PERSEID METEORS: Over the weekend, Earth passed through the dusty tail of Comet Swift-Tuttle. Innumerable bits of comet dust traveling 130,000 mph hit Earth's atmosphere and became Perseid meteors. It was a good show in spite of much bright moonight: photo gallery.
SUNSPOT 904: There's a giant magnet on the sun today: Bipolar sunspot 904. Sunspots are made of pure magnetism. The two ragged components of sunspot 904 are actually magnetic poles, north (N) on the left and south (S) on the right. Solar flares occur when opposite magnetic polarities clash together. Perhaps sunspot 904 has been so quiet lately because its poles are far apart. Almost 100,000 kilometers separate N from S. If the two ends of this sunspot group should begin to converge... stay tuned for fireworks.
1,000th Kreutz-group comet: Aug. 10th — ESA news release: "Polish amateur comet hunter Arkadiusz Kubczak recently discovered his third comet in SOHO LASCO coronagraph images, but [C/2006 P7 (SOHO)] was special: the 1000th SOHO comet discovery in the Kreutz group of sungrazing comets... All 1000 Kreutz comets are believed to be fragments of a single comet observed in c. 371 BCE by Aristotle and Ephorus, and the fragments themselves continue to fragment, making more sungrazing comets." Note: See also SOHO Hot Shots, Jonathan Shanklin's Sun approaching comets page, and MPEC 2006-P33.
Planetary Definition: When is a planet not a planet? (14 Aug.) "The answer, which will be mulled over by committee before being put to the vote at the International Astronomical Union meeting in Prague today, will end what has become an embarrassing crisis for scientists... [We] may soon have only eight. Or 23, or 39, or more." • Brian Marsden opinion piece • Astronomers Struggle to Define 'Planet "[Michael] Brown, Xena's discoverer, admits to being 'agnostic' about what the [IAU] conference decides. He said he could live with eight planets, but is against sticking with the status quo" • Pluto: Is It a Planet?: "Sources say the [IAU] panel's new definition for planets would, in fact, create a third category embracing Pluto [if accepted next week]... What is too small to be a dwarf planet? Do moons count? What about round comets?"