Cosmic Phenomena




Cosmic phenomena

comets, eclipses, meteor showers

Willowdale, Ontario, Canada e

Buffalo, New York, USA, Firefly, 1999

Format 25 x 29, 170 pages, 348 ill. in colour, 10 tables, 35 $


The turn of the millennium is being heralded by a blaze of glory in earthly skies. Following two decades of disappointment, two Great Comets flashed through the northern firmament in 1996 and 1997. Then, 1998 brought the most impressive Leonid meteor shower of recent years, and 1999 again offers the possibility of a spectacular Leonid meteor storm. Finally, a total eclipse of the Sun in 1999 will be visible to millions of people as it slices across Europe and India from northwest to southeast—the first total solar eclipse to occur over these regions in 40 years.
Naked-eye astronomy offers many intensely interesting and wondrous celestial objects to our view. Consider the many fascinating faces of the Moon—from a thin, delicate crescent to the fat, full disk that sets the night aglow like a fairy tale; or the blazing light of splendid Venus that can even cast shadows on a dark night; or the multicolored glitter of Sirius, its light dispersed by passing through the layers of the Earth's atmosphere; or the intriguing and seductive configurations of constellations like Orion or star clusters like the Pleiades.
Three distinct categories of phenomena, however, surpass anything else in the sky for their majesty, sense of mystery and awesomeness. All these phenomena are easily visible to the naked eye. They can appear in more common forms—from the sudden flash of meteors on a tranquil night to a partial eclipse of the Sun or a total eclipse of the Moon. Or they can offer us the greatest spectacles of all, the grand cosmic phenomena with which this book is principally concerned—the appearance of a Great Comet, the fireworks of a spectacular meteor shower or the unsurpassed vision of a total eclipse of the Sun.
Yet many people may never witness even one of these spectacles in their entire lives—unless someone explains how to do it and why. And that is the scope of this book. It is written by one who has been lucky enough to witness wonders whose observation requires no optical instrument other than that precious one furnished by nature: the human eye.

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