Look up for the best meteor shower this year

Perseid Meteor Shower peaks August 12 and 13 in 2018. (NASA photo)
Perseid Meteor Shower peaks August 12 and 13 in 2018. (NASA photo)

 

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.

Another good meteor information site is Earthsky.

Happy watching

Jodie Jacobs

 

The Draconids are here whether you see them or not

 

Look up tonight, Oct. 7 and tomorrow Oct, 8 to try to catch the Draconid meteor shower.

Typically this meteor shower does not fill the sky with what some folks call “shooting stars” but some years it can be spectacular.

Meteor shower. (NASA photo)
Meteor shower. (NASA photo)

The meteors emanate from the Draco the Dragon constellation.

Sky watchers know it was fun to see in 2011 when more than 600 meteors shot out from the Dragon per hour.

Watch for them after the sun sets.

However, if clouds don’t interfere then the light from the waning gibbous moon, still about 75 percent glowing following the very recent full harvest moon, might make the meteors harder to see.

Best plan is to go somewhere without street or city lights as soon as suitably dark, then look north.

The later it is in the night when the moon is high and bright, the harder it will be to catch a “falling star.”

The Draconid meteors, also called the Giacobinids, happen when the Earth’s orbit has it colliding with debris from the comet 21 P/ Giacobini-Zinner.

The comet’s orbit is 6.5 years long so this year may be the next good year since 2011.

To learn more about the Draconids vist Earthsky.  To learn more about meteors and how to watch them visit NASA.

Good luck

 

 

 

 

See Harvest Moon on Thursday

Watch for Harvest Moon. (Jodie Jacobs photo
Watch for Harvest Moon. (Jodie Jacobs photo

If in Chicago, rain or cloudy skies may prevent you from seeing the Harvest Moon Oct. 5, but if you are elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere you should be able to see what looks like a large, orangey-toned impressive orb. (The moon also looked impressive Chicago Oct. 4 when the weather cleared).

It’s dubbed the Harvest Moon because it is the full moon closest to the autumn equinox when farmers enjoy more moonlight to finish harvesting their crops.

That’s because even though the moon typically rises 50 minutes later each fall and winter day, the moon’s orbital path is narrower in the Northern Hemisphere near the autumn equinox. That orbit makes it rise only about 35 minutes later each day.

BTW, the orange color is noticed when seeing the moon through the Earth’s atmosphere near the horizon. The moon also looks larger from that angle.

For more info please visit Earth Sky or Almanac or Science NASA.

 

 

 

 

Save eclipse glasses for next big solar event

 

The next time a total solar eclipse crosses the United States isn’t that far off. It’s April 8, 2024

Floor map of eclipse paths at the Adler Planetarium. Jodie Jacobs photos
Floor map of eclipse paths at the Adler Planetarium. Jodie Jacobs photos

If you didn’t have a chance to experience totality on Aug. 21, 2017 you might want to plan where you want to see it next time. Even if you don’t go you might know someone who will. So save those eclipse glasses if lucky enough to have a pair.

Carbondale, IL will again be dead center when the eclipse path crosses the United States. But the path of the 2024 total solar eclipse will cut the opposite direction. It will go from Mexico in the southwest to Maine in the northeast as it moves across Texas, Arkansas, Indiana, Ohio, New York and Vermont.

Consider then, taking a spring vacation in Austin or Dallas Texas, Indianapolis, Toledo or Cleveland, Ohio or the Buffalo, Niagara Falls area or even Montreal. Chicago won’t be in the direct total solar eclipse path until Sept. 14, 2099.

To go now to walk across the map visit Adler Planetarium’s “Chasing Eclipses” exhibit. It has a terrific floor map of the total solar eclipse path for 2017, 2024 and 2099.

The Adler also has a total solar eclipse experience at one end of the exhibit complete with cooler air, expected sounds and a good visual eclipse.

 

Why experience totality

The following quote from Adler Astronomer Larry Ciupik, the Doane Observatory director,  describes what he saw in Capo San Lucas, Mexico July 1991.

“It didn’t matter how much I knew about it or prepared for it, my first total solar eclipse was unexpected and unlike anything I’ve ever seen!” Ciupik said on an Adler web site.

