Leonid meteor shower tonight

This video says about itself:

Top Night Sky Events November 2015 – Eyes on the Skies

15 November 2015

November is the month of the Pleiades star cluster. On these November nights, the Pleiades cluster shines from nightfall until dawn. It’s low in the east at nightfall, high overhead around midnight and low in the west before dawn.

The 2015 Leonid meteor shower is expected to be at its best on the night of November 17-18. The predawn hours on November 18 are the optimum time, no matter where you live on the globe. Usually the most meteors fall in the dark hours before dawn.

Moon near Neptune on November 19: here.


Orion the Mighty Hunter – perhaps the easiest-to-identify of all constellations – rises at mid-evening in late November and early December. Orion will climb over your eastern horizon by around 9 p.m. tonight. You can find this constellation easily!

Full moon on November 25

Full moon is November 25, 2015. Although moon can be seen from anywhere worldwide on this night – except southern Antarctica – its path in the sky varies, depending on where you live. Enjoy the all-night appearance of the full moon tonight, as it mimics the path of the May sun across your sky!

Clips credit: ESA/NASA and ESO

From USA Today:

Sky spectacle: The Leonid meteor shower is coming

Doyle Rice and Elizabeth Weise

11:53 p.m. EST November 16, 2015

Be sure to keep an eye to the sky this week: The Leonid meteor shower, an annual mid-November treat, will soar across the night sky Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Leonids appear to be coming from the constellation Leo the Lion (hence their name) in the east, but they should be visible all the way across the sky.

Estimates range from seeing a few meteors up to dozens per hour at the peak, Astronomy magazine reports. Leonids are rather speedy, striking Earth’s atmosphere at a whopping 158,000 mph, the fastest of any meteor shower.

As with most meteor showers, the best time to watch the Leonids is usually between the hours of midnight and dawn, according to earthsky.org. Some good news from NASA: The waning crescent moon should leave skies dark enough for a decent show.

The expected peak mornings are Nov. 17 and 18. (That’s the mornings — not the evenings — of the 17th and 18th.)

Take a peek at the most distant object in our solar system.

Venus-like planet discovered

This video from the USA says about itself:

Rocky Earth-sized exoplanet found orbiting nearby star

11 November 2015

There’s a new exoplanet on the galactic map and scientists are particularly excited about it. That’s because it will be their first opportunity to study the atmosphere of a rocky Earth-sized planet outside our Solar System.

Read more here.

From daily The Independent in Britain today:

New planet discovered: Venus-like ‘exoplanet’ GJ 1132b found in solar system close to our own

The rocky planet is slightly larger than the Earth and, like Venus, its surface is too hot to support liquid

Steve Connor, Science Editor

A Venus-like planet has been discovered in a solar system relatively close to our own in what some astronomers are describing as arguable the most important “exoplanet” found orbiting a star other than the Sun.

The rocky planet, called GJ 1132b, is slightly larger than the Earth and, like Venus, its surface is too hot to support liquid water – but scientists believe the planet will be invaluable in the search for extraterrestrial life.

At 39 light years away, GJ 1132b is the nearest rocky exoplanet yet discovered. Its relative proximity to Earth and the fact that it orbits its star once every 1.6 days means that astronomers now have an important test-bed to study the atmospheres of other far-away planets with telescopes that could detect the first chemical signatures of life beyond the Solar System – such as atmospheric methane.

Planet GJ 1132b orbits so close to its own star that its temperatures reach a scorching 232C, which although too hot for life – at least as we know it – are still cool enough for the planet to possess an atmosphere, raising hopes that scientists will be able to analyse its chemical composition from Earth to study its winds and even the colours of its sunsets.

“Our ultimate goal is to find a twin Earth, but along the way we’ve found a twin Venus. We suspect it will have a Venus-like atmosphere too, and if it does we can’t wait to get a whiff,” said David Charbonneau of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who led the study published in the journal Nature.

Astronomers discovered the planet by monitoring and measuring the small fluctuations of light from the star Gliese 1132 as the planet passed in front of it every 1.6 days. The scientists calculated that the planet is orbiting at a distance of 1.4 million miles from the star, compared to the 36 million miles between the Earth and the Sun.

“If we find this pretty hot planet has managed to hang onto its atmosphere over the billions of years it’s been around, that bodes well for the long-term goal of studying cooler planets that could have life,” said Zachory Berta-Thompson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“We finally have a target to point our telescopes at and dig much deeper into the workings of a rocky exoplanet and what makes it tick…. This planet is cool enough that it can retain an atmosphere. So we think this planet probably still has something of a substantial atmosphere in its current state,” Dr Berta-Thompson said.

GJ 1132b is about 16 per cent larger than the Earth and although its solar orbit is much closer than that of our own planet, its sun is a “red dwarf” star far smaller than the Sun. The planet is probably in a locked orbit, meaning that one side of its surface permanently faces its star while the other always points out to space, much like the Moon’s orbit around Earth.

“The temperature of the planet is about as hot as your oven will go, so it’s like burnt-cookie hot. It’s too hot to be habitable. There’s no way there’s liquid water on the surface, but it’s cooler than the other rocky planets that we know of,” Dr Berta-Thompson said.

