Saturday, August 11, 2007

Something "Lyrid" Is Lurking In The Sky Tonight - UPDATED 8/11/07

The Griffith Observatory - is an icon of Los Angeles, a national leader in public astronomy, a beloved civic gathering place, and one of southern California's most popular attractions. The Observatory is located on the southern slope of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park, just above the Los Feliz neighborhood. It is 1,134 feet above sea level and is visible from many parts of the Los Angeles basin. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks, Copyright 2006

Something "Lyrid" Is Lurking In The Sky Tonight

Ever stop and wonder why the Earth is really, at once ... so big, and yet, so small?

Tonight and tomorrow we will all have a chance to wonder and realize that this Blue Orb is a special platform on which to observe the real world that is happening around us - the real world that is the sky of which is the community we all belong.

This report from The Griffith Observatory -

The Griffith Observatory Sky Report
Anthony Cook - Astronomical Observer - April 18, 2007

This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending April 25. Here is what’s happening in the skies of Southern California:

The moon returns to the evening sky on Wednesday when it can be found at sunset, midway between the sun’s setting point and the brilliant planet Venus. The moon appears less than 5 degrees to the lower right of Venus on Thursday evening. It reaches first-quarter phase on Monday evening, the 23rd, and on the next night, it passes less than 4 degrees from Saturn.

Saturn, in Leo the Lion, is best placed for viewing–71 degrees high in the west–as soon as darkness falls, and sets in the west northwest at about 3:10 a.m.

Bright tapioca-hued Jupiter rises at about 11p.m., and becomes noticeable in the southeast sky by midnight. The giant planet is highest, 34 degrees above the southern horizon, at 4 a.m., and is slightly west of south at dawn. Jupiter is in the constellation Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer, between Scorpius the Scorpion and Sagittarius the Archer.

Jupiter can help you to locate the Hubble Space Telescope when it flies south of Los Angeles this week. The HST will emerge from the Earth’s shadow in the south-southeast–to the left of Jupiter and slightly higher than the planet–each morning from Monday the 23rd to Thursday the 26th. It appears at 4:19 a.m. on Monday morning, then descends towards the east over the next three minutes, where the red planet Mars is rising. The HST appears about 90 seconds earlier each successive morning, following a similar track each time. Look starting at 4:18 a.m. on the 24th, 4:17 a.m. on the 25th, and 4:15 a.m. on the 26th.

The Griffth Observatory (at night) - The large new Richard and Lois Gunther Depths of Space exhibit gallery is activated by the recent transformation of cosmic perspective that began when people first ventured into space. No longer is observation and understanding of the sky bonded to the ground and framed by the horizon. The Gunther Depths of Space is filled with exhibits that are as monumental and unique as the ideas they illustrate: The Planets, Our Earth, Our Solar System,Other Worlds, Other Stars, Milky Way Galaxy, Iconic Universe, A Familiar Star Pattern, Our Address, The Big Picture, The Big Picture-Related Exhibits (Field Guides, Depth of Space, Einstein) - Image Credit: Edmund Jenks, Copyright 2006

The Lyrid meteor shower is predicted to be at its best between 11 p.m. on Saturday night and until dawn starts on Sunday morning April 22, at about 5 a.m. Up to 18 meteors per hour can be seen from a dark wilderness location, far from urban light pollution. The radiant point, from which the meteors seem to stream, is actually in the constellation Hercules the Hero, but is close to the bright star Vega in Lyra, the Lyre.

Free public viewing is available through Griffith Observatory’s telescopes. For information on making a reservation to visit, see our website,, or call (213) 473-0800. The next public star party, held by members of the Los Angeles Astronomical Society and the Los Angeles Sidewalk Astronomers, will be held on the Observatory’s front lawn on Saturday, April 21.

And that’s this week’s Sky Report.
Reference Here>>

This description of the Lyrid Meteor Shower from Sky Tonight.Com -

April's Lyrid Meteor Shower
by Roger W. Sinnott

The Lyrid meteor shower has been observed for more than 2,000 years; Chinese records say "stars fell like rain" during the shower of 687 BC. But in recent times the Lyrids have generally been weak. They have a brief maximum that lasts for less than a day, and even then only 10 to 20 Lyrids per hour may appear.

But there have been some remarkable exceptions. In 1982 the rate unexpectedly reached 90 for a single hour, and 180 to 300 for a few minutes. A brief outburst of 100 per hour was also seen in 1922. And on April 20, 1803, residents of Richmond, Virginia, upon being rousted out of bed by a fire bell, were startled to see great numbers of meteors in all parts of the sky. "This unpredictability always makes the Lyrids a shower to watch, since we cannot say when the next unusual return may occur," note Alistair McBeath and Rainer Arlt of the International Meteor Organization.

Use our interactive sky chart to see the appearance of the heavens at 2:00 a.m., during the peak morning of the Lyrids. The radiant point of this shower lies between the bright summer star Vega and the keystone pattern of the constellation Hercules. The chart is set at 40° north latitude for central North America. Click on the "change" button to alter either the date and time or viewing location displayed by the chart. Generally, there will be more meteors than usual visible for a few days on either side of the peak of a meteor shower.

Reference Here>>

On August 12, 1993, J. F. Funderburg photographed this bright Perseid streaking past the Andromeda Galaxy (fuzzy trail just above the meteor's center). Image Credit: J.F. Funderburg via

And this from tip from EarthSky.Org –

Who Should Watch The Lyrid Meteor Shower?

