Cometary Comment

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Cometary Comment



Tuesday morning, at about 6:15 am, just after locking the back door I happened to look up at the crescent moon and Venus. They were spectacular the morning before as they enjoyed their close conjunction, and they weren't much less spectacular on that morning, though further apart.

But what caught my eye were two very bright objects, I'd say brighter than Sirius, but not as bright as Venus or Jupiter. The two objects tracked across the sky generally west to east. While I'm about as certain as I can be it was the space station, with the shuttle just separated from it, I couldn't find a place on the web that would give their positions last Tuesday.

Anyway, it was an extraordinary sight.

But in trying to verify what I think I saw, I came across an article at Sky and Telescope that says a comet is visible to the naked eye.

Comet Homes.

[url=]From Sky and Telescope[/url]

It's cloudy here right now, and I think I'm too tired to stay up to the optimal viewing time tonight on the chance the clouds will clear.

But for those who are interested, in other localities, you might want to venture out with your binoculars if you have them.

And for those that are not interested, I hope this hasn't left you ...cometose...


I envy you, Tommy. Where I am, the light pollution is so pernicious, you can hardly see the moon much of the time.

During the blackout of 2002, there were stars and constellations that hadn't been witnessed from Toronto since before electricity. One of my neighbours later said there were city dwellers who had never been to the country and seen the night sky before, and thought we were being attacked by aliens. Never saw any substantiation of this though. I mean, everybody knows aliens never land in major cities.

In (I think) 1992, the Perseid meteor showers of late summer were reported to be particularly vivid. So my husband and I drove 70 miles north to my parents' house, in Medonte township, and lay on my parents' front lawn to watch the meteors. Some were so bright, I swear we could hear them as they burnt up in the upper atmosphere.

Anybody know if it's possible to actually hear shooting stars, or is it just psychological?


Darn, you know that pricks my memory, I think someone has done a study on that-- but I can't remember the outcome. I suppose a particularly large one would produce a sonic boom. But a "whoosh"? I think that would be psychological. I do seem to recall that many people insist they have "heard" the northern lights, but science says that's not possible.

London's night sky is perfect-- for learning the constellations. The washing out of the dimmer stars leaves only the brighter ones that more or less make up the constellations. Carl Sagan said that growing up in New York City had the same effect, and he thought he was probably more inspired because of it.

London, however, is bright enough to wash out the "Milky Way." Whenever I get out of town, I treat myself to it.

Until last year, I worked night shift steady for almost a decade. People thought it odd when I said I missed the dark. But when you think about it, I worked under sodium lights, and went home and slept during the day. Sometimes at work I'd go outside and try to find a truly dark place. But with security lights it wasn't easy.

So, I like the dark, not just for the stars it brings out, but for the... sanity of it?

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Most meteors occur at least 80 km above the surface of the Earth. At that distance, you're looking at about 4 minutes for sound to reach the ground.

Occasionally, a large meteor will penetrate lower in the atmosphere and become a bolide or fireball. The [url=]American Meteor Society[/url] says:


Some fireballs will have sounds (sonics) associated with them, divided into two types: (1) those sounds which are heard concurrently with the fireball observation (called electrophonic sounds), and (2) those sounds which are delayed, usually occurring within a few minutes after the observation (these can be sonic booms or terminal burst booms).