April 3, 2020

Astro-Event: Prospects for the 2012 Leonids.

Looking northeast at 2AM local.

(Created by the Author in Starry Night).

There’s one yearly meteor shower that’s 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) isn’t expected to top 15. [Read more...]

Astro-Event: Catching a Good Meteor Shower on a Bad Year.

This week’s astro-event holds a special place in our lifetime of observing memories. In 1998, we deployed to Kuwait (a definite switch of scenery!) from our home station of Eielson AFB, Alaska during an escalation with Iraq that was to become Operation Desert Fox. But to this day, what has stuck in many airmen’s minds including my own was not the brush with combat, but seeing the 1998 Leonid meteors from a dark sky site. [Read more...]

Review: Wonders in the Sky.

Authors Note: Yes, this week’s review touches on UFO’s in the form of unexplained aerial phenomena. We thought long and hard about reviewing this book when it arrived on our doorstep, and decided it does have merit from a historical astronomical perspective.

Delving into the world of archeo-astronomy is always a fascinating exercise for the desktop/arm chair observer. Sifting through piles of old observations and tales from skies of yore always makes one wonder; what did they see? Is there any basis to the old myths and legends in astronomical fact? [Read more...]

AstroEvent: the Leonid Meteor Shower.

This week, be on the lookout for the meteor shower that can roar like a lion, but this year will probably meow like a kitten. The infamous Leonid meteors peak on the morning of Wednesday, November 17th. This shower has been known to produce storm intensity outbursts with a zenithal hourly rate (ZHR) in access of +1,000 roughly every 33 years, which last happened in 1999 & 2000. [Read more...]

Nov09:Life in the Astro blog-o-sphere.

Coming to a November Sky near you: This month’s big sky-buzz will be the Leonids meteors peaking the morning of November 17th. Although this will be an off year for the shower, the Leonids always deserve some close scrutiny because of their outburst track record. Also, the Moon is New on the 16th, and thus safely out of the “obstruction” zone. There is some buzz in the online meteor forums that there may be some older, not very well recorded debris trails lurking out there, so keep watching your local dawn sky on those early mid-November mornings. The Full Moon occurs the night of the 2nd, and is always a pretty naked eye sight. Casting our eyes farther out into the local universe, watch this space for pieces on such deep sky wonders as M31, Gamma Arietis, and a little known gem called Omicron Eridanus!

This Month in Science: On the 24th of this month Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published 150 years ago. Of course, this demotion of man in the biological scheme of things pissed off some folks to no end, but hey, the truth hurts sometimes. Speaking of which, its time again this year for the Australian Skeptics annual Bent Spoon Award, given at their annual meeting held on the 28-29th in Brisbane. Be sure to watch the action on their site and keep an eye on current contenders! Farther down under, NASA’s Operation: Ice Bridge continues their bone-chilling mission of mapping the Antarctic ice flow. Don’t forget, it’s going towards austral summer down there! We’ve been having a great time following them via ye’ ole Twitter… closer to home, we here at Astroguyz will expose all you REALLY need to know about 2012 (as if you can’t get enough!) and look at a real-time human extinction event posed by Near Earth Objects (NEO’s) and what could be done about it…bring on the destruction!

This Months’ buzz in Sci-Fi: Starship: Flagship, the latest in the swashbuckling series by Mike Resnick, is due out this December and available for pre-order this month…also watch for our review of City Without End, by Kay Kenyon. On a semi-sad note, the box office sci-fi smash this Veteran’s Day is gearing up to be…you guessed it; 2012. three more years to go…. even Y2K only had a 6-month or so run! Hopefully, we at Astroguyz will at least be pleasantly surprised if the movie isn’t a dud… we still think that if the world did end in 2012, humanity would be getting off easy! On a more serious note, in a recent episode of the new season of the Big Bang Theory, Shelton was….WRONG! Can the universe survive the paradox?

Launches for November: The Shuttle Atlantis is sitting on launch pad 39B for STS-129 on the 16th; this will be Atlantis’s 2nd to last flight into space. Other notables include launch of the ESA, Soil Moisture and Salinity satellite on the 2nd out of the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, and testing of the SpaceX Falcon automated resupply craft for the ISS on the 29th. Check Spaceflight now for updates.

Astro-Blooper of the Month: Re-watching the earlier seasons of NUM3ERS, I caught a goof that deserves further scrutiny. There’s a point when Larry the astrophysicist is departing for the International Space Station. He then gives his girlfriend Megan a Celestron telescope, so she can “See me as I pass overhead…” Yes, you can photograph the ISS with a telescope, but it is a swift moving target! Larry could be forgiven because, after all, he is a theorist, but NUMB3Rs is a class show, and I won’t let it off of the hook that easily! It was also an excellent, but missed opportunity to teach some hands on science…many folks don’t realize that you can see the ISS with the naked eye! A much better gift (and free!) would have been to install Orbitron, complete with ISS alarm, on Megan’s laptop!

This Month in Astro-History: On November 19th, 1969, Apollo 12 landed on the Moon. Of course, no one remembers the 2nd lunar landing, but astronauts Alan Bean and crew performed a pinpoint landing next to the Surveyor spacecraft in the Ocean of Storms, and did some real science, to boot. Their Saturn V was also struck by lightening on takeoff, (launch restrictions were looser in those days) and there was no guarantee that the pyro technics that fired the chute on re-entry were not damaged, until they in fact were safely home!

Quote of the Month: “If doom isn’t impending, it’s out there, somewhere.”

-Andy Rooney

See the Orionid Meteor Shower at its Peak.

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.

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10.8.9: Will the Perseids Perform?

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!

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Astro Event of the Week; November 17th-23rd: The Leonids.

Hang on for one the biggest, baddest meteor showers of all; the Leonids are scheduled to peak this year on the morning of November 17th. radiating from the asterism known as “the Sickle” in the constellation Leo the Lion,  the Leonids are debris left over from the comet Tempel-Tuttle. Most years, the Leonids are feeble, only generating 10 meteors per hour, but every 33 years or so, (most recently the 1998-1999 seasons) this shower becomes a true meteor storm. Will the Leonids produce this year? The only sure way to tell is to keep an eye on the sky the early morning hours this week! The waning gibbous Moon may thwart some of the fainter meteors, but check it out and note what you see, none the less!

This weeks’ Astro-word of the week is Bolide. A meteor becomes a bolide (think “blow up”) when it explodes in our atmosphere… and impressive sight, indeed!

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...]