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01/03/2019 – Ephemeris – The Quadrantid meteor shower will reach its peak this evening

January 3, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, January 3rd. The Sun will rise at 8:20. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 54 minutes, setting at 5:14. The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 7:01 tomorrow morning.

Of the three most active meteor showers, year after year, the Quadrantids of January, Perseids of August, and Geminids of December, only the Quadrantids are not affected by a bright Moon this year. The Quadrantids, which will reach peak at 9:20 this evening have their radiant about due north at that time, only a few degrees above the horizon. The peak is rather narrow, 4 hours to achieve at least half maximum, which is 120 meteors an hour if the radiant was overhead. The radiant, from which the meteors will come from is very low, so will be the numbers. However a low radiant means that the meteor streaks all over the sky will be longer as the meteoroids strike the atmosphere overhead at a shallow angle.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Quadrantid radiant at peak

The location of the Quadrantid radiant, off the handle of the Big Dipper, at 9:20 p.m. January 3, 2019 for the peak of the meteor shower. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium.

 

 

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12/13/2018 – Ephemeris – The Geminid meteors will reach their peak numbers overnight

December 13, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, December 13th. The Sun will rise at 8:11. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 50 minutes, setting at 5:02. The Moon, 2 days before first quarter, will set at 11:05 this evening.

Tonight through the morning hours we will have the chance to see the peak of the Geminid meteor shower. The meteors will be most numerous tomorrow morning. This shower is currently besting the Perseid meteor shower of August with a predicted 120 meteors per hour at the peak. The problems for us in viewing this fabulous shower are the cold temperatures and usually cloudy skies. However the Moon will be a problem until it sets after 11 p.m. The source of the Geminids was discovered in 1983. It is a burnt out comet with the asteroid designation (3200) Phaethon which swoops down to only 13 million miles of the Sun, but last year passed only 6.4 million miles from Earth. The Geminids were first seen in 1862.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Geminid meteor shower radiant

The area of the Geminid meteor shower radiant near the star Castor at 4 a.m. December 14, 2018. There are other very minor radiants that provide only a handful of meteors per hour. The Geminids will provide up to 120 meteors per hour. Created using Stellarium.

11/19/2018 – Ephemeris – The Leonids’ comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle

November 19, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, November 19th. The Sun will rise at 7:45. It’ll be up for 9 hours and 25 minutes, setting at 5:10. The Moon, half way from first quarter to full, will set at 4:29 tomorrow morning.

We have another day in this year’s extended Leonid meteor peak. In past years, usually every 33 years the Leonid meteors have a super peak, called a meteor storm, where thousands of meteors streak through the skies. These appear for a brief period over a rather small geographic area. In 1966 it occurred principally over the Rocky Mountains. The comet responsible is Comet Tempel Tuttle, independently discovered by two astronomers Tempel and Tuttle in 1865 & 1866. The comet had a 33 year orbit of the Sun, and its orbit crosses very close to the Earth’s orbit. Comets are notorious litter bugs, shedding gas, dust and pebble sized debris as they come close to the warming rays of the Sun.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Entire orbit of Comet Tempel-Tuttle
Entire orbit of Comet Tempel-Tuttle projected on the plane of the Earth’s orbit.. Credit C2A Planetarium program, copied from TransientSky.com
The comet's orbit and debris stream
The comet’s orbit and debris stream where it intersects the Earth’s orbit. Credit Katie Peek, Popular Science.

11/16/2018 – Ephemeris – The Leonid meteor shower will have several peaks in the next few days

November 16, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, November 16th. The Sun will rise at 7:41. It’ll be up for 9 hours and 32 minutes, setting at 5:13. The Moon, 1 day past first quarter, will set at 1:19 tomorrow morning.

We are coming into an extended period where the Leonid meteor shower will be at its peak, or rather there is a chance of up to maybe four peaks as the Earth passes through the debris left by Comet Tempel-Tuttle on past trips through the inner solar system. We are having a pretty bright Moon now, but the best displays of the meteors are going to be occurring in the early morning hours after the Moon sets. The meteors will appear to come from the top of a backward question mark that is the head of the constellation Leo the lion. They will be seen all over the sky, but can be traced back to that point, if it’s a Leonid meteor. The Leonids are most numerous about every 33 years, which is about 15 years from now. Otherwise we get about 15 meteors an hour at peak.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Leonid radiant
The constellation of Leo the lion and the Leonid radiant for about 5 a.m.  Click on image to enlarge.  Created using Stellarium.

