Well-known constellations like the ones in the Winter Hexagon – Gemini, Orion, Canis Major, Canis Minor, Auriga and Taurus – can be easily seen during the longer hours of darkness in the Northern hemisphere this month.
Most of the events listed here can be readily observed with the naked eye, but some objects such as the planets and some star clusters are best seen through binoculars or a small telescope.
All of the times and dates found here are in Philippine Standard Time (PHT) unless otherwise indicated. Note that PHT = UT+8.
Clear skies and happy skygazing!
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This month’s highlights:
- The Quadrantid Meteor Shower
- Planetary conjunctions with the Moon
|Jan. 1||First Quarter Moon||2:15 PM|
|Jan. 2||Moon-Jupiter close pairing (~7° apart)|
|Jan. 3||Moon at apogee||4:00 AM||farthest distance to Earth|
|Jan. 3-4||Peak of the Quadrantid Meteor Shower||3:23 AM||Quadrantid Shower: ZHR = 120|
|Jan. 5||Earth at perihelion (0.9833 AU)||8:00 AM||closest distance to the Sun|
|Jan. 5||Moon near the Pleiades (3.1° N)|
|Jan. 9||Full Moon||3:30 PM|
|Jan. 16||Last Quarter Moon||5:08 AM|
|Jan. 16||Moon near the star Spica (2° N)|
|Jan. 17||Saturn 6° north of the Moon||3:00 AM|
|Jan. 18||Moon at perigee||5:00 AM||nearest distance to Earth|
|Jan. 23||New Moon||3:39 PM|
|Jan. 25||Neptune 6° south of the Moon||8:00 PM|
|Jan. 27||Moon-Venus close pairing||dusk||Venus 7° south of the Moon|
|Jan. 30||First Quarter Moon||3:39 PM|
|Jan. 30||Moon-Jupiter close pairing|
|Jan. 31||Moon at apogee||2:00 AM||farthest distance to Earth|
January 2: Moon-Jupiter Conjunction
An eventful sky year begins with brilliant Jupiter high up on the Aries-Pisces border at nightfall. On January 2, Jupiter will be about 7 degrees away from the 61% full moon in the constellation Pisces.
January 3-4: Quadrantid Meteor Shower
This should be a fine year for one of the best, but least observed, annual meteor showers like the Quadrantids. The Quadrantids are an above average shower, with up to 40 meteors per hour at their peak. This meteor shower should be most active in the early morning hours of Wednesday the 4th, but some meteors can be visible from January 1 – 5. The Moon sets around 3 AM local time then, leaving the sky dark until the first light of dawn around 6 AM. Look for meteors radiating from the constellation Bootes.
As the nights get longer in the northern hemisphere, the skies are filled with good observing opportunities.
Meteor showers, a comet, and Jupiter at opposition are the highlights for October.
|2||Mars in the Beehive Cluster in Cancer|
|4||First Quarter Moon||11:15 AM|
|8||Draconid Meteor Shower (Active from Oct 6-10, ZHR up to storm levels)|
|8||International Observe the Moon Night 2011|
|12||Full Moon (Hunter’s Moon)||10:05 AM|
|13||Jupiter and the waxing gibbous moon is about 5 degrees apart|
|15||Waxing gibbous moon near the Pleiades|
|16||Comet Elenin’s closest approach to Earth|
|20||Last Quarter Moon||11:30 AM|
|22||Orionid Meteor Shower (Active from Oct 17-25, ZHR=20)|
|27||New Moon||04:00 AM|
|28||Mercury-Venus Moon at minimum separation||dusk|
|29||Jupiter Opposition (closest approach to Earth)||08:40 AM|
Two meteor showers: Draconids & Orionids
The Orionids will peak this year on the evening of October 21/22 . Periodic (76 year orbit) comet 1P/Halley is the source of these meteors. Meteor specialists have meteor counts for this pass averaging a modest 20 per hour, best visible before dawn under dark skies. These meteor fragments radiate from the top of Orion’s upraised club, near the Gemini border. The waning crescent Moon this year should not interfere much with your observing of these shooting stars.
