Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Random 6.0

This week the moon helps sky-watchers catch some celestial fish and trawl the night sky for the most distant worlds in our solar system. Besides: while planets parade from dusk to dawn, and some shooting stars whet sky-watchers appetite, towards the end of July, a comet posed for a deep-sky photo op. ... And a much-anticipated icy interloper.

1. Blooming Celestial Flower: Like a flower in full bloom, this colorful portrait of the Rosette nebula was taken through a backyard telescope in Alabama on August 13.

Located some 5,000 light-years from Earth, this stellar nursery measures 130 light-years across and is a hotbed of star formation.

Massive newborn stars emit intense radiation that has hollowed out the central core of the nebula, blowing the gas and dust into an expanding shell that glows like a neon sign.

2. Pisces Circlet:  On the night of Thursday, August 22, the moon is positioned just below the "Circlet," the most easily recognizable part of the constellation Pisces [Sanskrit: Meen], or The Fish. Marking the head of the fish that points westward, this circular pattern of seven faint stars is barely visible with the unaided eye from light polluted city suburbs.

While the nearby moon will make for a convenient guidepost, its glare will require the use of binoculars to help track it down no matter how clear the skies. Look for the Circlet to span about 5 degrees across the sky.

[Like a pair of fishes, the last rashi of the rashichakra, Meen (Pisces) denotes the feet of the Kaal Purusha (Ursha major). However, Kaal Purusha or Kaal Purush can also mean, beyond time. Kaal = Time. Purush/Purusha = Cosmic Energy. 

It describes the Almighty - the Viraat Purush, the Cosmic Being or the Primordial Being... who is the motive power behind the mathematically precise universes. 

Kaala means time in Sanskrit. Every thing is consumed by time except the Viraat Purush. He is eternal-uncreated. Viraat means very big, unlimited, infinite... so much so, that the human mind cannot fully comprehend Him. Ever.

Therefore, the purusha (cosmic energy) who is beyond time (kaal) and who presides over the all-destructive time is known as Kaal Purush. 

A pair of fishes is an auspicious symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.] 

The number 11 (eleven):  is the natural number following 10 and preceding 12. In English, it is the smallest positive integer requiring three syllables and the largest prime number with a single-morpheme name. Its etymology originates from a Germanic compound ainlif meaning "one left". An 11-sided polygon is called a hendecagon or undecagon. (The name hendecagon, from Greek hendeka "eleven" and gon - "corner", is often preferred to the hybrid undecagon, whose first syllable un - is Latin for "one".) In chemistry, Group 11 includes the three-coinage metals copper, silver, and gold known from antiquity. It also includes the super-heavy element roentgenium, which was discovered only recently. The approximate periodicity of a sunspot cycle is 11 years. Messier object M11, a magnitude 7.0 open cluster in the constellation Scutum (Latin for shield), also known as the Wild Duck Cluster. The 11th moon of Jupiter (Brihaspati) is Himalia. 

In numerology: Since ancient times Numerology uses numbers as a key to observe and understand human behavior. It is considered a science of vibration. Numerology can be called the oldest mathematics of the universe. Everything is energy. Everything is vibration. Numerology is the language of vibrational frequencies, encompassing both the intuitive and scientific root that our existence is based on. There are many different realities, all abiding in the same universe at the same time, what distinguishes our self-expression is our vibration, how attuned we are, how connected to the whole. Numerology contains the model of the entire universe.

Everything is reduced to a single digit, so even if one has a compound birthday number, such as twenty-one, when reduced to a single digit, becomes a three and is ruled by Jupiter (Bṛhaspati - often written as Brihaspati or Bruhaspati, "lord of prayer or devotion", also known as Deva-guru - the most beneficial sign of any of the planets. Bṛhaspati rules over the signs Dhanu [Sagittarius] and Meen [Pisces]. He is exalted in Karka [Cancer] and fallen in Makara [Capricorn]. The Sun, Moon and Mars are considered friendly to Bṛhaspati, Mercury is hostile and Saturn is neutral. Bṛhaspati in Vedic astrology is considered to be of the element aether (space) or Akasha Tattva [i.e. Akasha = Space/Sky/Aether; Tattva = Essence/Category/Truth.] This element indicates vastness, growth and expansion in a person's life. Bṛhaspati also represents the balance of past karma, dharma, philosophy and knowledge. He is concerned with education, teaching and the dispensation of knowledge. The following items are associated with Bṛhaspati: his color is yellow, his metal is gold, and his gemstones are yellow topaz and yellow sapphire. The season associated with him is winter, direction is north-east and his element is aether or space. He presides over 'Guru-var' or Thursday.) Number eleven and twenty-two are considered master numbers. Here the vibration of the two (moon) and the four (Rahu) is intensified and these individuals will shine in their unique contribution to humanity. 

