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.
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.
Don’t bother calling NASA or the local police if you see a fireball during pre-dawn hours this weekend through Monday.
The Perseid meteors are already zooming across the sky but they peak after midnight from August 12 to 13.
This year, 2018, the meteors should be easily seen because the moon is in its new phase Aug. 11, and only a mere waxing crescent Aug. 12 and 13 (Sunday-Monday) which means its illumination is too low to interfere with shining meteors streaking overhead.
However, to best spot them, seek out areas away from street and commercial lights, oh, and be patient. There should be 60 to 70 meteors flying overhead per hour.
The Perseids are pieces from the Comet Swift-Tuttle that we can view when the earth passes through its path. Although it does so mid-summer from July 17 to Aug. 24, the densest pass-through is Aug. 12.
As to fireballs, NASA experts say the Perseids have more than other big meteor showers. For more NASA meteor information visit NASA Perseids.
Look up at night or just before dawn. You might see a meteorite zooming across the sky from now through mid August.
The Delta Aquarid meteor shower which peaks July 28 is best viewed in the Southern Hemisphere but you might see a flash of light looking south. This week is fairly good to sky watch because there is a waxing crescent (just a sliver of a moon).
In addition, the Northern Hemisphere’s popular Perseid meteor shower that peaks Aug. 12/13 in 2017, has already started so you might catch one of its meteorites almost anywhere in the sky.
Unfortunately for Perseid watchers, following a full moon Aug. 7, there will be a waning gibbous moon with about 77 percent illumination Aug. 12 and 67 percent illumination Aug. 13, so the moonlight will make it harder to pick up the meteorites. The Perseids can still be seen though there are fewer of them during the next waxing moon Aug. 16-18.
The Delta Aquarids and Perseids
The Aquarids are named for Skat, a star whose Greek name is Delta Aquarid. The star is below the Great Square of Pegasus in the Piscis Austrinus constellation. For more Aquarids info and a meteor shower calendar click on Earth Sky.
The Perseids go all over the sky but radiate from the Perseus constellation. They are coming from the Swift-Tuttle comet. You see them when Earth crosses its orbit. Visit NASA and Meteors for NASA’s Perseid information
Space events April 16 to 23 make this is a good week to link to NASA and look up.
If “Hidden Figures” rekindled interest in NASA, its launches and its people, now is prime time to see what’s happening.
Beginning at 10 a.m. CT today, April 18, NASA is launching Orbital ATK CRS-7, a cargo mission to resupply the Space Station. Click here for more information and to watch it.
Secondly, very early in the morning of April 20 at 2:13 a.m. CT is the launch of the Expedition 51 crew to the Space Station. Visit launch for information on the Expedition 51 crew and how to watch it on TV.
Then, during the predawn hours of April 22 , look up to the north east to spy meteors streaking across the sky. They are the Lyrids which are debris from Comet C-1861 G1 Thatcher near the bright Vega star. Vega is in the Lyra Constellation.
The Lyrids actually began Sunday, April 16 but they peak early Saturday after Vega is high in the sky well after midnight.
Considered the oldest observable shower, it was first noted more than 2,600 years ago.
Look up. If your sky is clear tonight and before dawn the next few nights you might see a shooting star. Except it won’t be a star it will be a meteorite. Now is when two meteor showers are putting on a show.
Delta Aquarid is going on now. It is not a major meteorite display but it overlaps the beginning of the Perseid shower.
The Perseids peak mid-August with about 100 meteorites per hour seen about Aug. 11-12 in 2016. Delta peaks this weekend with about 20 meteorites per hour.
Perseids seem to come from the Perseus constellation, thus their name. Actually they are debris from the Swift-Tuttle comet. Look for them in the northeastern sky of the northern hemisphere.
A good site to hear about Perseus is at NASA Science News even though the broadcast is from 2014 and includes that year’s august Super Moon, it is fun to watch and hear. NASA.gov also has more meteorite showers and info.
Tips: The best way to watch for meteorites is to find a spot away from city lights such as the banks of a lake or in a field or park. Early morning before dawn is usually just as good as late night. Be patient and bring a chair or blanket.