You should! If you’re a gambler.

That’s because all meteor showers are just that . . . a gamble. No one can tell you precisely how many meteors you’ll see from any given shower.

We can tell you this. The Lyrid meteor shower will peak this weekend. The best time to watch will be Sunday before dawn, and then again on Monday before dawn.

And we can say that the moon – bane of meteor watchers for its tendency to wash out all but the brightest meteors – will be approaching the first quarter phase during the shower’s peak. That means it’ll set in the middle of the night, leaving the hours before dawn dark for watching meteors. That’s a good thing.

The Lyrid meteor shower is usually more of a trickle, with a typical rate of 10 or 15 meteors per hour. Still, in 1982, the Lyrids ramped up to over 100 meteors per hour for a few minutes. See what we mean? A gamble.

If you want to watch the Lyrids, the same rules apply as for other meteor showers. Most important rule: get away from city lights. Find an open area in a country location. Lie back. Relax. Look up in a casual way, with your eyes roving over all parts of the sky. When you spot one, it’s fun to alert your companions by yelling out “meteor!” It’s fun to count how many you see in an hour.

Most meteor showers are best after midnight, so the later you can stay out the better. Or get up in the wee hours and do your meteor-watching before dawn.

Lyrid meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Lyra the Harp. But you don’t need to identify Lyra to see the meteors. In fact, you’ll see more meteors if you let your eyes wander around the sky. The meteors are streaking away from Lyra, but they tend to be most visible when they’re some distance from the constellation.
The constellation Lyra – the radiant point for the Lyrid meteor shower – is now overhead before dawn. So, if you’re out at that time, the meteors will be streaking down from the top of the sky.

Lyra itself is pretty easy to pick out. It’s tiny and has a distinctive shape. The brightest star seen overhead in the hour before dawn is Lyra’s brightest star, Vega. You’ll easily pick out a tiny quadrilateral of stars near Vega. This little pattern of stars is the rest of the constellation Lyra.

The Lyrids tend to be bright and leisurely in motion. They occur when Earth swings through a thin trail of comet debris floating in space. The tiny icy particles burn up in our atmosphere, creating flashes or streaks.

So imagine yourself under a dark country sky. You’re surrounded by stars. Every so often, you see a streak across the sky: a Lyrid meteor. It is beautiful.
And isn’t that the best thing about a gamble? The payoff!
Reference Here>>

VIDEO: A Visit To Griffith Observatory (Los Angeles)

UPDATE – The Mid-Summer Perseid Is In Effect - 8/11/07

Scientists expect spectacular Perseid meteor shower
By DAVID OLSON - The Press-Enterprise - 04:07 PM PDT on Friday, August 10, 2007

The Perseid shower's peak this year will be late Sunday night and before dawn Monday.
The Perseid shower is a favorite because the streaks of light tend to be especially bright and sometimes have hues of color, Clarke said.

In addition, said Ralph Megna, chairman of the Riverside Astronomical Society, the Perseids are unusually reliable. Viewers can typically see 60 to 80 meteors an hour during the pinnacle, which this year will be after midnight Monday. A smaller number of meteors will be visible tonight and Monday night.

The meteors will be most visible far away from city lights. Megna will view the meteor shower at the society's observatory in Landers, in the remote San Bernardino County desert.

But they also can be seen -- albeit more faintly -- in suburban backyards. The best way to see them is with the naked eye, because they move too quickly to be easily seen through telescopes, said Doreen Wiggins, of the Big Bear Valley Astronomical Society, which is gathering at Erwin Lake near Big Bear Lake to view the showers.

"You just have to lay out and look up at the sky," she said.

The debris from the Perseid meteor shower was once part of Comet Swift-Tuttle. Comets are collections of rock, dust and ice that were created during the formation of the solar system more than 4 ½ billion years ago.
Every August, Earth goes toward the trail of particles that follows the same general path as Comet Swift-Tuttle. The debris -- primarily dust the size of a grain of sand -- travels about 132,000 miles per hour, so when it disintegrates upon impact with Earth's atmosphere, the heat and energy that are created produce light seen miles below on Earth, he said. The light is typically 50 to 100 miles above ground.

The most meteors will occur in the hours before dawn on Monday because that is when the densest part of the debris stream will be hitting Earth's atmosphere, Benner said.
Reference Here>>


The peak of the Perseid meteor shower is late Sunday night 8/12/07 and, especially, after midnight Monday 8/13/07.

For the best viewing:

Go where the SKY IS DARKEST. You'll see some meteors in cities, but not as many as in areas away from bright lights.

AFTER 9 P.M. SUNDAY, look for the meteors in the NORTHEAST SKY. The meteors will fly out of the constellation Perseus. There will be fewer meteors early in the night, but they will be among the most beautiful. They approach from the horizon and skim through the sky like stones skipping the surface of a pond.

In the hours BEFORE DAWN MONDAY, there could be more than ONE METEOR A MINUTE.

It is best to VIEW the meteors WITH THE NAKED EYE. Telescopes and binoculars would make it more difficult, because the meteors move so quickly.

Bring a blanket or lawn chair so you can LIE DOWN. Otherwise, your neck will get tired from looking up at the sky.

SOURCE: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

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