Number 11: Charismatic and inspiring. Their life path number is Master Number 11 or 11/2, and such a person has a unique and special path to follow. This number combines all the traits of number 1 (The Primal Force or The Pioneer) twice over, and at the same time includes all the characteristics of highly charged number 2 (The All-knowing or The Philosopher). A number 11 is a born charismatic leader, someone others look to for truth (dharma) and illumination, which could even be spiritual.

1 - The Primal Force or The Pioneer: The 1 is a doer; a powerful force that produces results and does not allow anything or anyone to limit its potential. The 1 is positively aggressive, a necessary energy for creating. The 1 is always in the forefront: a spearpoint directing and leading others. The shape of the number 1, just like the shape of all other symbols, reflects it's meaning; it walks upright with pride and purpose. Strong, determined, unwavering and with specific goals in mind, the 1 can turn dreams and ideas into reality. It pushes obstacles aside or simply drills right through them.

The 1 grows, transforms and improves in perpetuity, precisely the way Mother Nature does. After all, nature's primal force and most basic building block is the number 1. Scientists sometimes compete with nature, genetically altering fruits or breeding bugs for specific purposes. An understanding of nature teaches us that this is never a good idea and almost always produces unexpected backlashes. The number 1 has a similar built-in perfection and balance; you can force a change here or there, but negative repercussions are likely.

The 1 tends to see things in a linear way, which makes it easy to set goals and achieve them. It trusts its own ability to separate right (positive) from wrong (negative) or the grain from the chaff. It doesn't waste time on abstract ideas or anything else that isn't in line with its pursuit of results. The 1 is no preacher, no philosopher, no spiritual explorer, no dreamer and certainly not an idealist. It is a pragmatist, a conqueror and a warrior extraordinaire. It is a loner and independent to a fault. It will attempt to force its values and opinions on you but it won't accept, or even listen to, yours.

The 1 does not hesitate when it senses a need for confrontation. It is jealous and extremely stubborn, but also courageous and willing to try anything new if it sees promise, even at great peril. It is, if you haven't guessed, the most 'masculine' of all numbers. There is a certain quality, a sense of honour and responsibility that commands our respect, and it has a sense of justice that cannot be denied. Its purity of purpose is an admirable quality of the number 1. It sees things for what they are and hypocrisy doesn't stand a chance. Befriend a 1 and you have a friend for life. You can poke fun at a 1 and not have to worry about hurt feelings. A 1 has a great capacity for humour, including the self-deprecating kind. If the 1 is your enemy, you will be crushed.

2 - The All-knowing or The Philosopher: As the most 'feminine' among all numbers, the 2 is also the most underestimated - at least, when it comes to power and strength. After all, she is almost always gentle, tactful, diplomatic, forgiving and understanding. Certainly, she likes to keep the peace and will avoid confrontations as much as possible.

If you look at the shape of the 2, however, you will recognize a symbolic representation of the ultimate survivor and an extremely resilient force. Her shape, as if bent on a knee with her head and back bowed in humility and servitude, makes it easy to dismiss her as weak and powerless. This is in stark contrast to the power and pride of the mighty and masculine 1, who will not bow for anyone at any price. However, when enough pressure is applied to the powerful warrior we see in the number 1, he will break and shatter and be done with.

On the other hand, when the humble number 2 finds herself under attack and burdened with a crushing weight, she will bend, she will bend as much as needed. And when the weight is removed, her elastic, flexible nature allows her to come right back up, seemingly with little harm done, and she will continue to play her role. Her strength and power is resilient and lasting, just as the shape of the number 2 reflects that so beautifully. There is much more to her than meets the eye. As we stand in awe to the leadership and decisive actions of the 1, his strength and cunning relies on the clever and insightful advice of his greatest ally, the number 2.

Unnoticed and operating from the shadows, she outwits other spies and diplomats with her grace, her ability to enchant/charm, her flattering attention and her gentle force of persuasion. She is smart and understands the underlying qualities that make people do this or do that. A born psychologist, there is not much about human nature that escapes her. She often controls the outcome of certain events without anyone else noticing or acknowledging. In fact, the credit quite often goes to some other entity when it should be hers. This does not bother her, because among her best qualities is patience. She knows her time will come. But even if she does not always get the recognition she deserves, she tends to take a special place in the hearts and minds of others. Within a social environment, perhaps her most important asset is a sense of humour that is witty and self-depreciating, but never slapstick or juvenile, as she is far too sophisticated for that. 

The real value of her intuitive prowess is in the way she interacts with others; it is the true basis of her tact and understanding. Like a good politician, which she can certainly be if needed, she often understands the true motivations of others better than they do, and her clarity and her powers of observation often help others to understand themselves better. 

