through Comet ISON's passage. Plus we do have some marvellous images to soothe the downcast:

Comet Lovejoy's Messier Moments

It's not all doom and gloom in the world of astronomy though, photogenic Comet Lovejoy with the Sunflower Galaxy, which was only discovered in September, became naked-eye in November. Astrophotographer Damian Peach submitted this image to Astronomy Picture of the Day showing the comet aligned with the Beehive Cluster. A treat for all comet aficionados, I can only imagine what rapture Comet Lovejoy would have provided for 18th-Century French astronomer Charles Messier, the so-called 'comet ferret' whose catalogue of 'non-comets' included the Beehive Cluster as M44 and the Sunflower Galaxy as M63.

Coming up in 2014

Meteorite Medals:

Recovered fragments of the Chelyabinsk meteorite (which are more valuable than gold) have been minted into seven Gold Medals which will be presented on the first anniversary of the event, 15 February 2014, at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Vying for meteorite medals will be speed skaters, cross-country skiers and ski-jumpers.

National Astronomy Week:

National Astronomy Week 2014 will be 1-8 March. Enter your planned astronomy events to that website before the end of January and you will be entered into a prize draw for the chance to win a telescope.

January 2014 Diary Dates

The BBC will be transmitting the popular Stargazing Live programmes hosted by Prof Brian Cox and Dara Ó Briain on the evenings of 7, 8 and 9 January 2014. My own local astronomy club will be hosting open evenings on Friday 10 and Saturday 11 January which are free to attend. Club members will be in attendance to set up telescopes and answer questions. There will be similar events hosted by other UK astronomy clubs to coincide with Stargazing Live so check out the ones near to you.

  • 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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