Newly discovered comet Elenin will make its closest approach to the Earth on October 16. The comet was discovered on December 10, 2010 by Russian amateur astronomer Leonid Elenin. It is estimated that the comet will reach 6th magnitude as it makes its closest approach. This will make it just barely visible to the naked eye. With a good pair of binoculars and a little determination, you may be able to get a good look at this new comet during mid October.
Jupiter at Opposition
The giant planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Jupiter and its moons. The giant planet will be a big and bright as it gets in the night sky. A medium-sized telescope should be able to show you some of the details in Jupiter’s cloud bands. A good pair of binoculars should allow you to see Jupiter’s four largest moons, appearing as bright dots on either side of the planet.
This month’s full moon is called Hunter’s Moon because at this time of year the leaves are falling and the game is fat and ready to hunt. This will also be the smallest full moon of the year because it will be near apogee, its farthest point from the Earth.
Mercury-Venus & Moon at minimum separation
This is a wonderful conjunction of 2 planets, the waxing crescent Moon and the red giant star Antares about 30 minutes after sunset on the nights of October 28 & 29th. You will need an unobstructed view low to the SW. Use binoculars or a small telescope to locate challenging Mercury.
International Observe the Moon Night 2011
Join people from all over the world to celebrate the second annual International Observe the Moon Night on Oct. 8, 2011. InOMN is an annual event celebrated globally to encourage people to go out and observe Earth’s nearest neighbor in space — the Moon.
For more information and resources for planning your own International Observe the Moon Night event, visit: http://observethemoonnight.org/. The website features activities, educational materials, multimedia and much more!
- PAGASA Astronomical Diary
- Philippine Celestial Events for 2011 by PAS
- 2011 Astronomy Calendar – SeaSky.org
Tonight presents the expected peak of the annual Lyrid meteor shower, from late night Friday (April 22) until dawn Saturday (April 23). Look for meteors radiating from the constellation of Lyra after midnight.
Lyrid meteors are usually around magnitude +2, which is bright enough to be visible from most cities, but you’ll see more and enjoy them more if you leave the city for a dark place where the stars shine brighter. They often produce luminous trains of dust that can be observed for several seconds. Some Lyrids will be brighter, though, and the occassional “fireball” can cast shadows for a split second and leave behind glowing, smoky debris trails that last for minutes. Lyrid meteors disintegrate after hitting our atmosphere at a moderate speed of 29.8 miles per second.
In observing these meteors, the hour before dawn is usually best, except that a bright waning gibbous moon will be lighting the sky hiding most of the fainter meteors in its glare. This year, it is more favorable to watch late at night, during the dark hour before moonrise.
Tweet your data!
You can also share your data by Tweeting your postcode, your country (click here to find your country code) and, optionally, the meteor count along with the hashtag; #MeteorWatch (you are welcome to use GAM hastags as well – #GAM2011 #LyridsWatch)
The meteor data will appear in a map at MeteorWatch.org
While the best meteor-watching will be late night through daybreak, it’s well worth staying outside just before sunrise for a beautiful planetary alignment will be joining the Lyrids.
Venus is so bright in the eastern sky you can’t miss it, and below it Mercury, Mars and Jupiter could be found hanging a few degrees away from each other. If you have hazy skies or live in an urban area, you may need binoculars to see Mars and Jupiter.
This planetary grouping is visible from April 23 to May 30.
Enjoy the show!
Despite the 50% predicted cloud cover and significantly large uncertainty in the precise time of the peak, I and some of my orgmates in UP AstroSoc tried our luck in observing the first meteor shower of the year during the night of January 3 until the dawn of January 4, 2011. According to British meteor astronomer Alastair McBeath, the narrow peak of this shower is predicted to occur some time between 2100 UT on 3 January (5AM on January 4) and 0600 (UT) on 4 January 2011 (2PM on January 4), however the radiant of the shower is very low in the evening hours, and will rise higher towards dawn so the best time to view this event in the Philippines was during the predawn hours of January 4.