So, imagine what a Number 11 is all about: combining all the traits of number 1 (The Primal Force or The Pioneer) twice over, and at the same time including all the characteristics of highly charged number 2 (The All-knowing or The Philosopher) !! Now if this does not symbolize the Cosmic Duality, what does? Reminds one of the ArdhaNarishvar concept, what say? 

3. Mars and Gemini Twins: At dawn on Tuesday, August 20, ruddy-colored Mars formed a picturesque arc formation with the bright stars Pollux and Castor from the Gemini constellation [nakShatra maNDala]. The sky scene repeated the next morning (August 21). [Incidentally, this year, Aug 20-21 was Raksha Bandhan.] Even through a telescope, the Red Planet is tiny and reveals little detail since it sits at nearly the far end of its orbit, at 218 million miles (352 million kilometers) from Earth.

The bright star to the far upper right of Mars [Sanskrit: Mangal, derived from Mangalam] is the largest planet in the solar system: Jupiter [Sanskrit: Brihaspati]. Rising ever higher in the early morning sky over the coming weeks and months, views of this 530 million mile (854 million kilometer) distant gas giant will only get better. Even a small telescope will reveal its four major moons and two distinct cloud bands. 

[In Jyotish Vidya or Vedic astrology, Mangala (Devanagari: मंगल, Maṅgala) is the name for Mars, the red planet. Mars is also called Angaraka ('one who is red in colour') or Rakta varna, one whose color is like blood, or Bhauma ('son of Bhumi' or the son of Prthvi or Bhumi, the Earth Goddess) in Sanskrit. Being an aggressive planet it is a representation of the god of war. He is imagined: as red as flame-colour.

In Vedic astrology Mars is known as Mangal, Angaraka and Kuja. These names in Sanskrit mean, "auspicious, burning coal, and the fair one". Kuja is a karaka, or indicator, of brother and siblings, assertion, aggressiveness, soldiers and military endeavors, mechanical ability, engineers and surgeons, commanders and rulers, violence and war, ambition, strength, arguments and conflict, passion and desire. In Vedic astrology, Mangal is considered a malefic planet. He rules over the two sidereal signs of Aries (Mesha) and Scorpio (Vrischika). He is exalted in Capricorn (Makara) and fallen in the opposite sign of Cancer (Karka or Karkata). Maṅgala rules over blood, muscles and bone marrow. He is associated with battle, war and soldiers. Maṅgala is the lord of three nakshatras or lunar mansions: Mrigashīrsha, Spica (Chitrā) and Sravishtha (Dhanista). Maṅgala has the following associations: the color red, the metal brass and gemstone red coral. He is a particularly beneficial planet for Cancer or Leo Ascendants. His element is fire, i.e. his nature is Pitta, or fiery. Many myths depict the valour, strength and courage, and most fittingly, the protective quality of Mars. Thus, Mars (Mangal) is known as the protector of dharma (the right path and purpose in life or duties and responsibilities that benefit humanity/society).

Millenniums ago the Indian historical and religious text, the Rg-ved, mentions the two primary stars of the Gemini constellation as being the twin horseman who appeared at dawn, part of the Ashvins, they were known as Nakula and Sahadeva. Around that time the two stars would have been visible only at dawn during spring, leading to the idea of them being twins and associated with the spring equinox. The twin horseman corresponded to the two stars we know as Castor and Pollux and the Sanskrit name Mithun, which means the twins, correspond almost exactly to the modern Gemini constellation.

From India the constellations spread westwards to the ancient near east civilizations and by 5000 years ago ancient Babylonian people had adopted the constellations for their own astronomy which they also used to track the seasons and for navigation. To the ancient Babylonians Gemini was known as Mastabba Galgal, which (probably) translates as the great twins, heroes whose names were Gilgamesh and Enkidu, and who were part of great battles in a series of epic adventures. 

Ancient Egyptians also adopted the twin stars as an important part of their astronomy, and using two goats to symbolize the two stars which were mentioned in the Ramissede Hour Tables, a method of determining the time at any point during the night by knowing which stars followed each other. The two stars of the Gemini constellation were known to rise at dawn. 

Mrigashīrsha: Sanskrit mṛgaśiras (popularly spelled Mārgaśīrṣa/Mṛgaśira) the 5th nakṣatra or lunar mansion as used in Hindu astronomy and astrology is the constellation Orion. Its position is described in the Surya Siddhānta. The first two carana/pada (quarters) of this nakṣatra are part of Vṛṣabha Rāśi or Taurus (bull). The latter half of this star belongs to Mithuna Rāśi or Gemini (from 23°20' Taurus to 6°40' Gemini). Incidentally: in Sanaatan Dharmic thought, the Bull (vṛṣabha, vrisha uttamam) signifies/symbolizes/epitomizes Dharma. Hence, the illustrious God of gods is also called Vṛṣabha - the thousand horned great bull with a hundred heads, or vrisha uttamam, the Supreme Bull (i.e. Supreme Dharma).

