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First Meteor Shower of 2014: The Quadrantids

Quadrantid Meteor Shower

The year’s first meteor shower may be a great one! The Quadrantid Meteor Shower is set to peak on January 3rd, 19:30 a.m. Universal time (2:30 p.m. EST). Although the best viewing will occur in northern Asia, clear skies and a new moon should result in fine viewing across the Northern Hemisphere. For best viewing , look up at 11 p.m. or later, January 3rd or 4th, your local time.

The Quadrantid Meteor Shower has been known to rival the popular Perseids and Geminids, in terms of number of meteors per hour. However, unlike those showers, during which meteors are sometimes visible for days, the window of time in which to view meteors is fairly brief.

What is a meteor shower?

Meteors occur when the Earth passes through streams of dust and debris from ancient comets which have entered the Earth’s atmosphere. (When the comet has flown close to the sun, its dirty ice evaporated and that, in turn, caused the comet dust to spew into space.) The Quadrantids are a relatively recent discovery (1830). Their name comes from a constellation that no longer exists on modern star charts. Their namesake, “The Mural Quadrant” has gone the way of other obscure and somewhat whimsical star patterns at one time known as “The Printing Office” and the “Northern Fly”.

How to watch the Quadrantid Meteor Shower

The Quadrantids should be visible with the naked eye in North America and perhaps in other parts of the world. Sky watchers in cold climates should bundle up, grab a chair (ideally one with some neck support), and perhaps a blanket, head outside where you can see the largest patch of night sky possible (with as little city light as possible), and look up.

Because meteor showers last for days before and after the projected peak, be sure to scan the skies during the surrounding days, if you can.

A thermos of hot chocolate is a great accompaniment for the Quadrantids.

This American Meteor Society page is a great site for exploring more about the Quadrantids and where and when to see them in your local night sky.

 

Photo:  Photos by Kev

Look Up! (And Bundle Up): The Geminid Meteor Shower is Putting on a Show

Now playing overhead: The dramatic Geminid Meteor Shower, which many astronomers agree can be one of the most intense meteor showers of the year.

The Geminid Meteor Shower is forecast to peak late Friday/early Saturday, Dec. 13-14, about two hours before dawn, at your local time, in North America. If you can’t stay up that late, not to worry — astronomers tell us that some meteors should be visible as soon as darkness hits and as late as December 16.

Despite this year’s nearly full moon, NASA scientists, like Bill Cooke of the NASA Meteoroid Environment Office, still predict a good show, especially for those willing to rise  before dawn. “The Geminid meteor shower is the most intense meteor shower of the year,” Cooke says. “It is rich in fireballs and can be seen from almost any point on Earth. Even a bright moon won’t completely spoil the show.”

Enjoy a live Geminid Meteor chat and video stream with NASA Scientists, Friday, December 13, 11 p.m.-3 a.m. EST.

What is a meteor shower?

Meteors occur when the Earth passes through streams of dust and debris from ancient comets which have entered the Earth’s atmosphere. (When the comet has flown close to the sun, its dirty ice evaporated and that, in turn, caused the comet dust to spew into space.) Scientists believe that the Geminids actually come from an asteroid, called 3200 Phaethon, which is really the skeleton of an extinct comet. The Earth passes through this particular debris stream each December, and is said to originate near the constellation Gemini.

How to watch the Geminid Meteor Shower

The Geminids should be visible with the naked eye in North America and perhaps in other parts of the world. Sky watchers in cold climates should bundle up, grab a chair (ideally one with some neck support), and perhaps a blanket, head outside where you can see the largest patch of night sky possible (with as little city light as possible), and look up.

Because meteor showers last for days before and after the projected peak, be sure to scan the skies during the surrounding days, if you can. This time of year, clouds can obscure the Geminids on the peak day, as can the moon, which will be nearly full.

A thermos of hot chocolate is a great accompaniment for the Geminids.

This shower has been getting stronger every year it’s been recorded, going back the the 1860s. It could be “an amazing annual display”, according Cooke of

This American Meteor Society page is a great site for exploring more about the Geminids and where and when to see them in your local night sky.

