In final week’s Starwatch I urged you to get out within the night and watch the good winter constellations like Orion the Hunter and his gang of shiny shiners on the rise within the Pottsville japanese sky.
This week, I urge you to get out within the early morning sky, at the same time as early as 1 a.m. or at the very least definitely nicely earlier than morning twilight. All these nice winter constellations will nonetheless be on the market however by then they’ll be shifted over to the western heavens due to Earth’s rotation. You’ll even be celestially greeted by a pleasant waning crescent moon rising within the southeastern sky.
I do know it might take just a little extra to climb out of that heat mattress of yours, nevertheless it’s so price getting previous that hurdle this week as a result of not solely do we now have among the best meteor showers of the 12 months however two shiny planets are in fairly a celestial hug!
The annual Leonid meteor bathe is constructing and can peak on Friday and Saturday mornings. All this week although you will note just a few extra meteors or “shooting stars” than regular, particularly within the darker countryside. What makes them engaging this 12 months is that there isn’t a lot moonlight being forged out by the crescent moon, leaving a darker backdrop within the sky for catching these “falling stars.” Away from town lights you may even see greater than 20 and even 30 meteors an hour.
Annual meteor showers just like the Leonids happen when the Earth in its orbit across the solar plows into particles left behind a comet. Comets are kind of “dirty snowballs” of rock and ice that orbit the solar in extremely elliptical elongated orbits. When their orbits take them near the solar, they partially soften, leaving a particles path made up of usually tiny particles from the dimensions of mud grains to small pebbles, concerning the measurement of small marbles.
The comet that fuels the Leonid Meteor Shower is named Temple Tuttle. It final got here by this a part of the photo voltaic system in 1998 and received’t return once more till 2031. The Earth, in its photo voltaic orbit, is busting into this path from temple Tuttle at 66,000 mph and on the similar time these particular person comet particles particles or bullets are whizzing alongside of their orbit at hundreds of miles an hour as nicely. This implies that the particles can crash into our environment at speeds greater than 150,000 mph!
With that sort of velocity, particular person particles rapidly expend because of large air friction and we see the fast streaks of sunshine adorn the celestial dome. The gentle we see isn’t due to the combustion of the particles. There’s no approach you might see that as a result of these tiny particles are burning up anyplace from 50 to 100 miles excessive. The streak we see is the glowing column of air being chemically excited by the particle that’s ripping by it. Sometimes you see totally different colours in these streaks that point out the sorts of gasoline in our environment which can be being quickly aroused.
Meteors in a meteor bathe are finest seen after midnight, as a result of that’s whenever you’re on the aspect of the rotating Earth that’s plowing into the comet particles. It’s sort of like driving cross county on a heat summer time night time. You get extra bugs smashed in your entrance windshield than you do in your rear window. After midnight we’re dealing with the “front windshield” of the touring Earth.
This meteor bathe is named the Leonids as a result of the meteors appear to emanate from the overall route within the sky the place the constellation Leo the Lion is poised. After midnight, Leo is hanging within the japanese sky and appears like a backward query mark. That makes Leo the radiant of this meteor bathe.
That doesn’t imply that you need to limit your meteor looking to only that space of the heavens.
If you do, you’ll miss a lot of them as a result of the meteors can present up anyplace within the sky. You’ll know they’re a part of the Leonids as a result of their “tails” appear to level again within the common route of Leo the Lion. The finest method to look ahead to the Leonids or another meteor bathe is to lie again on a garden chair with blankets someday after midnight, ideally after 2 or three a.m. within the morning, roll your eyes throughout the night time sky and see what number of meteors you notice in a given hour. It’s a enjoyable group or household exercise as a result of you possibly can hold one another firm and evaluate meteor sightings.
To prime off the morning stargazing this week, the 2 brightest planets we see from Earth, Jupiter and Venus, are having a really shut conjunction you’ll love, love, love!
They’ll be nearly “touching” one another. Just as morning twilight begins about 6 a.m., search for the planets within the very low japanese skies simply above the horizon. You can’t miss them as they’ll appear like cat’s eyes. In truth, Monday morning they’ll be of their closest celestial hug, lower than a half a level aside. That’s lower than the width of one among your fingers held at arm’s size. Of course, the planets are nowhere close to one another bodily however in the identical line of sight. Venus is about 160 million miles away and Jupiter’s about 595 million miles.
Enjoy the early morning delights!
(Lynch, an newbie astronomer broadcast meteorologist, might be reached at [email protected])