The Sky Tonight Update: Leonids Meteor Shower

The Leonids is an average shower, producing an average of up to 15 meteors per hour at its peak. This shower is unique in that it has a cyclonic peak about every 33 years where hundreds of meteors per hour can be seen. That last of these occurred in 2001. The Leonids is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1865. The comet makes its way around the sun every 33.3 years, leaving a trail of dust rubble in its wake.  When Earth’s orbit crosses this trail of debris, pieces of the comet fall toward the planet’s surface.  Drag, or air resistance, in Earth’s atmosphere causes the comet’s crumbs to heat up and ignite into burning balls of fire called meteors.  Sometimes, meteors fall at rates as high as 50,000 per hour.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Full Beaver Moon

The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Beaver Moon because this is the time of year when beavers begin to take shelter in their lodges, having laid up sufficient stores of food for the long winter ahead. During the time of the fur trade in North America, it was also the season to trap beavers for their thick, winter-ready pelts. 

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The Sky Tonight Update: Total Lunar Eclipse

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes completely through the Earth’s dark shadow, or umbra. During this type of eclipse, the Moon will gradually get darker and then take on a rusty or blood red color. The eclipse will be visible throughout eastern Russia, Japan, Australia, the Pacific Ocean, and parts of western and central North America. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)

The Sky Tonight Update: Taurids Meteor Shower

The Taurids is a long-running minor meteor shower producing only about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is unusual in that it consists of two separate streams. The first is produced by dust grains left behind by Asteroid 2004 TG10. The second stream is produced by debris left behind by Comet 2P Encke. The shower runs annually from September 7 to December 10. It peaks this year on the night of November 4.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Partial Solar Eclipse

A partial solar eclipse occurs when the Moon covers only a part of the Sun, sometimes resembling a bite taken out of a cookie. A partial solar eclipse can only be safely observed with a special solar filter or by looking at the Sun’s reflection. This partial eclipse will be best seen in parts of western Russia and Kazakhstan. It will be best seen from central Russia with over 80% coverage.
(NASA Map and Eclipse Information)

The Sky Tonight Update: Orionids Meteor Shower

The Orionids is an average shower producing up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Halley, which has been known and observed since ancient times.  This famous comet swings by Earth every 75 to 76 years, and as the icy comet makes its way around the sun, it leaves behind a trail of comet crumbs. At certain times of the year, Earth’s orbit around the sun crosses paths with the debris.  The shower runs annually from October 2 to November 7. It peaks this year on the night of October 21 and the morning of October 22.  The meteors that streak across the sky are some of the fastest among meteor showers because the Earth is hitting a stream of particles almost head-on.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Draconids Meteor Shower

The Draconids is a minor meteor shower producing only about 10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet 21P Giacobini-Zinner, which was first discovered in 1900. The Draconids is an unusual shower in that the best viewing is in the early evening instead of early morning like most other showers. The shower runs annually from October 6-10 and peaks this year on the night of the 7th.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Full Hunter’s Moon

The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Hunters Moon because it signaled the time to go hunting in preparation for the cold winter ahead. Animals are beginning to fatten up ahead of winter, and since the farmers had recently cleaned out their fields under the Harvest Moon, hunters could easily see the deer and other animals that had come out to root through the remaining scraps (as well as the foxes and wolves that had come out to prey on them).

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The Sky Tonight Update: Full Harvest Moon

The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Corn Moon because the corn is harvested around this time of year. This moon is also known as the Harvest Moon. The Harvest Moon is the full moon that occurs closest to the September equinox each year.

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