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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Lunar eclipse happenings

NASA photo of a lunar eclipse June 15, 2011. (Photo courtesy of NASA)
NASA photo of a lunar eclipse June 15, 2011. (Photo courtesy of NASA)

Look up the night of Jan 20 into morning of Jan 21. You won’t need a telescope or special glasses. It’s a “Supermoon,” “Wolfmoon,” “Bloodmoon. Ooh, it’s disappearing.

 

Eclipse Times

About midnight, CT, the full moon will have fully moved in its orbit between the earth and the sun. so it won’t be reflecting the sun’s rays. The total eclipse will last a long time – an hour.

The Adler Planetarium site lists Central Times for when it begins and happens as partial eclipse starting at 9:34 pm, and total eclipse from 10:41 to 11:43 pm, Jan. 20. Then watch as the moon emerges from behind the earth Jan.l 21.

In Universal Time the eclipse will last almost 3½ hours from the beginning of the partial phase at 3:34 UT until it ends at 6:51 UT. Totality lasts 63 minutes, from 4:41 to 5:44 UT.

 

Moon Names

So why “Supermoon?” “The moon’s orbit is not a perfect circle,” said Adler Director of Public Observing Michelle Nichols. “Sometimes it is closer to earth so it looks larger,” Nichols said. She noted that the closest it will come near the eclipse will be during the day of Jan. 21 at 1:59 p.m. She calls the appearance of the rising moon seeming to loom large, “an optical illusion.”

She suggested viewers use the thumb test. “Put an arm straight out and cover the moon with your thumb. Then, do it again later when the moon is over head. It will be the same size.”

“Bloodmoon” is a term describing the moon’s color during total eclipse. “Sometimes it looks brick red, sometimes grayish. The sunlight is reflecting at the edge of the earth. The earth has blotted out the blue of the sun so sometimes it could be reddish sometimes grayish. It also depends on how dusty the earth’s atmosphere is,” Nichols said.

“Wolfmoon” is a term for the first full moon of the year, acquired over the years similar to Harvest Moon and Hunter Moon. It also has other names such as Ice Moon according to Time and Date

which explains that people often named the full moons according to the seasons and the phenomena they associated with its time of year.

 

Where to Watch

View outside your abode. See it happening inside on a live stream at Time and Date Live which will be streaming the event on its site.

But to appreciate and enjoy the lunar eclipse with astronomers go over to the Adler for “Lunapalooza.”  The outside observing part is free. Inside events, adults $12, children $8 (members free) include seeing the new Adler show “Imagine the Moon” which charts how people considered the moon over the centuries. Lunar eclipse

 

More Sky and Eclipse Information

These sites have charts, photos and lots of good astronomy information: Time and Date, Earth and Sky, Sky and Telescope and Space.