The term Mṛgaśira (मृगशिर) a composite of two Sanskrit words, mṛga (मृग) meaning animal/beast and śira (शिर) meaning head or precisely, the top of the head. The names Mṛgaśira (मृगशिर) and Mārgaśīrṣa/Mṛgaśīrṣa (मार्गशीर्ष) are sometimes used interchangeably. Grammatically, Mārgaśīrṣa (मार्गशीर्ष) means "of Mṛgaśira" or "related to Mṛgaśira". Thus Mṛgaśira (मृगशिर) is the correct name of the star, while Mārgaśīrṣa (मार्गशीर्ष) is the name of the month related to Mṛgaśira, i.e, the month in which moon will be in conjuncture with the Mṛgaśira nakṣatra. 

Orion is a prominent constellation located on the celestial equator and visible throughout the world. It is one of the most conspicuous and most recognizable constellations in the night sky. It was named after Orion, a hunter in Greek mythology. In old Hungarian tradition, "Orion" is known as (magic) Archer (Íjász), or Reaper (Kaszás). In recently rediscovered myths he is called Nimrod (Hungarian "Nimród"), the greatest hunter. The Babylonian star catalogues of the Late Bronze Age name Orion "The Heavenly Shepherd".

Hanging from Orion's belt is his sword, consisting of the multiple stars θ1 and θ2 Orionis, called the Trapezium and the Orion Nebula (M42). This is a spectacular object that can be clearly identified with the unaided eye as something other than a star. Using binoculars, its clouds of nascent stars, luminous gas, and dust can be observed. The Trapezium cluster has many newborn stars, including several brown dwarfs, all of which are at an approximate distance of 1,500 light-years. Named for the four bright stars that form a trapezoid, it is largely illuminated by the brightest stars, which are only a few hundred thousand years old. Observations by the Chandra X-ray Observatory show both the extreme temperatures of the main stars - up to 60,000 Kelvin - and the star forming regions still extant in the surrounding nebula. 

Orion's Belt or The Belt of Orion is an asterism within the constellation. It consists of the three bright stars Zeta (Alnitak), Epsilon (Alnilam), and Delta (Mintaka). In Puerto Rico, the three stars are known as the "Los Tres Reyes Magos" (Spanish for The three Wise Men). Alnitak is around 800 light years away from earth and, is 100,000 times more luminous than the Sun - much of its radiation is in the ultraviolet range, which the human eye cannot see. Alnilam is approximately 1340 light years away from Earth, shines with magnitude 1.70, and with ultraviolet light is 375,000 times more luminous than the Sun. Mintaka is 915 light years away and shines with magnitude 2.21. It is 90,000 times more luminous than the Sun and is a double star: the two orbit each other every 5.73 days. Looking for Orion's Belt in the night sky is the easiest way to locate the constellation. In the Northern Hemisphere, Orion's Belt is best visible in the night sky during the month of January around 9:00 pm, when it is approximately around the local meridian.

Just southwest of Alnitak lies Sigma Orionis, or Sigma Ori (σ Orionis, σ Ori) - a five-star system (that have a combined apparent magnitude of 3.7) in the constellation Orion, just to the southwest of Alnitak. It is approximately 1,150 light years from Earth. Southwest of Mintaka lies the quadruple star Eta Orionis. 

North Arrow: Together the 'Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka', the 'Eta Orionis' form an arrowhead, and with the 'M42, M43' at the lower end form the tail of an arrow. All together form an arrow that always points 'North'. Therefore, it is used as navigational guide at night especially in the Sahara desert where there are not many natural signs. 

Shield: West from Bellatrix lie six stars all designated Pi Orionis (π1 Ori, π2 Ori, π3 Ori, π4 Ori, π5 Ori and π6 Ori) that make up Orion's shield. 

The 3 bright stars of "Orion's Belt or The Belt of Orion" (alnitak/ alnilam/ mintaka) align with the brightest star in the heavens, Sirius (in Canis Major constellation) on 25th Dec. Draw a straight line through theses 4 points - and the sun rises there. [The name "Sirius" is derived from the Ancient Greek: Seirios ("glowing").] 

Inside the great pyramids sun god Osiris is Orion; his consort Isis is Sirius; Horus was their son. [Horus - the Falcon-god or the Falcon-headed man; so similar to our very own Garuda. Here it probably is a reference to the Eagle Nebula.] 

Sirius is the brightest star as seen from Earth, apart from the sun. 

Canis Major is found southeast of Orion. An easy way to locate the constellation is to locate the three stars that make up Orion's Belt and follow the stars down in a southwesterly direction until you come to the next bright star. This is Sirius in Canis Major; it's the brightest star in the constellation and the brightest star in the night sky. Sirius also has a companion star, known as Sirius B. Sirius B was the first 'white dwarf' to be discovered. 

