Everything you need to know: The Eta Aquarid meteor shower before dawn May 4 and 5
“We’re pleased to inform southern (and northern) skywatchers that one [upcoming] meteor shower in particular – the Eta Aquarid shower – is a fine one to view from both northerly and southerly latitudes. No matter where you live, you can watch the Eta Aquarids in early May. Plus the moon is not a problem for this shower this year!
The 2013 Eta Aquarid meteor shower is expected to produce the greatest number of meteors in the dark hours before dawn on Sunday, May 5. However, the broad peak of the Eta Aquarid shower may present similarly strong showings during the predawn hours on Saturday, May 4, and Monday, May 6. In a dark sky, especially at more southerly latitudes, the Eta Aquarids can produce up to 20 to 40 meteors per hour. From mid-northern latitudes, you might only see about 10 meteors per hour.“
•Radiant point of the Eta Aquarid shower.
“The point in the sky from which meteors in annual showers appear to radiate is called the meteor shower radiant. You don’t have to locate the radiant to watch the Eta Aquarid meteors, but people always ask about them. Although the Eta Aquarid meteors streak all over the sky, they appear to radiate from the Y-shaped group of stars called the Water Jar. The Water Jar is part of the constellation Aquarius.
To star-hop to the Water Jar, first of all find the four stars of the Great Square of Pegasus. (See sky chart at bottom right.) Looking eastward at about 4 a.m. (Daylight Saving Time), the Great Square of Pegasus glitters like a celestial baseball diamond. Imagine the bottom star as home base. Draw a line from the third base star through the first base star, then go twice that distance to locate the star Sadal Melik.
To the lower left of Sadal Melik is the small Y-shaped Water Jar, marking the approximate radiant of the Eta Aquarid meteor shower. Again, you don’t need to know the shower’s radiant point to watch the meteors! During the wee morning hours before dawn, the meteors in this annual shower will appear in all parts of the sky.” via EarthSky
•What’s the source of Eta Aquarid meteor shower?
“Every year, our planet Earth crosses the orbital path of Halley’s Comet in late April and May, so bits and pieces from this comet light up the nighttime as Eta Aquarid meteors at this time. This shower is said to be active from April 19 to May 20, although Earth plows most deeply into this stream of comet debris around May 5 or 6.
The comet dust smashes into Earth’s upper atmosphere at nearly 240,000 kilometers (150,000 miles) per hour. Roughly half of these swift-moving meteors leave persistent trains – ionized gas trails that glow for a few seconds after the meteor has passed.
Our planet also crosses the orbital path of Halley’s Comet at the other end of the year, giving rise to the Orionid meteor shower, which is forecasted to peak on October 21, 2013.
Give yourself at least an hour of viewing time for watching any meteor shower. Meteors tend to come in spurts that are interspersed by lulls. Also, it can take as long as 20 minutes for your eyes to adapt to the dark.”
•Find out more about the Eta Aquarid meteor shower here, here, and here. To find out where to look based on your location take a look at the Northern Hemisphere & Southern Hemisphere sky maps.
Painting The Needles Under The Geminids Meteor Shower by Mike Berenson
“From the moment David Kingham first mentioned his idea of heading up to the Needle’s Eye in South Dakota for the Geminids Meteor Shower, I had a feeling it had some potential to be really cool. Sure enough, that was absolutely the case!
I’m sparing you the practice sessions that led up to this and cutting straight to the epic trip with the big shower and captures to show for it. This composite image comes from over a thousand images taken on an overnight photo adventure and shows David Kingham looking up during the break in light painting the Needles under the Geminids ”
Must See Stargazing Events in 2013 via I Fucking Love Science
A great list of all the best meteor showers, eclipses, and other notable celestial events to come this year that will be visible in our night skies.
“Tonight is the conjunction of Jupiter and the Moon. They will appear to pass within a few degrees of one another, and this won’t happen again until 2026. For more information on how to view (and a live stream at 9pm EST if it’s cloudy in your area) see here.”
When Gemini Sends Stars to Paranal
Image Credit & Copyright: Stéphane Guisard (Los Cielos de America), TWAN
“From a radiant point in the constellation of the Twins, the annual Geminid meteor shower rained down on planet Earth this week. Recorded near the shower’s peak in the early hours of December 14, this skyscape captures Gemini’s lovely shooting stars in a careful composite of 30 exposures, each 20 seconds long, from the dark of the Chilean Atacama Desert over ESO’s Paranal Observatory. In the foreground Paranal’s four Very Large Telescopes, four Auxillary Telescopes, and the VLT Survey telescope are all open and observing. The skies above are shared with bright Jupiter (left), Orion, (top left), and the faint light of the Milky Way. Dust swept up from the orbit of active asteroid 3200 Phaethon, Gemini’s meteors enter the atmosphere traveling at about 22 kilometers per second.”