This was my first time to observe the Quadrantid Meteor Shower. Unlike the other popular annual meteor showers like the Perseids, Leonids and the Geminids, this shower is expected to be less spectacular due to lower activity and unfavorable position of the radiant to a country near the equator like the Philippines. Nevertheless, the moonless night during January 4 and 5 enticed me to give it a chance.
We chose to observe in Marikina City, at a friend’s house which has a roof deck. From there, we had a fine view of the north and eastern sky wherein most of the Quadrantids are expected to pass.
The radiant of the meteor shower which is found a little below the Big Dipper and beside the constellation Bootes, was set to rise at around 1AM of January 4. While waiting, we spent the time preparing our simple reclining chairs and sleeping bag which we intend to use as a mat where we could lie down. We also set up our organization’s 4.5″ Meade Reflector — which we fondly called Datascope — to look for deep sky objects. We pointed it first at the famous stellar sisters, the Pleaides or M45, in Taurus. We enjoyed stargazing and constellation-hopping because the sky was fairly clear then.
At around 1:30 AM, I saw my first Quadrantid. It was a short and swift one having a thin trail and a pale bluish big head, typical of a Quadrantid meteor. It passed between the pointer stars, Dubhe and Merak in Ursa Major. It was an amazing scene!
After about 30 minutes, patches of clouds began to block our view. We decided to pause our observation for a while to pick up a friend who would join us.
We continued on our observation with a less cloudy sky (around 40% cloud cover) by 3:20 AM during which we saw another Quadrantid passing near Corona Borealis. Another one zoomed past by the Bootes at 4 AM.
At 5 AM (21:oo UT), during the time of the peak we saw more meteors flying across the northeast in between cloud gaps of the 50-60 % clouded sky. In my previous post, I calculated for the number of meteors that could be seen given the 50% cloud cover and 4.0 limiting magnitude using the formula given by IMO. The actual meteor count we got during the peak is 6, which was relatively comparable to the 8 meteors per hour which I had calculated.
By 5:40 AM, we also saw one artificial satellite flying from the northwest. During this time, Venus and Mercury were already shining high in the east though they seemed to disappear from time to time as clouds pass in front of them. We also took sometime to capture a few bright constellations like my favorite, Crux in the south.
We ended our observation at past 6:00 AM when the Sun started to climb up in the east. A beautiful sunrise greeted us as we finished our observation and ate our breakfast — McChicken Fillet Meal from McDonalds — courtesy of our friend Saeed, who had his birthday during that observation.
The following night two of my fellow UP AstroSoc friends — Bea and Aaron — went to Seven Suites Hotel Observatory in Antipolo City, accompanied by some of our UP AstroSoc associates, to observe the Quadrantids from there. The sky there offers a more favorable viewing condition because it was farther from the light-polluted city. They were even lucky to have less cloudy sky during that night.
Below are some of the pictures taken during their observation at the Seven Suites Hotel Observtaory. All images are by Bea Banzuela.
I never expected that this event would turn out to be another memorable and fun observation. Thank you, UP Astrosoc!
To all those who were able to say hello to this year’s Quadrantids, congratulations and good luck on your observation of the next meteor shower.
Luna looked great a while ago with a colorful corona topped off with Jupiter as a glittering diamond just a few degrees away from it Unfortunately, my camera’s batteries went out when I was about to take an image.
This evening, don’t forget to go outside after midnight to look out for the Leonids that will zoom across the heavens just as soon as brave Leo where it would appear to radiate from, climbs up in the east. Best viewing of the Leonid meteor shower comes in two to three hours before dawn on November 17 and 18, when the waxing gibbous moon that would interfere with your skygazing has already set.
Leonids in particular are well known for having bright meteors or fireballs which may be 9 mm across. The shower is created by bits of debris left behind by the repeat passages through the inner solar system of comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle.
According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), there is always some uncertainty in the number of meteors the Leonid shower will produce, but viewers could expect to see at least 20 meteors per hour if they have clear skies.
For those enthusiast meteor observer, you can report your observation using the methods and report forms at the International Meteor Organization site.
