Sunday, July 24, 2005

:: spacey :: Upcoming sky events

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August 11-12 – Perseid Meteor Shower. The year 2005 should be a good year for the Perseids because the bright first quarter Moon will set just before 11 p.m. leaving the sky dark for the prime meteor-watching hours of early morning. A very good shower such as this will produce about one meteor per minute for a given observer under a dark country sky. Any light pollution or moonlight considerably reduces the count. Typically during an overnight watch, the Perseids are capable of producing a number of bright, flaring and fragmenting meteors, which leave fine trains in their wake, making for an exciting night for those who plan to spend a summer’s night camped out under the stars.

October 17 – Partial Eclipse of the Moon. Admittedly, this really isn’t much of an eclipse. The western U.S. and Canada will see the umbral phase in its entirety (4:34 to 5:33 a.m. PDT), though the central states will get views of the opening stages before the Moon sets. At maximum, a whopping 7 percent of the Moon is within the Earth’s dark shadow.

October and November: The Autumn of Mars – Shining like a star with a yellowish-orange hue, Mars can vary considerably in brightness and this characteristic will be clearly demonstrated through much of 2005. While initially not much to look at, this year will evolve into a splendid year for observing Mars. It will be closest to the Earth on October 29 when it will be just 43.1 million miles away. It arrives at opposition to the Sun nine days later on November 7. While not as close an approach as its previous two favorable oppositions (in 2003 and 2001) such a close approach this year will still loan itself to making Mars appear exceptionally brilliant. Indeed, through much of the fall, Mars will outshine Sirius (the brightest of all stars) and during most of October and November it will rival even Jupiter (the planet normally second in brightness only to Venus).

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