The Horsehead Nebula (also known as Barnard 33 or B33 in emission nebula IC 434) is a dark nebula in the constellation Orion. The nebula is located just to the south of the star Alnitak (a triple star system) at the eastern end of/ farthest east on Orion's belt, and is part of the much larger Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. The Horsehead Nebula is approximately 1500 light years from Earth. It is one of the most identifiable nebulae because of the shape of its swirling cloud of dark dust and gases, which bears some semblance to a horse's head when viewed from Earth. The red or pinkish glow originates from hydrogen gas predominantly behind the nebula, ionized by the nearby bright star Sigma Orionis. The darkness of the Horsehead is caused mostly by thick dust, although the lower part of the Horsehead's neck casts a shadow to the left. Streams of gas leaving the nebula are funneled by a strong magnetic field. The bright spots are young stars just in the process of forming.
 How to locate the star Spica (Chitrā):

A method of finding Spica is to follow the arc of the handle of the Big Dipper to Arcturus, and then continue on the same angular distance to Spica. This can be recalled by the mnemonic phrase, "follow the arc to Arcturus and speed on to Spica."]

4. Moon Joins Uranus:  Late night on Friday, August 24, watch for the moon to hover over Uranus [Sanskrit: "Arun"; Arun is the Indian God of Dawn], the closer ice giant within the giant constellation Pisces, The Fish. [Sanskrit: Meen nakShatra maNDala.]

Some Indians, though, call "Uranus" as "Indra" (the King/Ruler/God of Svarga-loka/"Heavens").

Uranus and its five major moons are depicted in this montage of images acquired by the Voyager 2 spacecraft. This week sky-watchers can track down this distant planet for themselves thanks to Earth’s moon pointing the way.

Unlike the glitzy planets of the solar system like Jupiter and Saturn, Uranus presents a much-understated view through backyard telescope. But it's an easy target for binoculars even under light pollution. Shining at 5.8 magnitude amongst a sea of much fainter stars, the minuscule, green-tinged disk is barely visible with the unaided eyes from dark, pristine skies.

5. Wizard Nebula: Looking like a celestial illusionist, the Wizard Nebula is a star-forming region located some 8000 light-years from Earth within our Milky Way galaxy.

Imaged here by the four-meter Mayall telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona, the giant cloud of gas and dust surrounds an open cluster of young stars some five million years old. Radiation emitted by the stellar cluster lights up the colorful nebula from which it was born.

The Wizard, known formally as NGC 7380, stretches more than 100 light-years across, appearing larger than the disk of a full moon, and is visible in small telescopes within the northern constellation Cepheus. [In Sanskrit, Cepheus is Pitṝ. However, for our ancestors Cepheus represented Kapih or Kapi. The word 'Kapi' signifies the foremost of boars - eka (one) shringa (horned) varaha, and Dharma is otherwise known by the name of Vrisha. The illustrious God of gods, therefore, is called Vrishakapi - the one-horned Varaha/Boar, the Supreme form of Shri Vishnu. (Dharma = justice; also, duties and responsibilities that benefit humanity/society. One-horned boar = ekashringa varaha or unicorn boar. It does not refer to any animal per se. It means, rarest of the rare; not to be found anywhere else. In other words: One without a parallel.)]

6. Milky Way Shores: In this breathtaking picture taken on August 11, the heart of the Milky Way galaxy appears to lap the seaside landscape at Tulka, South Australia.

7. Meteoric Meadow: A flurry of meteors fills the starry skies above a lupine meadow and Mount Hood in Oregon on August 11.

This year's Perseid shower produced an exceptionally high rate of meteors, with the bright moon out of the sky during peak nights.

Observation reports from around the world suggested as many as 70 to 80 shooting stars per hour could be seen from dark locations away from city lights.

8. Overflowing Milky Way: The Milky Way appears to pour down onto the steep cliffs near Lake Sevan in Armenia in this long-exposure portrait taken on August 9.

Summertime in the Northern Hemisphere is the best season to see our home galaxy, which looks like a band of hazy light stretching across the overhead sky.

9. Elephant's Trunk: Located 2,400 light-years from Earth, the Elephant Trunk nebula, captured here by the Mayall four-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory, is home to over 200 baby stars less than 100,000 years old.

Resembling a pachyderm's proboscis and head, this elongated cloud of gas and dust stretches nearly 20 light-years in length and is sculpted by the strong winds produced by the massive stars lying within.

10. Cosmic Forest: Like a cosmic tree, the Milky Way band of stars appears to rise out from an ancient pine tree forest at Cedar Breaks National Monument in southern Utah.

Among the longest-lived organisms, some of the twisted bristlecone trees - picture above in the foreground - are 5000 years old.

Because of the vast distance between these stars and Earth, some of the starlight seen in this picture was actually emitted years ago, when these trees were just saplings.

