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.

Milky Way, Otter Creek & Sally Ride

Milky Otter

Milky Otter, photo by Heather Higham

The stars don’t look bigger, but they do look brighter.
~Sally Ride

Google reminded me this morning that today would have been astronaut & physicist Sally Ride’s 64th birthday. The Wikipedia entry for Sally Ride says that on June 18, 1983, she became the first American woman in space. Along with her NASA career, Ride also wrote a number of books aimed at encouraging children to study science, something I strongly believe that all of us should remember to do with the young girls & boys who look up to us.

To put a Michigan bow on this, be sure to check out the Women in Aviation and Space exhibit at the AirZoo in Portage. The exhibit honors women including astronaut Sally Ride and aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart. It includes original uniforms, a visual history mural, photo collages, a timeline and a unique mosaic, which includes each of the 1,102 WASP plus Jacqueline Cochran, founder of the Women in Aviation and Space organization.

Heather took this incredible shot at Otter Creek in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. View her photo bigger and see more in her Night Sky slideshow.

PS: If you want to get your Night Sky fix at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, check out their Your Park After Dark program this summer!

Into the cold clear night with Shawn Malone … and NASA

Shawns Comet

Comet Pan-Starrs over Headlands International Dark Sky Park, photo by Shawn Malone/Lake Superior Photo

Michigan in Pictures regular Shawn Malone of Lake Superior Photo is one of the best photographers of the Michigan night sky around, and on the evening of November 22nd , you have a chance to learn from her at a Night Sky Workshop. She writes:

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a wonderful place to discover the magic of night sky photography, due to the abundance of easily accessible dark sky locations. These night sky workshops are designed for those looking for a basic understanding of the equipment and technique necessary for capturing the night sky.

Photography workshops will take place at LakeSuperiorPhoto- gallery/studio on 211 S. Front, Marquette Mi. 49855. There will be an hour class at the studio where I will cover techniques for capturing night sky photos, from basic camera set up and settings, to a brief discussion of post processing to helpful websites and software to help you come away with great night sky photos.

During this workshop we will concentrate on the techniques necessary to capture low light and night sky photos. Hopefully the weather cooperates and we have a chance to photograph the stars or maybe even possibly the northern lights. No matter what weather conditon – we will conduct the workshop and you will come away with everything you need to know about capturing great night sky images.

She has 4 spaces left – click here to register!

You can purchase this photo of Comet Panstars at Lake Superior Photo. Be sure to follow her at Lake Superior Photo on Facebook and see more of Shawn’s photos on Michigan in Pictures.

Speaking of comets, NASA’s Rosetta Mission is going to go all Bruce Willis on a comet THIS MORNING! EarthSky reports:

The Philae (fee-LAY) lander is scheduled to touch down on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 12, 2014 at 10:35 a.m. EST (15:35 UTC). We on Earth – 300 million miles (500 million km) away – won’t know the lander has set down successfully until a signal is received back at about 11:02 a.m. EST (16:02 UTC). Both NASA and ESA will provide live online coverage of this first-ever attempted landing on a comet.

Rosetta spacecraft will do the equivalent of transferring an object from one speeding bullet to another, when it tries to place its Philae lander on its comet. Read more about the mission’s dramatic attempt to land on a comet here.

After landing, Philae will obtain the first images ever taken from a comet’s surface. It also will drill into the surface to study the composition and witness close up how a comet changes as its exposure to the sun varies.

Philae can remain active on the surface for approximately two-and-a-half days. Its “mothership” – the Rosetta spacecraft – will remain in orbit around the comet through 2015. The orbiter will continue detailed studies of the comet as it approaches the sun for its July 2015 perihelion (closest point), and then moves away.

Click through for more and follow it live from NASA right here!