December 8, 2012
Welcome to the “Spot the Geminid Meteor” edition of Michigan in Pictures! EarthSky’s Meteor Shower Guide for 2012 says that the last meteor shower of 2012 will be the Geminids, peaking late night December 13 until dawn December 14:
The final major meteor shower of every year (unless one surprises us!) is always the December Geminid shower, often producing 50 or more meteors per hour. It is a beloved shower, because, as a general rule, it’s either the August Perseids or the December Geminids that give us the most prolific display of the year. Best of all, the new moon guarantees a dark sky on the peak night of the Geminid shower (mid-evening December 13 until dawn December 14). But the nights on either side of the peak date should be good as well. Unlike many meteor showers, you can start watching the Geminids by 9 or 10 p.m. local time. The peak might be around 2 a.m. local time on these nights, because that’s when the shower’s radiant point is highest in the sky as seen around the world. With no moon to ruin the show, 2012 presents a most favorable year for watching the grand finale of the meteor showers. Best viewing of the Geminids will probably be from about 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. on December 14.
Click through for some meteor viewing tips and here’s hoping for another Aurora Borealis/Geminid combo!
Paul shot this north of Lansing in December 2006 when the Geminid shower was complimented by a fantastic Northern Lights display! Can you see the meteor a little right of center? Click to view on black, see more in his The Night Sky slideshow or view all 80 photos from the evening in his December 14, 2006 gallery.
November 26, 2012
Recently in Peter Peterson and the Iron River Meteorite on Yooper Steez, Alice Rossignol remembered a day in 1889:
…when a six-year old boy named Peter Peterson (yes, this was actually his name) was helping his father clear rocks from a field near Iron River.
Things were proceeding as usual (I’m assuming) when little Peter noticed that one rock was much heavier than others of the same size. He showed the 3.13-pound whopper to his father who told him to toss it like the others.
But Peter, being a six-year old boy, kept it.
According to Von Del Chamberlain, a former MSU professor who recounts this story here, the rock was later identified as a meteorite, a fact which he later confirmed.
How rare are confirmed meteorites? There have only been 10 verified in Michigan, and this meteorite is currently the only verified meteorite in the Upper Peninsula. Read on for more about this story and some meteorwrongs (mis-identified meteorites) and dig into Prof. Del Chamberlain’s account for the scientific lowdown and how it ended up in Chamberlain’s hands almost 80 years later. You can also read the entirety of Chamberlain’s publication Meteorites of Michigan online.
August 9, 2012
Here’s a gorgeous shot from just after sunset on the Sleeping Bear Dunes. That little meteorite reminded me to check on the Perseids. EarthSky’s Meteor Shower Guide says that the Perseids will grace the sky August 10-12, 2012 with the peak the evening of the 11th.
Meteors are typically best after midnight, but in 2012, with the moon rising into the predawn sky, you might want to watch in late evening as well … The Perseids are typically fast and bright meteors. They radiate from a point in the constellation Perseus the Hero. You don’t need to know Perseus to watch the shower because the meteors appear in all parts of the sky. The Perseids are considered by many people to be the year’s best shower, and often peak at 50 or more meteors per hour in a dark sky.
The Perseids tend to strengthen in number as late night deepens into midnight, and typically produce the most meteors in the wee hours before dawn. These meteors are often bright and frequently leave persistent trains. Starting in late evening on the nights of August 10/11, 11/12 and 12/13. The Perseid meteors will streak across these short summer nights from late night until dawn, with only a little interference from the waning crescent moon. Plus the moon will be near the bright planets Venus and Jupiter in the eastern predawn sky.
If you want to keep up on when the meteors are showering, the Meteor page at Stardate.org is a great resource!
More on meteors from Michigan in Pictures!
August 8, 2011
There was so much interest in last weekend’s Northern Lights post that I figured I should probably feature August’s by astronomical event, the Perseid Meteor Shower. Unfortunately, this big moon thing has decided to get full at the wrong time. EarthSky gives some recommendations form making the best of a bad situation in their 2011 meteor shower guide:
We are getting very near the peak of August’s famous Perseid meteor shower. Meanwhile, the moon is waxing quite large and bright in the sky. In 2011, full moon will come on August 13, a peak morning for the Perseids. …EarthSky recommends watching before dawn until the morning of August 10 to have moonless skies. Before dawn is the best time of night for watching meteors, anyway, since that is when the radiant point for the Perseids is highest in the sky.
For much more information about the Perseids, be sure to check out Star Trails, the Perseid Meteor Shower and the Tears of St. Lawrence from Michigan in Pictures.
August 10, 2010
The post Star Trails, the Perseid Meteor Shower and the Tears of St. Lawrence on Michigan in Pictures and tells the story of one of the best meteor shows of the year. At its peak, this August meteor shower produces a meteor a minute and the peak is this Thursday night (August 12).