If you traveled one light-year, you would go almost six trillion miles (10 trillion kilometers).

11. Glowing Nurseries: A pair of star nurseries is lit up like cosmic neon signs, in this stunning new image by the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope in Chile.

These colorful glowing nebulae sit within the Large Magellanic Cloud - the largest satellite galaxy of the Milky Way some 160,000 light years from Earth.

The Large Magellanic Cloud is quite small compared to our Milky Way, with less than one tenth as much mass and spanning only 14,000 light-years, whereas the Milky Way stretches 100,000 light-years. Its irregular shape is likely a consequence of gravitational push and pull with the Milky Way and the Small Magellanic Cloud.

12. Death of a Star: This astronomical artwork depicts the violent death of a massive star in one of the most powerful type of explosions known in the universe - a gamma-ray burst (GRB).

In this illustration, a GRB illuminates clouds of interstellar gas in its host galaxy 12.7 billion light-years from Earth - in the so-called dark ages of the early Universe.

The flash of gamma rays - dubbed GRB 130606A - was detected by NASA's Swift spacecraft on June 6 and lasted for more than four minutes.

By analyzing the titanic blast and its high-energy emissions, researchers have learned about the chemistry of the surrounding galaxy, as it was only a billion years after the Big Bang, revealing that it contained only one-tenth of the heavy metals found in our solar system.

13. A Beautiful End: Resembling a face with a furry hood, the iconic Eskimo nebula is some 4,000 light-years from Earth. It shines bright in this composite image-released July 11-created from optical data taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

The colorful "parka" or outer shell of gas and dust is expanding at speeds of 31,000 miles (50,000 kilometers) an hour, and is lit up by the radiation blasting out from the remains of a dying red giant at the center of the nebula.

The part of the gas cloud glowing at a million degrees near the center appears pink to Chandra's x-ray eye, while Hubble's vision highlights intricate streamers of gas in the outer shell in red, green, and blue.

14. Newly discovered Pink Exoplanet: There is a pink exoplanet circling a star very much like our own, 57 light-years away from Earth. But its origins are a mystery. It's one of only five or six exoplanets whose presence has been directly imaged by a telescope, rather than inferred from observing stars. Other planets that have been directly imaged orbit much more massive stars. In that sense, [the pink planet] feels a bit closer to home.

An illustration of the magenta exoplanet... still glowing from the heat of its formation.

In a new study announcing the magenta gas giant, researchers were able to directly image this exoplanet using the Subaru telescope on Hawaii. The color of this blushing body indicates it has less cloud cover than other observed exoplanets, meaning researchers can peer even deeper into its atmosphere to divine its components.

If we could travel to this giant planet, we would see a world still glowing from the heat of its formation with a color reminiscent of a dark cherry blossom, a dull magenta.

At about 460°F (237°C), this gas giant probably wouldn't be a very pleasant place to visit. But researchers are still interested in this lightweight - it's one of the lowest-mass exoplanets found around a sun-like star using direct detection methods.

It orbits about 43 astronomical units (AUs) away from its parent star, much farther out than Neptune's orbit (30 AUs) around the sun.

The wide gulf between this exoplanet and its star puts it outside the conventional area expected for planet formation.

15. A bright fireball, View From the Mojave: a bright fireball is caught lighting up the starry skies above Teutonia Peak in the Mojave National Preserve in California on August 10, more than a day before the official maximum activity peak for the Perseid meteors.

Considered the most visually stunning meteor shower of 2013, the Perseids peak every August, when the Earth slams into a giant cloud of debris left behind by comet Swift-Tuttle along its orbit.

While most meteors zipping across the skies are no bigger than a grain of sand, fireballs like the one pictured above can be anywhere from the size of a grapefruit to the size of a basketball. The resulting high-speed impact causes unusually bright meteors, which astronomers call bolides, which can cast shadows and even a lingering smoke trail.

16. View From Japan: With the ghostly glow of the Milky Way in the background, a bright Perseid fireball appears to fall toward Japan's Mount Fuji in this stunning shot taken on August 11.

The meteor gradually changed color from green, yellow, to pink. Bright meteors known as fireballs produce vivid colors based on the chemical elements they contain. As the space rock gets vaporized traveling through the Earth's atmosphere at high speeds, sodium can produce flashes of bright yellow, while nickel and magnesium appear as green and blue-white respectively. 

17. View From Quebec: On August 10, 2013, at 3 a.m. the sky was filled with auroras, and then a nice shooting star appeared zipping across a sky painted green by northern lights in James Bay, Quebec, Canada. 

A giant cloud of energized particles was flung off the sun on August 7, which slammed into Earth's magnetic field on August 10, causing auroras to erupt across many northern latitude countries. 

A chance to see auroras is irresistible. Witnessing the auroras is so special and surreal. Here's a picture of the northern lights glowing over the Lofoten Islands, Norway:

The Lofoten Islands, in Norway's far north, are a peninsula-like chain of wild, craggy shards jutting into the Norwegian Sea above the Arctic Circle.

