Falling Skies: The Geminid Meteor Shower

falling-skies

Falling Skies, photo by Heather Higham

The annual Geminid meteor shower peaks tonight but will continue tomorrow as well. EarthSky explains:

The shower starts around the second week in December, but, in a bit of bad timing, full moon comes on the peak night (December 13-14) this year. Still, these meteors are known for being bright, so some Geminid meteors may well overcome this year’s moonlit glare. Watch on the evening of December 13 until dawn December 14. The nights before and after might be good as well. Geminid meteors tend to be few and far between at early evening, but intensify in number as evening deepens into late night.

…Your local peak will typically be centered at about 2 a.m. local time, no matter where you are on the globe. That’s because the constellation Gemini – radiant point of the shower – will reach its highest point for the night around 2 a.m. (your local time). As a general rule, the higher the constellation Gemini climbs into your sky, the more Geminid meteors you’re likely to see.

Heather took this photo in September of 2016, and there’s FOUR meteors!! View it bigger, see more in her Night Sky slideshow, and view & purchase photos at snaphappygal.com!

Lots more meteors on Michigan in Pictures.

 

Lions in the Sky: The 2016 Leonid Meteor Shower

aurora-fireball-by-ross-ellet

Aurora Fireball, photo by Ross Ellet

Space.com’s page on How to Watch the Leonids says in part:

The Leonid meteor shower happens every year in November, when Earth’s orbit crosses the orbit of Comet Tempel-Tuttle. The comet makes its way around the sun every 33.3 years, leaving a trail of dust rubble in its wake. When Earth’s orbit crosses this trail of debris, pieces of the comet fall toward the planet’s surface. Drag, or air resistance, in Earth’s atmosphere cause the comet’s crumbs to heat up and ignite into burning balls of fire called meteors.

…The Leonid meteor shower peaks on the night of Thursday, Nov. 17, and early the following morning. Skywatchers might be able to see some meteors as early as Sunday, Nov. 13. However, with a full supermoon slated to rise Monday, Nov. 14, moonlight will likely outshine most meteors, rendering them difficult to see.

But don’t feel bummed if you don’t spot any of the early meteors. The Leonids will continue to graze the night sky until Nov. 21. At this point, the waning moon will be at its third quarter, meaning only half of the moon’s face will illuminate the sky. With less of the moon’s natural light obstructing the view, skywatchers who were unable to see the meteor shower at first will still have a chance to catch the last Leonid meteors.

Ross took this photo in late September of 2014 and writes:

The sky was cloudy most of the night, but at 3:30am there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We made our way to the lakeshore and sure enough the northern lights were dim on the northern horizon. At one point you could hear the howl of a distant wolf pack while the northern lights were out. Then moments later a slow move fireball flashed across the sky. It lasted a couple seconds and the brightness pulsed as it moved through the atmosphere. After that the aurora faded, but several more meteors (some very bright) streaked above us.

View it background bigtacular and see more in his Porcupine Mtns slideshow, and definitely check out his website, Ross Ellet’s Weather & Photography for more!!

PS: Some of the best northern lights on the year happen in November so be sure to keep an eye on the skies!

May’s Eta Aquariad Meteor Shower

Milky Way over Au Sable Point Lighthouse

Milky Way over Au Sable Point Lighthouse, photo by Michigan Nut

EarthSky shares details on this week’s Eta Aquarid meteor shower:

In 2016, the forecast calls for the greatest number of Eta Aquarid meteors to light up the predawn darkness on May 5 and 6. It should be a good year for this shower, with the May 6 new moon guaranteeing deliciously dark skies for the 2016 Eta Aquarids. This shower favors the Southern Hemisphere, ranking as one of the finest showers of the year. At mid-northern latitudes, these meteors don’t fall so abundantly, though mid-northern meteor watchers will catch some, too, and might be lucky enough to catch an earthgrazer – a bright, long-lasting meteor that travels horizontally across the sky – before dawn.

Halley’s Comet is the source of the Eta Aquarid meteor shower. Every year, our planet Earth crosses the orbital path of Halley’s Comet in late April and May, so bits and pieces from this comet light up the nighttime as Eta Aquarid meteors. This shower is said to be active from April 19 to May 20, although Earth plows most deeply into this stream of comet debris around May 5 or 6.

