Hunting for Orion on an October Morning

Cast off from Halley’s Comet, they fall.

This October day, ice and dust burning.

Orionid meteor stream, first quarter moon setting.

Dark midnight dome, then – Look! – dawn sky –

Sirius, Venus, Jupiter! All is right today.


The Orionids stem from debris from the most famous of all comets, Comet Halley, which last visited Earth in 1986 and will return next in 2061. Those bits of comet ice and dust look like streaks of light in the night sky – shooting stars. The best time to view is between the hours of midnight and dawn – regardless of your time zone, and in 2015, the first quarter moon sets in the late evening or near midnight on October 20, leaving the morning hours dark for meteor watching. The radiant point for the Orionids is in the direction of the constellation Orion the Hunter.  Also, in the predawn and dawn sky, look for Sirius, the sky’s brightest star. And the planets Venus and Jupiter are also very bright – brighter than Sirius – and visible in the sky before dawn.  via

Fire Extinguished by Fire

An astronomer floating off the Florida Keys

sees a dark heaven illuminated by skyrockets

that seem to be falling upon him.

Launched from Leo that November 12, 1799,

extinguished by the greater fire of daybreak.

The first recorded observance of a meteor shower in North America was by Andrew Ellicott Douglass . He was an American astronomer who was on a ship off the Florida Keys in 1799. He described the Leonids meteor shower, which occurs every November. The shower gets its name from the fact that it seems to originate in the constellation Leo, and it’s the result of debris from a comet known as Tempel-Tuttle. When the comet’s orbit takes it back to that part of the solar system — roughly every 33 years — the Leonids are especially spectacular.

Rosetta (Rašīd)

After chasing a comet for a decade,

this space voyager will try to land,

resting on ancient stone, dust and ice,

dissolving as it journeys toward the Sun,

leaving a tail for us to translate.


The Rosetta Stone with its ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, demotic and Greek script (British Museum)  It was named for the city in Egypt, Rosette or Rosetta (“little rose”), where it was found. That name is a corruption of the city’s Arabic name. Rašīd, which means “guide” and is a far better name for both the stone and the spacecraft following the comet.

You can watch Rosetta live from 9-11:30 a.m. on Wednesday November 12 EST for its scheduled landing of a probe on a comet.