Space shuttle Discovery has just left Earth in a spectacular twilight
launch from Kennedy Space Center. Check the launch
blog for updates.
FAREWELL COMET LULIN:
Almost three weeks after its close encounter
with Earth, Comet Lulin is returning to the cold and inky depths
of the outer solar system. "The comet is fading rapidly,"
says John Nassr who sends this picture taken March 14th from his
backyard observatory in the Philippines:
The head of the comet is now about as bright as a 7th or 8th magnitude
star--invisible to the naked eye and a good target for experienced
astrophotographers only. Take a long look at these
parting shots. They could be the last ones you see. Comet Lulin
is on a hyperbolic trajectory out of the solar system, crossing
the orbit of Mars on March 29th, transiting the asteroid belt between
April and August 2009, and passing Jupiter in early 2010. Farewell
Comet Lulin, and
Lulin Photo Gallery
Hunter Telescope: review]
Lulin finder chart]
Friday the 13th was a lucky day at the Killington ski resort in
Vermont. A bank of icy clouds drifted directly in front of the sun,
producing a sun
halo of such intense beauty, it stopped skiers in their tracks:
"I was simply astounded!" says photographer Steven Benatar.
"The amazing halo lasted for about 45 minutes. Thankfully I
had my handy Canon
SD780 to snap some quick pics as evidence."
Benatar says he's seen pictures of sun halos before on the internet,
but "they are much better in person!"
more images: from
Alex Conu of Clinceni, Romania; from
Jim Saueressig of Emporia, Kansas; from
Lois Reinert of Tracy, Minnesota
2009 Aurora Gallery
[previous Marches: 2008,
the Sunspot Cycle