Meteor shower and more

 

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

Look up to take your mind off 2020 politics and pandemic that still plague us on earth. The sky is endlessly interesting with bright planets such as Venus in the early morning eastern sky and Saturn and Jupiter still a cozy couple in the early twilit southwestern sky.

Now, add to the mix the Quadrantids, an annual meteor shower that has been known to send out from 50 to 100 fireballs an hour. Associated with asteroid 2003 EH1, the Quadrantids were named for the defunct constellation Quadrans Muralis.

The good news in 2021 is that the Quadrantids peak early morning before sunrise Jan. 3. Because sunrise at this time of year in the northern hemisphere is shortly after 7 a.m., the Quadrantids peak time of around 6 a.m. means you don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to catch them.

Best plan is to let your eyes acclimate to the darkish sky and look northeast where their radiant (place of origin) will be ascending.

The bad news in 2021 is that the full moon ending 2020 on Dec. 29 (into early morning Dec. 30) is only in its waning gibbous phase. That means the bright, nearly full orb of 81 % illumination, still high in the sky, can outshine the meteor lights.

If you miss the Quadrantids, mark the calendar for the Lyrids meteor shower that peaks April 21-22.

BTW – next three full moons are the Wolf Moon/Old Moon, Moon After Yule on Jan. 28; the Snow Moon/Hunger Moon on Feb. 27 and the Crow Moon/ Lenten Moon/Worm Moon on March 28.

For more meteor shower info visit TimeandDate, Space and EarthSky.

 

 

 

 

 

Long Night Moon

 

Full moon over Chicago (J Jacobs photo)
Full moon over Chicago (J Jacobs photo)

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere and thought you didn’t need street lights to meander outside last night, you will have the same brightness tonight  – unless you are in or around Chicago’s expected first big snowfall.

The bright light is thanks to the Long Night Moon, a full moon also called the Cold Moon, it shines from dusk to dawn.

Considered by some as the last full moon of the decade, it will be at its fullest at 9:28 CT Dec. 29, 2020. But because it is still lighting the sky after midnight it might be on some calendars as Dec. 30.

Other sky watchers consider Dec. 12, 2019 the last full moon of the decade.

For more full moon info check EarthSky, NASA, TimeandDate and Farmers Almanac.

 

 

Jupiter and Saturn and meteors oh my

Graphic made from a simulation program, showing a view of the 2020 great conjunction through the naked eye just after sunset (NASA photo)
Graphic made from a simulation program, showing a view of the 2020 great conjunction through the naked eye just after sunset.  (NASA photo)

We, in the Northern Hemisphere, may hate that nights leading up to the Winter Solstice Dec. 21, 2020 have gotten longer. But this year the darkness is a bonus.

Because, shortly after the sun sets, Monday, Dec. 21, sky watchers should be able to see two of our planets, Jupiter and Saturn, closer to each other’s orbits then they will be for years.

In addition, staying darker longer also means being able to watch the Ursid Meteor shower which peaks Dec. 21 and what’s left of the Geminids early Monday (or Tuesday) morning.

(BTW, even though the Winter Solstice has the shortest amount of daylight, the earliest sunset already occurred and the latest sunrise is still a few days off. See what your sunrise and set times are.

Prime time to see the two planets at their closest is 4:15 p.m. CST Monday, low in the southwest. But you can see them fairly close to each other through December.

What regular sky watchers know is that the two planets do pass near each other every 20 years as they last did in 2000. The difference this year is that their orbits bring them 10 times closer than in 2000.

Indeed, they will be closer than they have been seen at night than in 800 years and closer during the day in 400 years. Seen together as a “great conjunction,” they may resemble one large  or elongated planet or star.

As for the meteors, the Ursids which shoot across the sky seemingly radiating from Ursa Minor about 10 meteors per hour, aren’t as plentiful as the Geminids. However, both can be seen Dec. 20-22. The Ursid comet parent is 8P/Tuttle.

