Archive for the ‘Meteor’ Category

Bad timing for the Geminid Meteor Shower
December 12, 2016

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The usually reliable Geminid meteor shower peaks Tuesday night and can be seen tonight.  The problem this year is the meteors arrive at the same time as the full Supermoon.  Most years on a clear night you can see 120 meteors per hour but the moon will hide all but the brightest streaks.

In SoCal we’ll have mostly cloudy skies Tuesday night so not a great night even without the full moon.  Too bad, the Geminids are one of the rare showers that can be seen earlier in the night between 10:00 and 10:30 PM.  The peak though is between 2:00 and 4:00 AM and by this time the fog we’ll be pretty thick.

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Did you know the Geminids are the only meteor shower that doesn’t come from dust by a comet.  The streams are from the asteroid ‘3200 Phaethon.’ This asteroid ejects fragments of rock not dust. Since rock penetrates the atmosphere more than dust, the Geminids produce longer streaks.

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The Geminids get their name because they appear to originate, or radiate, from the constellation Gemini.  The small pieces of rock strike the Earth’s atmosphere at 80,000 mph.

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The Orionid Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight & Friday
October 20, 2016

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From the 2011 Orionid meteor shower near Mount Shasta, California

There is something magical about seeing “shooting stars” and you’ll have your chance from midnight to dawn tonight and again tomorrow night October 21st and 22nd.  Don’t get your hopes up that the Orionids will be a spectacular showing though.  The end of the full moon, or the waning gibbous moon, will wash out the faintest meteors. If you can find a spot away from the city, you may see a maximum of 10 to 15 meteors per hour.

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Halley’s Comet is really far away but we are intersecting the comet’s orbit.

What’s really cool about the Orionids is the debris comes from the most famous of all comets, Halley.  Comet Halley’s last visit was in 1986 and will return again in 2061. The comet is no where around but this time every year the Earth intersects the comet’s orbit.

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They are called as the Orionids because they appear to fan out from the constellation Orion, The Hunter. These particles, or meteors, are about the size, shape and color of Grape Nuts Cereal. These tiny pieces of debris slam the top of the Earth’s atmosphere 80 miles up.  Each meteor hits the atmosphere at 37 miles per second, creating a hot streak of superheated air that you see on the ground as a streak of light.  They burn up, never reaching the surface of the Earth.  It is inaccurate to call them “shooting stars” because they are bits of rubble.

Meteors

You don’t need any special equipment, simply go outside with an open view and away from as many city lights as possible. Lay down on a blanket or a lawn chair is comfortable too.

The Perseid Meteor Shower
August 10, 2016

The annual Perseid Meteor shower peaks Thursday night and lasts through Friday morning.  If you want to take in the show you’ll want to stay up late or wake up extra early.

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In perfect conditions stargazers can see 60 to 90 “shooting stars” per hour.  However, this year  European countries may be able to see up to 200 meteors per hour.  You can thank the planet Jupiter.  Every twelve years Jupiter passes through the comet’s orbit.  This occurred in 2014.  The giant planet’s gravity moved the particles towards the Earth.  Those particles arrive Thursday night in Europe but that is during the day in the United States so the west coast will miss out on this enhanced activity.  The east coast of the U.S. will get a little better show than most years.

Meteors

Perseids look like Grape Nuts Cereal

These particles, or meteors, are about the size, shape and color of Grape Nuts Cereal. These tiny pieces of debris slam the top of the Earth’s atmosphere 80 miles up.  Each Perseid hits the atmosphere at 37 miles per second, creating a hot streak of superheated air that you see on the ground as a streak of light.  They burn up, never reaching the surface of the Earth.  It is inaccurate to call them “shooting stars” because they are bits of rubble that were shed in 1479 by the Comet Swift-Tuttle.  This stream of Perseids orbit the Sun and every August the Earth passes through the stream.

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Any kind of light will hinder viewing of the meteor shower.  And this includes light from the moon.  The first-quarter phase moon will set around 12:30 AM PDT Friday so peak viewing will be between 1:00 and 5:30 AM Friday.  You don’t need any special equipment, simply go outside with an open view and away from as many city lights as possible.  These include street lights and house lights.  Looking northeast is a good idea but as the night goes on, if the skies are clear, you won’t miss a thing by looking straight up. Lay down on a blanket or a lawn chair is comfortable too.  If you are in a big city with a lot of lights you can still see the show by clicking this site: Bareket Observatory in Israel.  The astronomers invite you to join them August 11th beginning at 19:00 UT (12 PM PDT).

The Perseids get their name because the meteor showers “radiant” the perspective point of origin is the constellation Perseus.

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