2018 Quadrantid Meteor Shower

   The annual Quadrantid Meteor Shower reaches its peak Wednesday morning January 3rd officially at 14:19 UT (9:14 am CST). The Quadrantids are one of the best meteor showers of the year but does not get much attention possibly because it’s winter in the northern hemisphere, and this area of the sky is not easily seen from south of the equator.
   The ZHR (average hourly rate) for this meteor shower ranges from 60 to several hundred. Best time for viewing is before sunrise as your part of the Earth is rotating toward the east sort of putting you headfirst into the meteor shower. To find the radiant for this meteor shower look for the stars of the Big Dipper and then look below the end stars in the handle.
click on graphic to see it larger
   Adding to the thrill of seeing a shooting star are the the planets Jupiter and Mars about 1o apart and closing in on a very close 0.2o separation on the 6th. Look closely and you may see Zubenelgenubi, one of the stars making up Libra the Scales. All three fit comfortably within the field of view of binoculars and contrast nicely in their respective apparent magnitudes (magnitudes shown on graphic).

Boötes the Herdsman

Boötes the Herdsman

   The radiant is the area from where the meteors seem to radiate outward from. Meteor showers owe their name to the constellation region the radiant is located within, and as this graphic shows the radiant is within the boundary of the constellation Boötes the Herdsman. So why the name Quadrantids?
   On some of the older star charts there is a now ‘extinct’ constellation called Quadrans Muralis, the Mural. This was a constellation located between Boötes and Draco the Dragon that was created in 1795 by French Astronomer Jérôme Lalande. It is a picture, or mural, of a Quadrant that had been used to map the stars. The Quadrantids Meteor Shower was named for the no longer used constellation.

   
   
   

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.

2017 Quadrantid Meteor Shower

   The annual Quadrantid Meteor Shower reaches its peak Tuesday morning January 3rd officially at 15 UT (10 am CST). The Quadrantids are one of the best meteor showers of the year but does not get much attention possibly because it’s winter in the northern hemisphere, and this area of the sky is not easily seen from south of the equator.
   The ZHR (average hourly rate) for this meteor shower ranges from 60 to several hundred. Best time for viewing is before sunrise as your part of the Earth is rotating toward the east sort of putting you headfirst into the meteor shower. To find the radiant for this meteor shower look for the stars of the Big Dipper and then look below the end stars in the handle.

Boötes the Herdsman

Boötes the Herdsman

   The radiant is the area from where the meteors seem to radiate outward from. Meteor showers owe their name to the constellation region the radiant is located within, and as this graphic shows the radiant is within the boundary of the constellation Boötes the Herdsman. So why the name Quadrantids?
   On some of the older star charts there is a now ‘extinct’ constellation called Quadrans Muralis, the Mural. This was a constellation located between Boötes and Draco the Dragon that was created in 1795 by French Astronomer Jérôme Lalande. It is a picture, or mural, of a Quadrant that had been used to map the stars. The Quadrantids Meteor Shower was named for the no longer used constellation.

   
   
   

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.

Follow the Arc to the Moon

   Thursday evening March 24th the 16-day old waning gibbous Moon rises about an hour after local time for sunset. About 3o from the Moon is the blue-white star Spica in the left hand of Virgo the Harvest Maiden.

   This is also the time of year when some would look at the sky and say, “Follow the arc to Arcturus and then speed to Spica.” This sort of silly sounding phrase links the curved handle, the arc, of the Big Dipper with the reddish star Arcturus in Bootes the Herdsman, and the blue-white star Spica. The Moon, at times, is part of the lineup as it is this time.

   
   
   
   

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.

3 Pairs or A Tale of Two Tails

   For the past month or so Comet Catalina (C/2013 US 10) has been moving in a northeast direction across my morning skies. It has hovered at around 6th or 7th magnitude making it somewhat visible in binoculars and obviously visible with telescopes. Sadly with my meager photo equipment this comet has so far eluded my efforts. There are some spectacular pictures showing a comet with a greenish tinge and two tails. However that is not the point of this posting.
Bootes, Arcturus and the comet   Over the next several mornings the comet will pass by the reddish star Arcturus in the constellation Bootes the Herdsman. To many the star pattern for this constellation resembles a kite shape and Arcturus is at the bottom of the kite where the kite tail is attached. The animated graphic shows the comet in motion for December 31st and January 1st.
   The morning sky, in addition to the comet – Arcturus pair, also contains two other pairs, or conjunctions. Jupiter has the Moon for a one-day partner and further east toward the horizon is Mars and the bluish star Spica in Virgo.

   
   
   
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.

Follow the Arc to a Pulsar!

