Year of the Comets: A Journey from Sadness to the Stars

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This book is rather uneven. DeBlieu states that the book is inspired by her husband Jeff's descent into severe depression after the death of his mother. This theme is never truly realized in the narrative. It seems as if the chronic depression of her husband gave permission for the author to write a book about her newly discovered knowledge and awe about the stars and comets in our universe. The author displays a fine turn of phrase with examples like: "All my life I have loved the stars and the planets, without really knowing anything about them. Orion, the Big Dipper, the red glow of Venus on the horizon at dusk, the misty lights of the Milky Way spread like a knife's worth of jam across the sky.

The minute details about stars and comets at some points read like a rather turgid regurgitation of an astronomy textbook written for a student essay. The journey into the stars seems like a somewhat transparent way for the author to avoid dealing with the complexity of her husband's bereavement reaction, which later precipitates a major depression.

As one progresses into the disjointed narrative, one cannot help but notice the author's avoidance and almost complete lack of empathy for her husband's emotional turmoil. It is as if his turmoil is a rather irritating inconvenience in her search for life and meaning at four in the morning as she sits in an empty parking lot looking at the trail of the comet Hale-Bopp. The medical and psychiatric theories regarding depression and its treatment are dismissed in a perfunctory four pages.

Comets in Art - Journal of ART in SOCIETY

At one stage the author betrays herself. I wasn't sure I wanted to know. Instead the author chooses to plunge into the intellectual discussion between Kip Thorne and Stephen Hawking, which centers around the existential question "If you throw an encyclopedia into a black hole, does all that energy and knowledge disappear?

In the final analysis Year of the Comet is actually two books masquerading as one. One is a very detailed, sometimes pedantic, exposition of the stars and the universe and the unanswered questions that they pose about humankind's very existence. The other is a true book of loss and sadness, which every now and again appears like a rapidly disappearing shooting star. This comet, which also was extremely bright, with an impressive tail, assumed considerable local importance as it was appeared just before a major Jewish uprising, and was taken by some to portend the destruction of Jerusalem in AD Jenkins points out that when this comet first appeared, it rose in the eastern sky and travelled west, and that towards the end of its visibility period it appeared to become nearly stationary.

Of course, if the inspiration for Matthew was the AD 66 comet, his account cannot be historically accurate, as this appeared many decades after the Nativity. Some other possibilities have been suggested, such as rather complex and unusually brilliant conjunctions of planets [26]. As it involves an issue of both fact and faith It is possible that this will never be conclusively settled.


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The problem with this was that it was an invention, written in , more than 50 years after the event. Schilling may not have even been born when these claimed disasters occurred. It seem that this too is an invention, repeated as fact by a succession of writers, all relying on secondary sources. In fact, while a Papal Bull certainly was issued against the Turks, soon after the comet had appeared, it seems that no mention at all of the comet has been found in any official documents from the time [29]. However, we should not be too critical. In medieval times, comets were totally inexplicable and unexpected events and would have been terrifying to many people.

And, as we shall see, even in the vastly more-educated 20th century, people were not immune to threats that an approaching comet would cause the end of the World [30]. For some people with elevated aspirations about their own worth, comets could sometimes be seen as having a distinctly personal significance.

Napoleon Bonaparte, for example adopted various comets as badges of his power and the legitimacy of his reign [31]. Depending on which political side you were on, the unusually red colour and spectacular tail of this comet could either be interpreted as a triumphant sign of his glorious reign, or as a reminder of coming bloodshed and destruction. Later, Napoleon would confidently claim that the Great Comet of foretold his certain victory in the Russian Campaign, though this of course did not eventuate. A comet was also supposedly sighted over France one night before his death — though again, this could be variously interpreted as a sad tribute or a joyous celebration.

Of course. It was not only emperors or kings who could appropriate comets as their personal talismans. In 16th century England, as the power and influence of the British Empire expanded, portraits of upwardly mobile aristocrats became popular. Typically, these paintings were intended as demonstrations of wealth, power and status. Almost certainly, this would have been the intention of young Richard Goodricke, who had his portrait painted in , the year of his marriage [32] by Cornelis Ketel, a highly regarded Dutch portraitist, active in England from to [33].

The comet was actually the spectacular Great Comet of , which had appeared for an extended period just the year before. The prediction that there would be a re-appearance of a Great Comet in caused an unusually hysterical wave of panic in Europe, particularly in Paris. The reasons for this were a little obscure. Through the vagaries of reporting, this eventually came to be understood to be a specific prediction that not only would the comet appear on that date, but that it would also collide with the Earth, and that this would result in the end of the World.

