I hope everyone is having a good week. I’ve been a bit busier than usual, and as far as the astronomer in me is concerned, weather hasn’t cooperated – I haven’t been able to capture any good photos of the Perseus Double Cluster like I planned. Rain and clouds all week, but I’m patient, and this particular group of stars isn’t going anywhere soon!
Did anybody get up and see the Lunar occultation of Regulus this morning? If so, I’d love to hear about what you saw. (I’m writing this BEFORE Sunday, so at this point I don’t know whether I saw it or not! But I’ll let you know!)
This week, we have a notable meteor shower, the Orionids, and luckily for us, it will peak just as the Moon is new, and dark skies will prevail. As you can probably guess from the name, these meteors appear to originate from the vicinity of Orion, which is high in the sky in the early morning hours. As I’ve discussed before, this is actually the direction Earth is travelling as it plows through a stream of dust and debris left by – in this particular case – none other than Halley’s Comet.
If you recall, we had another Halley-induced shower back in May, the Eta Aquariids. What’s actually going on here is that Earth intersects Halley’s orbit, and its stream of dust, twice each year – one cloud in the path taken by the comet as it was heading toward the sun, and another as it was headed away. These clouds are actually orbiting the sun as well, so that the entirety of the comet’s orbit is a big dusty track that we keep crashing through.
Only, it’s not a very tight track. More like a wide river. We can actually see Orionids for about a month. Unlike some other showers (Perseids) that tend to be dense showy displays that happen in a very narrow window of time, Orionid meteors sputter, with an occasional flurry, to a maximum of 10-20 meteors per hour, but might be seen off and on for weeks.
This year, the shower is expected to peak on Saturday the 21st, and it happens to coincide with the new Moon, so the skies will be nice and dark and even the dimmest meteors will be visible. So, take a blanket and a friend, and find a place to lie down after Friday or Saturday merry-making – 1 to 2 am should be perfect – and enjoy the free light show!
Get Out There!