The comet dust smashes into Earth’s upper atmosphere at nearly 240,000 kilometers (150,000 miles) per hour. Roughly half of these swift-moving meteors leave persistent trains – ionized gas trails that glow for a few seconds after the meteor has passed.

They add that early morning is the best time to see them and that the broad peak of the Eta Aquarids may present a decent showing of meteors during the predawn hours on May 4 and May 7 as well! Read on for more.

View John’s photo bigger, see more in his Starry Nights slideshow and definitely follow Michigan Nut Photography on Facebook!

More about the Au Sable Lighthouse in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on Michigan in Pictures!

Celebrate Dark Sky Week in Michigan’s Parks

Milky Way & Meteor at Fayette

Milky Way and Meteor above Fayette, photo by Lake Superior Photo

This week (April 4-10) is International Dark Sky Week. The State of Michigan has a list of 20 state parks that will be open late all week. One of the parks that will be open late is Fayette State Historic Park, located on the Garden Peninsula of Lake Michigan’s north shore:

Fayette Historic State Park blends nature and history with a Historic Townsite, a representation of a once-bustling industrial community. Visitors can learn about the town through guided tours and information from the Visitor Center, or simply by walking through the townsite and exploring on their own. Walk through restored buildings like the town hotel and a cabin, built to replicate the homes in which residents of Fayette used to live. Interpretive panels provide information to transport visitors back in time and tell the story of the town.

On the second Saturday of August, the park is transformed back to its glory days with period displays, food and music at the annual Heritage Day.

Shawn took this at Fayette a couple of years ago. See it bigger, view & purchase more dark sky pics in her Milky Way & Miscellaneous Night Sky gallery, and definitely follow Lake Superior Photo on Facebook!

More Michigan parks on Michigan in Pictures.

Eyes on the November Skies: North Taurid & Leonid Meteor Showers

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Somewhere Over the Rainbow, photo by Snap Happy Gal Photography

I woke up early this morning, and after seeing 5 meteors in just ten minutes, realized that the Taurid meteors were still kicking, how about an upcoming meteor shower update courtesy EarthSky’s 2015 meteor shower page:

Late night November 12 until dawn November 13, 2015, the North Taurids

Like the South Taurids, the North Taurids meteor shower is long-lasting (October 12 – December 2) but modest, and the peak number is forecast at about 7 meteors per hour. The North and South Taurids combine, however, to provide a nice sprinkling of meteors throughout October and November. Typically, you see the maximum numbers at around midnight, when Taurus the Bull is highest in the sky. Taurid meteors tend to be slow-moving, but sometimes very bright. In 2015, the new moon comes only one day before the predicted peak, providing a dark sky for the 2015 North Taurid shower.

Late night November 17 until dawn November 18, 2015, the Leonids

Radiating from the constellation Leo the Lion, the famous Leonid meteor shower has produced some of the greatest meteor storms in history – at least one in living memory, 1966 – with rates as high as thousands of meteors per minute during a span of 15 minutes on the morning of November 17, 1966. Indeed, on that beautiful night in 1966, the meteors did, briefly, fall like rain. Some who witnessed the 1966 Leonid meteor storm said they felt as if they needed to grip the ground, so strong was the impression of Earth plowing along through space, fording the meteoroid stream. The meteors, after all, were all streaming from a single point in the sky – the radiant point – in this case in the constellation Leo the Lion.

Leonid meteor storms sometimes recur in cycles of 33 to 34 years, but the Leonids around the turn of the century – while wonderful for many observers – did not match the shower of 1966. And, in most years, the Lion whimpers rather than roars, producing a maximum of perhaps 10-15 meteors per hour on a dark night. Like many meteor showers, the Leonids ordinarily pick up steam after midnight and display the greatest meteor numbers just before dawn. In 2015, the rather wide waxing crescent moon sets in the evening and won’t interfere with this year’s Leonid meteor shower. The peak morning will probably be November 18 – but try November 17, too.

Read on for viewing tips and definitely try and take a look up at night when you can as the northern lights have also been very strong lately!

Heather writes that this image is a stitch of four 11mm frames with only minor adjustments to contrast – with no color saturation or vibrancy changes. It underscores what an incredible time for skywatching it is right now with low humidity making for extra-clear skies. View her photo background big and see more of her work at Snap Happy Gal Photography on Facebook!

More meteors & meteor showers & more northern lights on Michigan in Pictures.

