It's been raining here in Southern California enough that my dog, Abby, doesn't even want to cruise the neighborhood looking for cats. She goes outside, takes care of business, then makes a beeline to the door. So tonight when I took her outside and looked up at the sky, I was surprised to see Orion sparkling down at me.
This could work out well, because NASA sent me an email with a link to their article about Comet Machholz (never heard of it before). It's going to be nearest to the Pleiades this Friday night (01/07/05), and if the weather manages to stay clear, I just might be able to see it (possibly visible with the naked eye, definitely visible with binoculars). The article has a link to a star map to help with finding both the comet and the Pleiades, plus there's a smiley sun wearing a "News" hat that you can link to for getting NASA's regular emails yourself. They usually include news about sunspots, solar flares (which cause the Northern Lights), planetary activity, and a bunch of other sky adventures.
I hadn't cared much about the sky, until a friend of mine (who has gone back to school to get her degree in astrophysics) introduced me to the stars. With her help, I got a telescope, and I take it with me when I go to the desert. It's amazing the difference between how the Orion Nebula (the center "star" of Orion's sword) looks outside my house and in the desert. At home, it's just a smudgy thing in the eyepiece, but out where the sky gets really dark, it's stunning.
I'll be looking for clear skies this Friday, or even Thursday, but I won't be able to get to where it's really dark. Even so, a smudgy comet is still a comet. Happy viewing.