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

 

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.

 

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

 

 

Lyrid Meteor shower

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 lucky enough to be in a part of North America not covered by clouds tonight look up.

The Lyrid Meteor Shower has been going on up above since April 16 while we have been going on with other business.

But it peaks from April 21 to April 23 with about 20 meteors zooming across the sky each hour.

What you need is to be away from street and building lights and look northeast after 10 p.m. or get up early while it’s still dark outside.

The Lyrids, the debris left by the comet thatcher, was named for its radiant point near the very bight Vega Star.

It is among the first meteor showers ever recorded according to old Chinese documents.  The comet, itself, is expected to be seen again in 2276.

Good meteor shower references can be found at Time and Date, Space and Earth and Sky.

 

Jodie Jacobs