This movie of the 2008 Geminids comes from a space camera at the Marshall Space Flight Center:

Watch the 2008 Geminid Meteor Shower

Enjoy the Fall Harvest Moon and Equinox

Songwriters have crooned about it. Farmers have counted on it. The Chinese Mid-Autumn, or Moon, Festival honors it with special mooncakes. It’s the Harvest Moon, the full moon closest to the Autumnal Equinox, which traditionally shines its all-night beacon to help farmers gather their crops. In addition to being timed well for the job, this Autumn full moon travels particularly close to the horizon in the Northern Hemisphere, so that it appears larger and closer than do other full moons throughout the year. It’s also visible for a longer amount of time than other moons — often all night — so that, especially before electricity, the harvesting needn’t stop at nightfall. And, if that weren’t enough, it also brightens the night sky for many successive days in a row.

For most of a week, those in northern latitudes are able to go outside on clear nights and witness the Harvest Moon. It’s due to be its fullest on the night of September 18 or September 19, depending on your location on the globe. In North America, the crest of the moon’s full phase comes before sunrise September 19. at 11:13 UTC. That’s 4:13 a.m. U.S. Pacific Daylight Time  on September 19, 2013.  Translate UTC to your time zone.

Asians will witness the full moon after sunset September 19, the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

This year’s Autumnal Equinox falls on September 22, at 20:44 UTC . That’s 1:44 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time. “Equinox” means “equal night” in Latin and, twice a year (in March and September), the sun shines directly on the equator, and the length of day and night are nearly equal in all parts of the world.

The Farmers Almanac calls the Fall full moon the Harvest, or Corn, Moon. The Choctaw Native Americans called it the Mulberry Moon, and the Dakota Sioux called it the Moon When the Calves Grow Hair.

I’ve long been quite entranced with the full moon names and their variations. Of course, they reflect both the need to mark passing time and the way that time was experienced by people who were living close to the land. Lunar time-keeping pre-dated our modern calendars (and some calendars, like the Jewish and Chinese calendars, are still lunar-based.) The Farmer’s Almanac has a good list of Native American full moon names and how each came to be.

Other, even older, cultures have had moon naming traditions, too. This site lists full moon names from Chinese, Celtic, Pacific Island, Native American, Pagan, and other cultures.

In addition to harvesting, some people even plant and garden by the phases of the moon.

I hope you enjoy fine Equinox and Harvest Moon, whether you’re harvesting food, memories, or warm family full-moon nights.

Gaisberg_and_rising_full_moon

 

Photos: Roadcrusher, Matthias Kobel

You might also enjoy:

The Wheel of the Year: Summer Turns to Fall
Walt Whitman’s Ode to the Harvest
Fall Foliage at its Peak
Celebrate May’s Full Moon
Happy Equinox and Super Moon

Perseid Meteor Shower Will Light Up the Night Sky This Weekend

You might see a lot or you might not see many, but if you stay in the house, you won’t see any. — EarthSky Magazine

 

The annual Perseid meteor shower is coming our way this weekend. Anyone who lives in the Northern Hemisphere may be in for a good old-fashioned sky show, just by looking up.

The Perseids are debris from a wandering comet that appears as shooting stars each August. (Records of this light show go back to 36 A.D., though the Swift-Tuttle Comet was discovered much later.) They often provide one of the best shows of the year, if the skies are clear and the moon is not full.

Astronomers are predicting an especially good show this year, the peak of which will be Sunday, August 11 and Monday, August 12. Midnight Sunday to dawn Monday should provide the best viewing under a half-full moon. Sometimes meteors can be seen up to a week before and after a shower’s peak.  Astronomers are predicting as many as 70 meteors an hour for those who are able to see the Perseids. (That said, we always see fewer meteors than these predicted numbers, so don’t be disappointed. One fantastic shooting star blazing through the sky can produce lifelong memories and awe.)

You won’t need any special equipment to see the Perseids. The naked eye is actually best. Just be sure to give your eyes some time to adjust to the dark. And hope for a good show! Here are more tips for viewing the Perseids.

The San Francisco Chronicle offers more information about the Perseids, along with some good viewing tips and a sky map.

If you like, you can even be a citizen scientist and help NASA count meteors! Download a free app for iphones and androids and join the meteor count. (Here are more citizen science projects you might be interested in.)

Some of my family’s most relaxed and memorable moments have occurred while gazing at the stars together. You can’t help but be infused with a sense of wonder, history and mystery while contemplating the cosmos. It’s natural to share those feelings with those around us, as we use the stars to try to look back through distance and time.

