Miss the peak of the Perseids meteor shower? Watch a timelapse here

The Perseids meteor shower peaked last night, but if you missed it, you can still catch a few meteors on this timelapse or in images below.

The show, touted as one of the best in decades, was expected to throw up to 200 meteors per hour. There will still be some lingering meteors over the next week, so remember to look to the skies.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

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Perseid meteor shower outburst could mean 200 meteors per hour

One of the most anticipated meteor showers of the year will be doubly special Thursday as Jupiter bolsters the power of the Perseids.

The annual Perseids meteor shower peaks through early Friday morning, and astronomers don’t expect to see a show of such extravagance again until the Perseids of 2027.

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Track storms on The Palm Beach Post radar map.

That’s because Jupiter’s weighty gravitational pull is influencing this year’s Perseids, tugging at the space particles responsible for the shower so that their orbits moved closer to Earth. So while an average Perseid meteor shower will rain down 60 to 90 meteors per hour, there may be double that amount this year.

“This is one I would watch this year,” said Bill Cooke, lead for NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office in Huntsville, Ala.

The Perseid meteor shower is considered runner-up on the grandness scale only to the Geminid meteor shower in December.

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But Cooke said the Perseids are special because they are known for sending showy fireballs streaking through the sky with long trains that may linger for several seconds. Fireballs are brighter than the planet Venus, and a Perseid fireball can light up the ground like a brief spotlight.

“They can produce some very spectacular meteors,” Cooke said about the Perseids. “Some people say they have a yellow color.”

While the Perseid shower radiates from the bold constellation of monster-slayer and mythical Greek hero Perseus, the meteors are actually debris from the comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. The comet orbits the sun in a large cigar-shaped motion, with Earth passing through the comet rubble every year in mid-August.

Perseus was a mythological Greek hero who is known for beheading Medusa and saving Adromeda from the sea monster Cetus.
Perseus was a mythological Greek hero who is known for beheading Medusa and saving Adromeda from the sea monster Cetus.

The comet sheds debris that can range from the size of a pin head to a half-dollar, Cooke said. They slam into Earth’s atmosphere at 132,000 mph.

“With a little luck you’ll see a ‘shooting star’ every minute or so on average,” said Alan MacRobert, senior editor of Sky & Telescope magazine.

Sam Storch, a retired astronomy professor and member of the Astronomical Society of the Palm Beaches, said people shouldn’t be discouraged if they walk out there door and don’t see a meteor right away.

He suggests finding a dark spot away from light pollution and with no obstructions such as tall buildings. He suggests finding a dark spot away from light pollution and with no obstructions such as tall buildings. The moon this year will be waxing gibbous, so you won’t have the light of the full moon to interfere with seeing a meteor.

“The thing about the Perseids, they are reliable,” Storch said. “This is one of the ones to see.”

Whether South Florida’s skies will cooperate is another thing. The National Weather Service in Miami is giving Palm Beach County a 40 percent chance of showers Thursday, dropping to 30 percent Friday morning.

A super moon lights up the night sky over the Boynton Beach Inlet in Boynton Beach, Florida on September 8, 2014. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
A super moon lights up the night sky over the Boynton Beach Inlet in Boynton Beach, Florida on September 8, 2014. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

If Mother Nature does obscure South Florida’s view of the Perseids, at least two groups are planning live broadcasts of the show.

NASA is planning a webcast beginning at 10 p.m. today on its UStream channel. Slooh.com’s broadcast will be live beginning at 8 p.m.

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Don’t miss Delta Aquarids meteor shower peak this week

A waning crescent moon will allow the heavens to showcase a meteor shower this week known to produce as many as 20 fireballs per hour.

The Delta Aquarid meteor shower persists through mid-August but peaks Thursday and Friday when interfering moonlight should be low and South Florida skies clear.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

While the Delta Aqaurid display is not as robust as some, the meteorites move lazily through the sky giving stargazers a better chance at catching a glimpse. Because of the angle at which Delta Aquarids enter the Earth’s atmosphere, they tend to leave long glowing trails of ionized gas that can last one to two seconds.

“These are slow moving. They are more zoop than zip,” said Alan MacRobert, senior editor of Sky and Telescope magazine. “Pretty much look wherever the sky is darkest and away from the moon.”

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A high pressure system circling over Florida should keep skies mostly cloud free. The National Weather Service is forecasting sky cover of between 19 percent and 30 percent depending on time of day and just a 15 percent chance of rain. MacRobert said the best time to see the meteors is midnight to dawn when the Earth is facing forward in its orbit.

