Clouds Move in on Leonids

Some unpredicted (at least according to the forecast I read) clouds moved in in the early AM of the 17th, interfering with local views of the shower. Some people reported seeing a few meteors earlier in the evening. Further summary at the December skyshow. If you have a Leonid story to share, send me an e-mail.

Looking good for the Leonids

Should be clear tonight. Read the following message forwarded by Larry Marschall, if you are still looking for more info:


The annual Leonid meteor shower should be reaching its climax late
tonight in the U.S., from about 1 a.m. your local time to dawn Tuesday
morning November 17th. “Viewing conditions will be excellent, because
the Moon won’t be lighting the sky this year,” says Alan MacRobert,
senior editor of Sky & Telescope magazine. “You might see 20 or 30
meteors per hour under ideal dark-sky conditions.”

Most people, unfortunately, don’t have a dark, natural night sky
anymore. “But even if there’s light pollution in your sky, the
brightest meteors will shine through,” says MacRobert. “Just find a
dark spot with a wide open view overhead and no glary lights nearby.”

Another point in our favor: Sky & Telescope predicts that the most
reliable part of the annual shower will reach its peak when North
America is having its prime meteor-watching hours from midnight to

A second, more intense outburst of Leonids may happen about 12 hours
later, during the early-morning hours of November 18th in Asia.
There’s only an off chance that some activity from that later burst
will still be going on by the time the Earth turns halfway around and
the Leonids again become visible from the Americas on the morning of
the 18th.

Wherever you are, no Leonids will be visible before the shower’s
radiant point (in Leo) rises around local midnight. The “radiant” is
the perspective point from which all the meteors would appear to
originate if you could see them coming from the far distance. In
reality, you see them for only the last second or two of their lives
as they plunge into the top of Earth’s atmosphere and burn up in
white-hot streaks.

Be sure to bundle up warmly; meteor-watching is always colder than you
expect. The ideal equipment is just a comfortable lounge chair, a warm
sleeping bag, and a pillow. Just lie back, watch the stars, and be
patient. The best direction to watch is wherever your sky is darkest,
probably straight up.

Notice the meteors’ flight paths. Only those streaking away from the
direction to the constellation Leo, in the eastern sky, are Leonids.

Another, less-known meteor shower is going on simultaneously: the
Taurids. They’re sparse but tend to be very bright. If you see a slow,
bright meteor heading away from the direction to Taurus, that’s a

“And you’re bound to see a few ‘sporadic’ meteors that aren’t
associated with any major shower,” says Sky & Telescope editor in
chief Robert Naeye.

For more about meteor-watching, check out, the
website of Sky & Telescope magazine.

# # #

Setting the Planets

We began work this morning on calibrating the moon and planets on our 1966 Spitz A3P. They are controlled by the analogs (little mechanical models) seen here. Each analog models the motion of the earth, sun, and its respective planet. That motion is transferred to the diagonal mirror that reflects a dot for that planet onto the planetarium dome.

Notes and Resources from the Nov. Sky this Month Show

Leonid Meteors
Early AM on Nov 17th + after dark on that night
Leonid Links! (More technical)

Planet Wrap-up

  • Jupiter: Bright in the South after sunset
  • Mars: rises by 11 PM early in the month, by 8:30 at the end
  • Crosses the Praesepe (M44) star cluster in Cancer Oct 31-Nov 2
  • Saturn and Venus: Before sunrise Saturn rising, Venus sinking

Young/Old Moon

* Waning crescent Nov 14 (-55.5 hr), Nov 15 (-31.5)
* Waxing crescent Nov 17 (+26.5), Nov 18 (50.5)

Inaugural Post

The new planetarium web site is ready to go. I hope it’s helpful to our audience as they learn about astronomy and to us as we try to get the word out about our planetarium. This blog is intended in part to accompany the offical web site and replace the old e-mail newsletters, but it will also serve as a place for me to post more frequent notes on astronomical events without cluttering up anybody’s inbox. Expect an up tick in posts as I prepare for each new Sky this Month Show. After you attend a show, you can look back at this blog, see my notes, and discover further resources on the topics covered. Thus the work that’s gone into preparing these skyshows will now be preserved after the shows are over. If you find this site helpful, make a comment or drop me an e-mail. It will encourage me to post if I know it’s getting a bit of use.

Clear Skies!