“Star of Bethlehem” Making Rare Appearance During Winter Solstice

On Dec 21, the Winter Solstice, the two biggest planets in our galaxy, Jupiter and Saturn will appear closer together than they have been since the Middle Ages.

The event will occur in the low southwestern sky about an hour after sunset in the U.S.

A previous conjunction in 7 B.C. (when it happened three times) has been likened to the Star of Bethelem from the Gospel of Matthew.


  • 7 BC
  • 372 AD
  • 431 AD
  • 1226 AD
  • 1623 AD
  • 2020 AD
Continue reading

NASA Will Rename “Inappropriate” Cosmic Objects and The Babylon Bee Mocks

NASA announced last week they will reexamine nicknames for cosmic objects that are insensitive, prompting a hilarious infographic from the satire site Babylon Bee.

Real changes cited by NASA were changing “Eskimo Nebulo” to NGC 2392 and the “Siamese Twins Galaxy” to NGC 4567 and NGC 4568. Since Perseus is from Greek mythology and the Greeks owned slaves, there was no word on what to call the Perseid Meteor Showers this week.

“These nicknames and terms may have historical or culture connotations that are objectionable or unwelcoming,” said Stephen T. Shih, Associate Administrator for Diversity and Equal Opportunity at NASA Headquarters (an actual organization).

Continue reading

When a Comet Caused Panic

Before the flyby of Halley’s Comet on May 19, 1910, people worried that life would end when the Earth passed through poison gas in the comet’s tail.

A French astronomer Camille Flammarion warned he had detected cyanogen gas by analyzing light in the comet’s tail which the Earth would pass through. Most astronomers disagreed with Flammarion.

Adding to the concern was the death of England’s King Edward VII on May 6, 1910 after an illness of a few days.

Fraudsters sold fake anti-comet pills. People dug underground hideouts. Others prepared how to live out their final days.

Some, as pictured above, invented their own oxygen tanks with old tin lard cans in hopes of living through the event. (From St. Louis Post Dispatch Magainze, Page 2, May 29, 1910)

In the end everyone survived, even during its return on March, 1986. It’s next appearance is in 2061.

Continue reading

Tail Grows on Comet Neowise

Comet Neowise will be closest to Earth on the evening of July 22, coming within 64 millions miles away. Viewing opportunities are still existing as its tail continues to grow.

The head of the comet appears about “one fist” up from the northeast horizon, 80 minutes before sunrise. More tips on viewing at Space.com (Image from Joe Rao/Space.com)

Continue reading

Possible Planet Discovered Within a Habitable Zone

3,000 light years from our solar system a potential planet in the hospitable zone of star Kepler-160 has been detected. To say that is “earth-like” is assuming too much since its atmosphere and structure are unknown, but this gets more attention and might irritate some religious folk, so the media is hyping it.

A team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute, the Sonneberg Observatory, the University of Göttingen, the University of California in Santa Cruz, and NASA used new instruments and algorithms to find the new planet called KOI-456.04. Read more at Phys.org.

“It cannot currently be ruled out completely that KOI-456.04 is, in fact, a statistical fluke or a systematic measurement error instead of a genuine planet.”

Max Planck Institute

Kepler-160’s planets


  • Kepler-160b
  • Kepler-160c (variations in orbit gave clue to 3rd planet)


  • KOI-456.04 (in habitable zone—the distance range around a star admitting liquid surface water)
  • Kepler-160d (confirmed indirectly)

The full report

Well done graphic from The Sun, despite the headline.

Continue reading