EYES TO THE SKY: Meteors flash among the stars

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In this 20-second exposure, a meteor lights up the sky over the top of a mountain ridge near Park City, Utah. Even though this image was captured during the annual Perseid meteor shower, this “shooting star” is probably not one of the Perseid meteors, which originate from material left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle. Instead, it’s likely one of the many bits of rock and dust that randomly fall into the atmosphere on any given night. August 15, 2016, NASA/Bill Dunford

August 6 – 19, 2022

In this 20-second exposure, a meteor lights up the sky over the top of a mountain ridge near Park City, Utah. Even though this image was captured during the annual Perseid meteor shower, this “shooting star” is probably not one of the Perseid meteors, which originate from material left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle. Instead, it’s likely one of the many bits of rock and dust that randomly fall into the atmosphere on any given night. August 15, 2016, NASA/Bill Dunford

It’s summer meteor season: the likelihood of being thrilled by shooting stars any time of night is high and assured before moonrise and after moonset. Active through August 21, the Southern Delta Aquariids meteor shower is concurrent with the most prolific, best-of-year shower, the Perseids, visible through August 24. This year, a waxing and then full supermoon on the 11th, wash out our view of the Perseids at peak, August 12, requiring awareness of moonrise and moonset times to find dark sky opportunities to observe the meteors. During the wee hours before dawn tomorrow morning, Sunday the 7th, through Wednesday the 10th, are optimal for viewing Perseids and Delta Aquariids meteors. Moonset is at 12:39 a.m. on the 7th, 1:25 a.m. the 8th, 2:24 a.m. the 9th and 3:36 a.m. the 10th. True darkness begins to lift within minutes of 4 a.m. and twilight about an hour later. Spend the night outdoors for the full experience or be out by 4:30 a.m. to gaze and be awed. Avoid artificial lights. Sunrise occurs minutes before 6 a.m.

Sky view showing meteor shower radiants August 7 through August 10 at 4 a.m. The constellation Perseus (upper left), radiant of the Perseids, is near zenith from about 2 a.m. until dawn. Aquarius (middle right), Delta Aquariids radiant, highest about 2 a.m. Notice bright planet Jupiter, mid-sky, and planet Saturn, at its brightest, in the southwest. Winter stars rising in the east. See the Sculptor constellation in the south. Schema: Judy Isacoff/StarryNight7

Meteor trails may be seen anywhere in the sky. A Southern Delta Aquariid meteor may be traced back to the constellation Aquarius, its radiant in the southern part of the sky. The Perseid radiant is to the north and east.

Meteors, popularly known as shooting stars or falling stars, are fragments of space rock and dust that burn up when entering Earth’s atmosphere at high speed. From July 17 through August 24 our planet orbits through the debris field deposited by comet Swift-Tuttle when orbiting the Sun every 133 years. The Delta Aquariids, July 18, 2022 – August 21, are associated with comet 96P/Machholz, a short-period comet that orbits the Sun every five years.

Meteor showers are characterized by a procession of numerous meteors streaking across the sky, appearing to originate from a single point, known as the radiant. At peak, under dark skies, a rate of 100 meteors per hour has been recorded for the Perseids. Stunning fireballs may be seen even on moonlit nights.

As a footnote, the most recent Webb Space Telescope images of the Cartwheel galaxy, published on August 2, prompt reflection on the magnitude of the achievement this telescope represents. I am astounded by this line in the caption, “The Cartwheel Galaxy, located 500 million light-years away in the Sculptor constellation…” The star Deneb marks one corner of the Summer Triangle asterism. It is one of the most distant stars visible with the naked eye. Its distance is reported to be 1,600 light years away. Sirius, the brightest star in Earth’s skies is 8.6 light years distant. In the sky view diagram, above, locate the Cartwheel Galaxy in the constellation Sculptor.

This image from Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) shows a group of galaxies, including a large distorted ring-shaped galaxy known as the Cartwheel. The Cartwheel Galaxy, located 500 million light-years away in the Sculptor constellation, is composed of a bright inner ring and an active outer ring. While this outer ring has a lot of star formation, the dusty area in between reveals many stars and star clusters. The mid-infrared light captured by MIRI reveals fine details about these dusty regions and young stars within the Cartwheel Galaxy, which are rich in hydrocarbons and other chemical compounds, as well as silicate dust, like much of the dust on Earth. IMAGE CREDIT: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team Release Date: August 02, 2022 10:00AM (EDT)

 

A large pink, speckled galaxy resembling a wheel with a small, inner oval, with dusty blue in between on the right, with two smaller spiral galaxies about the same size to the left against a black background. Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

Copyright © 2022 Judy Isacoff


This page was created programmatically, to read the article in its original location you can go to the link bellow:
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Judy Isacoff

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