May meteor watch now and end of month

 

May is continuing to be a month to watch the night skies.

The Eta Aquarid Meteor shower from 1P/Halley that started in April is peaking May 4-6. Between 30 to 50 meteors per hour are expected in the pre-dawn hours. Although they are more visible in the southern hemisphere because their radiant is the southern constellation AquariusTime and Date suggests watching for them about 3 a.m. CDT.

Late in the month, May 30-31, watch for a somewhat more recently-known meteor shower, the Tau Herculids. EarthSky suggests it may be an exciting display this year.

Coming from the parent comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3, (SW3), it was noticed by astronomers  in 1930. Although not bright, it keeps breaking up and has a large amount of debris.

I the weather doesn’t co-operate or you miss either meteor shower and want to know when others are still coming in 2022 visit the Old Farmer’s Almanac Meteor Calendar. It has good-to-know dates and information.

(Meteor photo courtesy of NASA)

 

 

Eyes up for the Lyrids

NASA photo of a meteor shower (Photo courtesy of NASA)
NASA photo of a meteor shower (Photo courtesy of NASA)

Now that April’s full moon is starting to wane moonlight will hopefully not interfere with April’s meteor shower: the Lyrids.

Known for how bright they are and fast they fly across the sky leaving glowing trails of dust, they already began on April 16, but they peak between April 21-23 with between 15 to 20 meteors per hour.

The Lyrids, called that because they seem to come from the constellation Lyra, were first recorded by the Chinese in 687 BC, making them the oldest known meteor shower.

What observers see is debris from the C/1861 G1 Thatcher comet in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres as the comet’s orbit crosses those skies in mid-late April.

Best time to watch is predawn when the moon has set and the sky is still dark. If watching for them, give your eyes a chance to adjust to the night sky and find a spot away from street and highway lights and businesses.

For more information visit NASA at SolarSystem.nasa.gov and EarthSky at Meteor Shower Guide.

 

Best meteor shower

NASA photo of a meteor shower
NASA photo of a meteor shower

 

“Catch a falling star.” That idea shouldn’t be hard the first half of December when the Geminids send about 120 meteors per hour across the sky at its peak.

Although most meteor showers happen when the Earth passes through the debris from comets, the Gemeni meteor shower is debris left by an asteroid called 32 Phaethon.

However, the Geminids, as the shower’s meteors are known, are named for their radiant point in the constellation Gemini where the “Twins,” the bright stars Castor and Pollux, reside. They appear to emanate from Castor which can be found near Pollux.

But this meteor shower can be seen from all directions so don’t worry if you can’t pinpoint the constellation.

The Geminids, considered among the best meteor showers of the year, starts Dec. 3 in 2021. To catch it at its peak, look up the night of Dec. 13 into the early hours of Dec. 14.

Of course, the best viewing area would be away from city and street lights.

Two good Gemini Meteor Shower resources are NASA and NASA Solar System Exploration.

 

Watch the sky this week!

NASA photo of a meteor shower
NASA photo of a meteor shower

Meteor shower. Full moon. Lunar eclipse. Oh my!

The mid-November sky is full of interesting phenomena to see if  you are patient.

First challenge: Watch for the Leonids, a November meteor shower from the Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle debris. The Leonids can be prolific but this year only about 10 to 15 meteors are expected even at its peak Nov. 16-17.

Best time will be early Wednesday morning just before dawn when the waxing gibbous moon, on its way to full moon phase, sets about 4:45 a.m.

Which brings us to the second challenge: a full moon coupled with a lunar eclipse. November’s full moon is the Beaver Moon which in 2021 reaches full phase at 3:59 a.m. Nov. 19 at the height of a nearly full lunar eclipse.

So enjoy its fullness the day before and day after (the moon appears full for three days) because we will also be experiencing the longest lasting lunar eclipse in 580 years.

That’s because the moon will be at its slowest orbital speed at the same time it will be at apogee, the farthest point from the Earth.

Its all about the Earth’s shadow on Nov. 19 when the moon’s position is just about directly opposite the Sun.

In the Midwest you can start to watch the eclipse just after midnight  but it won’t be as noticeable until an hour later.

At the peak of eclipse at 4:02:53 a.m. Eastern Time,  97% of the Moon will be in full shadow.

