Lyrid Meteor Shower Peaks Tomorrow, April 22

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Dust off the lawn chairs and get ready for the peak of the Lyrid meteor shower which will occur on the night of April 22.

“The Lyrids are really unpredictable,” Cooke said. “For the 2015 shower, I’m expecting 15 to 20 Lyrid meteors an hour. Peak rates should occur after 10:30 PM on April 22 your local time, for observers in the northern hemisphere. For observers in the southern hemisphere, Lyrid rates are not significant until after midnight your local time.”

Viewing tips for the Lyrids

No special equipment is needed to watch a meteor shower. Simply find a dark, open sky away from artificial lights. Lie down comfortably on a blanket or lawn chair, and look straight up.

A camera, provided by scientists at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, will offer a live feed of the Lyrids beginning at 10:00 PM CDT.The camera is light-activated, and will switch on at nightfall. During daytime hours, the webcast will show recorded views of past meteor showers.

Watch the live feed here.

About the Lyrids

Lyrids are pieces of debris from the periodic Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher and have been observed for more than 2,600 years. In mid-April of each year, Earth runs into the stream of debris from the comet, which causes the Lyrid meteor shower. You can tell if a meteor belongs to a particular shower by tracing back its path to see if it originates near a specific point in the sky, called the radiant. The constellation in which the radiant is located gives the shower its name, and in this case, Lyrids appear to come from a point in the constellation Lyra.

Lyridsequence_20140422_092714_04

Ask an Astronomer About the Shortest Lunar Eclipse of the Century on April 4

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On Saturday morning, April 4, 2015 not long before sunrise, the bright full moon over North America should turn a lovely shade of celestial red during a total lunar eclipse. Join NASA astronomer Mitzi Adams as she takes questions via Twitter @NASA_Marshall. For Twitter questions, use the hashtag #eclipse2015. The question and answer via Twitter will begin at 6 a.m. EDT and continue through the end of the eclipse (approximately 8:00 a.m. EDT on April 4).

The lunar eclipse will be visible from all parts of the United States.  Eastern North America and western South America can see beginning stages of the partial umbral eclipse low in the west before sunrise April 4, whereas middle Asia (India, western China, mid-Asian Russia) can view the ending stages of the partial umbral eclipse low in the east after sunset April 4. Greenland, Iceland, Europe, Africa and the Middle East won’t see this eclipse at all. A world map of eclipse visibility is available here. The total eclipse will last only five minutes. You can find more information  here.

This image shows the Dec. 20, 2012 total lunar eclipse, as seen from Sagamihara, Japan.

This image shows the Dec. 20, 2012 total lunar eclipse, as seen from Sagamihara, Japan.

Fireball Reported in Colorado Early this Morning

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A fireball occurred over southern Wyoming/northern Colorado at 6:01 AM Mountain Daylight Time. The available eyewitness and video information indicates that the meteor moved from East to West at about 45,000 miles per hour and weighed a few pounds (2 to 4 pounds are the preliminary estimates). The fireball belongs to a class of meteors called Earthgrazers, which hit the Earth’s atmosphere at a very shallow angle. They can travel a considerable distance before getting low enough to completely burn up; the eyewitnesses state that this fireball lasted longer than 10 seconds, which matches grazer durations. No meteorites are expected to have been produced by this event – it was too small and too high to drop fragments on the ground.

The numerous reports are typical of fireballs occurring during morning or evening work commute, and are not indicative of the relative brightness of the meteor.

Fireball over Jacksonville, Florida on Feb. 21

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A fireball west of Jacksonville, FL on Saturday, Feb. 21st  at 22:59:45 PM EST was detected by two all sky cameras, located in Melbourne, belonging to the Sky Sentinel Network.

The American Meteor Society has a write-up on this fireball at http://www.amsmeteors.org/2015/02/florida-fireball-with-boom/. There were over a hundred eyewitness reports, and the trajectory determined from these agrees fairly well with a crude triangulation performed using the Sky Sentinel videos. These videos and eyewitness reports indicate that the fireball started just east of Lake City and moved NE at about 40,000 miles per hour, burning up about 30 miles west of Jacksonville. The apparent brightness of the meteor permits a crude estimate of about a foot for the object’s diameter, with a weight around 100 pounds.