Observing the Perseids from Meteorshowersonline says:
This is the most famous of all meteor showers. It never fails to provide an impressive display and, due to its summertime appearance, it tends to provide the majority of meteors seen by non-astronomy enthusiasts.
This meteor shower gets the name “Perseids” because it appears to radiate from the constellation Perseus. An observer in the Northern Hemisphere can start seeing Perseid meteors as early as July 23, when one meteor every hour or so could be visible. During the next three weeks, there is a slow build-up. It is possible to spot five Perseids per hour at the beginning of August and perhaps 15 per hour by August 10. The Perseids rapidly increase to a peak of 50-80 meteors per hour by the night of August 12/13 and then rapidly decline to about 10 per hour by August 15. The last night meteors are likely to be seen from this meteor shower is August 22, when an observer might see a Perseid every hour or so.
November 13, 2009
It’s Friday the 13th and while we should probably have a photo of a black cat breaking a mirror or something, we’re going to look ahead to next week when the Leonid meteor shower peaks on Tuesday, November 17th. According to NASA:
If forecasters are correct, the shower should produce a mild but pretty sprinkling of meteors over North America followed by a more intense outburst over Asia. The phase of the Moon will be new, setting the stage for what could be one of the best Leonid showers in years.
“We’re predicting 20 to 30 meteors per hour over the Americas, and as many as 200 to 300 per hour over Asia,” says Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. “Our forecast is in good accord with independent theoretical work by other astronomers.”
Leonids are bits of debris from Comet Tempel-Tuttle. Every 33 years the comet visits the inner solar system and leaves a stream of dusty debris in its wake. Many of these streams have drifted across the November portion of Earth’s orbit. Whenever we hit one, meteors come flying out of the constellation Leo.
While it will probably be a pretty good meteor shower, it will have nothing on 1833, as this first-hand account of Great Leonid Meteor Storm of 1833 by Elder Samuel Rogers explains:
We had but little rest that night, for, before three o’clock in the morning, we were all aroused from our slumbers, making preparation for an early start. Some one, on looking out of the window, observed that it was almost broad daylight. “That can not be,” another answered, “For it is scarcely three o’clock.” “I can’t help what the clock says,” replied the first speaker, “my eyes can not deceive me; it is almost broad daylight –look for yourselves.”
After this little altercation, some one went to the door for the purpose of settling the question. Fortunately, there was not a cloud in the heavens; so by a glance, all was settled. I heard one of the children cry out, in a voice expressive of alarm: “Come to the door, father, the world is surely coming to an end.” Another exclaimed: “See! The whole heavens are on fire! All the stars are falling!” These cries brought us all into the open yard, to gaze upon the grandest and most beautiful scene my eyes have ever beheld. It did appear as if every star had left its moorings, and was drifting rapidly in a westerly direction, leaving behind a track of light which remained visible for several seconds.
Some of those wandering stars seemed as large as the full moon, or nearly so, and in some cases they appeared to dash at a rapid rate across the general course of the main body of meteors, leaving in their track a bluish light, which gathered into a thin cloud not unlike a puff of smoke from a tobacco-pipe. Some of the meteors were so bright that they were visible for some time after day had fairly dawned. Imagine large snowflakes drifting over your head, so near you that you can distinguish them, one from the other, and yet so thick in the air as to almost obscure the sky; then imagine each snowflake to be a meteor, leaving behind it a tail like a little comet; these meteors of all sizes, from that of a drop of water to that of a great star, having the size of the full moon in appearance: and you may then have some faint idea of this wonderful scene.
Be sure to check this out bigger or in Matthew’s My Photographic Love Affair slideshow (view the set). You might also enjoy on meteoric: 2009 Leonid Shower & the sound of meteors from Michigan in Pictures.
December 5, 2008
The other day I saw this sweet video of the meteor that fell to earth near Edmonton, Alberta. When Gmail tossed me a link to this report on Space.com that the 2009 Leonid Meteor Showers are predicted to be stronger in 2009, I checked it out, clicking on to Top 10 Leonids facts. That had some pretty cool stuff including the 1833 Leonids which were so bright and sustained that they lit up the sky and the assertation that you’re more likely to be struck by lightning seven times in a row than to be hit by a meteor (whew).
One that especially caught my eye was the Scary Sounds of Meteors. Sounds have been reported along with meteors for millenia, and while Sir Edmund Halley (he of the comet) wrote it off in the 1700s as imagination:
Australian researcher Colin Keay uses the term to describe a theory he developed in the early 1980s.
As the theory goes, when a space rock plunges earthward, friction caused by the atmosphere creates a trail of electrically charged particles, or plasma, in which Earth’s invisible but potent magnetic field lines become trapped, tangled and twisted like strings of cooked spaghetti.