“We think it’s the first opportunity we have to point our telescopes at a rocky exoplanet and get that kind of detail, to be able to measure the colour of its sunset, or the speed of its winds, and really learn how rocky planets work out there in the Universe,” he said.

Surprising oxygen discovery on comet 67P

This video says about itself:

Rosetta orbiter: ‘Surprise’ oxygen discovery

28 October 2015

Scientists have learned that the air surrounding Comet 67P where the European Space Agency’s probe landed is rich with oxygen. Report by Jessica Wakefield.

From Astronomy Now:

Surprising discovery of molecular oxygen on comet 67P

University of Bern Press Release

29 October 2015

The biggest surprise so far in the chemical analysis of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko’s atmosphere is the high proportion of oxygen molecules. While such molecules are common in the Earth’s atmosphere, their presence on comets had originally been ruled out.

Early on in the mission of the ROSINA mass spectrometer, in September of last year, researchers from the Center for Space and Habitability (CSH) at the University of Bern made an unexpected discovery when analysing the comet’s gases: Between the expected peak values of sulfur and methanol, clear traces of oxygen (O2) molecules were detected. It turned out that O2 is in fact the fourth most common gas in the comet’s atmosphere, after water (H2O), carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2). As oxygen is highly reactive chemically, it was previously thought that in the early solar system it must have combined with the abundant hydrogen then present to form water. Nevertheless, oxygen molecules were present on the comet. “We had never thought that oxygen could ‘survive’ for billions of years without combining with other substances,” says Prof. Kathrin Altwegg, project leader of the ROSINA mass spectrometer and co-author of the study. The findings are published today in the scientific journal Nature.

Invisible from Earth

Molecular oxygen is very difficult to detect with spectroscopic measurements from telescopes, which explains why this molecule had not already been observed on other comets. An in situ measurement by the ROSINA mass spectrometer was needed to make this discovery. “It was also astonishing that the ratio of water to oxygen didn’t change in different locations on the comet or over time — so there is a stable correlation between water and oxygen,” says co-author Altwegg.

Ancient Substance

In contrast to comets, it is known that oxygen molecules occur on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. That is explained by their being struck by high-energy particles from their respective mother planets, which do not exist in the case of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The comet has been bombarded for 4.6 billion years, though, by high-energy cosmic radiation particles. These particles can split water, resulting in the formation of oxygen, hydrogen and ozone, among other substances. These particles only penetrate a few metres into the surface, however. In each of its revolutions around the Sun, though, the comet loses between one and ten metres from its circumference. Since its last meeting with Jupiter in 1959, which set the comet on its current orbit, it has consequently lost more than 100 metres of its material.

The most likely explanation, according to the researchers, is that the oxygen originated very early, before the formation of the solar system. Specifically, high-energy particles struck grains of ice in the cold and dense birthplaces of stars, the so-called dark nebulae, and split water into oxygen and hydrogen. The oxygen was then not further “processed” in the early solar system. The oxygen measurements show that at least a significant part of the comet’s material is older than our solar system and has a composition typical of dark nebulae, from which solar nebulae and later planetary systems originate. “This evidence of oxygen as an ancient substance will likely discredit some theoretical models of the formation of the solar system,” says Altwegg.

Nearby star AU Microscopii, new discoveries

This video says about itself:

Mysterious ripples racing away from AU Microscopii

7 October 2015

Using images from ESO’s Very Large Telescope and the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered never-before-seen structures within a dusty disc surrounding the star AU Microscopii. The fast-moving wave-like features are racing away from the star at speeds of up to about 40 000 kilometres/hour. These ripples are unlike anything ever observed, or even predicted, before now.

From Nature:

Fast-moving features in the debris disk around AU Microscopii

8 October 2015

In the 1980s, excess infrared emission was discovered around main-sequence stars; subsequent direct-imaging observations revealed orbiting disks of cold dust to be the source1. These ‘debris disks’ were thought to be by-products of planet formation because they often exhibited morphological and brightness asymmetries that may result from gravitational perturbation by planets. This was proved to be true for the β Pictoris system, in which the known planet generates an observable warp in the disk2, 3, 4, 5.

The nearby, young, unusually active late-type star AU Microscopii hosts a well-studied edge-on debris disk; earlier observations in the visible and near-infrared found asymmetric localized structures in the form of intensity variations along the midplane of the disk beyond a distance of 20 astronomical units6, 7, 8, 9. Here we report high-contrast imaging that reveals a series of five large-scale features in the southeast side of the disk, at projected separations of 10–60 astronomical units, persisting over intervals of 1–4 years. All these features appear to move away from the star at projected speeds of 4–10 kilometres per second, suggesting highly eccentric or unbound trajectories if they are associated with physical entities. The origin, localization, morphology and rapid evolution of these features are difficult to reconcile with current theories.

Humpback whales and northern lights video

This video says about itself:

7 October 2015

A group of humpback whales basking under the Northern Lights has been captured on camera by Norwegian TV. The video was filmed off the coast of Kvaløya (Whale Island) near the city of Tromsø.

Humpback whales in the Netherlands: here.