While this prediction was treated with scorn by many, it was also taken very seriously by large parts of the population. But that was not the end of the story. By coincidence, in the very next year, an extraordinarily bright comet was sighted. Unfortunately for the original predictors, it had nothing to do with the comets of or and Daumier was able to return to his theme with a famous cartoon showing the learned Monsieur Babinet intently peering into the heavens with the aid of his telescope, while his lowly housekeeper excitedly taps him on the shoulder Fig In a triumph of common sense over abstruse learning, she is pointing out the cruelly obvious — the real comet is clearly visible in the opposite direction [38].

This comet became the second most brilliant comet of the 19th century.

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With its huge scimitar-shaped dust tail — estimated at 50 million miles in length -- and subsidiary plasma tails. It has sometimes been described as the most beautiful comet in history [40 ]. It was the first to receive massive serious media attention, and became the best recorded of all comets to date. Donati was visible to the naked eye for an exceptionally long period from August to December and became the first comet to be photographed.

Unfortunately, however, this image has not survived [42]. In particular, as our article Art in a Speeded up World explains, startling re-evaluations were being made about the age of the universe, the role of evolution and the origins of human existence. The faint appearance of the almost invisible comet in the sky is a reminder of the almost unimaginable concepts of time and distance that had recently been claimed by astronomers.

At the same time, it has been speculated that the rather mournful colours of the painting reflect the nostalgia of the artist — who was also a minister of religion — for the old certainties. In this respect, the location of the painting is significant. This painting was unfortunately stolen from a private collection in January Had the comet shown up at a different time, its transit may have even gone semi-unnoticed.

As it was, however, it became something of a lightning rod for differing opinions, permeating political, religious, social and economic debates. To some it was just a comet, to others a portent. And, as often seems to happen, there was sharp disagreement over just what it was a portent of — was it a sad confirmation that the world of the Tokugawa era was falling apart, or was it a beacon of positive and welcome change?

There were some who took this extremist prediction seriously — despite the fact that it flew in the face of most scientific opinion — and they reacted in some extreme ways. Some simply panicked, some feverishly took extensive measures to stockpile provisions, or to block off chimneys, windows and doors of their homes to insulate themselves from contamination. Some passively awaited their doom, while others fasted and prayed, partied and prepared for last wild acts of debauchery, or even suicided.

Churches held all-night vigils. And, once again, that was me. I was there for the whole shebang, met some wonderful people, and experienced lots of great events. Comic-Con started in as a three-day ga The distant and ultra-luminous objects known as blazars perfectly embody this. Which brings us to the first mystery of blazars: What made astronomers think But after 7 A. Only few natives spotted the blinding blue streak of light that zipped across their skies, but the deafening explosion that echoed from the faraway depths of the forest was clearly heard by almost everyone in the vicinity.

Then c Wanna learn how to process your carefully taken astroimages?

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Longtime Astronomy magazine image contributors Warren Keller and Ron Brecher are teaming up to present a pair of 3-day workshops. The first will be in Mesa, Arizona, September Learn more about it, including the full agenda — 18 hours of PixInsight training — here. The second workshop will be held September in Lake Forest, California.


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  7. Click here for all the details. You might want to make up your mind quickly When you think about the solar system, chances are you picture the planets orbiting the Sun. While a single orbit of Earth around the Sun takes a mere days, a single orbit of the Sun and the rest of our solar system, along with it around the Milky Way takes nearly million years.

    It is that journey — the trip our plane He designed it to be used any time of y Why do I keep posting about this topic? That gap is due to many reasons, of course, but among them are the state of the support women in these fields receive, and the fulfillment they get from pursing careers in these industries.

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    Posted one year ago by Jake Parks. Welcome back! The lecture, But once they did, oh, what a whirlwind day it was.

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    After first grabbing a quick cup of coffee and browsing a number of research projects during the early morning poster session, I took my seat in preparation for the welcome address Astrophotography has become more and more accessible over the years. As technology improves and both equipment and programs are increasingly available for lower prices, many amateur astronomers have been drawn to the excitement, challenge, and sense of accomplishment that comes from capturing a beautiful image of the night sky for yourself. But while basic astrophotography has certainly become easier to perform, the image processing that can help you achieve breathtaking images like the ones We are all living in a giant science experiment — an experiment with no control group, which has never been performed before, and will never be performed again in exactly the same way.

    In fact, part of that outcome has already been determined by those who have come before us, and we hold in our hands the power to impact the future of generations of humans Posted one year ago by Amber Jorgenson.