Moon, Jupiter, and Meteors

StarDate: November 16, 2010

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Tonight’s sky offers up the skywatching equivalent of a doubleheader. The first half is a sure bet, while the other will require dark skies and perhaps a little luck.

First up is a close encounter between the Moon and the planet Jupiter. They’re high in the sky as night falls, with Jupiter to the lower right of the Moon. It looks like a dazzling star.

One of the best things about the encounter is that you can see it from anywhere -- Jupiter and the Moon shine through the light pollution that’s generated by even the largest cities.

As Jupiter and the Moon drop out of sight, the second half of the doubleheader climbs into view: the Leonid meteor shower.

Most experts expect the shower to be at its best tomorrow night. But a few stragglers should streak across the sky tonight as well.

If you trace their paths, the meteors all appear to “rain” from the direction of Leo, the lion, which climbs into full view in the east by around 2 a.m. You don’t need to look at Leo to see the shooting stars, though -- they can streak across any part of the sky.

But unlike the Moon and Jupiter, you need a dark skywatching site to see them. Almost all of the meteors are so faint that almost any artificial light sources will overpower them. If you can find a good site, though, bundle up against the autumn chill and cast your eyes upward for the Leonid meteor shower -- the faint half of a celestial doubleheader.

More about the Leonids tomorrow.

 

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2010

 

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