Wave at the ISS

The ISS is going to make a couple of very visible passes over North America tonight and tomorrow night.  A global campaign kicks off today encouraging people to get outside, spot the ISS and wave!  Its a great way to get younger kids involved as well. Nearly the entire eastern seaboard will have the opportunity tonight and tomorrow night around 6pm sharp.  Get the whole family outside



read more

Geminid Meteors to peak tomorrow night

The forecast for this year’s Geminid meteor shower has it peaking the evening of Dec 13 into the 14th with the actual peak happening at 11am (for what thats worth).  You may have seen some forecasts of up to 120 meteors per hour visible.  While that’s possible, that number is also referring to perfect conditions: cloudless sky, moonless sky (after 12:30am), and without any light pollution (i.e. at a dark sky site).   For most of us that means that the best we can hope for is more like 7-15 per hour in the light polluted city and suburban skies.  Also keep in mind that things get slightly better the closer gemini gets to its highest point in the sky (which is why that 120 figure is called a zenith hourly rate).  

The folks at meteorwatch.org have a nice formula to convert that ZHR into an actual hourly rate.  It factors in cloud cover (which roughly halve the number of meteors you’ll see), height of the radiant (i.e. the gemini constellation), and limiting magnitude (dimest stars you can see from your location).  Churn the numbers and you get as few as 7 per hour in the city, 30 in the country.

So get out there an look around midnight, be patient it may take a few minutes, but weather permitting, you should see something.  Find Gemini (the image to the right will be rotated 90 degrees counter clockwise).  Meteors should be coming from a point just right of Castor.

read more