April 26, 2019

Astro-Event of the Week: 05.04.09: The Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower.

This week, the second meteor shower of the season amps up; I give you the Eta Aquarids. This shower has a broad peak over the first half of May, and diligent observers may see up to 10-30 swift moving meteors per hour in the early AM hours. The further south you are, the better.  The radiant is very near the “Y” asterism in the constellation Aquarius, near the star Sadalmelik (Alpha Aquarii) and below the Great Square of Pegasus.

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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.

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 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!