Comets, Meteors and Clouds

Image: STEREO Ahead observatory, Public Domain

Last night was a washout again for spotting the NEOWISE comet and I won’t be around in 6,800 years when it returns.

In August, the Perseid meteor shower is a regular crowd-pleaser because it has a regular rate of about 60 meteors per hour at its peak. It’s early but you might see a few this coming week. (They peak August 11, 12 and 13.) But you have a better chance right now of seeing some “falling stars” with the late July/ early August meteor shower called the Delta Aquariids.

Astronomers don’t have a definite comet of origin for this meteor treat. (Possibly  Comet 96P Machholz)  I like origin stories and the Delta Aquariids get their name because their radiant (origin point) appears to lie in the constellation Aquarius, near one of the constellation’s brightest stars, Delta Aquarii.

The Delta Aquariids don’t have as definite a peak as the Perseids but seem to increase around July 28 – but you can check the sky starting tonight. One advantage now is that there’s no Moon in the sky during the best time to view he meteors which is the dark hours before dawn.

I’m not an up-before-dawn person, so might check after midnight.  (I am a night owl and occasional insomniac.) After midnight, the Paradelle part of Earth will be facing the meteor shower and be higher in the sky than earlier. That’s good for those of us without a clear view of the horizon. Oh, I wish I was back gazing at the Atlantic Ocean and bay’s clear views.

This meteor shower is also visible in the Southern Hemisphere and is usually even more abundant and even higher in the sky.

Do all comets produce meteor showers? “Meteor showers occur when the earth in its orbit around the Sun passes through debris left over from the disintegration of comets. Although the earth’s orbit around the Sun is almost circular, most comets travel in orbits that are highly elongated ellipses. As a result, some comets have orbits that intersect or partially overlap the earth’s path.” (source)

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Ken Ronkowitz

A lifelong educator on and off the Internet. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

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