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05/04/2021 – Ephemeris – We cross Halley’s Comet debris this week

May 4, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Tuesday, May 4th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 23 minutes, setting at 8:51, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:26. The Moon, 1 day past last quarter, will rise at 4:20 tomorrow morning.

The Eta Aquariid meteor shower will reach their peak for us Thursday morning the 6th. The Eta Aquariids are caused by bits of Halley’s Comet, passing the Earth’s orbit heading out from the Sun. The Orionids of late October are debris of Halley’s comet passing the Earth’s orbit heading in toward the Sun. The Eta Aquariids are named for the star nearest the radiant of the meteor shower. The constellation of Aquarius has many shower radiants, which is why the shower is named for a star in Aquarius. The radiant rises shortly before 3:30am and astronomical twilight begins an hour later. There’s perhaps another half hour of visibility after that. The peak will occur Thursday morning where 20 meteors per hour or more might be seen.

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

Addendum

The sky dome for 4:30 am May 6, 2021. The Eta Aquariid radiant is near Jupiter. It looks like
two other minor meteor showers are active then with only a handful of meteors an hour
compared to the Eta Aquariids’ somewhat higher rates. The funny looking “n” character
next to Aquariid is the Greek letter Eta. Chart created using Stellarium.
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.

11/03/2020 – Ephemeris – Two meteor showers emanating from Taurus

November 3, 2020 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Election Day, Tuesday, November 3rd. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 3 minutes, setting at 5:27, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:25. The Moon, 3 days past full, will rise at 7:22 this evening.

November is a month of low grade meteor showers. The first two are related showers from the same comet. They are the South Taurid and North Taurid meteor showers. The South Taurid meteor shower peaks on October 10th, while the North Taurid meteor shower peaks on November 12th. The both have Encke’s Comet as their source. Encke’s official name is 2P/Encke named after Johann Franz Encke who calculated it’s orbit after it had been observed on three earlier appearances including by Charles Messier and Caroline Herschel, sister of William Herschel, astronomer and composer. Encke has the shortest period of any reasonably bright comet of 3.3 years. The other notable meteor shower this month is the Leonids which we’ll visit later.

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

Addendum

The radiants of the Northern and Southern Taurid meteor showers at 11 pm November 12, 2020. Both these radiants move eastward with time due to the Earth’s orbital motion. The activity dates of the two meteor showers overlap. The Southern Taurids are active between September 10 to November 20, while the Northern Taurids are active between October 20 to December 10. Both have peak rates of 5-10 meteors per hour. Created using Stellarium.

10/20/2020 – Ephemeris – The Orionid meteor shower reaches peak overnight

October 20, 2020 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Tuesday, October 20th. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 43 minutes, setting at 6:48, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:06. The Moon, 3 days before first quarter, will set at 9:44 this evening.

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 will roughly following the comet’s orbit. The radiant, a spot above the constellation Orion and below Gemini from which they will seem to come will rise around 11 pm. So view them any time after that as their numbers will increase until morning twilight begins.

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

Addendum

Orionid radiant

The Orionid meteor shower radiant at 5 a.m. October 21st. The radiant rises at 11 p.m., so the meteors will be visible from then into morning twilight. Despite the location of the radiant, the meteors will be seen all over the sky. However true Orionids can be traced back to the radiant point. Created using Stellarium.

Halley's meteor shower

We get two meteor showers from Halley’s Comet. The Orionids, when Halley’s meteoroids are approaching the inner solar system, and the Eta Aquariids when they’re leaving. Created using my LookingUp program.

10/06/2020 – Ephemeris – Mars is closest today, also the Draconid meteors are at peak

October 6, 2020 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, October 6th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 25 minutes, setting at 7:13, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:48. The Moon, 3 days before last quarter, will rise at 9:46 this evening.

Today Mars is at its closest to the Earth of this close approach, what astronomers call an apparition. The last close approach was at the end of July two years ago. It is still pretty small in telescopes. However being this close, 38.6 million miles (62.1 million kilometers) away, it is actually slightly brighter than Jupiter. Check them out. Mars is the bright orange tinged star in the east while Jupiter is in the south-southwest at 9 pm tonight. It’s still a week before Mars lines up with the Earth and Sun in opposition. Mars is closer now because it is moving away from the Sun in its orbit. We are at the peak of a weak meteor shower most years. It’s the Draconids, which appear to come from the head of Draco the dragon near the bright star Vega, nearly overhead in the evening.

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

Addenda

Mars

Inner solar system on October 6, 2020 showing Mars at it’s closest to the Earth. Note the motion of the planets and space probes are counterclockwise. Mars is moving away from its closest point to the Sun at about the 2 o’clock point in its orbit. Note that at this time Mars, the Earth and Sun are not yet in line, so Mars isn’t directly opposite the Sun from the Earth, called opposition. That will occur on the 13th. The Mars 2020 Rover “Percy” has a bit more than 4 months to go to reach Mars. Credit: NASA Eyes App https://eyes.nasa.gov/

Draconid Meteor Shower

The Draconid radiant in the head of Draco. Looking high in the northwest at 9 pm October 6th. The source of the Draconids is the Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner. The stars of the Summer Triangle are named.

