This month’s full moon officially occurred this morning at 4:28 local time and boy was it especially bright thanks to completely clear skies in the region and our thick layer of snow cover. I guess that’s one good thing about having this snow still around in the last week of March. As we know, native Americans and early American settlers have named each month’s full moon based on the accompanying weather or surrounding conditions for the time of the year. Here’s a look at March’s full moon name list. Some of these may either make you laugh or cringe.
Even though it may not feel like it, we are in fact now in the middle of November, a part of the year more associated with clouds and high temperatures in the 40s than the clear skies and 50s we’re expecting for most of the next week, a continuation of our current warm spell. Another item that we expect every November is the annual Leonid meteor shower that typically takes place around the 17th of the month (which is also my birthday, incidentally) and is one of the most anticipated astronomical events of the year.
Local information for viewing the meteor shower.
The forecast for early Saturday morning calls for clear skies with temps around 30 degrees and south winds from 5 to 15mph.
Here’s some more background information on the Leonid meteor shower along with some viewing tips from Space.com.
The annual Leonid meteor shower reaches its peak this week and may get a boost from a moonless weekend sky.
The actual peak of the 2012 Leonid meteor shower is on Saturday (Nov. 17) at 3 a.m. EST, but, like all meteor showers, the celestial fireworks display will be visible for a few nights before and after that peak time, weather permitting. Because the moon will have set by that time, its bright glow won’t wash out any Leonids you may see.
The Leonids are associated with the periodic comet Tempel-Tuttle, first discovered in 1865. This comet has a period of 33.2 years. It was last close to the sun in 1998 and will return in 2031. After Tempel-Tuttle’s discovery, it was traced back to a comet observed in 1366.
But what exactly is a meteor shower? Meteors are brief flashes of light in the Earth’s upper atmosphere which occur when small pieces of interstellar material, called meteoroids, enter the atmosphere and heat it to incandescence. We don’t actually see the meteoroids themselves, but rather the air heated by the friction of their passage.
As the Earth travels around the sun, it is constantly encountering meteoroids, so that on any night in the year, if you observe a dark sky after midnight, you will probably see a few meteors every hour. These are known as “sporadic meteors.” [Leonid Meteor Lights Up Night Sky (Video)]
Meteoroids are not uniformly distributed in space. They seem to be most commonly produced when comets venture close to the sun, melting the ice from tiny comet fragments, leaving behind small meteoroids. Under the gravitational influence of the planets, these fragments gradually spread out along the comet’s orbit, forming a belt of meteoroids in space. When the Earth passes through such a belt, we see more meteors than average, and this is known as a “meteor shower.”
There is a common misconception that a meteor shower is like a rain shower, with large numbers of meteors being visible. Most meteor showers only involve a few more meteors per hour than you might see any night.
Look inside the sickle of Leo for the point in the sky from which the Leonid meteors appear to radiate.
CREDIT: Starry Night Software
On rare occasions, perhaps once a decade, observers see what are called meteor storms, when dozens of meteors can be seen every hour. The Leonid meteor shower is famous because it has caused a large number of meteor storms over the centuries.
Because the distribution of meteoroids along its parent comet Tempel-Tuttle’s orbit is not uniform, it tends to produce meteor storms every 33 years, the same period as the comet. Careful observations have enabled mapping of clumps of meteoroids within the stream, leading to increasingly accurate predictions. There were spectacular Leonid storms in 1999, 2001, and 2002.
No meteor storm is predicted for 2012, but the Leonids can always be counted on to provide a good show, especially since there will be no moon to interfere with them this year.
How to see the Leonids
The best time to observe meteors is always after midnight, when the Earth is heading directly into the meteor stream.
This shower is named the Leonids because they appear to radiate from a point just inside the Sickle of the constellation Leo. It’s not important to know exactly where the radiant is because the longest and brightest meteors are usually about 90 degrees away from the radiant. The radiant will be roughly half way up the eastern sky for most northern observers, so the best directions to look are south, north, and directly overhead.
Although the peak is predicted for 3 a.m. EST Saturday morning, Leonids may be seen at any time in the night, and for a day or two before and after Saturday morning.
It’s important to dress warmly and make yourself comfortable in a reclining garden or deck chair. You will see more meteors if you keep your head still and allow at least 20 minutes for your eyes to become adapted to the dark. Be patient and spend a least an hour watching, as meteors often come in batches with long dry spells in between.
Try catching photographs of Leonids by setting your camera up on a tripod and making time exposures of at least 15 seconds, and send them along to us to share.
Clear skies and good luck!
Editor’s note: If you and snap an amazing photo of the Leonid meteor shower and would like to share it with SPACE.com for a possible story or image gallery, send images, comments and location information to managing editor Tariq Malik at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All of us in southeast Minnesota and northeast Iowa will be able to enjoy quiet weather, a light breeze, and clear skies for tonight’s Halloween festivities. Temperatures at sunset (6pm) will be around 43 degrees and by 8pm will drop to about 40 degrees. Winds are out of the north-northwest at 5-10mph starting at 5pm this evening.
If you or your kids happen to check out the nearly full moon this evening and notice a bright star next to it, that’s Jupiter! Be sure to impress your kids with this amazing piece of trivial goodness…they’ll respect you forever for it. The moonrise itself will look beautiful in tonight’s sky after sunset, and Jupiter will appear to its lower left.
