The Orionids are considered a major meteor shower based on the amount of visible meteors that can be seen racing toward inevitable doom during its active period, which runs roughly from the first week of October to the first week of November.
The show is already active and the American Meteor Society forecasts that a handful of meteors per hour may be visible over the next several days, leading up to the peak on Oct. 20 and Oct. 21, when the number could increase to 20 per hour.
The Orionids are really just bits of dust and debris left behind from famed Comet Halley on its previous trips through the inner solar system. As our planet drifts through the cloud of comet detritus each year around this time, all that cosmic gravel and grime slams into our upper atmosphere and burns up in a display we see on the ground as shooting stars and even the occasional fireball.
Here’s another gorgeous photo & thought from Beth. See more in her Explore gallery on Flickr!
When you look at a crescent moon shortly after sunset or before sunrise, you can sometimes see not only the bright crescent of the moon, but also the rest of the moon as a dark disk. That pale glow on the unlit part of a crescent moon is light reflected from Earth. It’s called earthshine.
To understand earthshine, remember that the moon is globe, just as Earth is, and that the globe of the moon is always half-illuminated by sunlight. When we see a crescent moon in the west after sunset, or in the east before dawn, we’re seeing just a sliver of the moon’s lighted half.
Now think about seeing a full moon from Earth’s surface. Bright moonlight can illuminate an earthly landscape on nights when the moon is full.
Likewise, whenever we see a crescent moon, a nearly full Earth appears in the moon’s night sky. The full Earth illuminates the lunar landscape. And that is earthshine. It’s light from the nearly full Earth shining on the moon.
No matter where you live worldwide, the 2020 Perseid meteor shower will probably produce the greatest number of meteors on the mornings of August 11, 12 and 13. On the peak mornings in 2020, the moon will be at or slightly past its last quarter phase, so moonlight will somewhat mar this year’s production. Still, there are some ways you can minimize the moon and optimize your chances for a good display of Perseids this year. Here are some thoughts:
The Perseids tend to be bright, and a good percentage of them should be able to overcome the moonlight. Who knows? You still might see up to 40 to 50 meteors per hour at the shower’s peak, even in the light of a bright moon. Will you see over 100 per hour, as in some years? Not likely. Still …
Try to watch after midnight but before moonrise. If fortune smiles upon you, the evening hours might offer you an earthgrazer – a looooong, slow, colorful meteor traveling horizontally across the evening sky. Earthgrazer meteors are rare but memorable. Perseid earthgrazers appear before midnight, when the radiant point of the shower is close to the horizon.
Watch in moonlight, but place yourself in the moon’s shadow.
Consider watching after the peak. People tend to focus on the peak mornings of meteor showers, and that’s entirely appropriate. But meteors in annual showers – which come from streams of debris left behind in space by comets – typically last weeks, not days. Perseid meteors have been streaking across our skies since around July 17. We’ll see Perseids for 10 days or so after the peak mornings on August 11, 12 and 13, though at considerably reduced numbers. Yet, each day as the moon wanes in the morning sky, less moonlight will obtrude on the show. Starting on or around August 17, moon-free skies reign all night long.
Space.com says that those who have gotten up before sunrise to gaze into the twilight skies to see Comet Neowise have been greeted by the best comet performance for Northern Hemisphere observers since the 1997 appearance of Comet Hale-Bopp, emphatically ending nearly a quarter-century of lack of spectacular comets, and it’s only going to get better:
The first good opportunity for evening viewing begins on July 12, when the head of the comet will stand 5 degrees above the north-northwest horizon, 80 minutes after sunset (the end of nautical twilight). By July 14 its altitude will have already doubled to 10 degrees, and by July 19 it will have doubled yet again to 20 degrees up by the end of nautical twilight. By then it will have moved to above the northwest horizon.
So, we at Space.com feel that the best time to view the comet during the evening will come during the July 14-19 time frame.
We also strongly recommend that observers should seek the most favorable conditions possible. Even a bright comet, like this one, can be obliterated by thin horizon clouds, haze, humid air, smoke, twilight glow and especially city lights. We especially emphasize that last factor: the farther away you get from a metropolitan area, the darker your sky and the better your view of NEOWISE. Binoculars will enhance your view.
And more good news: No moonlight will brighten the sky, as the moon will be a waning crescent and visible only in the morning sky through July 20. On successive July evenings the comet will grow fainter, but it will be farther from the sun, setting later and visible in a darker sky. As we move into August, the comet will be very well placed for observers with small telescopes.
Read on for more tips & happy comet hunting to you all!
Ken was in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore looking towards the Manitou Islands & writes that he captured Comet Neowise, the Northern Lights and an Iridium Flare plus the bonus reflection on Lake Michigan!! The bright light to right of center horizon is the South Manitou Island Lighthouse. See it bigger on Facebook.
Shawn of Lake Superior Photo took this photo of Comet Neowise peeking through the clouds and fog yesterday morning. She shares that it’s visible to the naked eye & you can catch it the next few days in the northeast before sunrise!! EarthSky explains how to see Comet Neowise:
We still have to wait for another very bright comet, what astronomers call a great comet. There’s no strict definition for great comet, but most agree that Hale-Bopp – widely seen by people in 1997 – was one. Lesser comets are moderately frequent, though, and, right now, there’s a nice binocular comet in the dawn sky. Some skilled observers have reported that – once you spot it with binoculars – you can remove them and see the comet with the unaided eye. Using binoculars or other optical aid is a must, though, if you want to see this comet’s split tail. The comet is called C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE).
Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is up at dawn now; it will be highest in the dawn sky around July 11. Then it will gradually approach the horizon each day. By mid July (around July 12-15), the comet will become visible at dusk (just after sunset), low in the northwest horizon.
If the comet remains relatively bright, it might be easier to see in the second half of July during evening dusk, because, at that time, it will appear somewhat higher in the sky.
Tom took this photo at the Bay City Fireworks Festival back in 2018. He writes that “Focus Pulling is a technique of adjusting focus from out of focus to tack sharp during a firework explosion over 1 to 3 seconds. similar physical operation as zooming during exposure only you use the manual focus ring instead of the zoom ring.”
May 4th is known as Star Wars Day – May the Fourth be with you – an annual celebration of one of our shared modern stories. If you’re up before dawn tomorrow, you can step out to see if you can see Eta Aquariid meteors in the east. Earthsky notes that the forecast calls for the greatest number of Eta Aquariid meteors to fall before dawn on (or near) May 5. However, this shower has a rather broad maximum, so just as many meteors may be flying on the mornings after.