Comet Giacobini-Zinner was the third comet I had ever seen. It was through my newly completed 8″ reflector in 1959, when the comet was quite close to the Earth. The comet just skims the Earth’s orbit at its perihelion, so the Earth passes through its trail of debris each year at this time. The meteor shower is very weak, 5-10 meteors an hour, unless the comet is near to the Earth at the time, as it was in 2018. The comet has an orbital period of about 6.6 years, so this year’s peak isn’t supposed to be the best. However this year me might have two mini peaks tonight in the 9 to 10 pm hour as the Earth is expected to pass through two old meteoroid trails. according to the International Meteor Organization’s 2020 Meteor Shower Calendar we are expected to pass through the 1704 trail at 9:25 pm, EDT and the 1711 trail at 9:57 pm EDT. This is October 7th at 1:25 UT and 1:57 UT. The normal projected peak is October 8 at 12:30 UT, that’s Thursday at 8:30 am, after sunrise.

04/30/2020 – Ephemeris – See bits of Halley’s Comet in the morning crashing into the Earth’s atmosphere

April 30, 2020 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Thursday, April 30th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 13 minutes, setting at 8:47, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:32. The Moon, at first quarter today, will set at 3:47 tomorrow morning.

Do you remember seeing Halley’s Comet back in 1986? The actual pronunciation is “Hawley’s”, according to Sir Edmund’s contemporary Samuel Pepys. The reason I asked is whether you saw it in 1986 or are young enough to live long enough to see it in 41 years, we all have a twice yearly chance to see bits of Halley’s Comet, shed in previous returns through the inner solar system and strewn along its orbit, burn up in Earth’s atmosphere as the Eta Aquariid meteor shower going on now, or the Orionids in late October. The time to see the meteor shower is in the early morning after the Moon sets. That’s after 3:47 a.m. tomorrow morning and 4:22 Saturday morning. Astronomical twilight starts about 4:40 a.m. It will probably be 5 a.m. before it really interferes. With the meteors all over the sky, coming from the southeast.

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

Addendum

Eta Aquarid radiant

The Eta Aquariid radiant at the peak of the shower. The radiant moves slowly to the east with time. Credit: my LookingUp program.

Halley's Comet Orbit and meteor showers

Halley’s Comet orbit with the orbits of the inner planets showing the points at which the debris from the comet intersect with the Earth’s orbit causing meteor showers. Diagram credit JPL Small-Body Database Browser with my annotations.

12/13/2019 – Ephemeris – Tonight is the first night that straddles the peak of the Geminid meteor shower

December 13, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, December 13th. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 50 minutes, setting at 5:02, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:12. The Moon, 1 day past full, will rise at 6:33 this evening.

Tonight and tomorrow nights will straddle the peak of the Geminid meteor shower. It is the best meteor shower of the year and it is getting more active over the years. The Moon will interfere with all but the brightest meteors. The radiant is the point in space where the meteors seem to come from, which is near the star Castor in the constellation Gemini from which the shower gets its name. The meteors will be seen all over the sky, but they all can be traced back to the radiant. The body responsible for this meteor shower is an asteroid rather than a comet with the name 3200 Phaethon. It comes very close to the sun, So it may shed bits of itself due to heat stress. I suppose I can’t resist this: That’s how the asteroid crumbles.

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

Addendum

3200 Phaethon showing a tail

3200 Phaethon a rock comet showing a tail as it nears the Sun. Credit NASA/STEREO

Eastern sky for Geminids

Eastern sky for Geminids at 10 p.m. December 13, 2019. On the 14th the Moon will be the same distance from Pollux but below it. Remember that the Geminid meteors will be seen all over the sky. It might help to hide the moon behind a building so as to better see the brighter meteors. Created using Stellarium.

The orbit of 3200 Phaethon

Orbit of 3200 Phaethon with the Earth and Phaethon at 10:02 p.m. December 12, 2019. (03:02 UT Dec 13) Credit TheSkyLive.com.

Geminid Orbits

Orbits of Fireballs on the night of December 13-14 as recorded by NASA’s All Sky Cameras six years ago. The preponderance of fireballs (bright meteors) are Geminids. These are published daily on Spaceweather.com. Credit: NASA and Spaceweather.com.

Eastern sky for Geminids

Eastern sky for Geminids at 10 p.m. December 13, 2019. On the 14th the Moon will be the same distance from Pollux but below it. Remember that the Geminid meteors will be seen all over the sky. It might help to hide the moon behind a building so as to better see the brighter meteors. Created using Stellarium.

