Extraterrestrial life, Time travel, Earth, Perseids, Meteor shower, Meteoroid Sky Tonight Tour [August 9 – 15, 2021]
My name is seth mayo im, the curator of astronomy for the Lohman Planetarium. In this episode were covering the dates of august 9. Through august 15th were going to start things by talking about venus in the west, while Saturn is rising in the east. At the same time, then well go over the peak of the wonderful annual Perseid meteor shower thats going on this week and well talk about some beautiful things around the radiant of the Perseids that are worth checking out so lets get to it. Now, if you happen to be planet hunting right now, this is a great time to be looking for our solar system, neighbors and starting in the west. As weve mentioned, we still have a beautiful view of the planet venus right after sunset. You can see it above. The western horizon ive been noticing this planet its been really bright. It is the brightest planet that you can see from earth, and it really shines like this beacon in the sky, and so we have a good view of that. Not too long, though, because it sits low in the sky after sunset, but you have some time to see it. Whats great right now is if we look opposite of venus around this time, all the way over and look towards this east southeast. That is where were going to find a whole other planet, and we mentioned it in our last episode ago, when our own christian traverson did a great job of talking about the planet, saturn and how it was at opposition on august, 2nd.
That is when saturn is closest to us and at its brightest, and it also means that you can see saturn for the entire night. And although we passed opposition, its still relatively nearby that which means that we can still see saturn for pretty much the entire night and, as i always mentioned, with this planet, its a wonderful planet to look at through binoculars and especially a telescope. If you ever have a chance to do that, the rings are spectacular. Some of the coolest things you can see with your own eyes, including some of its moons, you might catch one or two of those as well. The moons are very extensive around saturn, so hopefully youll find this wonderful planet its not as bright as venus, but it does stand out as another non twinkling looking star in our sky now, whats. Also great too, is you look below to the left of saturn very near the horizon. When saturn is this high up and for us locally, this is close to about nine oclock or so. But if you do stay up a little bit later and as things rise a little higher from the east, you have a better and better view of the planet. Jupiter ill get it to a point, so we have a nice view of it and there it is now jupiter is even brighter than saturn and later this month, jupiter will also be at opposition when its closest to us in its orbit, which means itll, be the Brightest pretty much it gets and also you can see it for the entire night by then so thats.
Another great opposition coming up with another large giant gas planet this time the biggest planet in the solar system. So well talk more about that in some later episodes. For this week we have one of the years most exciting celestial events, and that is the peak of the annual perseid meteor shower. This is one of the best meteor showers you can see all year. Long always happens in the middle of august and its a meteor shower that originates from a comic called swift tuttle, a pretty well known, periodic comet. It takes about 133 years to go around the sun. What happens that comet leaves behind a debris trail and every middle of august earth happens to plow into that debris trail. So its pretty well known that this comet lays down that trail at this time of the year and swift tuttle is a comet that was last close to us and near the sun in 1992. Youll have to wait until 2126 for it to get close to the sun again when it would be bright in the sky, possibly here on earth, but we still experience the trail of it as a meteor shower every year. And where do we find this wonderful meteor shower? Well, this happens inside the constellation called perseus thats, why its called the perseid meteor shower and perseus is really a fall constellation. But if youre up early in the morning, youll start to see it and ill show you how to find it, and one of the best ways to do so is to look for a famous kind of well known constellation right here, its pretty far north here.
This is a constellation called cassiopeia. Now cassiopeia either looks like a w or a letter m depending on how you turn your head, and it really is noticeable. I always find it in the sky. Its a more northern or whats called a circumpolar constellation, which means it circles the north pole, the northern celestial point in our sky just for reference here. This is our north star right there, which can change depending on your latitude in its position here in Florida. It sits about 30 degrees north of the horizon, but the farther north you go the higher this gets. So keep that in mind. Of course, the farther south you go, the lower this gets in the sky, so cassiopeia is the queen from greek mythology and she is very near perseus if we look kind of below her a little bit south of her. There are some stars that to me kind of look like a backwards y shape, some of the stars are fairly bright. Some of the others may be a little more difficult to see, but let me draw it out for you here, so you can see perseus. So you can kind of see that backwards y shape here perseus was that mighty warrior and ill put their pictures as well and in one story he defeats the gorgon named medusa and thats. Why, in the picture, you see him holding medusas head right here. He also saved the daughter of cassiopeia.
Her daughter is princess. Andromeda cassiopeia was actually not a wonderful mother and actually tried to sacrifice her daughter to a giant sea monster, basically and perseus stepped in and saved andromeda, but anyway. This is where the radiant point for this meteor shower occurs and just to help us out here we can kind of go down and click on our meter shower button here in stellarium and there it is kind of near, at least in this picture near the head Of perseus and quite close as well to cassiopeia right about there. Now again, you dont need to exactly know where the radiant point is for any given meteor shower. This is just where you can see the meteors radiate from so for any meter shower. You can see them streak across the entire night sky, but you may notice that many of these meteors will originate from an area about here inside of perseus, where we get the perseid meter shower, and this can be a good one. At this time of the year were going through the thickest part of the perseid stream here of the stream of comet, swift, tuttle and so were going to the thickest part around the 12th and 13th. And so the actual peak of this is the morning of the 12th, and this is the best time to see meteor showers, usually in the mornings and thats, because earth is going directly into the stream. And my analogy that i use is like if youre driving in a car and its a rainy day and if youre driving into the rain straight on youre, getting a lot of water droplets that hit your windshield versus.