11/06/2018 – Ephemeris – The Taurid meteor showers

November 6, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Election Day, Tuesday, November 6th. The Sun will rise at 7:27. It’ll be up for 9 hours and 57 minutes, setting at 5:24. The Moon, 1 day before new, will rise at 7:09 tomorrow morning.

We are in the midst of two showers of meteors that seen to come from the constellation of Taurus the bull. These are the Southern and Northern Taurids respectively. They only produce a handful of meteors per hour, but there seems to be some discrepancy in their peak dates. The International Meteor Organization has the Southern group peak October 10th. Other sources have it peak November 5th. The Northern group peaks on the 10th or 12th of November depending on the source. Anyway these are bits shed by Comet 2P/Encke, which has only a 3 year orbit of the Sun. Encke’s orbit also comes close to the Earth’s orbit where the Earth is at the end of June. I’ve always wondered if it was a piece of Encke’s nucleus that hit Siberia on June 30, 1908?

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Taurid Radiants at midnight in early November
The Southern and Northern Taurid meteor shower radiants at around midnight in early November. Created using Stellarium.

The radiants are not as nearly defined as shown here

10/18/2018 – Ephemeris – Halley’s Comet returns as the Orionids

October 18, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, October 18th. The Sun will rise at 8:02. It’ll be up for 10 hours and 50 minutes, setting at 6:53. The Moon, 2 days past first quarter, will set at 2:32 tomorrow morning.

Halley’s Comet is back! (Pronounced Hall-ee’s) Well sorta. In the form of the Orionid meteor shower. Bits of Halley’s Comet from previous passes by the Earth’s orbit make their twice-yearly show in our skies as these bits collide with the Earth’s atmosphere. Halley’s orbit passes close to the earth’s orbit at points where the Earth is around May 6th and again near October 21st. Light dust and ionized gas get blown back into the tail of the comet. Heavier particles, still affected by the pressure of sunlight and the gravitational pull of the Sun and planets end up roughly following the comet’s orbit. In the morning after the Moon sets should be the best time to see them. They will seem to come from a spot above Orion and below Gemini.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Halley's meteor shower
We get two meteor showers from Halley’s Comet. The Orionids, when Halley is approaching the inner solar system, and the Eta Aquariids when it’s leaving. Credit my LookingUp program.

Orionid radiant
The Orionid Radiant is high in the south at 5 a.m. this weekend. Created using Stellarium.

08/09/2018 – Ephemeris – How to observe the Perseid Meteor Shower

August 9, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, August 9th. The Sun rises at 6:38. It’ll be up for 14 hours and 19 minutes, setting at 8:57. The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 5:30 tomorrow morning.

Now through most of this month and reaching peak numbers Sunday evening and Monday morning the Perseid meteors will be shooting through our skies. Where to look? Up is the direction. All over the sky. They will seem to come from the northeast on parallel paths, like driving through a snow storm at night, the snowflakes will diverge from right in front of you. The numbers will generally increase as that radiant point rises higher in the sky. A diligent experienced, and undistracted, observer may see up to 100 or more an hour. Casual observers will see much less. The longest meteor streaks will be seen early in the evening when the meteoroids enter the atmosphere at 37 miles (59 km) per second at a very shallow angle, so last a bit longer.  Bring a blanket, dress warmly and enjoy the show!

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Perseid Sky Dome Animation

The sky dome for the night of the Perseid shower maximum at 1 hour intervals from 10:30 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. Click on image to enlarge. Created using my LookingUp program and GIMP.

For locations other than the Traverse City/Interlochen area the 10:30 step is approximately an hour and a half after sunset.

My best Perseid photo. From the 70's.

My best Perseid photo. From the 70’s.

Perseid Meteors

Here are some meteors seen in the 2007 Perseid meteor shower taken by Scott Anttila. The image is centered on Cassiopeia. The radiant is low and a bit left of center in the image. The Double Cluster is seen below center and the Great Andromeda Galaxy is seen on the right just above center.

The logic of taking meteor photos pointing near the radiant is the he meteors appear to travel slower there because they are coming mostly toward the camera and have a better chance of being picked up.  My photograph was unguided, so the stars trailed.  Scott’s was guided.