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(Jon sez:)

Your Writer: Jon Kilgannon If you have some time in the evening, you should go out and look for Comet McNaught. (More info here and here.)

I will note that the MSNBC site suggests using binoculars to look for the comet. Do not do this unless the Sun is completely below the horizon and has been there for at least a while. Looking through any sort of binoculars or telescope at the Sun can blind you instantly. When I was in an astronomy class in college, the professor brought us up to one of the big telescopes atop the astro building and pointed it at the Sun. He then held a piece of paper by the eyepiece, right where a viewer's eye would be. The paper started to smolder.

There's no danger of my eyes starting to smolder, however, as it's raining here. And will be for days. I swear, every time there's an interesting astronomical event going on, it rains here and the sky is blanketed in clouds.

(Mark sez:)

Your Artist: Mark Sachs Note that there is new fan art up, finally -- I have to apologize for it taking so long, but the holidays are just typically chaotic. It's there now, at least. And so now it is time to dump some links on you.

First, Blue Origin (Jeff Bezos's aerospace company) had the first test flight of their New Shepard test article a month or two ago; there's plenty of pictures and videos at that link. It's not dissimilar to the old DC-X vehicle.

Second, the French COROT satellite was launched at the end of December. One of the goals of COROT is to detect extrasolar planets by measuring the tiny drop in a star's brightness when a planet passes in front of it. COROT is advertised as being sensitive enough to detect the drop in light intensity caused by a "telluric world" -- that is to say, a planet as small as Earth. If this pans out we'll have the first hard evidence of Earth-sized planets orbiting ordinary stars, a huge step forward in filling in the gaps in the Drake Equation. (Terrestrial planets were deduced to be orbiting a pulsar back in 1990, but that's an unusual enough situation -- we're talking about the wreck of a solar system after its star exploded! -- that it wouldn't really count. I'm pretty sure.)

Third, ur-Mad Science comic Narbonic has ended its multi-year run. A happy ending too! I love those. It is now re-running from the beginning at the same address, but this time with color commentary.