March 22, 2018

AstroEvent of the Week: 13.04.09: New Comet Yi-SWAN!

We interrupt our usual astro-event of the week to bring you a last minute shout-out a tad early; a fairly bright comet has recently been announced by the Central Bureau of Astronomical Telegrams (CBAT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts (really; does anyone actually send telegrams any more? Time to change the name, guys!) Dubbed Yi-SWAN after its co-discovers, Korean amateur Dae-am Yi who sighted the comet on March 26th and the European Space (ESA)’s SWAN, the Solar Wind Anisotropies satellite, Comet Yi Swan is expected to maintain around 8th magnitude for the next month or  so.

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Astro Event of the Week: December 22nd-28th, 2008: A Christmas Meteor Storm?

The Ursids are the meteor shower that you’re not watching, but should be. A lesser shower, it typically produces around less than 10 meteors per hour right around Christmas time. This year, however, there may be two reasons to give the Ursids notice; one is that the Moon is a waning crescent, and presents less interference than its ill placed Full version during the Geminids early this month, and second, its progenitor, Comet 8P Tuttle, made a close (0.25 AU!) pass by the Earth on January 2nd of this year… could an Ursid outburst be in the offing? Reports of up to 100 meteors are not unheard of from this shower. Its peak is the night of the 22nd/23rd but of course, watching on either side of these dates may produce some surprises. Merry Christmas, Hanukah, Solstice, or what ever your holiday may be and keep an eye out for this elusive shower!

The astro-term of the week is circumpolar. In astronomy, an object is circumpolar if it stays above your local horizon 24-7. At the Earth’s equator, nothing is circumpolar; at the North and South Pole, everything is. At only a few degrees from the rotational North Pole, the radiant of the Ursid meteor shower is circumpolar for observers in the northern hemisphere.