From the International Meteor Organization: Observing proposal: Geminids and Full Moon

 

12/12/2019 – Ephemeris – Previewing the Geminids this weekend

December 12, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, December 12th. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 51 minutes, setting at 5:02, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:11. The Moon, at full today, will rise at 5:38 this evening.

This upcoming weekend is the weekend of the greatest annual meteor shower of the year. They’re the Geminids. I confess to never having seen a Geminid. The reason is that it’s generally too cloudy, and for me too cold and this year is another problem, a bright Moon. In dark skies they have a 120 per hour peak, when the radiant point in Gemini is overhead. The body that was discovered to produce these meteors doesn’t appear to be a comet. It is designated as an asteroid 3200 Phaethon. Phaethon gets extremely close to the sun at 13 million miles (21 million km) and one of the STEREO Sun monitoring satellites caught it developing a tail when close to the Sun. Phaethon may then be the first known rock comet. I’ll have more on it tomorrow. (12/08/2014)

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

Addendum

Eastern sky for Geminids

Eastern sky for Geminids at 10 p.m. December 13, 2019. On the 14th the Moon will be the same distance from Pollux but below it. Remember that the Geminid meteors will be seen all over the sky. It might help to hide the moon behind a building so as to better see the brighter meteors. Created using Stellarium.

Geminid Orbits

Orbits of Fireballs on the night of December 13-14 as recorded by NASA’s All Sky Cameras six years ago. The preponderance of fireballs in yellow (bright meteors) are Geminids. These are published daily on Spaceweather.com. Credit: NASA and Spaceweather.com

11/18/2019 – Ephemeris – More about the Leonid meteor shower that just reached peak this morning

November 18, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, November 18th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 28 minutes, setting at 5:12, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:44. The Moon, 1 day before last quarter, will rise at 10:56 this evening.

The Leonid meteor shower should have reached its peak early this morning hindered by a bright waning gibbous Moon. 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 55P/Comet Tempel-Tuttle, independently discovered by two astronomers Tempel and Tuttle in 1865 & 1866. The comet has 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

Leonid meteor shower as seen from space

The Leonid meteor shower as seen from space. The time is set for today so the Earth’s blue dot is lost in the stream of meteors crossing the Earth’s orbit (3rd one out from the Sun) just above the 9 o’clock position. The long ellipse is the orbit of Comet Tempel-Tuttle and the purple dot near the aphelion near Uranus’ orbit is the calculated current position of the comet. The flurry of dots are the calculated positions of meteors that whose orbits have been calculated. Click on the image to enlarge. Credit: NASA’s CAMS video camera surveillance network, and were calculated by meteor astronomer Peter Jenniskens of the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center. This visualization is developed and hosted by Ian Webster.

These interactive animations can be found on the International Meteor Organization website:  https://www.imo.net. under Resources and Meteor Shower Calendar.

11/15/2019 – Ephemeris – The Leonids in the moonlight

November 15, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, November 15th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 35 minutes, setting at 5:14, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:40. The Moon, 3 days past full, will rise at 7:45 this evening.

We are coming into a period where the Leonid meteor shower will be at its peak, as the Earth passes through the debris left by Comet Tempel-Tuttle on past trips through the inner solar system. We are having a bright Moon now which will diminish their numbers. The Leonids are only visible after midnight, and that’s when the Moon is highest in the sky. 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. The Leonids are most numerous about every 33 years, which is about 13 years from now. Otherwise we get about 15 meteors an hour at peak when the Moon isn’t out.

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

Addendum

Leo rising at around 2 a.m. on the morning of November 20. Note the radiant .

Leo rising at around 2 a.m. on the morning of November 18. Note the radiant in the sickle asterism of Leo. Created using Looking Up, my own program.

New Meteor News!

I’ll have more next week, but we may be able to witness a meteor storm on the evening of the 21st and morning of the 22nd.  It is the Alpha Monocerotids.  They will seem to come from the constellation of Monoceros the unicorn.  That constellation lies in the blank spot in the triangle between Orion, Canis Major and Canis Minor.  The radiant will rise at 10:30 p.m.

Check this out:  https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/will-the-unicorn-give-us-a-meteor-storm-on-november-22

11/12/2019 – Ephemeris – November meteor showers

November 12, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, November 12th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 42 minutes, setting at 5:17, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:36. The Moon, at full today, will rise at 5:45 this evening.

November is a month with three meteor showers and all this year are affected by the bright moon, at least on the dates of their peak activity. They are the South Taurids which peaked last month but are seen through the 20th of this month; the North Taurids, which are at peak now, and whose members can be seen through December 10th; and the Leonids, which peak next Monday whose members can be seen until the end of the month. At peak on a dark night neither of these showers will produce more than 20 per hour. Both the Taurid meteor showers, which seem to emanate from the constellation of Taurus the Bull are related to Encke’s Comet the shortest periodic comet which orbits the Sun in only 3.3 years.

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