2018 Leonid Meteor Shower

   The annual Leonid Meteor Shower this year will not be a good one for seeing any Leonids as the Moon will be phasing from waxing gibbous into waning gibbous through the peak date, after midnight November 17th (early morning hours of the 18th), and following week. As each day passes the Moon will also be further east and encroaching the skies occupied by the constellation Leo the Lion.
   The Leonids radiate outward from the area of the constellation Leo the Lion most recognize as a ‘backward question mark’ shape. This part of the sky rises after midnight local time.
   Click here to read a previous post about the Leonid Meteor Shower/Storm


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Northern Taurid Meteors

7x50 Binoculars

7×50 Binoculars

   Given all the ‘fanfare’ to annual meteor showers like the Perseids in August often the annual minor meteor showers are overlooked. Currently we are more or less at the mid-point during the Northern Taurid Meteor Shower. This meteor shower peaks during the coming night hours tonight and into tomorrow (Tuesday) morning. With a ZHR (zenith hourly rate) of only 5 don’t expect a lot of shooting stars. However this minor meteor shower has, in the past, had an outburst of fast meteors and some fireballs.
Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   All meteor showers are named for the constellation that they appear to radiate outward from. The common point within the constellation where the meteors radiate outward from is called the radiant. The Northern Taurids radiant is very close to the open star cluster the Pleiades in Taurus the Bull as the animated graphic above shows. This part of the sky rises during mid-evening local time however the waxing gibbous Moon is over the southern horizon and brightening the sky. The best viewing time will be at or after moonset which is around 2 am local time. This graphic is set for 5 am CST, well after moonset.

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.

Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower

radiant   This weekend the Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower reaches its peak during the early morning hours before sunrise on Monday 6 May, however like all annual meteor showers there is a range of days, (19 April through 28 May), where meteors associated with the Eta Aquarids may be seen. This meteor shower radiates outward from the constellation Aquarius the Water Bearer; averages 55 per hour; are fast moving often leaving a glowing train that may lasts for several seconds. A ‘train’ is a persistent glowing streak of light left behind by the meteor as it vaporizes in the upper atmosphere. Interestingly the Eta Aquarids originate from debris left along the Earth’s orbit by Halley’s Comet.

   This region of the sky unfortunately rises only a couple of hours before sunrise and on the mornings of the 5th and 6th the waning crescent Moon will be above the eastern horizon. The slides below show the region of the sky set to 4:30 a.m. CDT on May 6th (2330 UT 5 May). Each slide depicts the constellations with and without the connecting lines forming the constellation pattern. I used several including the classical Astronomical patterns, and those by H.A. Rey in his book The Stars, A New Way To See Them. (You may know H.A. Rey as the author of Curious George)

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

Not Going To Happen

meteors   This picture was recently posted on Facebook and unfortunetaly, despite the positive ‘feel-good’ intent of the message, it is incorrect. Yes, on april 22nd there will be a meteor shower, one known as the Lyrids, named for the constellation Lyra the Harp where the origin point, the radiant for the meteor shower is located. Meteors streak outward from the radiant in all directions. The Lyrid Meteor Shower, like all meteor showers occurs over a spread of days with at least one day as the peak when the maximum number of meteors per hour happens. The Lyrids are active between April 16 and 25 with the 22nd-23rd as the peak period.
   No there will not be “thousands” of meteors, however the Lyrids have a ZHR (zenith hourly rating) of an average around 20 per hour, sometimes reaching as many as 90 per hour. This of course is assuming good seeing conditions.

april22   So what makes the above Facebook-posted graphic incorrect? It is how the viewing is described without the caveat that this will not be a good year for the Lyrid Meteor Shower simply because the waxing Gibbous Moon will be in the sky at the same time. Click on the graphic to the right to see a larger version showing the sky at 10:30 pm CDT. The waxing gibbous Moon, a couple of days away from full, will be brightening the sky enough to make any but the very brightest of the meteors visible.

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

Quadrantids Meteor Shower

3 January - 4:00 a.m. CST

3 January – 4:00 a.m. CST

   There has been an increase in news noise about viewing the Quadrantid Meteor Shower during the early hours of tomorrow (Thursday) morning. But none have mentioned that the Moon also rises at about the same time as the radiant for the meteor shower, and that reflected light from the waning gibbous Moon will ‘drown’ out all but the brightest of the meteors. Sigh!!!
   However the average hourly rate for this meteor shower ranges from 60 to several hundred so I think there are good odds that some meteors will still be seen despite the interference from moonlight. To maximize the viewing wait until about an hour or so before dawn when the radiant is high above the horizon, then face northward putting the Moon behind you.
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. The 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 more observing information.