Dust from Halley’s comet hits Earth this weekend

A waning gibbous moon lights a darkened sky Sunday, distracting Earth from the modest twinkling of space dust left by the planet’s most celebrated comet.

While Halley’s comet was last seen in 1986 and won’t be visible again until 2061, it reminds the world of its presence twice a year with the Eta Aquariid meteor shower in May and Orionid meteor shower in October.

The Eta Aquariid shower peaks in the pre-dawn hours Sunday, but a blazing grain of Halley’s comet may be seen before and after the peak date.

Coastal South Florida is not considered an ideal viewing area for meteor showers, and this year the moon will add to the light pollution. The shower favors the southern hemisphere, but South Florida is close enough for a moderate show in ideal conditions.

Halley’s Comet, perhaps the most famous of all comets, is parent of both the Eta Aquarid meteor shower in May and October’s Orionid meteor shower. Image via NASA.

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At its peak, 20 to 60 Eta Aquariid meteors may be seen per hour. According to NASA, the meteors are known for moving swiftly – about 148,000 mph. Fast meteors can leave glowing trails that last for several seconds to even minutes.

Florida Atlantic University astronomer Eric Vandernoot said the comet Halley (pronounced hal-ee) is a household name because it can be seen without special equipment and makes an appearance about every 76 years.

“There really isn’t any other short-period comet that is visible to the naked eye,” Vandernoot said. “So when it comes, it gets superstar billing.”

Vandernoot said the 1910 passage of Halley’s comet offered stellar views, passing through the comet’s tail. It was more muted in 1986.

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Halley’s comet was discovered by Edmund Halley in 1705, but is believed to have been recognized for millennia. NASA says the comet is featured in the Bayeux tapestry – an embroidered cloth that depicts the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

“The length of its orbit fits well within a human lifespan,” said Deborah Byrd, editor in chief of Earth and Sky. “So some people, for example, might see Halley’s comet twice in a lifetime. Parents or grandparents might tell their children about seeing it. Over time, it has become well known.”

The weekend’s forecast may also be a deterrent to seeing a particle of Halley’s comet streak across the sky.

Sunday’s forecast includes a 50 to 60 percent chance of rain.

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Thank Halley’s Comet for meteor shower that peaks this week

The legendary celestial hunter Orion lends his name to a modest but noteworthy meteor shower that peaks this week in predawn darkness.

While the Orionid shower runs from about Oct. 2 to Nov. 7 this year, the heavenly show will be most robust on Saturday morning, when the greatest number of meteors will slip into Earth’s atmosphere.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

With the moon near new, there will be no lunar interference this year to block the show. Earth and Sky Editor in Chief Deborah Byrd, recommends looking each morning this week for strays before the peak on Saturday.

“Do start watching in the days ahead of the peak, though,” she said in her blog. “You might catch an Orionid meteor or two before dawn over the coming days.”

During the peak, 10 to 20 Orionids per hour should be visible. The Orionids are significant because although they are named for the Greek hero Orion, they are actually rock and ice shed from what may be the only cosmic snowball of frozen gas, rock and ice to gain widespread notoriety — Halley’s Comet.

And they are viewable twice each year.

In May, the Earth again runs through the detritus of Halley’s Comet, creating the Eta Aquariid meteor shower.

“Over the ages, Halley’s Comet has shed bits and particles, and when we go through the streams, we get a meteor shower,” said Alan MacRobert, senior editor of Sky and Telescope magazine during the 2016 Orionids shower. “This is the only well-recognized semi-major shower that we do twice a year.”

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Halley’s Comet was discovered by Edmund Halley in 1705, but is believed to have been recognized for millennia. NASA says the comet is featured in the Bayeux tapestry — an embroidered cloth that depicts the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Halley’s Comet, perhaps the most famous of all comets, is parent of both the Eta Aquarid meteor shower in May and October’s Orionid meteor shower. Image via NASA.

The comet returns every 72 years and was last seen from Earth in 1986. It won’t come again until 2061.

Orion is the namesake for the Orionids because they appear to radiate from north of Betelgeuse, one of the constellation’s most well-known stars.

MacRobert cautioned that people shouldn’t expect a fireworks show out of the Orionids.

“So be very patient, lie back in a lawn chair and keep the moon out your vision,” he said.