18. Faint comet pairs with galaxy: After nightfall on Wednesday, July 24, medium-sized telescope users got a parting view of comet PanSTARRS gliding by the grand spiral galaxy known as the Pinwheel - or Messier 101 - in the Ursa Major [Kaal Purusha] constellation. The comet though faded considerably to 11th magnitude (since its close approach back in March) could still be followed with at least a 6-inch telescope as it headed back to the outer solar system.

The Pinwheel galaxy near the Big Dipper (also known as the Plough or the Saptarishi - an asterism of seven stars), pairs up with fading comet PanSTARRS:

[The Plough, as we know, is also associated with agriculture, while Saptarishi also stands for the seven enlightened sages who arrived on earth. They were the progenitors of various groups of humans... who later on, due to a variety of factors, branched out. These were: Sura/Deva, Asura/Assyrians (an independent group arising out of the Deva clan), Nag (serpent-worshiping + totem; one of their prominent kings/chiefs, Vasuki, shielded the baby Krishna during Vasudev's journey to Gokul), Suparna (displayed eagle or falcon totem and/or headgear), Sakuna (displayed vulture totem and/or headgear), Gandharva (an offshoot of the Devas), and so on. The Saptarishi also shared their wisdom and knowledge with humanity... who in turn imbibed from them. No wonder our ancients were way ahead of us vis-à-vis knowledge, technology, literature, wisdom, values, principles, et al.

The combination of Saptarishi differs in each maha-yuga (or four yug cycle, viz Krita/Sat/Satya Yug, Treta Yug, Dvapar Yug and Kali Yug). There are innumerable universes, with one Brahmā in each of them. There are fourteen Manus who are prominent within this universe, each overseeing a manvantara or manuvantara. "Manu" is a title for the one who rules a manvantara. Each "Manu" is endowed with great knowledge and wisdom. [The word "Manav", signifying human or humanity, comes from "Manu". Manav = human, mankind; antara = period, cycle.] Each kalpa (1,000 maha-yugas) is reigned over/overseen by a succession of 14 Manus, and the reign of each Manu is called a "manvantara". A single manvantara is approximately 71 maha-yugas. Manusmriti or rules of Manu texts are ascribed to Yajña (as Svāyambhuva Manu) - the first Manu. (However, since several of our ancient texts have been tweaked, embellished and even rewritten, we cannot rule out the same for these texts too).

The name "Bharatadesam" means, the 'Land of Bharat' or the 'Land of the Bharatas'. Bharata means "the cherished", hence, Bharatavarsha is the land of Bharata; it is the bhoomi of the Bharatas or "cherished land". "Bharatadesam" is also known as "Bharatavarsha", which literally means the continent ('varsha'; Sanskrit) that is dedicated ('rata') to light, wisdom ('bha'). In other words, the Land of Enlightened Wisdom.] 

Lying face on and appearing as wide as a full moon, M 101 (Messier 101) is a bit challenging to find with binoculars because its spiral arms are so diffuse, but is still an easy 8th magnitude oval glow for at least a 4-inch telescope.

Look northwest for a hanging Big Dipper with M 101 just above it's last two handle stars. The two handle stars and M 101 should form a triangle.

PanSTARRS and the Pinwheel appeared to be only 5 degrees apart - equal to the width of a fist at arm's length. Their proximity in the sky, however, was just an optical illusion because PanSTARRS lies some 276 million miles (445 million kilometers) from Earth, while the galaxy is a whopping 26 million light years distant.

Look northwest after dark for the Big Dipper, hanging diagonally. Its handle is on the upper left. Follow the curve of the handle on around leftward, for a little more than a Dipper-length, to land on bright Arcturus in the west. 

19. The icy interloper, the 'comet of the century' - comet ISON: Stargazers were very excited when astronomers calculated the comet's orbit. They realized it would be skimming the sun's surface by only 700,000 miles (1.1 million kilometers) on November 28, 2013. But continual observations by both professional and amateur telescopes, including Hubble, have since shown that the comet has exhibited a constant brightness with no indication of a brightness increase tendency. For now, however, the comet is still currently out between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, hurtling towards the Sun at 48,000 miles (77,000 kilometers) an hour. The latest infrared views from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope - taken in June - shows ISON's nucleus spewing out a healthy 186,000-mile-long (299,000-kilometer-long) tail of carbon dioxide and dust as it melts due to the sun's heat. [ISON is considered a "sungrazer," meaning that it will pass very close to the sun when it gets into the inner solar system in November 2013.]

Will comet ISON blossom into an unaided-eye comet, sporting a long, beautiful tail across the sky?

Well, comets are famously unpredictable and can surprise even experts.

