Catch the Lyrids streaking across the sky

 

Meteor showers happen when Earth is in a comet's orbital path and comet debris fly across the sky. (NASA photo)
Meteor showers happen when Earth is in a comet’s orbital path and comet debris fly across the sky. (NASA photo)

Instead of merely staying inside late tonight or tomorrow night (actually very early Tuesday or Wednesday morning), find a spot outside your abode to catch the Lyrid meteor shower while it peaks April 21-22, 2020.

Meteor enthusiasts have been watching the Lyrids for centuries. Among the oldest recorded meteor shower, it was supposedly first noticed 2,900 years ago.

The timing this year is perfect because the moon won’t be interfering as it is in its new phase April 20 and will be just a thin crescent April 22.

Most sky watching sites suggest dressing warm and lying down in or on a sleeping bag with feet pointing east, then looking up and letting the eyes adjust to the night sky. This year, experts predict between 10 to 20 meteors per hour during the peak.

What may help is that the Lyrids are bright and have a long tail of dust. But they are also fast at 30 miles per second.

The shower is called the Lyrids because the meteors appear to radiate from  the Lyra the Harp constellation near the bright Vega star.

What you are seeing is debris  that has crossed the earth’s orbit from the Thatcher comet. The comet, itself, take about 415 years to orbit around the Sun so earthling won’t be able to see that comet again until 2276.

To learn more about the Lyrids and meteors visit NASA, TimeandDate, EarthSky and Space.

 

Supermoon tonight

Supermoon seen in Chicago. ( J Jacobs photo)
Supermoon seen in Chicago. ( J Jacobs photo)

The largest looking full moon, a really supermoon of 2020 will be brightening your neighborhood tonight if the sky isn’t cloudy where you are.

The reason we say that largest looking  is that its size is an optical illusion. The moon looks larger because its orbit brings it closer.

For April 7, he moon’s closest orbital point to earth, called the perigee, has coincided with the moon’s full phase and will be closest at 10:35 p.m. EDT.

Super and even just full moons have been given lots of nicknames. The April  one is often called the “Pink” moon. The Pink moon will look almost as good the evenings of April 6 and April 8, if the sky is clear.

If weather isn’t cooperating mark the calendar for May 7 for the “Flower” super full moon. Just think of the overused but usually true adage of April rain bringing May flowers.

For a fun look at the night sky and the moon visit Space/fullmoon/calendar because it has an interesting video from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The next closest moons will be in the new moon phase which doesn’t reflect the sun. They come the middle of September, October and November. However, the full moon Oct. 1 is the Harvest Moon and Oct. 31 has the Blue Moon, as in the saying “once in a blue moon” because there will be two full moons in one month

Related 2020 article: Super March Monday is about moons

Related 2019 article: March supermoon marks spring

 

Super March Monday is about moons

Supermoon seen in Chicago. ( J Jacobs photo)
Supermoon seen in Chicago. ( J Jacobs photo)

Yes if you saw a mostly full moon Saturday night it did appear larger and brighter than usual. It was your first glimpse of the first 2020 supermoon which is at its fullest on Monday, March 9 at 1:48 p.m. EDT. However, it’s fine to look for it Sunday night.

The reason it looks larger is because its elliptical course brings it closer to earth on March 9.. The close point is called the perigee as opposed to the far point which is the apogee.

At 222.081 miles from earth it looms large but the next full moon an April 8 will be even closer at 221,851 miles.

This March supermoon has several nicknames including the “Worm Moon” because worms are said to begin to come out of the soil about this time.

For more information about supermoons visit NASA/supermoon and Space.

Other good astronomy information sites include EarthSky or Time and Date and Almanac.

Snow sculptors face off in Lake Geneva

 

Snow Sculpting Championship, in Lake Geneva, WI. (Chamber of Commerce photo 2019)
Snow Sculpting Championship, in Lake Geneva, WI. (Chamber of Commerce photo 2019)

To see some the country’s best snow sculptures and vote for your favorite, drive up to Lake Geneva, just over the Illinois border into Wisconsin on Hwy 50, this weekend.

Fifteen award-winning teams from across the United States are competing in the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championship for the national title, this week.

They start work midweek when snow is delivered to their stations in the Riviera Plaza , 812 Wrigley Drive abutting Geneva Lake (Yes, that is the lake’s name).

The teams sculpt their creations through Friday night to be ready for the judging after the “tools down” bell at 11 a.m. Saturday. Visitors can vote for the People’s Choice Award, Saturday until 2 p.m.

The snow sculptures are amazing but also stay to see ice sculptures in town. Youngsters may want to stop at a children’s tent at 201 Wrigley Dr. in Flat Iron Park where there are games and the Boy Scouts are selling cider donuts and hot dogs.

Visitors who stay over Saturday will want to see the free Laser Light Show on the ski slopes of the Grand Geneva Resort, just south of the downtown at WI7036 Grand Geneva Way.

The light show goes from 8:30 to 10 p.m. For more information call (312) 218-3848 or visit Laser fusion shows.

For more Winterfest events visit Lake Geneva/Winterfest.

 

Quadrantid meteor shower here then gone

Meteor Shower photo courtesy of NASA
Meteor Shower photo courtesy of NASA

If you are north in the northern hemisphere and don’t have a cloudy or rainy night, look up after midnight after the waxing gibbous moon sets to catch the Quadrantid Meteor Shower.

The Quadrantids typically send out 25 meteorites an hour during its peak time which in 2020 is very early in the a.m. Jan. 4 and go on for a very short duration. For Central Time watchers best viewing after the moon sets would be about 2 a.m.