NASA places a high priority on tracking asteroids and protecting our home planet from them. In fact, the U.S. has the most robust and productive survey and detection program for discovering near-Earth objects (NEOs). NASA’s NEO Program at NASA Headquarters, Washington, manages and funds the search, study and monitoring of asteroids and comets whose orbits periodically bring them close to Earth. NASA is also pursuing an Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) which will identify, redirect and send astronauts to explore an asteroid. Among its many exploration goals, the mission could demonstrate basic planetary defense techniques for asteroid deflection.

Marshall Scientist to Observe Asteroid 2004 BL86

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On Monday evening, January 26 from 10 p.m. to midnight CST Marshall scientists will observe the large Asteroid 2004 BL86 as it passes by Earth. The public is welcome to follow their observations via the Marshall Ustream feed

The asteroid will safely pass about three times the distance of Earth to the moon, or approximately 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from Earth. Scientists have been tracking the path of the asteroid for 11 years and know its orbit well. Asteroid 2004 BL86 will not approach Earth this close again for at least 200 years.

This is a rare opportunity for observation. Hope you will join us as we observe the flyby.

Go here for more information about Asteroid 2004 BL86.

 

 

Marshall Scientist to Observe Asteroid 2004 BL86

Posted on by .

On Monday evening, January 26 from 10 p.m. to midnight CST Marshall scientists will observe the large Asteroid 2004 BL86 as it passes by Earth. The public is welcome to follow their observations via the Marshall Ustream feed

The asteroid will safely pass about three times the distance of Earth to the moon, or approximately 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from Earth. Scientists have been tracking the path of the asteroid for 11 years and know its orbit well. Asteroid 2004 BL86 will not approach Earth this close again for at least 200 years.

This is a rare opportunity for observation. Hope you will join us as we observe the flyby.

Go here for more information about Asteroid 2004 BL86.

comet

Comet Lovejoy – January 2015

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Image of Comet Lovejoy taken Saturday, January 10, by Dr. Bill Cooke. Image is a 3 minute exposure using the iTelescope T3 refractor. At the time of this image, the comet was some 45 million miles from Earth.

Discovered in August of 2014, Comet Lovejoy is currently sweeping north through the constellation Taurus, bright enough to offer good binocular views. Glowing softly with a greenish hue, Comet Lovejoy passed closest to planet Earth on January 7, while its perihelion (closest point to the Sun) will be on January 30. Classed as a long period comet, it should return again … in about 8,000 years.

LoveJoyView more images of Comets at our Flickr Gallery

Fireballs West of Nashville, Tennessee also seen in Alabama

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Two fireballs were seen in the night sky on January 5th, both in the Nashville area. Here are details on the first one:

There was a fireball just to the west of Nashville at 5:46:55 CST tonight. Creating a streak of light brighter than the planet Venus, the object weighed about one pound and moved relatively slow for a meteor – only 32,400 miles per hour.

The trajectory is attached along with still images from two NASA cameras. The meteor traveled from west to east just north of the town of Dickson, TN.

Nashvillefireball_2

Nashvillefireball_1

The second fireball occurred just to the west of Nashville about 7:31 PM CST.  This one was brighter and faster – 75,000 mph – and moved east to west; totally unrelated to the other one. It burned up 30 miles above the town of New Johnsonville, TN.

Fireball_2

Fireball_2a

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year — for spotting a Geminid meteor! The 2014 Geminid meteor shower is forecast to be a lively meteor shower with great views in the skies over Earth. The week of Dec. 8 is a good window for Geminid-watching, but the night of Dec. 13-14 is the anticipated peak. Best viewing will be in dark sky locations, away from city lights.

Geminids are pieces of debris from an object called 3200 Phaethon. Long thought to be an asteroid, Phaethon is now classified as an extinct comet. Basically it is the rocky skeleton of a comet that lost its ice after too many close encounters with the sun. Earth runs into a stream of debris from 3200 Phaethon every year in mid-December, causing meteors to fly from the constellation Gemini. When the Geminids first appeared in the early 19th century, shortly before the U.S. Civil War, the shower was weak and attracted little attention. There was no hint that it would ever become a major display.

On Dec. 13, Cooke and a team of astronomers from Marshall Space Flight Center will host an overnight NASA web chat from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. CDT, answering questions about the Geminid meteor shower. The Geminids are expected to peak just before dawn on Dec. 14, with a predicted peak rate of 100 to 120 meteors per hour.

To join the webchat on Dec. 13, log into the chat page at: http://www.nasa.gov/connect/chat/geminids_2013.html

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