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08/06/2019 – Ephemeris – More about viewing the Perseid meteor shower: Meteor trains

August 6, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, August 6th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 27 minutes, setting at 9:02, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:35. The Moon, 1 day before first quarter, will set at 12:29 tomorrow morning.

The Perseid meteor shower has to compete this years with the bright waxing Moon, so only the brightest meteors will be visible, However even though this cuts down on the meteors visible, it happens that some of the brightest of meteors leave smokey trains, which can be seen in binoculars. Unlike aircraft contrails which are created the same altitude, meteor trains descend through the atmosphere where the winds at the different altitudes slowly bend and twist the train, tearing it up. The same occurs with any really bright meteor, Perseid or not. So remember to add binoculars to your meteor viewing kit along with a blanket, warm coat, mosquito spray and hot coffee or other beverage.

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

Addendum

These are screen caps from a time lapse video by Australian Phil Hart of a meteor train being torn apart by upper level winds. Credit Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy/Phil Hart.  This was not a Perseid meteor.

The actual video and much more about meteor trains are located here:  https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/catching-meteor-train.

08/05/2019 – Ephemeris – Previewing the Perseid meteor shower

August 5, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, August 5th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 30 minutes, setting at 9:03, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:34. The Moon, 2 days before first quarter, will set at 12:01 tomorrow morning.

After the Moon sets in the morning hours for the next week and a half the numbers of meteors visible will increase each night. These are members of the Perseid meteor shower of August. The peak this year is expected to be during the morning of the 13th. However by then the Moon will be nearly full. These meteors are the result of debris left along the orbit of Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle shed by innumerable visits to the inner solar system. Every year at this time the Earth passes through this trail of debris which intersects its orbit giving rise to the meteor shower. We call them the Perseids, because they appear to come from the direction of the constellation Perseus the hero, which is first seen in the early evening low in the northeast.

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

Addendum

Perseid Radiant

The Perseid radiant is located off the highest star in Perseus as it ascends the sky at about 10:30 p.m. The Perseid radiant is circumpolar for observers in northern Michigan. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium.

Swift-Tuttle 1992 plot

The passage of Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle through the inner solar system November 1, 1992 to January 30, 1993. The meteoroids shed by the comet on its numerous trips close to the Sun lie close to that orbit. Note that its orbit intersects with the Earth’s orbit. That’s where the Earth will be around August 12-13 every year. Created using my LookingUp program.

 

05/04/2017 – Ephemeris – Bits of Halley’s Comet will fill our skies for the next few mornings

May 5, 2017 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, May 4th.  The Sun rises at 6:28.  It’ll be up for 14 hours and 23 minutes, setting at 8:51.  The Moon, 2 days past first quarter, will set at 4:15 tomorrow morning.

Look out for the Eta Aquariids meteors in the early morning sky for the next few days.  This is like 5 a.m.  These are sand grain sized debris from “Hawley’s” Comet.  That’s the same guy we pronounce “Hayley” or “Hal-ley”.  The authority on the pronunciation is a contemporary of his, Samuel Pepys, who spelled his name H-a-w-l-e-y.   Anyway, this is one of two meteor showers every year that are attributed to Halley’s Comet, where the Earth crosses the debris stream.  The other, the Orionids of late October see the debris stream entering the inner solar system, while the Eta Aquariids, which seem to come from the southeast are the debris stream leaving the inner solar system, and heading back out toward Neptune’s orbit.

The 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: Bob Moler’s LookingUp program.

04/20/2017 – Ephemeris – The Lyrid meteors are reaching their peak now

April 20, 2017 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, April 20th.  The Sun rises at 6:49.  It’ll be up for 13 hours and 44 minutes, setting at 8:33.  The Moon, 1 day past last quarter, will rise at 4:20 tomorrow morning.

We are in a period where the Lyrid meteors appear.  This capricious shower peaks at various times and with a variety of peak numbers from 14 to 90 per hour.  The expected peak will be April 22nd at 8 a.m.   The radiant point, from where the meteors seem to come, lies between the constellation Lyra and its bright star Vega and Hercules to the west of it.  The radiant point starts the evening low in the northeast and moves nearly overhead when the Moon finally rises.  The meteors, sometimes called falling stars will appear all over the sky, but can be traced back to that radiant point.  The best time to see these or any meteor shower is when the radiant point is highest in the sky.  That will be Saturday morning.

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

Addendum

Lyrid  Radiant.

Location of the Lyrid meteor radiant at midnight. Note that the radiant point is a spot that the meteors can be back tracked to. The meteors will appear all over the sky. If they appear near the radiant they will appear to move the slowest, since their actual motion is mostly toward the observer. Created using Stellarium.

The display of meteor shower radiants is a plug-in in the latest versions of Stellarium.