Where to look

Look northeast. Find the Big Dipper then look down to Arcturus, a giant red star at the bottom of the Bootes Constellation. Scientists say it is best to then look just slightly away from it to catch the long tails of the Quadrantids.

What are the Quadrantids

They are considered to come from the asteroid 2003 EHI which may have been a comet or a part of one.

Where to find more meteor shower information

The American Meteor Society, around for more than a century, has an easy to understand web site that tells what meteor showers are happening now and in the near future and what the moon phase will be for each of them.

Yes, the moon phase matters. The brightness of a full or nearly full moon makes it harder to see tmeteors flying across the sky.

The American Meteor Society, around for more than a century, has an easy to understand web site, tells when the next meteor shower is coming and what the moon phase will be then. Yes the moon does matter. The brightness of a full and even half moon, make it harder to see meteors flying across the sky.

Other good sky info can be found at Space, Time and Date, NASA and EarthSky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Geminids meteor shower is here

Meteor Shower photo courtesy of NASA
Meteor Shower photo courtesy of NASA

Stay up and look up for the late, late light show . It’s the Geminid meteor shower happening now. So think about where you can go to watch without interference from stores and street lights.

The annual spectacular night show (120 meteors per hour) peaks about 2 a.m. so that really means staying up very late, tonight, Dec. 12 into very, very early tomorrow morning or very late Friday Dec. 13 into very, very early Saturday a.m.

The problem this year, 2019, is the full moon. We’re always talking about finding a spot away from city and street lights. But have no suggestion for dimming down moon light.

However, maybe you will get lucky and a cloud will move across the moon. Or turn your back on the moon and watch the sky away from that bright orb. Or try again very late Saturday night, early, early Sunday morning when the moon might still be bright but not quite as full.

Or turn Geminid watching into a party because the more people “star” gazing, the more likely someone will see a meteor.

BTW, the Geminids are not like the other meteor showers in that the meteorites zooming across the sky are not debris from a comet. They are coming from an ancient asteroid called the 3200 Phaethon. Although sometimes it’s called a “rock comet.”

As to the 2 a.m. watching time, the hour is when the constellation Gemini (The Twins), which is the area or radiant point from where the meteors seem to come, has moved high in the sky. It will seem as if the Geminids are coming from Castor, a bright star in the constellation.

There are several good sky watching resources. To learn more about meteors and the Geminids visit NASA, Space, Time and Date and EarthSky. Also see YouTube.

Jodie Jacobs

 

Leonid meteor shower peaks this weekend

Meteor Shower photo courtesy of NASA
Meteor Shower photo courtesy of NASA

 

Look up late at night or before dawn this weekend to “catch” a “falling star.”

The earth crosses the Tempel-Tuttle Comet 55P orbit during November but in 2019 the peak times to see its meteor debris is from Nov. 16 through 18.

No star gazing instruments needed, just a spot away from street and commercial lights.

However, the full moon was just a few days ago on Nov. 13 so the sky will still seem bright with the waning gibbous phase as it moves into its last quarter Nov. 18.

Also needed is patience. Although the Leonids have produced tremendous meteor showers in some years, this year a mere 10 to 15 meteors are predicted per hour.

For more good meteor information visit EarthSky, Space and Time and Date.

 

 

 

Look for Orionid meteors

Meteor Shower photo courtesy of NASA
Meteor Shower photo courtesy of NASA

Look up! If the night sky is clear where you live watch for the Oronids, a major meteor shower produced by the debris from Halley’s comet.

Named for Orion the Hunter because the meteors seem to radiate from the constellation, the Orionids have been already shooting across the sky and will do so into November. But they are peaking now through Oct. 22.

They have been known to shoot across the sky at 80 an hour but according to Bill Cooke a NASA they are likely to number from 30 to 40 per hour. They are very fast 148,000 mph so watch carefully.

The question is how much a factor is the moon which has waned to its half-phase. The full Hunters Moon has already passed but moonlight may make a difference. However, go to a spot without streetlights and commercial buildings. You won’t want binoculars because you are watching the whole sky.

Several astronomy sites have good charts and information on meteors. Take a look at Time and Date, Space and EarthySky.

Summer night sky watch

Meteor shower photo courtesy of NASA
Meteor shower photo courtesy of NASA

Get the blanket, maybe a couple of muchies, add friends and family and settle in for a meteor-gazing party. No telescope needed.

The Delta Aquarids have been shooting across the sky since mid-July and continue to mid-August but now is a good time to watch for them because moonlight won’t interfere.

Continue reading “Summer night sky watch”

Meteorites fly very early May 6

 

Meteor showers happen when Earth is in a comet's orbital path and comet debris fly across the sky. (NASA photo)
Meteor showers happen when Earth is in a comet’s orbital path and comet debris fly across the sky. (NASA photo)

If looking up before dawn Sunday, May 6, 2019 you may “catch” a falling star, except it really would be one of the Eta Aquarids meteorites.

Between 30 to 50 of these meteorites, seemingly shooting from a poin(the radiant) just north of Aquarius, is a shower of debris from the Halley Comet. The second Halley Comet meteor shower is the Orionids which peak about Oct. 20.

Where to look east by south east past (east of) Pegasus north of Aquarius

Need away from street and commercial lights. Should be good viewing, new moon had may 4 so just emerging into first quarter.

A good site to use for meteor showers is Time and Date., https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/meteor-shower/eta-aquarids.html