But if astronomers' early predictions hold true, Nov-Dec 2013 may hold a glowing gift for stargazers - a super-bright comet. Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) seems to be following the path of the Great Comet of 1680, considered one of the most spectacular ever seen from Earth.

A comet like this only comes along once or twice a century say experts. "Sungrazing comets are common. Fresh-from-the-Oort-cloud comets are common. Comets detected more than six times farther out than the Earth's orbit? Not so much. The combination of all three is very rare," said comet veteran Mike A'Hearn of the University of Maryland.

Astronomers agree that ISON will be an extraordinary, cliffhanger of an event. "No comet has ever disappointed me, a lot of comets have surprised me," said A'Hearn.

"ISON is a great experiment to see all the factors that influence sungrazing survival," said Matthew Knight of the Lowell Observatory. There will be a huge amount of data to learn from. It will be a treasure-trove of new science.

Regardless of how the comet behaves, this is becoming sort of a Woodstock of space astronomy. There is an armada of spacecraft position near the sun or at other planets that will be ready to follow the comet along every step of its sunward plunge. Add to that a powerful new generation of ground base observatories, and an army of dedicated amateur astronomers with sophisticated instruments for monitoring the comet.

Comet C/ISON was imaged with the Hubble Space telescope on April 10 using the Wide Field Camera 3, when the comet was 394 million miles from Earth:

Comet ISON month-by-month in late 2013:

September and October 2013. Comet ISON will brighten as the months pass. In September and October, amateur astronomers will surely be trying to pick it up. The comet will be sweeping in front of the constellation Leo then. It'll pass first near Leo's brightest star Regulus, then near the planet Mars. Finder charts for Comet ISON for September and October. [Regulus marks the heart of Leo, the lion... and lies 78 light years away. A hot blue-white star, it is about 3.5 times larger than our Sun and, at 300 million years old, is an adolescent when it comes to star lifetimes.]

November 2013. Comet ISON will get brighter still throughout November as it nears its late November perihelion (closest point to our sun). Some comet experts expect the comet to reach visibility to the unaided eye about three weeks before the November 28 perihelion date. 

Comet ISON will come within 800,000 miles (1.2 million km) of our sun's surface on November 28. That's over 100 times closer to the sun than Earth. This close pass to the sun might cause Comet ISON to break to pieces, and, if that happens, the comet is likely to fizzle. Or ISON might emerge from perihelion bright enough to see with the eye, with a comet tail. Comets are famously unpredictable, so there's just no telling, at this point, how bright it will get. 

In November, ISON will pass very close to the bright star Spica and the planet Saturn, both in the constellation Virgo. These bright stars might help you find the comet. There has been some mention that Comet ISON could become a daylight object, briefly. Remember, though, at perihelion, Comet ISON will appear close to the sun on the sky's dome (only 4.4° north of the sun on November 28). Although the comet will be bright, it's likely that only experts who know how to look near the sun, while blocking the sun's glare, will see it. November finder charts for Comet ISON here.

December 2013. This is likely to be the best month to see Comet ISON, assuming it has survived its close pass near the sun intact. The comet will be visible both in the evening sky after sunset and in the morning sky before sunrise. As ISON's distance from the sun increases, it'll grow dimmer. The crescendo of the apparition will likely occur between December 10th and 14th, when the comet will be best seen just before dawn after the moon sets. Although little or perhaps nothing of the head will remain, the huge tail will loom in the northeastern sky. Almost evenly illuminated over its length, this rapidly fading appendage could [span] almost a quarter of the heavens as seen under good, dark observing conditions.

People all over Earth will be able to see it, but it'll be best seen from the Northern Hemisphere as 2013 draws to a close. December finder charts for Comet ISON here.

Comet ISON on the morning of December 10, 2013. [Please note: this is only a representation, and the comet will undoubtedly look much different to the images shown here. In all likelihood the tail will be curved due to the speed of the comet around the Sun.] View Looking East on the morning (pre-dawn) of the 10th of December 2013, 05.00h: 

Comet ISON will be visible in both the morning and evening sky in December 2013 (image: representation). View Looking West on the evening of the 18th of December 2013, 16.00h:

If these predictions are correct? WOW!!! 

Let's just keep those fingers crossed. 

January 2014. Will ISON still be visible to the eye? Hopefully. Only time will tell. On January 8, 2014, the comet will lie only 2° from Polaris (Cynosure, Sanskrit dhruva tāra "fixed star") - the North Star or the Pole Star. And here's something else that's fun. On January 14-15, 2014, after the comet itself has passed but when Earth is sweeping near the comet's orbit, it might produce a meteor shower, or at least some beautiful night-shining or noctilucent clouds.

So, one thing is for sure, ISON will be a sungrazer in just a few months. And thanks to an armada of telescopes on Earth and in space trained on this cosmic event, we will be witness to a rare spectacle.

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