Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Meteor Shower Friday Night!

Dear Star-Gazing Readers,

Madame L has just read about an amazing meteor shower that may be visible to many people in North America this Friday night (May 23).

Not that Madame L is expecting to be able to watch, since it's always overcast where she lives. But she hopes that those of you who live above the clouds, or wherever you can look up and see stars, will watch and let Madame L know how glorious it was.

The astronomy writer on Slate.com, where Madame L read about this, writes:
Predicted rates for this new shower are quite high, about 100–400 meteors per hour, far higher than normal showers. And they’ll appear to be coming from an area of the sky near the north pole, so they should be visible raining down all over the sky!

As the Earth orbits the Sun, it sometimes crosses these trails. When that happens we plow into this interplanetary junk, and it burns up in our atmosphere, creating meteors. They appear to come from a single point in the sky called the radiant, because the meteors appear to radiate outward from it (see the photo at the top of this post). This is due to perspective, and is similar to how lights on the walls and ceiling of a tunnel all seem to come from a point directly ahead of you as you drive through the tunnel, and they fan out as you pass them. The radiant for this shower is in the relatively obscure constellation Camelopardalis, the giraffe, very near the north pole of the sky.
Please read that whole article to learn more about the meteor shower, the "parent" comet, how to watch, and more.

(And especially to look at the magnificent photos!)

Sincerely, and wistfully,

Madame L

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