08/11/2016 – Ephemeris – The Perseid meteors will peak tonight!

August 11, 2016 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, August 11th.  The Sun rises at 6:41.  It’ll be up for 14 hours and 12 minutes, setting at 8:53.  The Moon, 1 day past first quarter, will set at 1:31 tomorrow morning.

This evening and tomorrow morning we should see the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower.  There is the expected broad peak of the shower which for us is after sunrise.  However the meteoroid stream isn’t monolithic.  Each pass of the comet in the inner solar system superimposes its debris on the general stream, so we will have increased activity all night tonight and even into Saturday morning.  In general Perseid meteors will be seen to come from the northeast.  The evening view will be hampered by the Moon which will drown out the dimmer meteors.  The best time to view is after the Moon sets at 1:31 tomorrow morning until morning twilight becomes noticeable around 5 a.m. when over 100 meteors might be spotted an hour.

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

Addendum

Perceid Radiant

The Perseid meteor shower radiant a about 2 a,m, during the period of the shower. Created using my LookingUp program.

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.

My best Perseid photo. From the 70's.

My best Perseid photo. From the 70’s.

08/10/2016 – Ephemeris – The planets tonight

August 10, 2016 Comments off

Ephemeris for Wednesday, August 10th.  The Sun rises at 6:39.  It’ll be up for 14 hours and 15 minutes, setting at 8:55.  The Moon, at first quarter today, will set at 12:55 tomorrow morning.

Today we turn from the small meteoroids that orbit the Sun that are producing the Perseid Meteor Shower to the larger members of the solar family, namely the bright planets. Venus and Mercury are very low in the west-northwest and will set at 9:44 and 9:50 p.m. respectively.  Jupiter is in the west in the evening.  It will set at 10:19 p.m.  Mars, Saturn and the star Antares start the evening in the south-southwestern sky as a tightening triangle, moving to the southwest during the evening.  Antares, whose name means Rival of Mars is below Saturn with brighter Mars to the right.  The Red Planet is back in Scorpius.  It will set at 12:46 a.m.  Mars is moving rapidly to the east against the stars.  Saturn is spectacular in telescopes, with its rings.  Saturn will set at 1:34 a.m.

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

Addendum

Sunset planets

Venus, Mercury and Jupiter at 9:25 p.m. (30 minutes after sunset), August 10, 2016. Created using Stellarium.

Evening planets and the Moon

The planets, Moon and constellations at 10 p.m., August 10, 2016. Created using Stellarium.

Binocular Moon

The Moon as it might appear in binoculars tonight, August 10, 2016 at 10 p.m. Created using Stellarium.

Saturn and its moons

Saturn and its moons at 10 p.m. August 10, 2016. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

The planets and the Moon all night

Planets at sunset and sunrise of a single night starting with sunset on the right on August 10, 2016. The night ends on the left with sunrise on August 11. Actually all the naked eye planets are in the evening sky. Also shown is the Perseid meteor shower radiant. If you are using Firefox right-click on the image and select View Image to enlarge the image. That goes for all the large images. Created using my LookingUp program.

Also shown is the Perseid meteor shower radiant.

05/03/2016 – Ephemeris – Halley’s Comet is back… In little bitty pieces

May 3, 2016 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, May 3rd.  The Sun rises at 6:29.  It’ll be up for 14 hours and 21 minutes, setting at 8:50.   The Moon, 3 days before new, will rise at 5:23 tomorrow morning.

There’s a meteor shower happening this week that’s  a tough one for observers as far north as we are.  It’s the Eta Aquariids:  seeming to come from the Water Jar asterism of the constellation Aquarius the water bearer.  It will reach peak on Thursday the 5th, however the radiant point rises around 3:30 a.m., and twilight starts an hour and a half later.  The radiant is also low in the southeastern part of the sky.  The meteors are fast-moving and many of them are bright.  They are bits shed by Halley’s Comet and left in its orbit.  The Earth passes close to Halley’s orbit twice a year:  In late October as the particles come in from the outer solar system, and again in early May as they head back out again.  We’ll see souvenirs of Halley’s Comet before it returns in 2061.

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

Addendum

Eta Aquarid radiant

The Eta Aquarid radiant at the peak of the shower. The radiant moves slowly to the east with time. Credit: Bob Moler’s LookingUp program.

This meteor shower is low for us in the Northern Hemisphere, but it will be great for those Down Under.  The Moon is even cooperating this year, by getting out of the way.  The active dates for the shower are April 19th to May 28th. The velocity of the meteoroids that strike the atmosphere is 66 km/s.  Halley’s Comet, and thus its debris is traveling in a retrograde orbit, going the wrong way in a one way solar system, which is why the speed of the particles is so high.