Tomorrow night, Jupiter and the Moon will be even closer.
W’ve been dealing with drizzle, mist, and light rain showers for a couple of days now, but as we move into the weekend tomorrow and Sunday, our skies are going to be drier and less cloudy which will make for decent viewing for the Orionid Meteor Shower that will reach its peak late Saturday night. This particular meteor shower will occur as remnant particles of dust and ice from Halley’s comet will burn up as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere this weekend when our planet passes through the comet’s orbit. For more information see below:
The nearly full Moon will be visible in tonight’s clear sky, too. Here are the moonrise/set times for today and tomorrow for Rochester specifically. If you want to find sun/moon rise times for your location, I recommend this site.
Thursday, August 30th, 2012: moonrise: 7:02pm
Friday, August 31st, 2012:
moonrise (FULL BLUE MOON): 7:30pm <— pending clear sky, the moon will look big and beautiful as it rises in the east
Saturday, September 1st, 2012:
If you’ll be out watching, we’d love to see your pictures! Our email is weather[at]kttc[dot]com. You can find us on facebook and you can tweet me, too.
According to spaceweather.com, most of North America will have many opportunities to view the International Space Station this weekend. Additionally, there is opportunity to see the Chinese space station, Tiangong-1.
Here are the viewing times for the ISS over Rochester this weekend, June 9th-June 10th, 2012. (for other locations, put your zip code in the Simple Satellite Tracker)
Each pass lasts about 4-5 minutes.
Friday, June 8th: ISS 11:11pm: Look to the W, up 32°
Saturday, June 9th: ISS
2:25am: Look to the WNW, up 36°
4:01am: Look to the WNW, up 39°
10:17pm: Look to the W, up 48° Tiangong-1
9:33pm: Look to the W, up 42°
Sunday, June 10th ISS 1:31am: Look to the WNW, up 27°
3:07am: Look to the WNW, up 75°
9:22pm: Look to the WSW, up 82°
In the last few weeks we have not only seen the supermoon, but a spectacular partial solar eclipse. Well in the coming days we will add two more celestial events to the Calendar.
The first one comes in the form of a partial lunar eclipse. In order to see this one, you will have to get up early on Monday morning. (Morning of June 4th).
Diagram of Partial Lunar Eclipse. (From Space.com)
The penumbral eclipse will start at around 3:45 in the morning with the partial portion of the eclipse (moon in the Earth’s shadow) beginning just before 5AM central time).
If you don’t want to get up early before work on Monday or this doesn’t do it for you, a rarer occurrence will happen during the evening on Tuesday June 5th. It is referred to as the transit of Venus. Basically it is like a solar eclipse, but Venus is much closer to the sun than our moon.
Transit of Venus (From Space.com)
Venus will appear as a small black dot going across the sun. If weather permits, you are going to want to check this out seeing that none of us able to view it this time around likely won’t be alive for the next one. That will happen in December of 2117. WOW.
Transit of Venus
Just look for the sun at around 5:00 on the 5th and focus on the northern portion of the sun. You are going to want to take the same precautions as you did for the solar eclipse. If you are going to take the welding glasses approach, make sure it is a #14 or greater. For other safe viewing ideas check out our blog post from the solar eclipse.
Sunday night (5/20) will stage a partial solar eclipse, meaning our Moon will be drifting in between the Earth and the Sun. The Sun will appear to be eaten away by the Moon as the eclipse gets under way. Here is a timeline of how the eclipse will go down Sunday night. It is important not to look directly at this eclipse. Looking with the naked eye, through a telescope or binoculars, a camera, and even sunglasses can be catastrophic to your vision and can cause blindness. There are no pain receptors in your eyes so you won’t feel a thing. For a rundown on how to view this eclipse or more info in general check out our previous 2012 Partial Solar Eclipse Blog Post.
Timeline of partial solar eclipse Sunday evening
So now the logistics of the eclipse are worked out, will the skies cooperate? It looks like they may, there may be a few clouds leftover from a chance of rain early in the day as our cold front advances East. High Pressure will be quick to settle in late tomorrow afternoon to clear our skies. Hopefully it does some work. Our next solar eclipse won’t be until 2017.
High pressure will try to clear the clouds tomorrow afternoon.
First thing’s first: When should you look? From Rochester or Minneapolis? About an hour before sunset Sunday is when the eclipse will begin, not really noticeable at first. The most it will eclipse (it’s only partial here in MN and IA) from our perspective is at 8:19pm Sunday evening – about 15 minutes prior to sunset. Then, of course, you’ll see no more eclipse after sunset. ;-p Timing will change very little from this in any other communities in the region.
Will the weather cooperate in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa? It’s looking like it from today’s perspective, but come on, man, it’s the weather in the upper Midwest. Let’s hope.
“NOTE: There are lots of great, safe ways to view the eclipse. San Francisco’s Exploratorium has a great list. Search Google for “safe eclipse viewing” for more. NEVER LOOK AT THE SUN THROUGH BINOCULARS OR A TELESCOPE unless you really know what you’re doing. Seriously. Even looking at it with your eyes can be dangerous; just wearing sunglasses can actually make it worse. So go to those links to see the best way to do this.”
It doesn’t behoove me to get redundant with information here, so here are your best resources for information.