Label: Meteor

November 18, 2010

If the forecast is for clear skies tonight, set your clock for about 4:30 am Friday morning, grab a blanket and head outside to see this year’s Leonid meteor shower. Once the moon has set (early in the morning - click here to check the time for the moonset where you live), you may see as many as 20 or 30 meteors streaking through the sky before sunrise. They are still there after the sun rises, of course, but you won’t see them because of the brightness of the sunlight.

Look east, near the constellation Leo (that’s why they are called "Leonids").   

The Leonid meteor shower happens every year in mid-November, because that is when the comet Tempel-Tuttle passes near our orbit on its regular trip through the solar system. Debris from its tail - gasses and dust - burns up when it enters our atmosphere, becoming flares in the night sky that we call meteors.

Here’s a tip from an experienced sky watcher. Either take a blanket and lie on the grass, or take a lawn chair that tips back. Otherwise, you’ll get a terrible stiff neck, which doesn’t make meteor viewing much fun at all!

Kids (and adults) who want to know more should go to, where they have a web page with the Top 10 Leonid Meteor Facts.

Happy meteor watching!


Posted by: Seymour Simon

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August 17, 2010

I don’t know about you, but many of us here on the East Coast of the U.S. never caught a glimpse of last week’s Perseid meteor shower. After all the excitement about what a great year it was going to be for viewing because of the new moon keeping the sky very dark, the weather here was cloudy, and we didn’t see a thing.

Do not despair! Henry Jun Wah Lee shot this incredible time lapse video from California’s Joshua Tree National Park, editing several segments together into a montaged view of not only the meteor shower, but also of the Milky Way galaxy as it rotates in the night sky (well, actually, WE are rotating, but it looks like the stars are moving overhead).

Check this out. It is absolutely breathtaking.

Joshua Tree Under the Milky Way from Henry Jun Wah Lee on Vimeo.


Posted by: Liz Nealon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: Astronomy, Summer Vacation Science, Video, Meteor   •  Permalink (link to this article)

August 11, 2010



We keep talking about this week’s Perseid meteor shower because this is a particularly good year to see it. There is only a sliver of a moon, so the meteors will really pop against the dark sky. The best time for viewing the show will be the darkest hours before dawn on Friday morning (or very late Thursday night, depending on how you think about it). If the skies are clear where you live, you will be able to see dozens of meteors per hour. It’s about the most satisfying amateur astronomy experience you can have.

One August when my daughter was in elementary school, we planned a middle of the night Perseid party for her friends and their families. Everyone was invited to come at 3:30 am, with pajamas being acceptable attire! We asked them to bring a pillow for everyone and quilts that they didn’t mind laying in the dewey grass. I guided everyone via flashlight to the pitch dark meadow behind our house, and we laid together in the dark, ooh-ing and ah-ing as if it were a fireworks show. Then at 5am, as the rosy-fingered dawn started to illuminate the horizon, we brought everyone up to the house for a middle-of-the-night brunch. It was a memorable evening.

Of course, the trick to serving brunch in the middle of the night is to prepare everything in advance, so that you can sleep until the very last minute before guests arrive. I have a favorite quiche recipe which can be made in advance and quickly heated up in the oven or microwave. Cut up a fruit salad, set up the coffeemaker before you go to bed and you’re ready to go. For anyone who would like to try it this week, here’s my recipe. Enjoy it under the meteor shower!



1 box pie crust mix                                                                  1 cup (1/2 pt.) Light Cream

8oz. Gruyere or Swiss Cheese (.5 lb)                                   Nutmeg

3 eggs, beaten                                                                        Salt & pepper to taste

½ c. bacon, mushrooms or other fillings as you wish           1 TBL butter               

½  c. nonfat Milk         

Preheat oven to 450º. Cut the cheese into small cubes. Pre-cook any meat that you plan to put in the quiche and crumble into small pieces. If you are using vegetables (scallions, mushrooms, etc), cut them up and sauté in butter until they are nice and soft. Remove from heat and set aside.

Make a single piecrust, put it into a pie dish and prick all over with a fork (so it doesn’t blow up into a big balloon!). I usually put some tin foil over the top edges to hold it up against the sides. Cook the piecrust alone for 5 minutes at 450 degrees.

After the piecrust is pre-cooked, sprinkle your fillings (bacon, scallions, etc) on the bottom and cover them with the cubed cheese.

In a bowl, beat three eggs. Add cream, milk, dash of nutmeg, sprinkle of salt and pepper. Pour over the cheese.

Bake 15 minutes at 450º. Then, turn oven down to 350º and bake 10-15 minutes more,...

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Posted by: Liz Nealon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: Astronomy, Summer Vacation Science, Meteor, Recipes   •  Permalink (link to this article)

August 10, 2010

This is an incredible week for sky watching - and you don’t need a telescope!








The annual Perseid Meteor shower is already beginning. Last night sky watchers were reporting seeing up to 10 meteors per hour. We found this photo on, shot by Pete Glastonbury of Devizes, Wiltshire, UK, last night. This photograph shows a meteor whizzing past planet Jupiter.

The big show, however, is happening on Thursday night, and it is going to be a beauty.

The spectacular sights begin at sundown, when the crescent moon, Venus, Saturn and Mars will all appear together in a tight circle less than 10 degrees in diameter. You will be able to see this with your own eyes (even better if you have binoculars)  - just look to the western sky at twilight. This diagram will help you identify which is which, or if you have an Android phone, use your Google Sky Map app. Mercury is there, too, but will be too dim to see with the naked eye.

And if that weren’t enough, Thursday night will be the peak night for viewing the annual Perseid meteor shower. And, since there is just a sliver of a moon this year, the sky will be dark for optimum viewing. From 10pm until dawn you can see meteors streaking across the night sky. Look toward Perseus - in the northern sky. The meteors seem to be shooting out of that constellation, which is why astronomers named it the "Perseid" shower.

Kids often ask me why the Perseid meteor shower happens at the same time every year. The answer is simple. Earth takes one full year (precisely 365 days, 6 hours and seven seconds) to orbit the sun. So every August our planet passes through a big debris field created by the Comet Swift-Tuttle. Every 133 years the huge comet passes through our solar system and leaves a messy trail of dust and gravel behind it. When Earth passes through this cloud of space debris, pieces of it hit our atmosphere at about 140,000 mph and disintegrate in flashes of light that we call meteors.

So get outside as the sun sets this week, imagine that you are an astronomer (actually, if you are watching, you are!) and enjoy the sights.


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Astronomy, Meteor, Google Sky Map   •  Permalink (link to this article)