My family remembers one especially wonderful August, when we went to the top of our nearest mountain to see the Perseid meteor shower. Lying in the grass in the dark, we could hear choruses of “oohs” and “aahs” coming from all around the mountain, as people caught sight of the meteors blazing through the night sky. Of course, this year, we’ll be outside again, somewhere, looking for the beautiful Perseids.

Enjoy the show!

Photo: Eta Aquarids by Jason Gunders, Queensland, Australia

See this guide to other Meteor Showers Throughout the Year

Lyrid Meteor Shower will Peak Early April 22

The Lyrid meteor shower is due for its annual appearance, and is expected to peak late Sunday night, April 21, and early Monday morning, April 22, over North America. Even though the near-full moon may render much of the annual show invisible to us, Space.com tells us that away from city lights, 20 meteors per hour could be visible.

The Lyrids (pronounced Lie-rids) have been observed for more than 2,500 years — during 687 B.C., Chinese records noted that “stars fell like rain”. Aside from some similar key years, notably last year, when my family scanned the skies and then joined many other enthusiasts for NASA’s Up All Night NASA Chat, and 1982, when 90 and more shooting stars were seen for a period of hours, the Lyrids have been a minor meteor shower.

Can’t watch it at the exact time? Don’t worry — astronomers tell us that meteor showers can last for hours before and after the peak time.

What is a meteor shower?

Meteors occur when the Earth passes through streams of dust and debris from ancient comets which have entered the Earth’s atmosphere. (When the comet has flown close to the sun, its dirty ice evaporated and that, in turn, caused the comet dust to spew into space.) The Lyrid meteor shower hails from the comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which orbits the Sun only once every 415 years, even though we see the Lyrids that result from it annually. The orbit of this comet appears to lie in the constellation Lyra, the source of the name Lyrids.

How to watch the Lyrid Meteor Shower

Meteors are best viewed with the naked eye. Sky watchers should grab a chair (ideally one with some neck support), and a blanket if it’s cold, and head outside where you can see the largest patch of night sky possible (with as little city light as possible), and look up.

Because meteor showers last for days before and after the projected peak, try to scan the skies during the surrounding days, if you can.

This American Meteor Society page is a great site for exploring more about the Lyrids and where and when to see them in your local night sky. Their Meteor Shower Caldendar lets you get ready for future meteor shows, like the popular Perseids, which will hit this year on August 11-12.

 

Photo: Composite of 2009 Lyrids over Huntsville, Ala. (NASA/MSFC/Danielle Moser)

 

 

 

Geminid Meteor Shower Promises a Spectacular Show

Now playing overhead: The dramatic Geminid Meteor Shower, which many astronomers agree is the best meteor shower of the year.

The Geminid Meteor Shower is forecast to peak late Thursday/early Friday Dec. 13-14, between around 10 p.m. and sunrise, at your local time, in North America. If you can’t stay up that late, not to worry — astronomers tell us that some meteors should be visible as soon as darkness hits. In addition, the shower lasts for days before and after the peak date, and there have already been reports from around the world of people spotting many spectacular fireball-like celestial streaks in just minutes.

This year’s shower coincides with a new moon, so the sky should be extra dark for excellent viewing. NASA scientists, like Bill Cooke of the NASA Meteoroid Environment Office, predict a fantastic show, aided by the possible appearance of a second, newly discovered meteor shower.

What is a meteor shower?

Meteors occur when the Earth passes through streams of dust and debris from ancient comets which have entered the Earth’s atmosphere. (When the comet has flown close to the sun, its dirty ice evaporated and that, in turn, caused the comet dust to spew into space.) Scientists believe that the Geminids actually come from an asteroid, called 3200 Phaethon, which is really the skeleton of an extinct comet. The Earth passes through this particular debris stream each December, and is said to originate near the constellation Gemini.

How to watch the Geminid Meteor Shower

The Geminids should be visible with the naked eye in North America and perhaps in other parts of the world. Sky watchers in cold climates should bundle up, grab a chair (ideally one with some neck support), and perhaps a blanket, head outside where you can see the largest patch of night sky possible (with as little city light as possible), and look up.

Because meteor showers last for days before and after the projected peak, be sure to scan the skies during the surrounding days, if you can.