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“That’s when you will get the meteors head on, like raindrops on a windshield,” he said.

If South Florida’s show is shrouded by clouds, the website Slooh is hosting a special broadcast beginning at 8 p.m. that will have live feeds from the Canary Islands, Connecticut and Canada.

The source of the Delta Aquarids remains a mystery, although some astronomers believe the shower occurs when the Earth passes through the broken up chunks of rock and dust from Comet 96/P Macholz. The comet was discovered by an amateur astronomer in 1986.

The meteorites appear to radiate from their namesake star Delta Aquarii, which is in the constellation Aquarius, the water carrier.

While this meteor shower favors the Southern Hemisphere, MacRobert said South Florida has a low enough latitude for good viewing as long as a darkened sky free of heavy light pollution can be found.

“Don’t get your hopes up too much, and be patient,” MacRobert said. “Just relax and have fun gazing into the stars.”

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Pink moon rises this week as Lyrid meteor shower peaks

Competing celestial events will vie for dominion of darkened skies this week as winter retires with the rise of April’s pink moon and Lyrid meteors fall to Earth.

The Lyrid meteor shower, which peaks pre-dawn Friday, breaks an annual pause of known meteor showers that begins following early January’s Quadrantids.

A super moon rises over the Boynton Beach Inlet in Boynton Beach, Florida on September 8, 2014. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
A super moon rises over the Boynton Beach Inlet in Boynton Beach, Florida on September 8, 2014. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

While not the most robust of showers, the Lyrid can be seen throwing up to 20 fireballs an hour in the best conditions. It has been observed for more than 2,000 years.

Check out recent sightings on NASA cameras. 

But this year, April’s moon reaches fullness almost simultaneously with the height of the Lyrid shower, meaning Earth’s only satellite may take center stage.

See when the worm, wolf and beaver moon rise. 

“Almost no one has a wide open dark sky anymore and this year there will be bright moonlight flooding the sky,” said Alan MacRobert, senior editor of Sky and Telescope. “It’s nature’s own light pollution that will affect the sky even if you were out in the wilderness.”

This month’s full moon is nicknamed the pink moon because of the pink flowers of the wild ground phlox, one of the first flowers to appear in the spring in more northern areas of the U.S.

Of course the moon, which becomes full precisely at 1:24 a.m. Friday, will not literally turn pink. Names were given to moons by Native Americans who tied the lunar cycles to nature and the seasons.

Lake Worth -- A super "perigee moon"--the biggest in almost 20 years, rises over the pier at the beach while fisherman cast their lines into the Atlantic Ocean in Lake Worth on Saturday. (Gary Coronado/ The Palm Beach Post)
Lake Worth — A super “perigee moon”–the biggest in almost 20 years, rises over the pier at the beach while fisherman cast their lines into the Atlantic Ocean in Lake Worth on Saturday. (Gary Coronado/ The Palm Beach Post)

April’s moon is also called the sprouting grass moon, the egg moon and the fish moon.

The skies should be mostly clear tonight into Friday morning with the National Weather Service forecasting less than a 10 percent chance of rain. But Friday stargazing may be blocked by clouds with chances of rain increasing to 50 percent throughout the day.

EarthSky.org notes that Lyrid meteors can be very bright and often leave trails, so one may be able to outshine the light of the pink moon. The radiant for the shower is near the star Vega.

“Amateur astronomy teaches patience,” MacRobert said. “We have to take the universe as it is.”

 

 

 

Fireballs lighting up sky as equinox approaches

While March is usually a slow month for meteor showers as none of the major annual events occur this month, the American Meteor Society has reported six major fireball events since March 1 and NASA says fireballs can increase as much as 30 percent in spring.

A fireball is defined as a meteor that is brighter than the planet Venus and usually has a bright trailing tail.

The reason for the increase in fireball activity is “still unknown,” NASA says, but one thought is simply that more space debris litters the Earth’s orbit near the spring equinox, which is March 20.

According to the AMS, 2016 has seen an increase in the number of reported fireballs. Since Jan. 1, 910 fireballs have been reported through its online report program, compared to 839 reports received during the same time last year.

On March 5, 99 fireball reports were made in central to northern Florida. Two people in Davie reported spotting a fireball with one noting that “it fell out of a cloud” making the angle of entrance hard to determine.

This fireball was caught over Missouri on March 4.

The next major meteor shower will be the Lyrid meteor shower which peaks in late April.

See January fireball caught on video here. 