He went on to explain. “In the last few seconds before totality, the sky darkened to a deep blue, then purple, and faint wavering lines appeared—shadow bands—whisking across the sand of our beachside site. Suddenly, the Sun itself dramatically changed. I took off my special solar viewing filter and saw what looked like a hole in the sky surrounded by a pearlescent glow. The Sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, resembled outstretched wings several times wider than the hole on each side.”

Also, totality will last longer on its path. It will range from three minutes plus seconds to four minutes plus seconds over most of the United States in April 2024 instead of the two minutes plus seconds it did  in August 2017.  For the 2024 path click here and at Time and Date.

The Adler Planetarium's "Chasing Eclipses" exhibit simulates a total solar eclipse that includes the cooling air and sounds. Jodie Jacobs photos
The Adler Planetarium’s “Chasing Eclipses” exhibit simulates a total solar eclipse that includes the cooling air and sounds. Jodie Jacobs photos

 

Checking locations

To figure the time of the eclipse in the city you want to visit check its latitude and longitude then go to NASA Path.

The information is thanks to NASA and Fred Espenak.  The numbers are in Universal Time so for central daylight time subtract 5 hours and eastern daylight time subtract 4 hours.

Another good resource is Earth Sky. For another map of eclipses see EarthSky Essentials.

 

Adler Exhibit

“Chasing Eclipses”is up now through through Jan. 8, 2018. The Adler Planetarium is on the Museum campus at 1300 South Lake Shore Drive Chicago, IL 60605. For ticket and other information visit Adler Planetarium and call (312) 922-7827.

 

 

 

Where to watch solar eclipse in Metropolitan Chicago

 

Just about everyone in the Chicago area knows that the moon will block out most of the sun midday, Monday,  Aug. 21, 2017.

The different phases of a solar eclipse are on a floor at the Adler Planetarium in'Chasing Eclipses.' Jodies Jacobs photo
The different phases of a solar eclipse are on a floor at the Adler Planetarium in ‘Chasing Eclipses.’ Jodie Jacobs photo

And most of them have heard that they need the certified glasses to watch the event or watch through a hole aimed at the ground where they see the event’s shadow.

Chicago will be in about 87 percent darkness during the height of the eclipse by 1:19 p.m. which is enough to feel the temperature change and that night has come.

So, the question is where to watch. Certainly Chicago’s TV channels, including WGN,  will be broadcasting. But to experience the event with others check the places listed here and your local library, park district, forest preserve district or junior college.

 

 

Adler Planetarium on the Museum campus at 1300 S. Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, provides the best overall experience because along with giving out the proper glasses at no charge, it will have free general admission so visitors can see its “Chasing Eclipses exhibit. The Adler will also have lots of outdoor activities. For details visit Adler Eclipse Fest.

 

Chicago Botanic Garden at 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe, is holding a viewing party from about 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the Esplanade and in the Krasberg Rose Garden. The event includes free solar glasses (one per family while supplies last) that will begin distribution at 10 a.m. There will also be other activities. For details visit Botanic Garden Eclipse.

 

Chicago Park District will host eclipse events at 20 parks and include glasses provided by the Adler Planetarium until they run out. For park locations visit Chicago Park District Eclipse.

 

Chicago Public Library will host viewing events at several branches. For the one nearest you click CPL Events.

 

Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave., Evanston, will have a viewing party at its main location on Orrington Avenue from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more details visit EPL.

 

Lake County Forest Preserve District has a solar eclipse viewing party  at Ryerson Woods, 21950 N. Riverwoods Rd, Riverwoods, from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.. It’s free and for all ages but adult supervisions required for children.. Viewing will be by indirect projection. Viewer supplies and instruction available. Visit LCFP.

 

Naper Settlement, 523 S. Webster  St., Naperville is having a viewing picnic from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.. Naperville residents and members free. General admission is $5. Bring lunch. Limited space so first come basis. Viewing glasses are complementary. More information at NaperSettlement.

 

Park District of Oak Park and Oak Park Public Library will host a viewing party at Scoville Park, 800 Lake St., Oak Park. They will have some solar glasses and instruction on pinhole viewers. If conditions dictate the event will be at the library. For more information visit PDOP.

 

More eclipse information at NASA, ‘Where to be August’ 21‘ and ‘Adler Exhibit.’

 

 

 

 

 

Where to be August 21 in 2017

 

If standing in the right place at the right time, your world will start to get cooler as the sun seems to disappear. Then, it will be dark and chilly. And no, you won’t be watching a sci-fi movie or be experiencing the end of the world as described in mythology. You will be experiencing a total solar eclipse.

