August 21, 2017

Astro-Event: Prospects for the 2012 Leonids.

Looking northeast at 2AM local.

(Created by the Author in Starry Night).

Thereís one yearly meteor shower thatís always worth watching out for. This weekend, the Leonid meteors are set to peak on November 17th. The bad news is: this is a bad year for this shower; although the Leonids can reach storm levels of +1,000 per hour as last happened in 1998 & 1999, this year the Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) isnít expected to top 15. [Read more...]

AstroEvent: A Close Planetary Pairing +A Springtime Meteor Shower.

Looking eastward the morning of April 19th with a 5 degree FOV. (Created by the Author in Starry Night).

Where have all the planets gone? Well, with the exception of Saturn, theyíve all been hiding in the direction of the Sun. Thatís all beginning to change this week, however, as Mars, Mercury, and Jupiter slip into the dawn sky to join Venus in what will turn into a splendid early morning multi-planet conjunction in early May. [Read more...]

AstroEvent:The Ursa Minorids; a Meteor Shower in the Making?

A new radiant? (Created by the author in Starry Night).

The general impression that most folks have of annual meteor showers is that they are largely static in nature. Long term trends, however, would suggest that they are slowly evolving, with new streams of debris replacing faint exhausted ones. Did our prehistoric ancestors watch the Perseids every August? Are there historically unknown meteor streams out there? Whatís the life span on the average shower? This week, we give you what could be a meteor shower in the making; the Gamma Ursae Minorids. [Read more...]

Will the Leonids Perform in 2009?

Looking East at about 1:30 AM local. (Credit: Redshift 7).

Looking East at about 1:30 AM local. (Credit: Redshift 7).

This week marks the return of the Space Shuttle Atlantis to orbit for its second to last flight, as well as the peak of the Leonid meteor shower. This is the notorious shower that has produced storm level peaks in access of 10,000 per hour in 1966 and 1833. This storm emanates from material shed by comet 51P Temple-Tuttle, and generally peaks once every 33 years or so around November 17th. Most years, the Leonids are a feeble 10 meteors per hour shower barely warranting attention. [Read more...]

See the Orionid Meteor Shower at its Peak.

The Orionid radiant. (Credit: Stellarium).

The Orionid radiant. (Credit: Stellarium).

Meteor season is now well underway. About midway between the August Perseids and the November Leonids is an often over-looked shower; the Orionids. The good news this year is the Orionids occur around the morning of October 21st, when the light-polluting moon is only three days past new and thus safely out of the morning sky. Expect to see up to 20-30 fast moving meteors, as was generally the reported case last year. For best results, be sure to watch several hours before dawn, or about 2-5 PM local. [Read more...]

10.8.9: Will the Perseids Perform?

Are we in for a Perseid spike? (Credit: NASA/Spaceweather).

Are we in for a Perseid spike? (Credit: NASA/Spaceweather).

Set your alarm clocks; one of the best meteor showers of the year is about to gear up this week! The Perseid meteors are one of the most dependable annual showers of the summer season, with a typical zenithal hourly rate (ZHR) of up towards 60-100 per hour. This year however, we could be in for a treat; there is evidence that we may intercept a fresh stream shed by progenitor comet Swift-Tuttle in 1610. We have never passed through this particular stream before; predictions are trending towards a brief ZHR of up towards 200! Don’t forget, however, that ZHR is optimal; this assumes the radiant is directly overhead and that there is no light pollution. The shower peaks morning of Wednesday August 12th, although it would be worth it to peek at the sky a few days prior to see what we might be in for. This year, the timing actually favors the North American continent! Now for the bad news; the waning gibbous Moon will be rising just before midnight in the constellation Aries, and be about 63% illuminated. If this is your chief source of light pollution, try to position yourself for observing in a way that blocks the Moon behind a hill, peak of a roof, whatever is handy. The Perseids are a true treat because they occur in the northern hemisphere summer, when its generally pleasant to lay outside. And school’s still out, to boot! Be sure not to miss this one; the only observing equipment you need is your eyes. If you can convince a friend to observe with you in the wee hours, you can collectively cover more sky. The radiant is located in the constellation Perseus (hence the name) which will be high in the north east. And don’t forget the bug spray! [Read more...]

Meteor Shower Observing

Stand outside on any clear, moonless night, and watch the sky. Odds are within a few minutes a meteor will slide silently by. While most things in universe and astronomy seem to happen on geological time scales, meteors are quick and fleeting, and a meteor storm can be one of the most awesome spectacles, such as the great Leonid outburst in 1833 and 1966. [Read more...]