More about the Beaver Moon  The Old Farmer’s Almanac suggests looking for the full moon after sunset Nov. 18 before its hits peak illumination during the eclipse early Friday morning.  The Almanac has a moonrise and moonset calculator.

Full moons typically take their name from Indian and farming events and seasons. Beavers have been known to have laid up their stock for winter and done building their homes by mid November.

 

 

 

 

Mark geninids on cal for dec13-14

Two comets put on meteor displays in October

 

Meteor shower Photo courtesy of NASA)
Meteor shower (Photo courtesy of NASA)

 

First, watch for the Draconids. They are overhead now but best is to look for them at their peak Oct. 8-9, 2021

Emanating from the debris of comet 21P/Giacobinib-Zinner, the Draconids’ typical output is only about 10 meteors per hour although it famously shot hundreds of meteors across the sky back in 2011 and in 1945.

The good news is that the best time to watch for them is shortly after dark so you don’t have to wait until after midnight.

The meteor shower derives its name from its radiant point near the head of constellation Draco the Dragon in the northern sky.

Then, put the Orionids on your calendar for Oct. 21, 2021. They are the second meteor shower this year to come from comet Halley. It  produced the Eta-Aquarids in May.

Producing about 20 meteors per hour their radiant point is the constellation Orion.

For more info visit Time and Date and Earth Sky.

The Perseid meteor shower is back

 

The Perseids produce more than 40 meteors per hour. (Photo courtesy of NASA)

Put August 11 on your calendar to watch the night sky. The best meteor shower of the year, the Perseids, will be entertaining night sky watchers with at least  40 fireballs an hour when they peak next week. However, they have been known to rack up as many as 100 meteors per hour.

As debris from comet Swift-Tuttle, the Perseid Meteor Shower occurs  annually when earth’s orbit takes it near the comet’s path from the end of July to mid-August. The meteors are already zooming across the sky but in 2021 the peak is Aug. 11-13.

If you like company or have trouble seeing them, tune into NASA which has invited everyone to watch with them. Watch time is Aug. 11-12 from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. CDT on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

If weather is a problem,  there is likely to be a second chance Aug. 12-13. The livestream is hosted by the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

A crescent moon will be setting early so moonlight shouldn’t be a factor. Watch between midnight and  dawn away from city lights. Some folks  stretch out on blankets but if the ground is dewy damp pull out a lawn chair.

Don’t worry if you don’t see any meteors right away. It takes a few minutes to adapt to the night sky. The meteor shower radiant appears to be above Perseus.

Good sky-watching references include Time and Date and Earth and Sky.

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Watch for Lyrid meteors this week

 

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

Assuming the weather cooperates, early risers should have no trouble spotting a fireball zooming across the sky shortly before dawn in the next few days. The Lyrids meteor shower is happening now.

They seem to be shooting out (radiant) from the Lyric constellation just northwest of its bright Vega star. They are debris from the comet Thatcher (C/1861 G1), first noted more than 2,500 years ago.

The best days to look for them are April 21-22 when the Lyrids are expected to peak at about 18 meteors an hour. Pre dawn is the best time to watch because the moon is waxing gibbous so its illumination won’t be a factor after it sets.

For the time to watch in your zone visit Time and Date. For more information on where to look visit Space which has a map to help find the radiant. For more basic meteor and Lyrid information visit NASA Lyrids.

 

Unusual night sky occurrences

Skychart showing the location of Comet C/2020 F3 just after sunset, July 15 through 23. (NASA/JPL-Caltech photo)
Skychart showing the location of Comet C/2020 F3 just after sunset, July 15 through 23. (NASA/JPL-Caltech photo)

The weekend of July 17 will be a great time to check out the night sky.

The NEOWISE Comet (C/2020 F3) can be seen zooming across northern United States and Canada after sunset. Watch for it now because it won’t be back for thousands of years. Tip: Look for the Big Dipper. Start with binoculars to first see the comet below the Big Dipper but then try unaided.

For more information visit NASA/Skywatchingtips  and EarthSky/neowise .

But also try to spot the planets. The schedule of when they first appear this weekend goes from late night July 17 through early July 18. Being able to see all seven planets over two days is a rare occurrence.

For more information visit Time and Date/night.