November 22, 2017

Astro-Event: Of Meteor Showers & Near Earth Asteroids.

Toutatis near Aldebaran on December 19th.

It’s a shooting gallery out there. As the scarred surface of our Moon attests, the inner solar system is routinely criss-crossed by comets and asteroids that would do our precious niche of the universe harm.

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AstroEvent: The Geminids Round Out 2011.

2011 has been quite a year, both terrestrial and otherwise. This week sees the last of the big scheduled astronomical happenings of the year in the form of the Geminid meteor shower. This shower is one of the yearly standbys along with the Perseids that are always sure to produce. The Geminids have a long peak centered on the morning of December 14th when an idealized Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of up to 120 meteors per hour may be seen. Problems will arise, however, from an 82% illuminated waning gibbous Moon in the adjacent constellation of Cancer. Rising roughly around 10PM local on the night of the peak, this makes for the worst possible Moon phase as it’ll be high and bright in the early AM hours, just as the meteor shower is getting into high gear. But as always, I wouldn’t let that stop you from looking! To use a rough sports analogy, you’ll see zero meteors if you do not try.

Moon path and position on the 14th. (Created by author is Starry Night & Paint).

This shower is also unique in that its source isn’t a comet, but an asteroid named 3200 Phaethon. The first asteroid discovered by a spacecraft, namely the Infrared Astronomical Satellite in 1983, there’s a fair amount of conjecture as to exactly what 3200 Phaethon is; is it a true Palladian-type asteroid or an inactive comet nucleus? [Read more...]

Astro-Event: R Geminorum Rising.

Mira, a prototype variable similar to R Gem as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope.

(Credit: NASA/ESA).

Tired of observing M31 for the nth time and ready to do some backyard astrophysics? Eventually, we all go there; you may have even read a recent “how-to” post of our not-so-secret addiction: variable star observing. [Read more...]

Astro-Event: Don’t Miss the Geminids!

Looking Northeast at about 10 PM. (Photo by Author).

   This year, believe the hype; this month’s Geminid meteor shower is a sure bet. This shower is one of the few dependable ‘old faithful’ meteor showers of the year. Peaking on the night of December 13th-14th, this year’s apparition sees a well placed northern radiant rising high in the northeast as the first quarter Moon sets about midnite local. [Read more...]

AstroEvent of the Week: December 8th-14th: the Geminid Meteors.

December is meteor shower month. Hot on the heels of last month’s Taurid and Leonids comes the biggest and one of the most predictable producers of the year; the Geminid meteor shower. Radiating from the constellation of Gemini the twins, this shower typically produces up to 100-120 meteors per hour.

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Astro Event of the Week; November 3rd-9th: A Taurid Outburst?

Most years, the Taurid meteor shower doesn’t merit a second look; this minor shower radiating from the constellation Taurus the bull usually generates a maximum rate of less than five meteors per hour.

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