A tough few weeks. My parents' health problems are slowly beginning to rear their heads. The dogs of mortality nipping at my heels.
Went out with the big, dumb telescope and a few cans of beer in a cooler to see Comet Lulin last night, as it passed as close to the Earth as it's ever gonna get. Frankly, there's not much to get too excited about, visually. It's a big, green, fuzzy blob, with no real detail (neither of it's two tails visible, for instance).
The fun comes in when you imagine what's happening out there, send your mind out there to hang out with the comet awhile. The thing is leaving debris of rock and ice in one direction, and ionized gas is being boiled off by the sun in the other direction (thus the two tails). It is going impossibly fast, on it's way out of our neighborhood and back into the far cold of...wait for it...the Oort Cloud.
It will return in 5 million years.
That's a big orbit.
Huge forces at work in empty spaces, seen from impossible distances.
A feeling quite similar to being in church. Back when I was a kid, and went to church. And had those kind of feelings about church. Of course, in a church, you aren't allowed to bring beer. So that's a plus.
It was a clear night, and warm. Other stuff was out in the sky as well. Spent quite a bit of time on Saturn, as it was close to the comet. What a pretty sight. The Orion Nebula was in full glory - I've never seen it in this much detail before. Looked for, but did not find, the Horsehead Nebula. Found the Andromeda Galaxy, big and bright but as it was low in the sky and guttering in the remnants of the city glare, no real detail. Still, it is a jewel in the sky.
Here's a picture of the comet from NASA's Pic of the Day. I didn't take it. But it shows the two tails in all their glory. Lulin will be bright for a few more days. Go out and look for it. Send your mind out there for awhile. Imagine you're in church.