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Halley’s Comet source of this week’s Eta Aquarids meteor shower

Galactic detritus from one of mankind’s most recognized comets is falling in fireballs to Earth and is especially visible the next few days.

The Eta Aquarid light show spawned by Halley’s Comet can be seen through mid-May, but peaks in the predawn hours of Friday and Saturday, sending as many as 30 meteors per hour hurtling through our atmosphere.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

Halley’s Comet, perhaps the most famous of all comets, is parent of both the Eta Aquarid meteor shower in May and October’s Orionid meteor shower. Image via NASA.

Coastal South Florida is not considered an ideal viewing area for meteor showers, and this year the first quarter moon will add to the light pollution.

But the International Meteor Organization said you can avoid the waxing gibbous moon by looking on Wednesday and Thursday before the peak. The moon will be setting in the predawn hours as the radiant for the Eta Aquarids rises in the east so everyday closer to the peak will mean more lunar light pollution.

The Eta Aquarid meteor shower favors the southern hemisphere, but Alan MacRobert, senior editor of Sky and Telescope magazine, said South Florida is close enough for a good show.

Download the Palm Beach Post WeatherPlus app here.

“You get a better view than most of the rest of the U.S. because the meteors are coming from the southern part of the sky and the farther south you are around the curve of the Earth the more directly you are facing them as they come in,” MacRobert said.

Source: EarthSky.org

According to NASA, the Eta Aquarids are known for moving swiftly – about 148,000 mph. But fast meteors can leaving glowing trails that last for several seconds to even minutes.

Halley’s Comet was discovered by Edmund Halley in 1705, but is believed to have been recognized for millennia. NASA says the comet is featured in the Bayeux tapestry – an embroidered cloth that depicts the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

The comet was last seen on Earth in 1986 and won’t come again until 2061.

But, each year, the planet intersects with the cast off stream of dirt, ice and sand from the comet, bringing the Eta Aquarids in May and the Orionids in October.

MacRobert said the meteorites should be visible in all parts of the sky, but they radiate from the constellation Aquarius, the water bearer.

“Be patient, and try to find a dark sky,” MacRobert said. “The best hours are before the first light of dawn.”

The radiant point of the Eta Aquarids is the constellation Aquarius

Orionids meteor shower peaks this week in pre-dawn darkness

The legendary celestial hunter Orion lends his name to a modest but noteworthy meteor shower that peaks this week in pre-dawn darkness.

While the Orionid shower runs from about Oct. 4 to Nov. 14, the premier part of the heavenly show is most robust on the mornings of Friday and Saturday when the greatest number of meteors will slip into Earth’s atmosphere.

During the peak, 10 to 20 Orionids per hour should be visible. The Orionids are significant because although they are named for the Greek hero Orion, they are actually rock and ice shed from what may be the only comet to gain widespread layman notoriety  — Halley’s Comet.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

Halley’s Comet, perhaps the most famous of all comets, is parent of both the Eta Aquarid meteor shower in May and October’s Orionid meteor shower. Image via NASA.
Halley’s Comet, perhaps the most famous of all comets, is parent of both the Eta Aquarid meteor shower in May and October’s Orionid meteor shower. Image via NASA.

And they are viewable twice each year.

In May, the Earth also runs through the detritus of Halley’s Comet, creating the Eta Aquariid meteor shower.

“Over the ages, Halley’s Comet has shed bits and particles and when we go through the streams we get a meteor shower,” said Alan MacRobert, senior editor of Sky and Telescope magazine. “This is the only well-recognized semi-major shower that we do twice a year.”

Halley’s Comet was discovered by Edmund Halley in 1705, but is believed to have been recognized for millennia. NASA says the comet is featured in the Bayeux tapestry — an embroidered cloth that depicts the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Download the Palm Beach Post WeatherPlus app here.

The comet returns every 72 years and was last seen from Earth in 1986. It won’t come again until 2061.

The constellation Orion. You can identify Orion by the three stars that make up his belt. Courtesy NASA
The constellation Orion. You can identify Orion by the three stars that make up his belt. Courtesy NASA

“It’s the first comet astronomers figured out was returning over and over again,” MacRobert said. “In many of its returns it is large and bright and attracts a lot of attention.”

Orion is the namesake for the Orionids because they appear to radiate from north of one of the constellations most well-known stars, Betelgeuse. You don’t have to stare at Orion to see a meteor, they will be visible in all parts of the sky.

