Last minute Halloween thoughts from NASA

NASA poster image
NASA poster image

Granted that not everything spooky is on planet Earth but who knew the folks at NASA would find an unusual way to celebrate Halloween.

Check out their galaxy of horrors and solar sounds.

Galaxy of Horrors

It has, among other spaces and places, a Galactic Graveyard, Dark Matter section Zombie Gamma Ray Ghouls, Monster Mash and Zombie Worlds. Visit them, if you dare.

Sinister Sounds of the Solar System

While you welcome ghoulish guests to your earthly domain you may want to play some of these noises that have been gathered from space.

Enjoy

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

Comet Halley meteor shower

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

Debris from Comet Halley appears twice during the year. Back in May we had the Eta Aquarids. Now, in October, are the Orionids.

In 2020, this meteor shower peaks shortly before dawn Oct. 21. But you can check the sky again in the early hours before dawn of the following morning.

The moon, in its waxing crescent phase, will have already set so won’t be a light problem..

Look for Orion the Hunter’s Club for the showers’ radiant point.

For more information visit EarthSky/Orionids.

Also check out October Meteor Showers.

 

Open House Chicago becomes a travel experience in person or from home

Pui Tok Center Chinatown. (Photo courtesy of Flicker Acct Jasmeet)
Pui Tok Center Chinatown. (Photo courtesy of Flicker Acct Jasmeet)

Typically, Open House Chicago is a visit in-person experience that involves entering historic and interesting places in and around Chicago.

In 2020, the year of Covid, places of architectural and historic significance are visited outside on mapped trails and sites or virtually thanks to  a beautifully constructed app made available through the Chicago Architecture Center.

You could but don’t have to journey to Chicago by plane, train or auto. The app allows anyone, anywhere, to visit the places, hear narrations, read  about historic sites and see what they look like inside and out.

Be warned, once started on this journey it becomes addictive. However, it only lasts 10 days, from Oct. 16 through Oct. 25, so better start now before the experience is gone.

Givins Castle in Beverly (Photo by Eric Allix Rogers)
Givins Castle in Beverly (Photo by Eric Allix Rogers)

What to expect

The app includes explorations of more than 20 Chicago neighborhoods, ranging from Oak Park, Lincoln Park, Wicker Park, Rogers Park and Hyde Park to Bronzeville, Chinatown, Pullman, Beverly and Evanston.

If you are  interested in Open House Chicago, you likely already know that Oak Park is home to several structures designed by famed architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright and George Maher. The Neighborhood section not only takes you there but it also has a trail to follow.

In Oak Park, it is the Frank Lloyd Wright; Portrait of a Young Architect Trail of seven houses he designed early in his career.. Click on the speaker to narration about the house by Adam Rubin, Chicago Architecture Foundation’s director of interpretation

In the Pullman neighborhood built by George Pullman to house his workers, you learn that its history is important from a labor and urban planning standpoint and you visit its Queen Anne Style Hotel Florence, an Illinois State Historic site.

Then check out the Tied Houses on the Pullman Trail that include the Schlitz Row Brewery Stable.

In the Evanston neighborhood, the “explore like a local” section takes you to the Mitchelll Museum of the American Indian in Evanston and the Illinois Holocaust Museum  in Skokie.

You may get the idea that you can become addicted to the app’s explorations.  But for a  good demo of how it all works go to zoom/rec/play. And if interested in public programs visit Programs.

There are so many choices of how to explore the city and environs that Open House Chicago really is a travel experience.

Enjoy!

 

 

Full moon for harvest or scary night

Full moon seen in Chicago. ( J Jacobs photo)
Full moon seen in Chicago. ( J Jacobs photo)

October 2020 begins and ends with special full moons.

The month begins with a full moon Oct. 1-2. In the Northern Hemisphere it is known as the Harvest Moon because it is the closest full moon to the fall equinox which in 2020 was Sept. 22.

That makes it special because even though moonrise is later each day by 50 minutes the full moon near the fall equinox takes less time to rise so there is more moonlight. For farmers that means more light to harvest crops.

Because the seasons are just the opposite in the Southern Hemisphere, the Harvest Moon comes in March or April.

But unlike most months, October 2020 has another full moon. That phrase once in a blue moon means that rare occasion when the moon phases complete twice in the same month.

Because October began with a full moon, the phases complete their cycle with a full moon on Oct. 31, 2020. Right. Halloween. Spooky!

For more full moon information visit Earthsky, Timeanddate, NASASpaceplace and Space.com.

 

 

 

Early to rise catches the Perseids

 

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

Check the weather predictions in your area for Aug. 11-13. That is when the Perseids are supposed to be peaking with bright meteors shooting across the sky at 50 to 100 an hour.

Best time, say the experts, is in the northern hemisphere right before dawn, so also check  the sunrise times for your area.

Because these meteors are bright, plentiful and have long tails, the largish waning crescent moon might not be much of a hindrance the night of Aug. 11. By Aug 13 the moon will be thinner though there may be fewer meteors.to spot.

So where do they come from?

The Perseids are debris from the 109P/Swift-Tuttle comet. They are called Perseids because they look like they emanate (their radiant) from the Perseus constellation as the Earth moves through their trail each summer.

The comet’s name comes from Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle who discovered it in 1862.

For more Perseid meteor shower information visit Time and Date, NASA and EarthSky.

 

Related: Falling Star Alerts

 

Travel to Mars with NASA

 

A compilation of images from Viking Orbiter NASA/JPL-Caltech)
A compilation of images from Viking Orbiter NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Visiting Mars may not be far off.

Although there are already rovers and items that have landed, orbited and explored Mars, a new rover is about to take off for the red planet.

Earthlings can watch NASA’s Perseverance Rover launch July 30, 2020.

Register to join the countdown so the launch isn’t missed.

The rover will arrive on Mars Feb. 18, 2021.

Its mission is to seek ancient life and prepare for human exploration.

For more launch information visit NASA Virtual Guest.

For more NASA and Mars robotic and planet info visit NASA Mars.

 

Falling star alerts

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

Sky watchers have two meteor showers to spot the rest of July and much of August: the Delta Aquariids and the Perseids.

Although the Aquariids, a sparse shower of about 20 meteors per hour, are best seen in the Southern Hemisphere they can be spotted as far north as the mid-northern latitudes. Just watch for them after the moon sets around midnight this weekend until just before dawn, July 27-28. However, the moon, which is in its first quarter isn’t much of a factor.

The comet of origin is suspected to be 96P Machholz. Named for where they seem to come from, the radiant is the Aquarius Constellation in the southern sky.

Because the Aquariids continue through late August, you may see them when you watch for the Perseids that peak Aug. 11-13.

You will know which is which because the Perseids, a strong shower of up to 150 meteors per hour during its peak, come from the northern part of the sky where you find the Perseus Constellation. The comet of origin is 109P Swift-Tuttle.

If watching for the Aquariids this weekend, you may also see the Perseids because they are very bright and already started about July 17. However, they don’t peak until about the second week of August when the moon will also be bright.

For more meteor shower information visit NASA, Time and Date and Earth Sky.

 

 

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.