The Adler Planetarium's "Chasing Eclipses" exhibit simulates a total solar eclipse that includes the cooling air and sounds. Jodie Jacobs photos
The Adler Planetarium’s “Chasing Eclipses” exhibit simulates a total solar eclipse that includes the cooling air and sounds. Jodie Jacobs photos

Unless you plan to be in the south Pacific or South America on Dec. 14, 2020 or in Dallas, Indianapolis or Cleveland, April 8, 2024, your best bet to experience a total solar eclipse is in the United States Aug. 21, 2017 along a diagonal path from  Salem, Oregon in the northwest through Carbondale, IL in the Midwest to Charleston, South Carolina in the southeast.

 

Direct Time and Place

In the Midwest, people who travel to Carbondale in southern Illinois will see the moon totally blocking the sun for about 2 minutes and 41.6 sec. It’s actually safe to look when the sun is totally covered then. but not before or afterwards. If you don’t think that’s a long time to be in the dark try watching a clock tick off the seconds.

Carbondale, home of Southern Illinois University,  is one of the best places to go to because of the long blockage beginning at 1:20 p.m. CDT and because it is one of NASA’s official sites. The Adler will have an event in Carbondale where astronomers and eclipse chasers will converge. Total coverage last about 2 minutes and 42 seconds.

You can draw your own line on a map from Salem, OR to Charleston, SC to see what other towns are in the eclipse path. Even though the blockage won’t be as long as in Carbonadale they will have a total eclipse. The towns along the path are all expecting visitors so are hosting eclipse events.

For example for Oregon visit Salem, Madras and Oregon for festivals, where to stay and what to do. If near Salem the eclipse is at 10:19 a.m. PDT and lasts 2 min, 4 sec.

For Carbondale, go to SIU. Totality there happens at 1:20 CDT.  Also check out Charleston where the eclipse ends on US soil. Charleston is in the dark for about one minute, 40 seconds. For other places in South Carolina visit Great American Eclipse SC .

Accommodations have been going fast along the eclipse path so if planning to travel to a city where there will be total darkness don’t wait to find a place to stay whether camping or looking for an inn.

 

Chicago

Those places mentioned are dead center on the path but that doesn’t mean you wont have a great eclipse moment several miles away.

At the Adler's "Chasing Eclipses" exhibit, astronomer Larry Ciupik points out where Carbondale is on the 2017 eclipse path that goes from left to right. It is bisected by the eclipse path that will run from southeast to north west in 2024.
At the Adler’s “Chasing Eclipses” exhibit, astronomer Larry Ciupik points out where Carbondale is on the 2017 eclipse path that goes from left to right. It is bisected by the eclipse path that will run from southeast to north west in 2024.

In Chicago, the moon will begin blocking the sun about 11:54 a.m.CDT,  reach maximum coverage about 1:30 p.m. and be all the way through by 2:30 p.m.

“While it won’t be absolute total blockage in Chicago, the city will experience a 90 percent eclipse,” said Adler Planetarium astronomer Larry Ciupik. And that is with Chicago located about a six and a half hour drive north of Carbondale.

Thousands of people are expected to join the Adler’s watching party, according to Ciupik. Proper glasses will be handed out until the supply is gone. For the Adler’s big eclipse bash visit Adler Eclipse. For official NASA viewing sites visit NASA Event Locations.

 

Safety

It’s not OK to look while the moon is moving across the sun even when a little bit of the sun is peeking out. Looking at the sun when there is not total blockage will damage the eyes. See NASA for more eclipse information and NASA Safety for viewing tips.

You have to use certified glasses to watch. Another way is to look at the events shadow on the ground by turning your back to the sun and making a peep hole with your hands, one in front of the other as described on the NASA safety site.

 

So take advantage of the event by making it a summer vacation but don’t wait to make arrangements.

 

 

 

 

Sky happenings: Launches and meteors

Launches to Space Station. on TV Photo courtesy of NASA
Launches to Space Station. on TV Photo courtesy of NASA

 

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 Geminid meteor shower is greater than the Lyrids but meteor showers are still awesome to see. segment of a NASA photo
The Geminid meteor shower is greater than the Lyrids but meteor showers are still awesome to see. segment of a NASA photo

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.

A good site for more Lyrids information is Time and Date