This year the peak of the Orionids will be overshadowed somewhat by the bright light of the waning gibbous moon.

But the skies should be mostly clear Friday morning with the National Weather Service in Miami forecasting minimal sky cover and only a 10 percent chance of rain. Saturday morning will have more clouds getting in the way of viewing the Orionids, but still only a 10 percent chance of rain.

Deborah Byrd, editor in chief at the astronomy website Earth and Sky, said that while Orionid meteors may not be as plentiful as other showers, they can be surprisingly bright.

“Particles shed by the comet slam into our upper atmosphere where they vaporize at some 100 kilometers – 60 miles – above the Earth’s surface,” Byrd wrote in her astronomy blog. “Maybe half of the Orionid meteors leave persistent trains – ionized gas trails that last for a few seconds after the meteor itself is gone.”

MacRobert cautioned that people shouldn’t expect a fireworks show out of the Orionids.

“It’s not that major of a shower and this year there is moonlight, which will tend to wipe out all but the very brightest meteors,” he said. “So be very patient, lie back in a lawn chair and keep the moon out your vision.”

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It’s not too late to see meteors from Halley’s Comet

Galactic detritus from one of mankind’s most recognized comets is falling in fireballs to Earth and especially visible in the lower latitudes of South Florida for the next few days.

The Eta Aquarid light show spawned by Halley’s Comet can be seen in the pre-dawn hours through Tuesday, sending as many as 30 meteors per hour hurtling through our atmosphere.

Capture

While coastal South Florida is not considered an ideal viewing area for meteor showers because of light pollution, it has three things going for it with this particular cosmic pageant – location, a nearly moonless night and clear skies.

A high pressure system that moved in after Wednesday’s passing cold front is promising dry, cool, sunny weather through at least Sunday. That means today may struggle to reach 80 degrees and overnight lows will dip into the 60s on the coast and 50s inland.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service in Miami said this may be the last gasp of spring before summer-like temperatures and humidity descend.

West Palm Beach already broke a heat record, hitting 93 degrees Tuesday. The normal high for this time of year is 84 degrees with a normal low of 70.

“Summertime is practically knocking on our door,” said Anthony Reynes, a meteorologist with the NWS in Miami. “These strong cold fronts won’t make it all the way to South Florida, or if they do, they will have lost most of their energy.”

Sidney_Hall_-_Urania's_Mirror_-_Aquarius,_Piscis_Australis_&_Ballon_Aerostatique

The Eta Aquarid meteor shower favors the southern hemisphere, but Alan MacRobert, senior editor of Sky and Telescope magazine, said South Florida is close enough for a good show.

“You get a better view than most of the rest of the U.S. because the meteors are coming from the southern part of the sky and the farther south you are around the curve of the Earth the more directly you are facing them as they come in,” MacRobert said.

According to NASA, the Eta Aquarids are known for moving swiftly – about 148,000 mph. But fast meteors can leaving glowing trails that last for several seconds to even minutes.

Halley’s Comet was discovered by Edmund Halley in 1705, but is believed to have been recognized for millennia. NASA says the comet is featured in the Bayeux tapestry – an embroidered cloth that depicts the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Here's the Eta Aquarid's radiant as seen from latitude 30° north (Houston, Cairo, Delhi, Shanghai) 90 minutes before sunrise. Farther north, the radiant is even lower when the sky starts to get light. But Eta Aquariids are occasionally seen as far north as New York State. Sky & Telescope diagram - See more at: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/observing-news/eta-aquariid-meteor-shower-reaches-its-peak/#sthash.yfe10Rff.dpuf
Here’s the Eta Aquarid’s radiant as seen from latitude 30° north (Houston, Cairo, Delhi, Shanghai) 90 minutes before sunrise. Farther north, the radiant is even lower when the sky starts to get light. But Eta Aquariids are occasionally seen as far north as New York State. Sky & Telescope diagram 

The comet was last seen on Earth in 1986 and won’t come again until 2061.

But, each year, the planet intersects with the cast off stream of dirt, ice and sand from the comet, bringing the Eta Aquarids in May and the Orionids in October.

MacRobert said the meteorites should be visible in all parts of the sky, but they radiate from the constellation Aquarius, the water bearer.

“Be patient, and try to find a dark sky,” MacRobert said. “The best hours are before the first light of dawn.”