Friday October 20, 2017
Another benefit of this warm weather and a clear sky will be to view two celestial shows in the sky tonight. The Orionid Meteor shower is on display for two weeks between October 15 and 29 reaches peak activity this weekend. There is also the ability to see the Planet Uranus with the naked eye. Try not to giggle as you read this or repeat it to a friend. The planet is one of the strangest in our solar system, and that goes well beyond the name, but the blue glow in the sky is worth getting to know. Here is more info about each show and tips for viewing this free event for the family.
Orionid Meteor Shower
Shooting stars near the top of the Orion Constellation are actually dust from Halley’s Comet. The average show should bring 10 to 20 meteors per hour. But up to 30 in an hour are possible. That would be one every 2 minutes… If we are lucky!
These will look like shooting star’s as they burn up in our atmosphere. Occasionally a larger object will last longer and burn brighter. There is a chance a fireball can be mixed in… again if were are lucky.
When: After midnight it will rise over the horizon. The best viewing will be between 2 and 5 AM as it rises higher, face southeast to south.
Where: Look in the southeast portion of the sky. Orion is one of the easiest constellations to spot. It will be near the top, by his club. It is the red super giant star Betelgeuse
The opposition of Uranus means it is opposite the sun from Earth. It will also be at the closest point to Earth so unusually bright. This ice giant is a rare planet that defies logic in the solar system. It has and orbit that is nearly 90º on its side. So instead of our planet that rotates around the poles and equator is 23.5º tilted from the solar plane, this appears to rotate around the solar plane with the pole on the side.
There are also 13 rings that line up with the tilted rotation. A powerful telescope is needed to see these. But you should be able to see the blue dot in the sky. It will be visible
Where to look:
You should start with the constellation Pisces (image below) in the Southeast sky. It should be visible all night.
More Numbers about Uranus
- 7th planet from the sun
- 3rd largest
- 17:14 – Length of day
- 27 moons
- 84 Earth years = 1 Uranus year
- 15 times larger than Earth (Ice Giant)
- The icy swirling atmosphere has Hydrogen and Helium. The blue color is from a small about of Methane gas and some water.
- 560 mph top wind speeds
- 9,000ºF Hot core
As far as the viewing weather: To be honest, it will be cool overnight. Temperatures will be in the 50s overnight, which is much warmer than average for late October. I recommend a few layers and maybe a jacket… Perhaps a lawn chair or beach blanket, plus a blanket to cover yourself with.
It is always best to view night sky shows away from the lights of the city. This can be near a farm, or by the water. Either way you should plan accordingly. Let you eyes adjust to the darkness for 5 to 10 minutes so that you can see the faint light in the sky. Plan to be outside for at least 20 to 30 minutes to get a true sense of the event, and hopefully see a few ‘shooting stars’. But once you see a few, you might want to sped more time looking.
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