Aurigid meteor shower peaks before dawn September 1

Desert Gypsy's picture, 8/31/13, Deborah Byrd

Meteors are also called shooting stars.  But meteors in annual showers, like the Aurigids, are bits of debris left  behind in the orbits of comets.  Image via NASA.

Meteors are also called shooting stars. But meteors in annual showers, like the Aurigids, are bits of debris left behind in the orbits of comets. Image via NASA.

The Aurigid meteor shower will be worth watching in 2013, particularly on the morning of September 1. The Aurigids should already be flying, with Earth having entered the meteor stream today (August 31), but the peak should be Sunday morning September 1, and North America appears to be well placed for the peak. From a rural site in North America, you might expect to see about 14-20 meteors in the last hour before dawn on Sunday, September 1. You might even see some meteors this evening, perhaps 5 an hour, according to the AMS. If you live elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere, try watching in the hour before dawn September 1, but expect to see fewer meteors per hour.

Read More

Comet ISON to sweep closely past Mars on October 1

Desert Gypsy's picture - 8/24/13


When Comet ISON flies by Mars, it’ll have just crossed the “frost line,” a place outside Mars’ orbit where solar heating is enough to start vaporizing ices on ISON’s surface.

Around the world, astronomers are buzzing with anticipation over the approach of Comet ISON. On Thanksgiving Day 2013, the icy visitor from the outer solar system will skim the sun’s outer atmosphere. Word was that, if it survives its pass near the sun, Comet ISON might emerge as one of the brightest comets in years. Although the prospects for an extremely bright comet are not as good now as they appeared at ISON’s discovery in late 2012, still, astronomers and many others are anticipating this comet.

New Star in the Night Sky (video: Eyes on the Sky)

Desert Gypsy's picture - 8/19.13

Published on Aug 18, 2013

 On August 14, a nova in Delphinus shone into existence at 6.8 magnitude, then brightened up to about 4.5, making it naked eye visible from many areas. Likely still visible for at least this coming week, learn how you can find and observe this transient object in the night sky with just binoculars or a small telescope. See what's up in the night sky every week with "Eyes on the Sky" videos, astronomy made easy.

Blue Moon Coming Up Tomorrow Night

Desert Gypsy's picture - 8/19/13

Blue Moon coming up tomorrow night – August 20-21.

Image credit: VegaStar Carpentier

Image credit: VegaStar Carpentier. Thank you!

And remember it’s a “seasonal” Blue Moon … the third of four full moons in a season, coming up on the night of August 20-21.

So maybe you’re saying, “But I thought a Blue Moon was the second full moon of a month.”

Yes, it is. The name Blue Moon is part of folklore. Like all folklore, there are alternate versions of the story.

Eyes on the Sky: August 12 thru August 18

Desert Gypsy's picture

Eyesonthesky - 8/13/13

Published on Aug 11, 2013

There are many bird constellations in the sky, and as telescopes were used, astronomers saw even many deep sky objects as being bird-like in shape and structure. This week, learn where to find Messier 11 and Messier 16, along with a bit of a tour along the Milky Way from Cygnus, through Aquila, to Scutum, and into Serpens. See what's up in the night sky every week with "Eyes on the Sky" videos, astronomy made easy.

Lazarus Comets Return to Life

Desert Gypsy's picture 8/6/13

graveyard main belt small

A team of astronomers from the University of Anitoquia, Medellin, Colombia, have discovered a graveyard of comets. The researchers, led by Anitoquia astronomer Prof. Ignacio Ferrin, describe how some of these objects, inactive for millions of years, have returned to life leading them to name the group the 'Lazarus comets'. The team publish their results in the Oxford University Press journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Comets are amongst the smallest objects in the Solar System, typically a few km across and composed of a mixture of rock and ices. If they come close to the Sun, then some of the ices turn to gas, before being swept back by the light of the Sun and the solar wind to form a characteristic tail of gas and dust.

Read More


2 Aug 2013 Meteor Activity Outlook for August 3-9, 2013

Desert Gypsy's picture, 8/4/13, Robert Lumsford

Radiant positions at 4am LDT

Radiant positions at 4am LDT

Meteor activity kicks into high gear in August as seen from the northern hemisphere. The main reason for all this activity is the Perseid shower that peaks on August 12. This shower is active most of the month and remains above the level of the sporadic background for a week centered on August 12. The sporadic activity is also near maximum as seen from the northern hemisphere and is now more than double the rates from just three months ago. As seen from south of the equator, meteor rates are still decent but falling rapidly. The sporadic rates continue their downward slide and the Perseid radiant does not rise high into the sky as seen in the southern hemisphere so rates from this shower are greatly reduced when compared to the northern hemisphere.

Moon and Mercury close to horizon at dawn August 5

Desert Gypsy's picture, 8/4/13 -Bruce McClure

Our sky chart shows the eastern sky for about 45 minutes before sunrise at North American mid-northern latitudes (Monday, August 5). Given an unobstructed horizon, clear sky – and possibly binoculars – you just might catch a pale, whisker-thin waning crescent moon in the glow of morning twilight.

At mid-northern latitudes in Europe and Asia, the waning crescent moon shines closer to the planet Mercury, which rises about 90 to 75 minutes before the sun. All other things being equal, the lunar crescent should be easier to spot from the Old World. From Europe and Asia, the thin crescent will be slightly wider than it appears in North America, and moreover, it will rise sooner before sunrise.

Read More

Perseid fireballs are already arriving!

Desert Gypsy's picture, 8/3/13 explained ths diagram:

Green lines illustrate the paths of Perseid meteoroids, traveling in space. All six intersect Earth (the blue dot). The orbit of Comet Swift-Tuttle is the purple line. An inset shows one of the fireballs shining almost as brightly as the moon.

What are Perseid fireballs? New research by NASA scientists has revealed them. Using a network of meteor cameras distributed across the southern USA, Cooke’s team has been tracking fireball activity since 2008, and they have built up a database of hundreds of events to analyze. The data point to the Perseids as the ‘fireball champion’ of annual meteor showers.


Subscribe to RSS - Astronomy