Draconids meteor shower this week

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October Night Sky Wonders / Rare Planetary Alignments / Meteor Showers / Zodiacal Lights

5 October 2015

Venus brightest object in the east before sunrise, crescent Moon with Jupiter and Mars

Venus is the brightest planet and third-brightest sky object overall, after the sun and moon. The bow of the waning crescent moon points toward Venus and Jupiter before sunrise on Wednesday, October 7.

What’s more, this dazzling world will enable you to locate the fainter yet relatively nearby planets Mars and Jupiter in the morning sky. Be sure to use the waning crescent moon to locate Venus (plus Mars and Jupiter) in the morning sky on October 7, October 8 and October 9.

The 2015 Draconid meteor shower is expected to peak on October 9. A new Moon on October 13, 2015 will create ideal conditions for those in the Northern Hemisphere to view the meteors.

The best time to see the shower is right before nightfall.

The Draconids have been responsible for some of the most spectacular meteor showers in recorded history.

Watch for South Taurid meteors in October.

The long-lasting South Taurid meteor shower (September 10 to November 20) may produce a “swarm” of fireballs this month or early next month.
The International Meteor Organization (IMO) and the American Meteor Society (AMS) give October 10 as the date for the South Taurid peak. The Taurid meteor stream consists of an extremely wide roadway of far-flung debris left behind by Comet 2P Encke.

The Taurids are known for having a high percentage of fireballs.

Zodiacal light is a faint, roughly triangular, diffuse white glow seen in the night sky that appears to extend up from the vicinity of the Sun along the ecliptic or zodiac. It is best seen just after sunset in spring, and just before sunrise in autumn, when the zodiac is at a steep angle to the horizon.

The autumn equinox came a few weeks ago for us in the Northern Hemisphere, which means that it’s a good time of year to see the zodiacal light, also known as the false dawn. With the moon out of the morning sky for the next two weeks, this is your chance to catch the zodiacal light in the east before dawn’s first light. If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, where the spring equinox happened a few weeks ago, the zodiacal light appears in your western sky, beginning about an hour after the sun goes down.

From National Geographic:

Spectacular Meteor Shower This Week: How to See It

Watch the Draconids shoot through the sky Thursday and Friday on moonless nights that promise great views

By Andrew Fazekas

Wed Oct 07 17:02:00 EDT 2015

The temperamental annual meteor shower known as the Draconids peaks this week under dark skies, offering skywatchers a nearly perfect chance to see as many as two dozen shooting stars per hour.

The Draconids are predicted to reach peak performance late Thursday night into the predawn hours Friday morning, and some should remain visible Friday night. With a new moon predicted only a few days later on the 13th, the skies should be free from any lunar glare during the best viewing times.

Meteor showers occur when Earth slams into a stream of tiny particles, many the size of sand grains, that fly off a parent comet, which in this case is 21P/Giacobini-Zinner. This cometary debris burns up in our upper atmosphere and creates a streak of light.

A Dragon Show

Like other meteor showers, the Draconids get their name from the constellation where they appear to originate in the sky—in this case Draco, the dragon. The meteors will appear to streak out of Draco nearly overhead for viewers throughout the Northern Hemisphere, around midnight local time.

The constellation is the eighth largest in the entire sky, so large that it wraps itself around the North Star, Polaris. Famous neighbouring constellations include Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, the great and small bears of mythology.

How to See It

The Draconids shower takes place every October, from the 6th to the 10th. The most intense activity is predicted to occur this year on October 9 at 5:40 Universal Time (1:40 a.m. EDT). This bodes well for onlookers in North America, as the peak will coincide with the darkest time of the night for them.

And while most years see about 20 shooting stars per hour at peak times, some years have seen those rates unexpectedly skyrocket and become true meteor storms. Twice in the last century, 1933 and 1946, upwards of 500 Draconid meteors burst through the sky per hour. And in 2011, hourly rates reached 300 just before the parent comet swung by the sun, a spectacular outburst. However, bright moonlight at the time blocked out all but the brightest shooting stars.

While unlikely and rare, these massive upticks in meteor numbers can also occur when Earth slams into an uncharted but particularly dense part of the meteor stream left behind by the parent comet.

One tip for the best viewing experience is to escape light-polluted cities to the dark countryside, where even the faintest meteors can be seen.

No need for telescopes or even binoculars, as the individual streaks of light can appear over large spans of the overhead sky. So it’s important to find a viewing spot, such as an open field, with unobstructed views of the entire sky.

Just make sure to make yourself comfortable for a few hours. Bring a reclining lawn chair, blankets and some hot chocolate—and you’ll be set to make plenty of wishes.

Clear skies!

Supermoon lunar eclipse, September 27th-28th, photos

Moon, 28 September 2015

The supermoon lunar eclipse of September 27th-September 28th, 2015 was visible in many parts of the world. Including Vlieland island in the Netherlands. After 27 September on Vlieland, this telephoto lens picture of the moon was taken there at 2 a.m. on 28 September.

Blood moon, 28 September 2015

And this photo is from Vlieland as well: three hours later, when the moon had become a reddish ‘blood moon’.