Early bird catches a partial solar eclipse Thursday

Lunar and solar eclipse (Photo courtesy of NASA)
Lunar and solar eclipse (Photo courtesy of NASA)

Folks in northern Canada can catch  the best part of June 10’s  eclipse event as the new moon’s orbit moves it across the sky to block the sun.

In the US, the best areas to see it are north and east such as in New York City where the eclipse magnitude will be 80 percent and last for more than an hour after sunrise. .

Chicago area residents will be able to see an eclipse, it just will be a partial one and not last long. Thus, the best way to catch it is after getting protective glasses or using an alternative viewing method, to look to the horizon when the sun appears.

That means watching beginning at 5:15 a.m. through 5:39 a.m. Compared to the north east including NYC’s high magnitude, Chicago’s magnitude will be 35 percent at 5:18 a.m.

Two good sites for information on this solar eclipse event are Time and Date and Space.

Coming Eclipse Season features a remarkable Supermoon

Lunar and solar eclipse (Photo courtesy of NASA)
Lunar and solar eclipse (Photo courtesy of NASA)

 

Maybe you think of winter, spring, summer and fall as your year’s seasons but astronomers also have at least one other seasonal time frame: Eclipse Season. It is the short period when a lunar eclipse and a solar eclipse happen near each other.

Coming up is a short lunar eclipse on May 26, 2021. Don’t blink because you may miss it.

It is called short because totality lasts just a bit more than 14 minutes. According to astronomers, that is the 10th shortest totality for a lunar eclipse between the years 1600 and 2599.

To better understand what will be happening,  know that during the lunar eclipse a full moon will be moving through the Earth’s umbral shadow and be fully in that shadow for slightly more than 14 minutes. But the entire movement through the shadow will be about three hours.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac explains that the part of the United States where you are watching the eclipse will matter as to totality with west of the Mississippi River better than east.

But as TV commercials say Wait. The eclipse is just part of May’s lunar special event. Because the May full moon’s orbit takes it closer to Earth than the year’s other full moons, it will be 2021’s best and brightest Supermoon. During the eclipse, it will appear as a blood moon.

The lunar event is followed by an annular solar eclipse on June 10. That eclipse’s partial phases will make it the 5th longest worldwide for an annular solar eclipse that happens in the same season as a total lunar eclipse.

But forget about blinking. Proper glasses or other safety precautions are needed to protect your eyesight.

EarthSky has an excellent summary of Eclipse Season. Also see Time and Date  for information on both the lunar and solar eclipses this year and in the future.

 

 

Meteorites skim planet Earth this week

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

The Eta Aquarids, the first half of Halley’s Comet’s two rounds of meteor showers, peak May 4-6, 2021. The two meteor showers are debris from Comet Halley as Earth  passes through the comet’s path around the Sun.

Seen in both hemispheres, the Southern Hemisphere arguably offers a better view now when its radiant, the Aquarius constellation, is overhead and Northern is better for its second round, the Orionids, in October. But both meteor showers are popular with sky watchers.

After acclimating your sight to the night, look in the southern sky for Eta Aquarii, the constellation’s brightest star. Depending on the weather, you may be treated to more than 30 meteorites per hour.

The moon, now in its waning crescent phase should not be a factor, particularly if watching for the meteorites early on May 6 before dawn.

For moon phases visit Moon Phases 2021 – Lunar Calendar (timeanddate.com). For times to watch in your area, check Time and Date. For more information visit NASA In Depth. For more Eta Aquarid and Comet Halley info see Space.

 

Supermoon

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

Forget about turning off the light that may be keeping you up on April 26-27. It’s streaming in through the windows from upstairs, outside. However, the source will have seemed larger earlier in the evening.

What’s shining through the windows if the sky is clear, is not merely a full moon. The orb outside is a Supermoon. It really isn’t larger. It just plays tricks on the eyes and perspective as it appears huge when first appearing at the horizon and in early evening.

The April full moon, also known as the “Pink Moon”  is a Supermoon because it will be closer to Earth than most other full moons. The exception being the full moon in May 26, called the “Flower Moon” that will be even closer.

Some astronomy sites only designate the April and May full moons  as Supermoons. Other sites include June 24’s which is also close. Still other sites include the March full moon which was fairly close.

For times to watch or photograph the moon check. EarthSky. The site also has the April, May June, 2021 Supermoons’ distances from the moon to Earth with April 27 at 222,212 miles (357,615 km), May 26 at 222,089 miles (357,462km) and June 24 at 224,662 miles (361,558 km).

