Archive for the ‘Meteor Showers’ Category

Frozen Meteor Watching

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

No, “frozen” doesn’t refer to next week’s Gemenid meteors. It refers to anyone spending the night outside to watch them – at least if you live in the same northern climate as I do. But if you’re willing to brave the cold, the Geminids, with their bright and long-lasting meteors, should put on quite a show. The shower will reach it’s peak December 13th and 14th. The moon could cause problems earlier in the night, but it will be setting just as prime viewing time begins. So make a thermos of your favorite hot beverage, and try to find at least a little time for watching these winter gems.

It’s Leonid Time Again

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

In just a few days Earth will once again plow through a stream of fragments cast off from comet Tempel-Tuttle. The result: the annual Leonid meteor shower. Unfortunately, this years Leonids are predicted to be quite weak, with only 15-20 per hour. In addition, the moon will interfere with the early stages of the display. Your best bet is to look for the Leonids in the predawn hours of November 17th and 18th, after the moon has set.

It’s Perseid Time Again

Monday, August 9th, 2010

We’re just a few days away from the peak of one of the best meteor showers of the year – and the show is already beginning. A few Perseids can be seen throughout almost the whole month of August. But the peak, with 60 meteors an hour or more, comes on August 12-13. And the great news is that, unlike last year, the moon shouldn’t interfere with seeing the peak. So get out there and enjoy the show.

The April Lyrids

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

After more than three months without a good meteor shower, the Lyrids will reach their peak on April 21 and 22. Although typically a slow shower with only about ten or so meteors per hour, the Lyrids will occasionally have brief outbursts of more than ten times that rate. Although the moon could interfere earlier in the night, it will be low in the west during the peak viewing hours closer to morning.

The Geminids

Friday, December 11th, 2009

It’s already started, and it peaks on December 13-14. It’s the Geminid meteor shower. The Geminids are a very reliable meteor shower known for their multi-colored display. They would probably be everyone’s favorite meteor shower if they didn’t happen in December. But the cold temps (it was -6 here last night) tend to freeze the desire to go out and watch them. The Geminids are caused by 3200 Phaethon, an object believed to be the core of an extinct comet. The moon won’t be a problem this year, so if you can do it without freezing too badly, go out and enjoy the show.

The Leonids

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

Now that we’ve made the turn into November, we can start looking forward to this month’s famous meteor shower, the Leonids. Created by the comet Tempel-Tuttle, the Leonids will reach their peak on the 17th and 18th. And there’s no need to worry about the moon interfering with your viewing. While you’re up watching the Leonids, you’ll probably also notice Mars. The Red planet is rising in the east in the early morning hours, and will be shining at a bright magnitude 0.2 by the time of the Leonids.

The Orionids

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

These nights, if you stay up late enough, the¬†easily recognisable ¬†constellation Orion is visible. And on October 21-22, this constellation is the radiant of the annual Orionid meteor shower. While the Orionids aren’t one of the better known meteor showers, everyone has heard of the comet that creates them. It’s none other than the famous Halley’s Comet. The rate of meteors is quite small for this shower, about 10 to 15 per hour. But it is known to sometimes produce spectacular fireballs. And the good news is that this year the moon shouldn’t cause any problems with viewing.

The Perseids … Good News, Bad News

Friday, August 7th, 2009

The Perseid meteor shower, annually one of everyone’s favorites, will be at their best within the coming week. Although they’ve already been making a slow start for the last couple weeks, the Perseids will reach their peak late on the nights of August 11th and 12th. Perseus, the constellation from wich the meteors appear to eminate and for which the meteor shower is named, will be high in the East during the early morning hours.

Now for the good and bad news. The good news is that some experts predict this year’s Perseids could be especially intense. The bad news is that moonlight will drown out many of them. Although the full moon will be past, a still bright moon will be just a little to the south of Perseus. So only the brightest of the Perseids will be easily visible. Still, with a display like this, even a few of the brightest are still something worth watching.

Perseid update, August 15: The Perseids produced their best results (at least the best seen by this skywatcher) earlier on the night of the 12th, before the moon got too high. There were a few bursts of bright fireballs, and a fairly consistant display of smaller meteors. For those who missed the show, the next meteor shower will be the Orionids on October 21st and 22nd. Although the Orionids produce only about a third as many meteors as the Perseids, it is known for having colorful fireballs.