25 November 2012

Full Moon, Partial Eclipse, and Jupiter

Full Moon
This week we are presented with a collection of celestial alignments that are quite visible in an urban setting. The Moon reaches full phase on Tuesday, and will pass through the busy area of the night sky near the constellation Orion, the beautiful star cluster known as the Pleiades, and the bright planet Jupiter (on Wednesday). As it does, take a closer look with a pair of binoculars or simple telescope, since these objects will be easy to locate and are engaging to view up close.

The morning of Wednesday November 28th, the Moon touches the edge of Earth's shadow in space, creating a faint darkening of the northern limb of the Moon, also known as a Partial Eclipse. For San Francisco and the western US, the Moon's darkening will be most visible just before sunrise, during the 6:00 am hour.

Image courtesy of Sky & Telescope.

14 November 2012

Leonid Meteor Shower 2012

The Leonid Meteor Shower peaks this weekend, November 16-17, giving viewers a chance to enjoy the dazzling sight of bits of light streaking across the night sky. The Leonids occur each November as the Earth passes through the remnants of Comet Tempel-Tuttle, a minor comet that has left a stream of particles in its wake. As Earth glides through the meteor stream each November, we experience the beauty of the cosmic collisions that intensify and glow in our night sky.

To see the Leonids, find a dark location and let your eyes adapt for at least 10-15 minutes. Dress warmly and relax on a blanket or lawn chair, looking overhead or somewhat toward the east. The 'raidant' of the meteor shower is in the constellation Leo which rises high in the east after midnight, and the meteors will appear to emanate from that spot, but will shoot all over the entire sky, so most important is to have a view of as much of the sky as possible. City dwellers should find the darkest possible spot. In my own backyard, I place myself in a dark area where the local streetlights are shielded from view, allowing my eyes to adapt and see fainter meteors.

Stay warm, and enjoy the show. Here are some additional resources:

Space.com article about the Leonids.
Earthsky.org article about the Leonids.

Image courtesy howstuffworks.com.