This magnetic spaghetti is thought to generate very low frequency radio waves, says Keay, a researcher at the University of Newcastle who, though not famous like Halley, does have an asteroid named after him.
Read more from NASA and Colin Keay’s pages on Geophysical Electrophonics. Tying this all back to Michigan, this whole things struck me because I noticed a faint hissing sound in association with the Perseid shower this summer that I wrote off to Halley’s imagination.
Thankfully, the Absolute Michigan pool has a few sky watchers, and Ann Arbor’s postpurchase recently uploaded a beauty! View more of postpurchase’s amazing night sky photography and see this photo larger in his slideshow.
2009 Update: The best time to watch the Persied meteor shower in Michigan is TONIGHT (August 11-12, 2009).
The peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower was last night. Postpurchase says he had intended to catch the peak of the perseid meteor shower last night but (alas) the clouds decided not to cooperate. Although last night was the peak, you can see them tonight and I saw a bunch early this morning! (in fact, there was a recent report of Northern Lights at our Northern Lights Log on Absolute Michigan)
SPACE.com has this (and more) to say about the Perseid meteor shower:
Every August, when many people are vacationing in the country where skies are dark, the best-known meteor shower makes its appearance…
The event is also known as “The Tears of St. Lawrence.”
Laurentius, a Christian deacon, is said to have been martyred by the Romans in 258 AD on an iron outdoor stove. It was in the midst of this torture that Laurentius cried out: “I am already roasted on one side and, if thou wouldst have me well cooked, it is time to turn me on the other.”
The saint’s death was commemorated on his feast day, Aug. 10. King Phillip II of Spain built his monastery place the “Escorial,” on the plan of the holy gridiron. And the abundance of shooting stars seen annually between approximately Aug. 8 and 14 have come to be known as St. Lawrence’s “fiery tears.”
Wikipedia’s Persied entry adds viewing tips:
The shower is visible from mid-July each year, with the greatest activity between August 8 and 14, peaking about August 12. During the peak, the rate of meteors reaches 60 or more per hour. They can be seen all across the sky, but because of the path of Swift-Tuttle’s orbit, Perseids are mostly visible on the northern hemisphere.
To experience the shower in its full, one should observe in the dark of a clear moonless night, from a point far outside any large cities, where stars are not dimmed by light pollution. The Perseids have a broad peak, so the shower is visible for several nights. On any given night, activity starts slowly in the evening but picks up by 11 p.m., when the radiant gets reasonably high in the sky. The meteor rate increases steadily through the night as the radiant rises higher, peaking just before the sky starts to get light, roughly 1½ to 2 hours before sunrise.
May 1, 2013
Holland’s annual celebration of Dutch heritage and culture, the Tulip Time Festival, starts Friday May 4th and runs through May 11th. While last year’s crazy March heatwave had tulips blooming in mid-April, tulips have been in the slow lane in 2013 due to a cool spring. The good news according to meteorologist Bill Steffen is that a well-timed warmup should have tulips in near perfect bloom this year.
April 15, 2013
The Lyrid Meteor Shower at spaceweather.com explains that:
Every year in late April Earth passes through the dusty tail of Comet Thatcher (C/1861 G1), and the encounter causes a meteor shower–the Lyrids. This year the shower peaks on Saturday night, April 21st. Forecasters expect 10 to 20 meteors per hour, although outbursts as high as 100 meteors per hour are possible.
Lyrid meteors appear to stream from the bright star Vega in the constellation Lyra. In fact, Lyrids have nothing to do with Vega. The true source of the shower is Comet Thatcher. Every year in April, Earth plows through Thatcher’s dusty tail. Flakes of comet dust, most no bigger than grains of sand, strike Earth’s atmosphere traveling 49 km/s (110,000 mph) and disintegrate as streaks of light.
Lyrid meteors are typically as bright as the stars in the Big Dipper, which is to say of middling brightness. But some are more intense, even brighter than Venus. These “Lyrid fireballs” cast shadows for a split second and leave behind smokey debris trails that linger for minutes.
Occasionally, the shower intensifies. Most years in April there are no more than 5 to 20 meteors per hour during the shower’s peak. But sometimes, when Earth glides through an unusually dense clump of comet debris, the rate increases.
There’s no way of knowing whether or not this would be a big year, but I’d say that with the Iron Lady’s recent passing, there’s a chance! FYI, Comet Thatcher was named by A.E. Thatcher way back in 1861.
Nobody I know caught the Northern Lights Saturday night, but I thought that Cory’s photo taken when he went looking for Lyrids on April 22, 2012 would be the next best thing! Check it out on black and see more in his Space slideshow.