South Taurid Meteor Shower and Northern Lights!

photo date/id: view larger here: and yes, feel free to share!

FIREBALL!, photo by Ken Scott

Well, my farewell tour to Autumn lasted a whole day. What can you do with things to share like this though?

Yesterday NOAA’s Space Weather tipped us off that there was a chance of strong geomagnetic storms producing northern lights. Now NOAA forecasters are saying there’s a good chance of a strong, G3-class geomagnetic storm during the next 24 hours that could bring auroras as far south as southern Michigan and even into Illinois & Ohio! Top that off with clear skies in the forecast and that means EVERYONE in Michigan should make a point to get out to someplace dark tonight for better than average chance of seeing some killer aurora action!

It gets better though! EarthSky shares information about the South Taurid meteor shower that peaks on November 4th & 5th and is underway right now.

The meteoroid streams that feed the South (and North) Taurids are very spread out and diffuse. That means the Taurids are extremely long-lasting (September 25 to November 25) but usually don’t offer more than about 7 meteors per hour. That is true even on the South Taurids’ expected peak night. The Taurids are, however, well known for having a high percentage of fireballs, or exceptionally bright meteors. Plus, the other Taurid shower – the North Taurids – always adds a few more meteors to the mix during the South Taurids’ peak night. In 2015, the slim waning crescent moon coming up before dawn will not seriously obtrude on this year’s South Taurid meteor shower. The South Taurids should produce their greatest number of meteors in the wee hours – between midnight and dawn – on November 5. Remember, it’ll be possible to catch a fireball or two!

Late night November 12 until dawn November 13, 2015, the North Taurids

Like the South Taurids, the North Taurids meteor shower is long-lasting (October 12 – December 2) but modest, and the peak number is forecast at about 7 meteors per hour. The North and South Taurids combine, however, to provide a nice sprinkling of meteors throughout October and November. Typically, you see the maximum numbers at around midnight, when Taurus the Bull is highest in the sky.

Read on for info about where to look for the best chance – short answer is to the east between midnight and dawn!

Ken writes:

My friend Annette came up for a visit from Detroit and I wanted to show her some Perseid Meteors, so I got permission to work in the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Park after dark (thank you folks!) and well, we got more than we bargained for … a 4+ second fireball and unknown to us because they were hid by the trees and very dim … Aurora Borealis!!
and did I mention 2 ISS flybys!!
She paraphrased ‘we don’t see this in Detroit’ . . .
It was a good eve

View his photo bigger, see more in his massive Skies Above slideshow and enjoy this timelapse!

More northern lights and more meteors & meteor showers on Michigan in Pictures!

Geminid Meteor Showers this weekend!

Geminid Meteor ...

Geminid Meteor…, photo by Ken Scott

As you’re making plans for this weekend, consider including some offbeat nightlife. EarthSky has everything you need to know about this weekends Geminid Meteor Shower:

The peak night of the 2014 Geminid meteor shower will probably occur on the night of December 13 (morning of December 14). The night before (December 12-13) may offer a decent sprinkling of meteors as well. Geminid meteors tend to be few and far between at early evening, but intensify in number as evening deepens into late night. A last quarter moon will rise around midnight, but Geminid meteors are bright! This shower favors Earth’s Northern Hemisphere.

…In a year when moonlight doesn’t obscure the view, you can easily see 50 or more Geminid meteors per hour on the peak night. However, in 2014, the waning moon will dampen the display in the peak viewing hours. Don’t let the moonlight discourage you. A good percentage of these yellow-colored Geminid meteors are quite bright and will overcome the moonlit skies.

The moon will rise quite late on December 13 and 14, creating a window of darkness for watching the Geminid shower in the evening. Keep in mind that the moon will rise about an hour earlier on December 13 than it will on December 14. Click here for custom sunrise/set calendar. Check boxes for moonrise/set times..

Even as the moon rises, however, it will be sitting low in the east. If possible, find a hedgerow of trees, a barn or some such thing to block out the moon. Sit in a moon shadow but at the same time, find an expansive view of sky. Or simply look away from the moon.

Read on for all kinds of viewing tips and all kinds of info about about this December meteor shower including the chance of seeing an earthgrazer meteor, a slow-moving, long-lasting meteor that travels horizontally across the sky.

View Ken’s photo from December 14, 2012 bigger and see more in his massive Skies Above slideshow.

More meteors on Michigan in Pictures!