November 19, 2017

Astro-Events: Of Comets and Meteor Showers.

Locating the Orionid radiant; (Photo/graphic by Author).

Early October saw one for the record books, as the obscure Draconid meteors put on a show for northern hemisphere observers topping a zenithal hourly rate of 338 ±15 per hour centered on October 8th, 20:04 UT. While not quite approaching storm levels, that’s the most impressive showing we’ve had from any meteor shower yet this century… the Draconids may produce once again in October 2018, and then we’ll have to wait ‘til the early 2030’s for the Leonids to ramp up again… incidentally, the Leonids, Draconids and the long defunct Andromedids are some of the only meteor showers that have historically approached storm intensity, usually informally defined as a ZHR ?1,000. [Read more...]

Death by…Gamma-Ray Burst!


An artist’s impression of a very bad day…(Credit: ESO/A. Roquette).

Sure, we’ve all seen the movies with the impending death by asteroid or comet. You might have even heard of the havoc that can be wrecked by the Sun or an errant black hole, but have you ever heard of death by… gamma ray burst? Very much outside of public consciousness, this was but one of the more exotic ways humanity could have an official bad day that was outlined in Phil Plait’s outstanding Death from the Skies! But what are these exotic beasties, and just how likely are they? [Read more...]

September 2009:News & Notes.

Is Betelgeuse shrinking? Everyone’s favorite candidate for a nearby supernova has been exhibiting some alarming behavior as of late. The red giant star Betelgeuse, located in the shoulder of Orion, has decreased in size by 15 percent since 1993, equating to a loss of 1% of diameter per year. The finding comes from monitoring conducted by researchers at the University of Berkeley using the Infrared Spatial Interferometer atop Mount Wilson. This shrinkage is all the more stupefying when one considers that recent research places Betelgeuse at a distance of 640 light years, making this bloated star over 5 astronomical units in diameter! AAVSO volunteers that have been monitoring the star have noted that the shrinkage has not been accompanied by a magnitude drop. [Read more...]