The Geminids-2017

   A few hours after sunset local time, on Wednesday December 13th, look toward the west for ‘shooting stars’, or meteors coming from the area around the constellation the Gemini Twins. These are the annual Geminid Meteor Shower – one of the best meteor showers each year, and at times rivaling the August Perseid Meteor Shower. The calculated peak time for the meteors is December 14th at 7 UT (2 am CST), but this does not mean that is the only time to view them. The Geminid Meteor Shower is named for the constellation that the meteors radiate outward from. This is the same for all meteor showers, and the ‘spot’ in the sky is known as the radiant. The Geminid radiant is just above the ‘twin’ star Castor, and under ideal viewing conditions an average of about 70 meteors per hour could possibly be seen. This year without the interference of moonlight will increase the chances of seeing the meteors.
   Meteor showers result from the Earth’s orbital path intersecting areas of comet debris. Comets, as they orbit the Sun, leave behind pieces of their icy, dirty, selves. If these debris clouds happen to be along the Earth’s orbital path then the Earth will regularly pass through the comet debris cloud. As this happens the small comet pieces hit our outer atmosphere and vaporize from the friction generated heat. We then see these as the shooting stars that make up meteor showers.
   There are, however, two exceptions to this. The January Quadrantid Meteors and the Geminids each come from their own respective asteroid rather than a comet. The source for the Geminids is Asteroid 3200 Phaethon

   
   
   
   

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month

November Moon at Apogee

   Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), on Tuesday November 21st. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.84 Earth diameters (406,132 km or 252,359 miles) from the Earth.

   Does our Moon actually go around the Earth as this graphic shows? From our perspective on the Earth the Moon appears to circle around the Earth. However, in reality, the Moon orbits the Sun together with the Earth*

   On the day of the apogee the 3.5-day old waxing crescent Moon will be over the southwestern horizon at sunset local time. Were it not so bright the glow of the Milky Way in the background might have been visible. Saturn is visible, but it is low above the horizon.

*Click here to read my 2006 Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)

Read this very informative article about the Earth-Moon system and their orbital motions, written by Joe Hanson. “Do We Orbit the Moon?”

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to go to bobs-spaces.

EarthKam Week

   This past week I had the privilege of working with two dynamic teachers and their Science classes in participating in the Sally Ride EarthKam Mission. As with previous missions the students work with a Google Earth type of map that shows the different orbital tracks the ISS will follow during the week. I remind them that is is sort of a ‘Forest Gump’ activity because like with the box of chocolates, you never know exactly what your picture will look like. How? Because of the weather or how accurately the location is selected. As a result of 176 requests 77 did not get taken and only 42 of the remainder of requests showed land features. The rest were clouded over.

   Below are the pictures as a slide show. Hover the cursor over a picture to see any information from the requester. SL is Summit Lakes Middle School and WVE is Westview Elementary School. This may be followed by requester name and possibly name of picture request location.

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Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Moon – Saturn Conjunction


   Monday evening October 23rd the thin 4-day old waxing crescent Moon will be within about 5o from the ringed planet Saturn. Both will easily fit within the field of view of a 7×50 binoculars.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Ceres Gets Buzzed

   Tuesday morning October 17th the Dwarf Planet Ceres will be within about 3o from M-44, the open star cluster commonly known as the Beehive Cluster. Both will easily fit within the field of view of binoculars and with some careful observation Ceres at 8th magnitude might be identified just to the left from M-44 which appears as a 4th magnitude ‘smudge’ of light.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

October Moon at Ascending Node

   Saturday October 14th the waning crescent Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving north relative to the ecliptic. This is known as the ascending node, one of two intersections the Moon’s orbital path has with the ecliptic. The ecliptic is actually the Earth’s orbit and the Moon’s orbit is inclined about 6o from the ecliptic. So there are two node intersections, the ascending and descending nodes.

   On October 14th the thin 24-day old waning crescent Moon will be just crossing into the boundaries of the constellation Leo the Lion. The Moon will be located about 12o from the heart of the Lion, the star Regulus. Rising above the eastern horizon is the ‘Red Planet’ Mars, and nearby the inner planet Venus.
   These two planets are close enough for both to be seen in the field of view of binoculars. Within that same field of view is the 3rd magnitude star Zavijava in the constellation Cancer the Crab, contrasting interestingly with Venus at -4th, and Mars at 2nd magnitudes.

   Does our Moon actually go around the Earth as many graphics show? From our perspective on the Earth the Moon appears to circle around the Earth. However, in reality, the Moon orbits the Sun together with the Earth*

*Click here to read my 2006 Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)

Read this very informative article about the Earth-Moon system and their orbital motions, written by Joe Hanson. “Do We Orbit the Moon?”

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

October Moon at Perigee


   Our Moon reaches perigee, (closest distance from Earth), for this orbit on Monday October 9th. At that time the Moon will be at a distance of 28.76 Earth diameters (366,855 km or 227,953 miles) from the Earth.
   Does our Moon actually go around the Earth as this graphic shows? From our perspective on the Earth the Moon appears to circle around the Earth. However, in reality, the Moon orbits the Sun together with the Earth*


   On the day of the perigee Moon the 20-day old waning gibbous Moon is above the east to southeastern horizon around midnight local time.

   *Click here to read my 2006 Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)

   Read this very informative article about the Earth-Moon system and their orbital motions, written by Joe Hanson. “Do We Orbit the Moon?”

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to go to bobs-spaces.