AMSmeteorspic

Hunger moon becomes full at 1:20 p.m. today

As the days begin to linger but the cold is still bitter, the hunger moon makes its appearance in the night skies of winter.

Today at 1:20 p.m, the waxing gibbous moon gives way to February’s full moon, which was dubbed the hunger moon because hunting for food became more difficult as the heaviest snows fall.

2012 Photo by Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post
2012 Photo by Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post

Full moon names come from the Native Americans who based the monikers on the seasons and changes in their lives as the Earth turns warm to cold with its revolution around the sun.

Read about November’s full beaver moon here. 

The February moon is also called the snow moon, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

“Other Native American tribes called this moon the ‘shoulder to shoulder around the fire moon’, the ‘no snow in the trails moon’ and the ‘bone moon,'” the Almanac notes. “The bone moon meant that there was so little food that people gnawed on bones and ate bone marrow.”

Watch: Fireball caught on video in Florida found weeks later

A group of meteorite hunters found six pieces of galactic rock they believe came from a fireball that streaked across the sky above North Florida last month.

Mike Hankey, operations manager for the American Meteor Society, said several people reported the Jan. 24 fireball that fell to Earth at about 10:30 a.m.

This dashboard camera video of the fireball was captured by the Williams family and provided by Hankey. (Look near the center left of the video.)

The meteorite find is only the 6th time in records of the AMS that meteorites have been recovered in Florida.

“Florida is so wet and there is so much growth that it’s hard to find them,” Hankey said. “They get lost within days of being dropped.”

With basic information from fireball spotters, a group of scientists and enthusiasts were able to estimate a landing area using archived Doppler radar images.

After searching for three weeks, the small pieces of rock were discovered near the Osceola National Forest west of Jacksonville. 

Four Osceola Meteorites
Four Osceola Meteorites. Photo courtesy Mike Hankey

“While the radar returns looked rich, the terrain and prospects for making a find were bleak,” Hankey wrote in a blog about the search. “The meteorites fell over swamp land and pine forests.”

Meteorite hunters Larry Atkins and Mike Hankey excited about their find. Photo courtesy Mike Hankey
Meteorite hunters Larry Atkins and Mike Hankey excited about their find. Photo courtesy Mike Hankey

Hankey said the meteor that created the six rocks searchers recovered was likely the size of a mini-van when it hit Earth’s atmosphere where it exploded into thousands of pieces.

A sample of the find was sent researcher Alan Rubin at the University of Californiam, Los Angeles Department of Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences to determine what it’s made of. That report is expected this week.

Still, Hankey said searchers used a loupe to examine the rocks before determining they came from the meteor and that it was fairly clear they weren’t native to the otherwise sandy terrain.

“They have a fusion crust that has a shiny black skin that forms,” Hankey said. “They have flow lines and you can tell where material has melted and frozen again.”

“These are just random asteroids, or pieces of asteroids, and there is no rhyme nor reason to them,” Hankey said. “They happen all the time, but are sporadic.”

Second Osceola Meteorite Find – 28.5 Grams – Photo Credit Larry Atkins
Second Osceola Meteorite Find – 28.5 Grams – Photo Credit Larry Atkins

 

Rare galactic sight this month only, don’t miss out

For southerly latitudes such as Florida, a rare February treat is in store for stargazers.

Canopus, the second brightest star in the night sky, will twinkle above the horizon just below the sky’s brightest star, Sirius.

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To find Canopus, face southward between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., and locate Sirius, the dog star. Sirius is usually a standout because it’s so shiny. Canopus will be at it’s highest at about this time, just above the horizon.

According to EarthSky.org, Canopus is in the constellation Carina, which was once part of Argo Navis, “the great ship that sailed the southern skies.”

“Astronomers officially named the constellations in the 1930s, at which time they divided Argo into three separate constellations,” EarthSky.org notes.

In the 1965 book Dune, by Frank Herbert, the fictional planet Arrakis, was third from a real star in the universe – Canopus.

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Crescent moon greets love and money in morning sky

Look to the pre-dawn skies the next few days to witness the waning crescent moon greet the planets named for the gods of love and economic gain.

Venus and Mercury will form a triumvirate with the moon over the morning skies looking to the southeast.

To the right of the trio will be the constellation Sagittarius – the archer.

“Before dawn tomorrow (Feb. 5) and for the next few mornings, a wondrous scene awaits in the morning sky,” notes Earthsky.org. “The waning crescent moon and planet Venus beam close together before sunrise.”

The moon and Venus rank as the second and third brightest celestial bodies after the sun.

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