Tomorrow, 17 November, the Leonids meteor shower peaks. You will see probably 20 meteors an hour from this storm. Not huge numbers but good to see just the same.
I will add that I am biased a little. Many years ago, on 16 November my dog got wrapped around something outside. It was cold and naturally I had to go get her. I saw the most amazing fireball I have ever seen and the reason I can remember the details. I got to see it come in from the east and break apart — it was spectacular!
For quite a while I was calling it a Leonid fireball, because it happened after all at the Leonid peak. I have since decided it was more likely a Taurid. Firstly because the Taurids are known for fireballs and they are still around, and secondly, the Leonids have the constellation Leo as a radiant. Leo does’t rise that early, closer to midnight in fact. The best viewing time is between midnight and sunrise, nice dark skies and the moon won’t be much of an issue this year.
If you look towards morning you will be treated to a beautiful line up of Venus, Mars, and Jupiter. They will point the way to the Leonids radiant just follow the line up.
The image above (made with Stellarium) shows the location the planets and the Leonid radiant at around 04:50 your local time on 17 November, but I’m also going out right now.
Don’t forget to look for the Taurids meteor shower if you can. You could catch a few, it’s been cloudy since they started last week, actually before. November is the cloudiest month of the year around these parts.
Finding the radiant, the point where the meteors seem to come from is pretty easy. See this finders chart, a few hours after the sun goes down Taurus is in the eastern sky, it is always followed by the constellation Orion. If you can see Orion look a bit in front of and above him.
If you don’t happen to see any meteors, you can look for the star Aldebaran, in the finders chart it looks like any other star, but it isn’t. Aldebaran is a very bright orange colored star having used up hydrogen and is now burning helium (in reality there is some hydrogen fusion occurring in a shell around the helium core). It has a radius 44 times larger than our sun and is only 20 parsecs away (65 light years).
If you can take a look for the Orionid Meteor Shower set to peak tonight! The Orionids come from the debris trail of Halley’s comet. The shower lasts for the second half of October. The closer to the peak day you can look the more meteors you are likely to see. There are not a huge number of meteors but they stand out nicely.
Look for the constellation Orion ( should rise enough by midnight your local time in he eastern sky and likely the best viewing between 03:00 and 04:00.
A finders map below shows the constellation and the radiant which is off the red giant Betelgeuse, it is marked in blue on the map below as the Orionids (click to enlarge):
If you happen to be up and reading this early (before daylight) AND in the north, go outside and look to the east, you will be treated to a planetary line up featuring Venus- Jupiter – Mars in order from highest (above the horizon) to lowest. If these three weren’t enough Mercury might also be visible at around 06:00 also in the line and much lower on the horizon although I did not see it due to terrain.
The red color of Mars really shows nicely contrasted with Jupiter and Venus highest and largest looking (it is much closer than the other two) cannot be missed.
This shot from Stellarium shows pretty well what you will see and it is beautiful sight to actually see for yourselves – images can be enlarged by clicking them:
Missed the line up this morning? No worries, the trio will be visible for a number of days. What you will notice is Jupiter catching up to Venus over the next few days. So your view will change some until on 25 October Jupiter and Venus will be side-by-side something like this:
And a few days later on 01 November, Jupiter will have passed by Venus and Mars will sit beside Venus:
If you look at the trio with binoculars (or a telescope) you should also be able to see a few moons of Jupiter – something I hope to see when they are close enough to get all three planets and the moons all in the same field of view. I wasn’t able to do that this morning because I was traveling and forgot my binoculars and it is going to rain tomorrow. The Jupiter – Venus pairing would a be a good time too.
As far as Mercury goes, it will only be visible for a few days, hopefully I can position myself to be able to see it. I have mountains in the way at home.
By the way: If you don’t have Stellarium you can get it for free at the link above.
Yesterday’s viewing of Venus in the daylight was FANTASTIC!! I was able to see it easily with just my eyes. It will be too cloudy for me but if you can see the Moon, try looking the the west of it. Try extending your arm and look about a thumbs width away. I don’t know if it will be visible at all, worth a try though. A finders chart is at yesterday’s post.
About the image:
Pluto’s haze layer shows its blue color in this picture taken by the New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The high-altitude haze is thought to be similar in nature to that seen at Saturn’s moon Titan. The source of both hazes likely involves sunlight-initiated chemical reactions of nitrogen and methane, leading to relatively small, soot-like particles (called tholins) that grow as they settle toward the surface. This image was generated by software that combines information from blue, red and near-infrared images to replicate the color a human eye would perceive as closely as possible. – New Horizons
Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
I’ve been waiting for this eclipse with great anticipation. I am starting to get settled in to a new location and my skies seem to be nice and dark. I probably won’t have the big scope up for a while but I certainly can try to get a decent picture of the eclipse.
I will be participating in the Globe@Night project for October. You can go to Globe@Night pretty much anytime to see how your skies compare in a measurable way to other locations. In my case I will compare this place to my former residence of 25 years. I saw light pollution at my old location degrade my skies by about almost a full magnitude and it happened in just a couple of years. So Globe@Night is great idea and it is so well done, if you haven’t heard about it before, I will recommend it highly – it is an especially good project for the kids that mom and dad can do too.
Anyway, to get back on track, I have always found taking a decent picture of the moon with a SLR and no filter kind of hit or miss. So this time I went to YouTube for help and found this video: Photographing the Total Eclipse (hat tip to Schuch Designs). I will try the settings the video gives at 02:18 into the video. The one thing I need is decent skies and according to the forecast they should be good — I’m still optimistic though.