Halloween Comets!

No fewer than four bright-ish comets greet skywatchers an hour before the start of dawn. From upper left counterclockwise: C/2013 R1 Lovejoy, 2P/Encke, C/2012 X1 and ISON. Credits: Gerald Rhemann, Damian Peach, Gianluca Masi and Gerald RhemannToday, the early morning was greeted by the arrival of not one, not two, not three, but four comets! And interestingly enough, even astronomers were surprised. For months now, they have known that the comets ISON and 2P/Encke would be gracing the morning sky on October 31st, but no one predicted that they’d be joined by C/2013 R1 (Lovejoy), and C/2012 X1 (LINEAR) as well.

These two comets – the former being discovered by  Australian amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy back in September and the latter being a somewhat obscure character, presented a rare opportunity to stargazers everywhere. The appearance of four comets at the same time in the night sky is a rare phenomenon indeed. The fact that it coincides with Halloween? Well, the word spooky comes to mind…

https://i2.wp.com/d1jqu7g1y74ds1.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Halloween-comets-4_edited-11.jpgThe appearance of C/2012 X1 (LINEAR) was especially surprising given how sudden it was. In the past few days, the otherwise obscure comet has brightened by a factor of more than 200. Almost overnight, a comet found on precious few observing lists became bright enough to see in binoculars. Hence, comet trackers all over the world were sure to get up extra early to see it. But brightest of all was Comet Lovejoy, which reached magnitude 8.

As for Encke and C/2012 X1, astronomers were well prepared for their arrival. Encke’s appearance is predictable, since it treks around the sun every 3.3 years like clockwork and is often well placed for viewing. Because of its short period, dedicated comet watchers meet up with it a half dozen or more times during their lives. And due to its brightness, which tends to fall into the magnitude 7.5-8 range, binoculars are often all one needs to see it.

https://i0.wp.com/d1jqu7g1y74ds1.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/ISON-Damian-Oct.-27-580x403.jpgComet C/2012 X1 is not usually visible in the night sky. But thanks to an eruption of fresh, dust-laden ices from its surface that blasted into space to form a gigantic glowing sphere that vaulted the comet’s magnitude 250 times to a voluminous 7.5, astronomers were expecting it to make an appearance alongside Encke this Autumn.

For those still interested in spotting these shooting stars, Comet Lovejoy will continue to brighten throughout November to the point where it can be seen by the naked eye. Small telescope users will continue to be able to see the comet with ease, as well as the gas tail that it is developing. Encke will also reach its peak magnitude for viewing by Nov. 21st as it chases the into the glare of morning twilight.

All you need is a telescope, a good set of binoculars, or a keen pair of eyes. And while we’re at it, I’d just like to remind people that this sort of conjunction does NOT portend doom! If anything, its a rare privilege, and should be considered a tiding of joy. The fact that it happens to fall on the spookiest of annual events, well that’s just pure coincidence!

Source: universetoday.com

Zombie-Proof You Car and House

Believe it or not, there’s actually an insurance company that thinks ahead. You’ll be pleased to know that while others are preparing for the latest hurricane or earthquake, there’s a company that is preparing for the zombie apocalypse. Okay, not really, but its fun idea. They are known as MoneySupermarket.com; and wouldn’t you believe it, they found me and offered these helpful infographics. In honor of Halloween, they offered a string of comedic “Spooky Insurance” options. These include insurance on your haunted house, broom, time travel, and the afterlife.

In addition, they provide the following helpful infographics on how to prepare your vehicle and your home for a zombie attack. In the former case, this involves outfitting your means of conveyance with defensive armor as well as a series of non-lethal counter-measures (click on the image to enlarge). It also rates different kinds of vehicles based on their practicality for a zombie apocalypse. These include speed, fuel economy, ruggedness, capabilities on all terrain, and capacity for modification. Granted, not all the information is practical, but you didn’t exactly expect it to be, did you?

In the latter case, the infographic on modifying your home. This is especially important when you’ve found a place you want to go to ground in. Or maybe you just don’t want to let things escalate to the stage where you have to modify your vehicle to become a mobile tank and defensive arsenal. These include land mines, chain link fences, trenches, a guard tower, explosives, and of course, a fully equipped arsenal. Well, not exactly fully equipped – once again, the weapons are strictly non-lethal. And I’m not entirely sure what the point of a robotic sheep is (see right). You’d think zombies could tell the difference between the real thing and an automaton.

Naturally, the Halloween-themed insurance offering won’t last long now that Halloween is over. Click on the link at the top to see the full range of options they’re offering for witches, ghosts, time travelers and the undead. Unless the zombie apocalypse actually arrives, or someone finds a way to make time travel feasible, these gimmicky insurance options won’t last!

The Bane Costume!

Well, I did it, I went through with it and decided to be Bane for Halloween, bald head and all!. And as promised, here are some of the pics to prove that I’m not lying through my teeth. Personally, I felt it came together pretty well- the clothing was planned out but I didn’t make any special purchases. And I ordered the mask through Amazon so no credit is due there. But the real work came in the form of the  head-shaving, which took a good hour at least. I don’t think I invested in a very good electric razor, and I can tell you that for the next few days I will be applying lots of lotion to make sure I don’t chafe!

And of course the feedback I’ve gotten so far has been pretty interesting. When I wore it to the grocery store to compare costumes with the local staff, they all laughed and thought it was pretty good. The children and casual shoppers… not so much! I had to assure one little man that it was all just an outfit and that it would be coming off soon.

And when I went to pick up my darling bride from her friends house that night, they were both pretty scared! My wife has not looked at me the same way since. Mainly she just looks at my bald head and smiles! Ha, she wasn’t smiling when she saw me enter with the mask on and heard the perfectly intoned British voice!

Anyway, here are the top three pics. Front profile, front posing, and side profile. Let me know what you think, and please post pics of whatever you got up to this Halloween! I especially want to hear from my superhero kin on this one. Consider it a test run for our official Revenger uniforms. If we can pull of some real life costumes that bear just the slightest resemblance to our Revenger profiles, we’d be in the best of business!

Oh yeah, and happy Halloween everyone! May your evenings be filled with plenty of fright and excitement, and plenty of sugary swag!