A thermos of hot chocolate is a great accompaniment for the Geminids.

This shower has been getting stronger every year it’s been recorded, going back the the 1860s. It could be “an amazing annual display”, according Cooke of

This American Meteor Society page is a great site for exploring more about the Geminids and where and when to see them in your local night sky.

This movie of the 2008 Geminids comes from a space camera at the Marshall Space Flight Center:

Watch the 2008 Geminid Meteor Shower

Watch the Perseid Meteor Shower This Weekend

 

You might see a lot or you might not see many, but if you stay in the house, you won’t see any.  — EarthSky Magazine

 

The annual Perseid meteor shower is coming our way this weekend. Anyone who lives in the Northern Hemisphere may be in for a good old-fashioned sky show, just by looking up.

The Perseids are debris from a wandering comet that appears as shooting stars each August. (Records of this light show go back to 36 A.D., though the Swift-Tuttle Comet was discovered much later.) They often provide one of the best shows of the year, if the skies are clear and the moon is not full.

This year, they should be best in the U.S. and Canada late Saturday, August 11, and early Sunday, August 12, especially in the hours after midnight into August 12. Early morning August 13 is another good time to see them, because the moon will be waning (not bright) and late-rising. Astronomers are predicting 50-60 meteors an hour for those who are able to see the Perseids. (That said, we always see fewer meteors than these predicted numbers, so don’t be disappointed. One fantastic shooting star blazing through the sky can produce lifelong memories and awe.)

You won’t need any special equipment to see the Perseids. The naked eye is actually best. Just be sure to give your eyes some time to adjust to the dark. And hope for a good show! Here are more tips for viewing the Perseids.

The San Francisco Chronicle offers more information about the Perseids, along with some good viewing tips and a sky map.

If you like, you can even be a citizen scientist and help NASA count meteors! Download a free app for iphones and androids and join the meteor count. (Here are more citizen science projects you might be interested in.)

Some of my family’s most relaxed and memorable moments have occurred while gazing at the stars together. You can’t help but be infused with a sense of wonder, history and mystery while contemplating the cosmos. It’s natural to share those feelings with those around us, as we use the stars to try to look back through distance and time.

My family remembers one especially wonderful August, when we went to the top of our nearest mountain to see the Perseid meteor shower. Lying in the grass in the dark, we could hear choruses of “oohs” and “aahs” coming from all around the mountain, as people caught sight of the meteors blazing through the night sky. Of course, this year, we’ll be outside again, somewhere, looking for the beautiful Perseids.

Enjoy the show!

600px-Meteor_burst
Meteor Burst Photo by NASA Ames Research Center/S. Molau & P. Jenniskens

Lyrid Meteor Shower May be Best in Years

The Lyrid meteor shower, expected to peak late Saturday night and into Sunday morning over North America, promises one of its best shows in years, astronomers say. Especially beneficial is Saturday’s near-moonless night. The Lyrids are set to peak after midnight, early April 22.

Spokespeople from NASA have gone as far as to observe:

If you must spend one night under the beckoning stars this month, make it April 21.

NASA folks themselves are planning to make the most of the event. They are launching a balloon cam from Bishop, CA, in the hopes of getting up-close meteor footage and they are offering an Up All Night NASA Chat, from 11pm-5am Eastern U.S. Time. Simply follow this link to ask scientists questions about the Lyrids.

The Lyrids (pronounced Lie-rids) have been observed for more than 2,500 years — during 687 B.C., Chinese records noted that “stars fell like rain”. Aside from some similar key years, most recently 1982, when 90 and more shooting stars were seen for a period of hours, the Lyrids have been a minor meteor shower.

Can’t watch it at the exact time? Don’t worry — astronomers tell us that meteor showers can last for hours before and after the peak date.

What is a meteor shower?

Meteors occur when the Earth passes through streams of dust and debris from ancient comets which have entered the Earth’s atmosphere. (When the comet has flown close to the sun, its dirty ice evaporated and that, in turn, caused the comet dust to spew into space.) The Lyrid meteor shower hails from the comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which orbits the Sun only once every 415 years, even though we see the Lyrids that result from it annually. The orbit of this comet appears to lie in the constellation Lyra, the source of the name Lyrids.