If the rain was going across the windshield you wouldnt get as many hitting the window. So in the evening the meteor stream is going across our window, our sky, basically, but in the morning, were actually heading directly into the stream. Just like our car rain analogy of water, hitting it directly and youre getting more of it, so youre getting those really fast meters hitting us directly and youre, getting more of them and thats usually the best time to see a meteor shower just before sunrise, but all Night long, you have a chance to see them its just the rate increases and the rate for the perseus can be quite extraordinary. It can average between 50 to 100 meters per hour. Usually around 60 is the average, but sometimes more depending on what part of the stream were going through. So you never know. Sometimes it goes above 100, but typically around 60 or so, which is a lot. You might see one per minute, so thats pretty exciting, to be able to see that many dark locations of course, are very, very important as well as a clear sky. But if you do get up early enough or stay up really late, you may catch a stray particle of comet swift, tuttle streaming across our atmosphere at tremendous speed and whats exceptional about this meteor shower viewing opportunity is that the moon will not interfere. Sometimes the reflected light from the moon can add a little bit of light pollution in the sky, especially at larger phases, and if the moon is nearby but around the peak, even on the 11th, 12th and 13th, the moon is still near a crescent phase, which means Its near the sun and, of course, if thats the case, then the moon wont be in the sky.
You wont see anywhere else around the peak, especially in the early morning, so thatll be really really great to have no moon, adding any light pollution, and i hope, along with that youll, have a really clear view. Your weather cooperates. You have a chance to go to a dark location and sit out for a little bit to check this one out maybe have a little bug spray on hand as well. That might be important, but i hope your chance of seeing the perseids will be really great. Providing a wonderful celestial show now, if you do happen to be watching the perseus and youre spending a lot more time. Looking in this area of the sky, in your cassiopeia and perseus, there are some other celestial objects that are worth looking for, especially if youre in a dark location and also, if you have binoculars or a telescope, even binoculars, will allow you to see quite a bit Of what im talking about here and one of the first objects ill mention is actually very close to the radiant point of the perseids, and that is something in between these two constellations and one of the ways to find it is. If you go back to cassiopeia, which looks like an m or w shape of stars in the middle here, you have these two stars. That kind of point to the right. This little blob right here actually see two little blobs here in stellarium. Now, with your naked eyes, you might see just kind of one fuzzy object its hard to resolve the two, but if you have a telescope or especially again, binoculars thatll be actually even better because binoculars allow you to have a wider field of view.
You might see. Whats called the double cluster in perseus. These are groups of stars, two of them that werent resolved as two until really the 1800s, when telescopes really began to be used – and these are two clusters – ones called ngc 869 and the other one is ngc 884. These are big groups of thousands of stars and that lie about 7 500 light years away. This is actually a relatively new cluster at about 12.8 million years old. That is considered new for a star cluster, especially two like this. So the double cluster is nice youre. Just gon na see so many stars in your field of view through binoculars, its very bright but even possibly visible as a fuzzy object with your naked eye, so thats quite a nice object. I look for, i think one of the best clusters in the sky. Probably second to a cluster thats, also nearby and thats. This one right here. This is the pleiades star cluster in taurus, the bull you see the taurus constellation kind of pop up here. Pleiades is actually a bit older than the double cluster at about 75 million. To possibly 150 million years old and a bit closer to us, 400 to 500 light years away, and this ones also very, very famous and probably the most well known and recognized cluster. You dont need a telescope or even binoculars to see it, but through binoculars. Youll have a better view of this to see these hot blue young stars and that bluish veil of dust that sits in front of them its just a gorgeous sight to see in that area there and a couple more telescopic objects to see.
That may be worth. If youre an astrophotographer lets go back to the radiant point of the perseids here we zoom into this area and if you do have long exposure equipment cameras, i can take great images of the sky. You may be able to catch what are called the heart and soul nebula. If you follow this program closely back in february for a valentine show, i did talk about these two. What are called h2 regions? These are big globs of gas that are being lit up or ionized by the stars that were born within them. One of them really looks like a heart shape. The one you see here, the other one sometimes looks like a heart, but its called the soul. Nebula here this is the heart nebula, the soul, nebula. These are also thousands of light years away and again, h2 regions of hydrogen being ionized by the stars within again. Telescopes. Allow you to see that especially long exposure, photography, so thats. Also in that area, another object. Thats great through a telescope, but even possibly visible with your naked eyes, is above these constellations. If you go above cassiopeia, you see this big kind of cigar shaped object right here, that is a galaxy and thats. The famous whats called the andromeda galaxy sitting inside the constellation andromeda. I mentioned her earlier right, the princess the daughter of cassiopeia and the one saved by perseus. This warrior so theres andromeda andromeda, if youre in a dark enough location, is the farthest object, visible to your naked eyes, its about two and a half million light years away.
The light takes two and a half billion years or travel from this galaxy to reach our eyes here on earth, but it is possible but again through binoculars or a telescope. You might still see a fuzzy ball, but it will be a little more visible and through long exposure astrophotography, you get sometimes pictures of this galaxy that is on a collision course with our own milky way, galaxy and speaking of the milky way. The last thing ill mention in this area. If you are kind of observing this part of the sky as well, you actually find that the milky way is going right through it. So theres a lot of great objects to see especially deep sky objects. But if you are watching a straight meter or two and have some time for your eyes to adjust, you might find some really interesting things and its a good reminder of the hidden gems found all throughout our night sky, thats it for another edition of our sky. Tonight program, thank you for tuning in and, if youre at the museum, please stop by our lohman planetarium were running, shows every day check out our schedule online. If you want more information or information about our other events. Thank you very much.