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Lyrid meteor shower 2017 April 17, 2017

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, MichiganAstro.
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The first potentially big warm weather meteor shower is coming this weekend. Predictions of the peak’s timing all place the peak during daylight in the Midwest on the 22, but this shower usually has an extended peak. In fact, you may see as many meteors on the 21 or 23.

The radiant lies in Lyra, near Hercules. It’s not really high enough to observe until 2 AM, it transits the meridian around 5:30, and it starts getting light out at about 6 AM, so the best time to observe is about 4 – 6 AM local time. Here’s a map for 5 AM with the stars of the summer triangle marked:

22Apr0500S.png

The Lyrids are an irregular shower, usually producing a mere 10 – 20 meteors per hour, but occasionally reaching rates of around 100 meteors per hour.   This year is expected to be a pretty average year, which means waiting several minutes between meteors. If you don’t have dark skies, it may mean 10 – 15 minutes between bright meteors.

 

Additional resources:

American Meteor Society guide to the Lyrids

EarthSky All you need to know: Lyrid meteors

 

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Summer 2016 meteors July 26, 2016

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, MichiganAstro.
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It’s meteor shower season, and The summer meteor showers are ramping up!

The Delta Aquariids are in progress now. Although the peak is expected to fall on July 28, this is a long, slow shower, worth watching for at least a week after the peak. Don’t expect to see a lot of meteors though. Even at its peak there are only 10 – 20 meteors per hour (or about 5 minutes between meteors.) The radiant is highest at around 3 AM this time of year, so that would be the best time to observe if it weren’t for the waning Moon in the last week of July. Going out around 1:30 – 2:30 on the 28th gives a good combination of reasonably high radiant and a low Moon.

While you’re out looking for delta Aquarius, watch for Perseids too. Luckily, Perseus isn’t far from Aquarius. Check out this story from EarthSky on how to tell them apart.

While the Perseids don’t peak until August 11 or 12, you should already be able to spot a few. The real show should be the early morning of August 12, and continue through the morning of the 13th and maybe the morning of the 14th. Some experts think this could be a spectacular year, with rates of 200 per hour at the peak (that’s about 3 meteors per minute!) Better still, a waxing moon means dark skies most of the early morning hours. The best time to view will be around 3 – 5AM, when the Moon has set, Perseus is high, and twilight hasn’t really started yet. Here is a map for 4:30 AM on August 11 with both radiants marked.

11Aug0430_SE_meteors.png

Meteor Shower January 4, 2016

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, MichiganAstro, Urban Observing.
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I’ve come to the conclusion that I will not be able to get the January Urban Observing post written. So instead, here are some hopefully timely and very short posts.

Did Saturday feel warmer to you? That was the day the Earth was closest to the Sun. Of course the seasons are caused by the tilt of Earth’s axis, not its distance from the sun. The distance from the sun affects how fast the Earth moves and therefore how many days each season has. The closer to the sun, the faster the planet moves, so in the Northern Hemisphere, we have fewer days of winter than summer.

The Quadrantids peaked this morning (sorry…). However, it’s active until January 10, with rates of about 25 per hour, so it’s still worth looking if it’s clear tomorrow morning. And the planet line up with a comet continues.

Speaking of the comet, you’ll need binoculars or a camera for comet Catalina, but it is between Arcturus and the Big Dipper, so it should be easy to find if it’s bright enough for you skies. Here’s a map for 3 AM on January 6, 2016. 06Jan0300.png

Orionid Meteor Shower October 21, 2015

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, MichiganAstro.
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If it’s clear where you are, you might want to get up an hour or two early for the Orionid meteor shower. The peak is today / tomorrow (sorry I’m a little late for today), but it should be worth watching for a couple more days. Especially with the morning planets! Clear, dark skies are important for meteor watching, so you’ll need to get away from city lights.

Here in SE Michigan, the weather predictions make Friday morning look good. The Moon sets at about 3 AM, by which time Orion will be well up. However, if you wait until 5AM, you’ll get your chance to see Venus, Jupiter, and Mars. Mercury rises around 7AM, but by then twilight will have begun, which means it’s not as good for watching for meteors. The best hour is probably 5:30 to 6:30 AM.

For more information, (especially if you’re not in southeast Michigan) check out the story from Earth-Sky.