   During Spring in the northern hemisphere, the seven bright stars that form the Big Dipper are easily seen high over the northern horizon. Located at the hindquarters of the Great Bear (Ursa Major), this asterism (group of stars) has long been used as a celestial guide by travelers. During the American Civil War, slaves memorized a song called “Follow the Drinking Gourd” that helped them locate the stars that would point their way to freedom. By walking in the direction of the ‘drinking gourd’ stars the escaping, freedom seeking slaves, would be following a northerly route taking them away from the slave states to the free states to the north, or to Canada.
   There is an ‘old’ Astronomical saying, a sort of memory aid, for finding at least two constellations by way of their alpha, or brightest star in their respective constellation. In Bootes the Herdsman there is the orange-reddish star Arcturus, and in Virgo the Harvest Maiden the bluish-white star Spica. The saying – “follow the arc to Arcturus, then speed to Spica” is how you connect these two stars with the curve, or arc, in the handle of the Big Dipper.
   Simply look toward the northeast to find the 7 stars making up the Big Dipper. Then look for the curved handle and follow the arc or curved handle toward Arcturus and then continue on to Spica. This is typically done during the Northern Hemisphere spring and summer season when Bootes and Virgo are in the evening skies.
   While you are looking toward this region of the sky, you can also investigate some of our neighboring solar systems.
   Scientists now believe that two sunlike stars in this region have at least one orbiting satellite each, and that a nearby pulsar could have up to three satellites. Just below the bowl of the Big Dipper lies 47 Ursa Majoris, a star with an orbiting object estimated to have two to three times the mass of Jupiter and a revolution rate of 1103 Earth days. Near the northern boundaries of Virgo, an object orbiting around 70 Virginis is estimated to have six to seven times the mass of Jupiter and a revolution rate of 117 Earth days. Although the objects themselves are too far away to be seen, the suns around which they orbit are visible to the naked eye.
   A third solar system you could direct your attention to is also within the boundaries of Virgo. Unlike the other two solar systems, the objects in this system orbit a pulsar, PSR 1257+12. A pulsar is a small, extremely dense, and rapidly rotating neutron star, a remnant of a massive star that has collapsed into itself following a supernova event. PSR 1257+ 12 gets its name from its celestial coordinates, 12 hours 57 minutes right ascension and 12o north declination. This pulsar is one of at least several known pulsars in our galaxy and this one has an estimated diameter of 16 km, and a mass that is one to two times that of our Sun.
pulsar   Pulsars earn their name from the radio waves they emit, which we receive in regular pulses. Pulsars emit radio waves as a narrow beam, much like the beam of light emitted from a lighthouse. Just as direct light from a lighthouse sweeps past a point regularly, so does the beam of radio waves emitted from a pulsar. PSR 1257+ 12 emits radio waves that reach the Earth with at an interval of 6.2 milliseconds. Because we receive pulsed radio waves from a pulsar as a result of its rotation, we know a pulsar’s pulse interval coincides with its period of rotation. This means that PSR 1257 + 12 rotates every 6.2 milliseconds!
kepler   Exo-solar systems and their planets have been detected through various methods with the greater majority of these exo-solar systems being discovered by the Kepler orbiting observatory. To date more than 1,000 objects have been confirmed as an exo-planet, with more than 4,600 objects waiting confirmation.
distant-worlds-cover   Download a series of monthly star maps and data pages. Each monthly star map shows the location of many of the stars we know or are reasonably certain that are stars with their own planets. Click here to download the “Where Are the Distant Worlds Star Maps”. (2-3 Mb PDF)

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
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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.

Jupiter Rising with the Moon

March 23 - 7 p.m. CDT

March 23 – 7 p.m. CDT

   This evening, 23 March, the waxing gibbous Moon rises around 4 pm local time and by 9 pm local time the sky has darkened enough to make the bright Moon really hard to miss. (Now if I had said this to my grand daughter she would probably reply in her 6 year old voice, “Seriously…, grandpa?”).
   Seriously, the bright star that rises after the Moon and, as the Earth rotates, follows the Moon across the sky toward the west is the heart of Leo the Lion, the star Regulus. The animated graphic below shows the stars of Leo and the waxing gibbous Moon at 9 pm local time. All of the stars forming the asterism shape for Leo, the backward question mark and triangle, are labeled, and the stars are connected with lines to show the constellation pattern.
dogs   In the third image of the 3-picture sequence the triangle forming the lion’s tail is not drawn but the star Denebola, making the triangle’s point, is used as one of the four corners for the ‘Diamond of Virgo’ asterism. The opposite corner of the ‘diamond’ is the reddish star Arcturus belonging to the constellation Bootes the Herdsman. The upper star of the diamond is Cor Caroli, on of the stars belonging to the constellation Canes Venatici, the ‘Hunting Dogs’ used by Bootes to drive off a bear according to one sky story. And off to the left are the seven stars making the asterism the Big Dipper, part of Ursa Major ‘the Great Bear’.

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Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.