 

 

Best meteor shower this year

 

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

Look up early, early morning after midnight, Sunday, Dec. 13 or Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. The Geminids will be flying across the sky.

Considered the best meteor shower of the year, the Geminids turn out about 120 meteors per hour.

Fortunately the moon, now in its new phase, won’t be a factor. But weather, at least in the Chicago area, is.

However, the Geminids whose radiant is the bright Castor star in the constellation Gemini (The Twins), can be seen in both hemispheres. Its parent is 3200 Phaethon.

Best viewing is away from street and commercial lights so consider bringing a friend to keep you company.

For more information visit NASA Solar System Exploration, TimeandDate, and EarthSky.

 

 

 

Watch for ‘shooting stars’

 

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

Look up Nov. 16 about midnight.

The Leonids, the debris from Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, will be shooting across the sky at about 15 meteors per hour. They will be traveling at about 44 miles per second.

You probably can catch sight of a few of these “shooting stars” because they are bright and light from the moon won’t be a factor. The moon will be in its waxing crescent phase and sets early evening.

These meteors are called Leonids because the radiant (point in the sky where the meteors seem to come from) is in the constellation Leo.

Also, put the Geminids on the calendar for a sky watch Dec. 13-1, 2020.

For more information visit Earthsky, TimeandDate and NASA.

 

 

Watch NASA mission conference and liftoff

 

First four person crew to International Space Station (NASA photo)
First four person crew to International Space Station (NASA photo)

NASA countdown to Space X’s Crew Dragon is happening now, Nov. 13, 2020

For the press conference with administrator Jim Bridenstine and officials from NASA and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency go to NASA YouTube watch.

For the countdown on Nov. 14 Go to NASA You Tube FLA. Watch the first (this mission has many firsts) crew rotation flight by a U. S. Commercial spacecraft to the International Space Station.

This is the first four person-crew in a capsule and commercial flight. Crew members are NASA astronauts Michael Hopkin, the Crew Dragon commander, pilot Victor Glover and mission specialist Shannon Walker plus JAXA mission specialist astronaut Soichi Noguchi.

Liftoff is 7:49 p.m. EST from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39 A in Florida.

The mission will be six months. Other firsts include Walker as the first woman on a commercial orbital mission, Noguchi8 as the first international partner astronaught to fly on three types of orbital spacecraft.

For more information visit NASA.GOV/crew and NASA invites you to launch America.

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!

 

 

October meteor showers

 

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

The Harvest Moon that appeared Oct. 1-2 pulled out cell phones to snap its full golden beauty. But there’s more to come in October for the casual sky watcher.

The Draconids, a meteor shower that may be spotted zooming overhead in the Northern Hemisphere Oct. 6-10, peaks Oct. 7-8.

The good news is watchers don’t have to wait until midnight and later because this meteor shower typically is seen in early evening. Plus, the moonlight won’t be a factor because the earth’s “nightlight” is in its gibbous waning phase and won’t be rising until later in the evening.

The sort of bad news is that the Draconids, at about five meteors per hour, are seldom prolific. Watchers may see just a few or get lucky as people in Europe did in 2018 and catch this meteor shower in one of its boom years.

The Draconids are called that because they seem to emanate from Draco the Dragon constellation above the Little Dipper. Look for them in the northwestern sky. The parent comet is 21P/Giacobini-Zinner.

But as, tv ads say, wait. A slightly more prolific meteor shower is coming soon and can be seen in both hemispheres.

The Orionids that tend to have 10 to 20 meteors per hour, will be peaking Oct. 20-22 just before dawn after a crescent moon sets. So the sky should be dark enough to see the meteors.  However, the Orionids also can be blazingly bright so even in an unfavorable moonlit sky they can be seen.

Look to the club of the Orion the Hunter constellation that gives these meteors their name. The parent comet is IP/Halley making the Orionids the comet’s second meteor shower in a year. The first was the Eta Aquarids that came in May.

For more meteor information visit EarthSky, MeteorGuide, NASA /asteroidscometsmeteors and Space.