If interested in how this all happens, you should know about the lunar perigee. It’s when the moon’s orbit brings it to its closest point to Earth. The opposite is apogee.

Of course, the third factor is where the earth is in relation to the moon and the sun to be a full moon. So, the April Supermoon actually happens about 12 hours short of it lunar perigee and May’s Supermoon falls about nine hours after perigee. The reason some sites refer just to April and May’s full moons as Supermoons is because less than 24 hours occur between the perigee and full moon phase.

Next, don’t be surprised if bothered with sinus trouble and  have a full-moon sized headache. Because the pull of the full moon, particuclarly the Supermoon, does influence the tides, lore has it that their affect on humans and animals can also be felt.

For more information visit Time and Date and see TimeandDate /picture tips and visit NASA. moons. For an expert opinion on which full moons to include in the Supermoon category, visit Space.

 

 

Watch for Lyrid meteors this week

 

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

Assuming the weather cooperates, early risers should have no trouble spotting a fireball zooming across the sky shortly before dawn in the next few days. The Lyrids meteor shower is happening now.

They seem to be shooting out (radiant) from the Lyric constellation just northwest of its bright Vega star. They are debris from the comet Thatcher (C/1861 G1), first noted more than 2,500 years ago.

The best days to look for them are April 21-22 when the Lyrids are expected to peak at about 18 meteors an hour. Pre dawn is the best time to watch because the moon is waxing gibbous so its illumination won’t be a factor after it sets.

For the time to watch in your zone visit Time and Date. For more information on where to look visit Space which has a map to help find the radiant. For more basic meteor and Lyrid information visit NASA Lyrids.

 

Full moon will appear super

The Moon, or Supermoon, is seen as it rises behind the U.S. Capitol, Monday, March 9, 2020, in Washington, DC. A Supermoon occurs when the Moon’s orbit is closest (perigee) to Earth. (Photo courtesy of NASA/Joel Kowsky)
The Moon, or Supermoon, is seen as it rises behind the U.S. Capitol, Monday, March 9, 2020, in Washington, DC. A Supermoon occurs when the Moon’s orbit is closest (perigee) to Earth. (Photo courtesy of NASA/Joel Kowsky)

If the light of the moon was keeping you up last night it’s because the first full moon of spring is March 28 but looks full March 27 and March 29.

And because this spring (Northern Hemisphere) full moon is closer to earth than the ones in January and February it appears brighter and is considered by some sky watchers as a “Supermoon.”

Actually, its perigee (closest part of its orbit) is March 30 so it still will continue to appear very bright and mostly full.

Don’t worry if your area is cloudy. The full moons  in April, May and June will be even closer and will look like Supermoons.

Called  the Worm Moon, Crow Moon or Sap Moon by some native American tribes, this full moon also sets Easter, which, in 2021, is April 4.  See Tonight | EarthSky

Fun Fact:  Do you know what syzygy means?  It’s when three bodies, such as the Sun, Earth, and the Moon, are in alignment. See Time and Date for the term and alignment.

Time and Date also does an excellent job of explaining how long the moon really is fully illuminated and why due to the earth’s tilt it may not appear at total illumination, noting that the degree of illumination somewhat blends what appears to be a Full Moon and the last stage of a Waxing Gibbous Moon or the beginning of a Waning Gibbous Moon.

On NASA’s site a sidebar tells that the term “supermoon” was “coined by the astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979 and refers to either a new or full Moon that occurs when the Moon is within 90% of perigee, its closest approach to Earth.’

The site also connects the first spring moon’s names from native Americans and different religions. It notes that this weekend’s Full moon is also called the Pesach moon on the Jewish calendar, Paschal moon for Western Christianity and Medin in SRI Lanka.

For more word definitions and moon phases visit Space.

The Snow Moon

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

According to several astronomy sources it was northeastern native Americans who dubbed February’s full moon the Snow Moon.

Given the amount of snow that covered much of the United States in February, the moon is well named. It’s also called the Storm Moon and Hunger Moon.

That orb will be lighting up the landscape Thursday, Friday and Saturday but best time to view will be Friday night from when it appears above the horizon in the east as the sun sets to midnight when it is overhead.

Some studies mentioned by EarthSky have been done on the relationship of full moons to sleeplessness from the light point of view. Hopefully, scientists will also look at the tidal pull of full moons on sinuses.

More information on the Snow Moon can be found at TimeandDate, NASA and Old Farmers Almanac.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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