Meanwhile, the University of the Philippines Astronomical Society (U.P. AstroSoc) will hold a public observation of this event at the PAGASA Astronomical Observatory Sundeck in U.P. Diliman on the 19th at 10 PM to 6AM. Everyone is invited.
The South Taurids are extremely long lasting (September 17 – November 27), but usually don’t offer a whole lot more than about 7 meteors per hour, even on the expected peak date of November 5. They are known as “Halloween fireballs” because of its association with the meteors seen during Halloween and also for its cool pumpkin-colored slow moving fireballs.
The greatest number of meteors generally fall around midnight to one in the morning, when the constellation Taurus the Bull rides high in the sky. Just remember that under any dark sky on any given day a person can see about five meteors if conditions are optimal. Southern Taurids meteor streams are groups of meteoroids originating from dust grains ejected from Comet 2P Encke.
Also on this week, there is a possibility of a “Hartley-id” shower coming from Comet 103P/Hartley – which has put on a good show for backyard astronomers last month — according to NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. If there is a Hartley-id shower, it would emanate from the constellation Cygnus the Swan, visible to observers in the northern hemisphere almost directly overhead after sunset in early November. NASA’s Epoxi mission will sweep past the Hartley 2 comet on Thursday (at about 2:00 PM UT) and take detailed measurements and images.
Lunar interference should not be a problem in observing these showers. Fortunately, the new moon falls on November 6, thus providing dark skies for a meteor watch.
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The Taurids are actually divided into the Southern Taurids and the Northern Taurids (which will peak on November 13 this year).
Like the South Taurids, the Northern Taurids shower is long lasting (October 12 – December 2) but modest, and the peak number is forecast at about 7 meteors per hour.
Wondering what to do on this Friday night? Dance with the meteors and the planets.
The University of the Philippines Astronomical Society (UP Astrosoc) invites everyone to its public observation of the spectacular Perseid Meteor Shower and planetary grouping of Mars, Venus, Saturn and Mercury on August 13th (Friday) from 6pm to 6am of the following day at the PAGASA Observatory Sun Deck in the University of the Philippines Campus, Diliman.
Likewise, the UP-Los Banos Astronomical Society (UPLB Astrosoc) will hold an Astronomy Camp entitled “Astra La Vista: The First Encounter” also on the 13th at D.L. Umali Hall in UP Los Banos, Laguna. Aside from observing the Perseids and the planetary grouping, this event will be its launching activity as well.
So don’t forget to mark your calendars on this date, list down your wishes and watch these events from your local areas.
Let’s pray for clear skies
A lot of Filipino amateur astronomers including me are excited for this month’s sky display.
For Philippine observers, the annual Perseids Meteor Shower which often shows 50 meteors per hour will be observed with its peak on the late night of August 12-13. The Perseids appear to radiate out from the constellation Perseus, which is located in the eastern horizon during August.
2010 is a great year for the Perseids. This year, the slender waxing crescent moon will set at early evening, leaving a dark sky for this year’s Perseid show.
The Perseids tend to strengthen in number as late night deepens into midnight, and typically produce the most meteors in the wee hours before dawn. These meteors are often bright and frequently leave persistent trains. The Perseid Meteor Shower is famous for its Earthgrazers –meteors that approach from the horizon and skim the atmosphere overhead like a stone skipping the surface of a pond. Earthgrazers are long, slow and colorful; they are among the most beautiful of meteors.
The source of the shower is Comet Swift-Tuttle. Although the comet is nowhere near Earth, the comet’s tail does intersect Earth’s orbit. We glide through it every year in August. Tiny bits of comet dust hit Earth’s atmosphere traveling 132,000 mph. At that speed, even a smidgen of dust makes a vivid streak of light–a meteor–when it disintegrates.
Friday the 13th will never be unlucky for sky observers on this night. Those who plan to watch the Perseids will also have the chance to see a beautiful planetary grouping before the radiant rise in the East.
Coincidentally, on August 13 at around 7pm the crescent Moon will join the groupings of Mars, Venus, Saturn and Mercury in the western horizon.
Happy observing and Clear Skies to all!