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SOLSTICE: Tonight is the longest
night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and
the shortest night in the Southern Hemisphere. The
December Solstice, which marks the change of seasons,
occurs at 12:30 a.m. on the 22nd EST (9:30 p.m.
on the 21st PST) when the Sun reaches its farthest
point south on the celestial sphere. Happy Solstice!
AMAZING TAIL OF COMET LOVEJOY:
Widespread reports of Comet
Lovejoy's tail are being received from around
the southern hemisphere. The ghostly plume emerges
just before sunrise, jutting vertically upward into
the eastern sky ahead of the sun.
"I observed the comet with my
unaided eye for 55 minutes this morning," says
Colin Legg of Mandurah, Western Australia. "I
also captured a timelapse sequence of the comet
rising as twilight progressed." Click on the
image to set the scene in motion:
"In the image you can see 2 tails,"
notes Clegg. These are the dust and ion tails. The
gaseous ion tail is blow almost directly away from
the sun by the solar wind, while the heavier, brighter
dust tail more closely follows the comet's orbit.
The visibility of both tails could
improve in the days ahead as the comet moves away
from the sun and the background sky darkens accordingly.
Early-rising sky watchers should be alert for this
rare apparition. [finder
more images: from
Steve Chadwick of Himatangi Beach, New Zealand;
Chris Picking of Wellington, New Zealand; from
Paulo Morales Valdebenito of San Francisco de
Mostazal, Chile; from
Kosma Coronaios of Louis Trichardt, Limpopo
Province, South Africa; from
Willian Souza of Sao Paulo, Brazil; from
Grahame Kelaher of Perth, Western Australia;
Minoru Yoneto of Queenstown, New Zealand;
SUN IN A BEER CAN: "I have
captured the sun in an empty beer can," reports
Jan Koeman of Kloetinge, the Netherlands. In June
2011, Koeman assembled a solargraph--a simple pinhole
camera consisting of a beer can lined with photographic
paper--and for the past six months he has used it
to record the sun's daily motion across the Dutch
sky. Today he removed the photo-paper for inspection:
"This is what a photo with an
exposure time of nearly 6 months looks like,"
says Koeman. The highest arcs were traced by the
summer sun of June 2011. The lowest arc was made
just today, Dec. 21st, on the eve of the 2011 winter
solstice. Occasional gaps are caused by clouds.
Curiously, Koeman had more than one
empty beer can to work with on that hot summer day
in June when he began his project, so there are
multiple views to enjoy. Click
here for more solargraphs.
6-month Solargraph How-to
10th Total Lunar Eclipse Gallery