Monday, March 06, 2006

Comet Pojmanski Skims Past Earth, Seen At Sunrise


By Elaine Meinel Supkis

Another celestial visitor. Comet Pojmanski swung around the sun and turned a stunning bright blue including the tail. Astronomers used to think all comets were the same, mostly water. Turns out they are as individual as different planets. This shouldn't surprise us at all.

From NASA:
Right now, however, a new comet has brightened unexpectedly and is visible as a faint streak to the unaided northern observer in the eastern morning sky just before sunrise. Binoculars may help. Comet Pojmanski, officially designated C/2006 A1 and discovered only in January, now sports a turquoise tail several times longer than the full moon. Comet Pojmanski's ion tail is due to gas particles expelled by the comet being pushed away from the Sun by the solar wind, the same wind that ionizes gas in the tail causing its blue tint. Pictured above as it appeared only last week, Comet Pojmanski has now begun to fade as its orbit around the Sun takes it further from the Earth.
Strictly for early birds. All comets are lovely to look at, they are delicate veils streaming in the cosmic wind. Unlike shooting stars which are items falling into our planetary well. The best place to view these comets remains mountain tops which is why observatories are set up there (except for Yerkes and campus-based observatories, of course!)

The view from my deck is blocked by the Taconic mountains to the east, alas. And my headcold prevents climbing the mountain to see higher up. But the photos are lovely. It is like a saphire ring, a clear, brilliant, sharp blue, the blue one sees in a stained glass window at Chartes sort of blue.

Like so many items whizzing past us, this comet is the first time we noticed it, probably won't be back for a while. It is a sharp reminder that we are very vulerable to being hit by such items and the window of knowledge of their passage is not much longer than half a year.

Not that anyone seems to care? Heck, NASA and our military are too busy spying on us to care, it seems.



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