How to watch the Lyrid Meteor Shower

Meteors are best viewed with the naked eye. Sky watchers should grab a chair (ideally one with some neck support), and a blanket if it’s cold, and head outside where you can see the largest patch of night sky possible (with as little city light as possible), and look up.

Because meteor showers last for days before and after the projected peak, try to scan the skies during the surrounding days, if you can.

This American Meteor Society page is a great site for exploring more about the Lyrids and where and when to see them in your local night sky.

This video from NASA explains why April 21-22 should be an especially wonderful night for stargazing.

ScienceCasts; A Wonderful Night in April

Photo: Composite of 2009 Lyrids over Huntsville, Ala. (NASA/MSFC/Danielle Moser)

 

 

 

First Meteor Shower of 2012: The Quadrantids

The year’s first meteor shower may be a great one! The Quadrantids are set to peak on January 4th, 2:30 am ET. Astronomers are calling for clear skies and a dramatic show in much of the Northern Hemisphere, especially in the pre-dawn hours.

Can’t watch it at the exact time? Don’t worry — astronomers tell us that meteor showers can last for hours before and after the peak date.

This is a good article about the Quadrantids from Huffington Post.

What is a meteor shower?

Meteors occur when the Earth passes through streams of dust and debris from ancient comets which have entered the Earth’s atmosphere. (When the comet has flown close to the sun, its dirty ice evaporated and that, in turn, caused the comet dust to spew into space.) The Quadrantids are a relatively recent discovery (1825).

How to watch the Quadrantid Meteor Shower

The Quadrantids should be visible with the naked eye in North America and perhaps in other parts of the world. Sky watchers in cold climates should bundle up, grab a chair (ideally one with some neck support), and perhaps a blanket, head outside where you can see the largest patch of night sky possible (with as little city light as possible), and look up.

Because meteor showers last for days before and after the projected peak, be sure to scan the skies during the surrounding days, if you can.

A thermos of hot chocolate is a great accompaniment for the Quadrantids.

This American Meteor Society page is a great site for exploring more about the Quadrantids and where and when to see them in your local night sky.

Look Up! It’s the Geminid Meteor Shower

Now playing overhead: The dramatic Geminid Meteor Shower, which many astronomers agree is the best meteor shower of the year.

The Geminid Meteor Shower is forecast to peak late Tuesday/early Wednesday Dec. 13-14, between around 10 p.m. and sunrise, at your local time, in North America. If you can’t stay up that late, not to worry — astronomers tell us that some meteors should be visible as soon as darkness hits. In addition, the shower lasts for days before and after the peak date, and there have already been reports from around the world of people spotting spectacular fireball-like celestial streaks.

Despite this year’s nearly full moon, NASA scientists, like Bill Cooke of the NASA Meteoroid Environment Office, still predict a good show. “Observers with clear skies could see as many as 40 Geminids per hour,” Cooke says .  “Our all-sky network of meteor cameras has captured several early Geminid fireballs.  They were so bright, we could see them despite the moonlight.”

What is a meteor shower?

Meteors occur when the Earth passes through streams of dust and debris from ancient comets which have entered the Earth’s atmosphere. (When the comet has flown close to the sun, its dirty ice evaporated and that, in turn, caused the comet dust to spew into space.) Scientists believe that the Geminids actually come from an asteroid, called 3200 Phaethon, which is really the skeleton of an extinct comet. The Earth passes through this particular debris stream each December, and is said to originate near the constellation Gemini.

How to watch the Geminid Meteor Shower

The Geminids should be visible with the naked eye in North America and perhaps in other parts of the world. Sky watchers in cold climates should bundle up, grab a chair (ideally one with some neck support), and perhaps a blanket, head outside where you can see the largest patch of night sky possible (with as little city light as possible), and look up.

Because meteor showers last for days before and after the projected peak, be sure to scan the skies during the surrounding days, if you can. This time of year, clouds can obscure the Geminids on the peak day, as can the moon, which will be nearly full.

A thermos of hot chocolate is a great accompaniment for the Geminids.

This shower has been getting stronger every year it’s been recorded, going back the the 1860s. It could be “an amazing annual display”, according Cooke of

This American Meteor Society page is a great site for exploring more about the Geminids and where and when to see them in your local night sky.

This movie of the 2008 Geminids comes from a space camera at the Marshall Space Flight Center:

Watch the 2008 Geminid Meteor Shower

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