Halloween falls midway between an equinox and a solstice. In the ancient Celtic world it was the new year's eve and start of winter - time to prepare for survival in the darkening days. But also a time when the boundary between our world and the otherworld weakened. Who knew what might cross it?
Join me on a Halloween astronomical tour. See a cosmic witch and cosmic ghosts, spiders and snakes, and fiery skull. But have no fear. It's a virtual tour and all these objects are a very long way away.
Thousands of years ago a comet broke up. A remnant of it still visits Earth, adding to the debris stream fuelling the annual Taurid meteor shower. The shower peaks near Halloween and may produce brilliant meteors – its nickname is 'Halloween Fireballs'. But is there something deadly in the debris?
Lestie, thank you so much for your kind words. I'm always happy when someone has enjoyed my work. I have one more Halloween article to post. I was so amused to keep coming across the spooky terminology astronomers sometimes use that I couldn't resist pulling them together for Halloween a few years ago.
Another plus (about what you do by encouraging us to look upwards and skywards), which is not easily defined though it should be, is that a person (or should I just say me?) is lifted and made more 'better' because that same person is part of something so great and mysterious. Of course too, this person is most likely to be a non-Astronomer! Nevertheless, this person feels more powerful and able because this person plays, in some way, on this playing field.
Hopefully, this person has articulated this thought clearly enough.
Astronomers use colorful language for cosmic objects. But unlike ghosts, ghouls and vampires in horror stories, the cosmic ones aren't scary late at night. Here are tales of the birth, evolution and death of stars, a blinking demon and a star that, at Halloween, seems like the Sun's ghost.
Halloween greetings from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) whose Very Large Telescope (VLT) has photographed the Skull Nebula.
This ethereal remnant of a long dead star bears an uneasy resemblance to a skull floating through space. The eerie Skull Nebula is showcased in this new image in beautiful bloodshot colours. This planetary nebula is the first known to be associated with a pair of closely bound stars orbited by a third outer star.
Also known as NGC 246, the Skull Nebula lies about 1600 light-years away from Earth in the southern constellation of Cetus (The Whale). It formed when a Sun-like star expelled its outer layers in its old age, leaving behind its naked core — a white dwarf — one of two stars that can be seen at the very centre of NGC 246.
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