Getting my camera warmed up for the Geminids tonight. I’ve already seen at least a dozen prominent [in size and brightness] meteors. So if you’ve got nothing to do, and are in a good place geographically to see the stars, grab a blanket and head outside to watch one of nature’s best shows all year round! And don’t forget to stay away from looking at any city lights and/or unnatural lights, and give your eyes about half an hour to fully adjust to our starry night sky. Stay warm and happy skywatching, everyone!
Leonids Over Monument Valley
Image Credit & Copyright: Sean M. Sabatini
“What’s happening in the sky over Monument Valley? A meteor shower. Over the past weekend the Leonid meteor showerhas been peaking. The image — actually a composite of six exposures of about 30 seconds each — was taken in 2001, a year when there was a much more active Leonids shower. At that time, Earth was moving through a particularly dense swarm of sand-sized debris from Comet Tempel-Tuttle, so that meteor rates approached one visible streak per second. The meteors appear parallel because they all fall to Earth from the meteor shower radiant — a point on the sky towards the constellation of the Lion (Leo). Although the predicted peak of this year’s Leonid meteor shower is over, another peak may be visible early tomorrow morning. By the way — how many meteors can you identify in the above image?”
Their smoky residue swirled by atmospheric winds, Leonid meteors slash a starry sky.
[Photograph by Tony Hallas, Science Faction/Corbis]
“The Leonids are so named because they seem to radiate from the constellation Leo, the Lion, which in the Northern Hemisphere this time of year rises around local midnight, and by 3:00 a.m. is high in the eastern sky. (See a Leonid viewing diagram.)
Like most meteor showers, the Leonids are caused by Earth plowing through a comet’s dust trail, in this case comet Tempel-Tuttle, which completes a circuit of the sun every 33 years. When the comet gets close to the sun, melting ice releases pieces of dust, most no larger than grains of sand. (See asteroid and comet pictures.)
The last big Leonid storm occurred in 2002, with 3,000 meteors falling an hour at the height of the action. But the granddaddy of all meteor storms—and the root of Leonids’ mythical status among generations of sky-watchers—was the 1833 storm, when as many as a hundred thousand shooting stars occurred in one hour.
‘But since it’s been about ten years since the last [big Leonid] storm, we should be in a quiet period’ until the comet again approaches the sun in two decades, Burress said.
In general, ‘It’s amazing to think that these pieces of dust are often specks of material left over from the formation of the solar system, captured by the comet and transported into our part of the solar system,’ he added.
‘They are often 4.5-billion-year-old bits, and we see them vaporize in a flash!’ “
Annual Leonids Meteor Shower Visible This Weekend. [November 16-20]
[Images from Space.com & NASA]
“The 2012 Leonid meteor shower peaks on Nov. 17 at 4:30 a.m. EST. [ Convert to your local time using this tool.] If forecasters are correct, the shower should produce a mild but pretty sprinkling during the night/morning of Nov. 16-17. The moon will be a waxing crescent setting before midnight, clearing the way for some unobstructed Leonid viewing.
This year, Nature may also provide a bonus. The evening/morning of Nov. 19-20 could offer a secondary peak for the Leonid meteor shower.”
And a friendly reminder for all you fellow skywatchers; it takes about half an hour for your eyes to fully adjust to the night sky so you can see all the stars, planets, and the Leonids themselves. Because of this, everyone should get outside and settled about fourty-five minutes before you plan on starting to watch this awesome meteor shower. That way your eyes will be fully adjusted once you’re ready to start watching. I wish you all clear skies and don’t forget warm blankets and clothes!
If you don’t have clear weather, or good night-viewing skies, you can always watch the live stream online here on NASA’s Ustream site through out the weekend. Read more here & here about the Leonids and how to view them properly.
Perseid Meteors and the Milky Way Image - APOD
Credit & Copyright: Jens Hackmann
“Where will the next Perseid meteor appear? Sky enthusiasts who trekked outside for the Perseid meteor shower that peaked over the past few days typically had this question on their mind. Six meteors from this past weekend are visible in the above stacked image composite, including one bright fireball streaking along the band of the background Milky Way Galaxy. All Perseid meteors appear to come from the shower radiant in the constellation of Perseus. Early reports about this year’s Perseids indicate that as many as 100 meteors per hour were visible from some dark locations during the peak. The above digital mosaic was taken near Weikersheim, Germany.”