Archive for the ‘Meteor Showers’ Tag

Fall Back   Leave a comment

Feel the chill in the air?

How can one tell it’s the changing of the season? Just look at all the Christmas decorations filling the shelves at your favorite department store. Yes, it’s that time of year when we start picking out what’s going to twinkle twinkle on our boughs of poly. After all, who wouldn’t want to squeeze out the waning days of summer any other way?

Wait…what’s that you say? We have several other intervening holidays? Like Three Day Weekend in October, Overpriced Candy & Costume Day and the Day Before Black Friday? Oh, them.

As for me, well, it’s autumn when the sun crosses the celestial equator, known as the ecliptic, and enters the constellation Virgo on or about September 21-22 each year. As I labor at my job tomorrow, oh, let’s say around 20:02 UTC, the season will officially change. Day and night won’t exactly be equal, but they’ll be close enough.

Looking for some interesting ways to celebrate the season? Here’s a random list of suggestions:

  • Hold your own MST3K party and dig out the film “Barb Wire.”  Shot in 1995 and set in 2017, it stars Pamela Anderson in the lead role (she tacked on her married last name “Lee” in this film), it’s an utterly unwatchable film wherein our leading lady won a Golden Raspberry award for the worst new actress of 1995. Crack open something cold, chow down on Chinese and let those comments rip!
  • For a much better nightmare, why not check out John Carpenter’s “Halloween.”  Filmed on a minuscule budget and panned by critics, it marked the debut of a vastly talented actress, Jamie Lee Curtis and went on to launch a highly successful franchise. It’s considered a classic these days.
  • If you’re passing through the Hudson Valley of New York, check out Sleepy Hollow, formerly known until 1996 as North Tarrytown. It’s the legendary home of Washington Irving and his headless horseman. Visit his grave and say hi to his fellow cemetery mates Andrew Carnegie, Brooke Astor, Walter P. Chrysler, Elizabeth Arden and more. Fun facts: Adam Savage of “Mythbusters” is a native son. Caityn (“Bruce”) Jenner went to high school here. It’s also the setting for many a film and TV series, notably “House ofDark Shadows,” “Curse of the Cat People” and an episode of “Property Brothers.”
  • Can’t make the drive? Go gaming! Sleepy Hollow is also the location of 2014 game Assassin’s Creed Rogue.  Why not explore its dystopian milieu?
  • How about looking upward on a dark clear night? Spectacular meteor showers await. On October 21, the Orionids peak after midnight. And if the weather cooperates, this’ll be a grand night for viewing – it’s a new moon and unless you’re near a city or other bright lights, it doesn’t get better than this. For other meteor shower activity, visit Sky and Telescope’s web article.
  • Dress up on Halloween, no matter how old you are, just for fun. Throw on your taco costume with a unicorn head and freak out kids coming to your door for treats and trick them, instead. Then give them a pile of processed packaged sugar products.
  • Instead of cheating Thanksgiving out of the respect it deserves, gather your friends and family together, cook up your best free grocery-store bonus turkey and pig out. If holding dinner parties isn’t your thing, go volunteer. Share some kindness. Be a pal and visit an old friend or family member you haven’t seen in ages, or better still, invite them to share a plate at your dinner table. Don’t worry about catching bargains at War-Mart and standing out in the cold to be the first to get a 55″ LED screen for $199. Memories aren’t made of that. Sharing your time and opening your heart will do the trick much better.

So, what are you waiting for? Go out and celebrate! After all, nature’s tossing all of its leafy confetti just for you. Run under its shower with flailing arms and live!

Spring Skies at Night   Leave a comment

Spring Constellation Map


There’s a tiny, disk-sized patch of snow behind the museum where I work, a reminder that winter wasn’t all that long ago.  I keep waiting for it to melt, but it refuses, so I ignore it and remember that its water’s going to water the grass it’s hiding.  In defiance, some crocuses finally gathered the gumption to bloom – a month late – and later the daffodils joined in.

Ah, spring!

But if that snow didn’t want to release its chilly grip on Earth, all I had to do was look up and see the spring sky greet me.  Clouds are the only impediment to these yearly harbingers of warmer times.

I’ve got a few favs I eagerly look for when the days begin to lengthen.  When Leo starts strutting up that heavenly hill come February, spring isn’t far behind.


There’s no mistaking him.  He’s got a jewel on one foot, Regulus, magnitude 1.4, and sports another in his tail, Denebola, a bright second-magnitude (2.14) star.  He leads the parade for my next favorite grouping:

The Herdsman

Bootes, the Herdsman.  You can’t mistake him either, although he’s so large it’ll might take a little patience to find him.  His main-feature star, Arcturus, lights up his lap.  He’s sitting down, smoking his pipe, wondering how all those sheep he was supposed to watch disappeared (perhaps Leo ate them?).

Or maybe he’s just trying to hide that hunk of bling behind him, the Northern Crown, or Corona Borealis.  It has a second-magnitude star, Gemma, actually a binary star, or two stars rotating around each other. Its magnitude shifts from 2.21 to 2.32, not very noticeable with the unaided eye.  You’d need seventeen straight days to stare up at it with a telescope to measure the change.

Corona Borealis, Bootes

Credit: Till Credner (Own work: 

We all know how lions pride themselves on their gorgeous manes.  Bootes must share the same sentiment, because between him and Leo, there’s a fantastic group of very faint stars known as Berenice’s Hair.

Berenices Hair            Be's Hair

It’s small, but that doesn’t make it special!  There are eight galaxies within it, several globular clusters, 200 variable stars in its region and if that weren’t enough, the North Galactic Pole is amidst her strands.  But wait!  There’s more!  She gets all twinkly and festive during the Christmas season.  Bragging her own meteor showers during December and January, she peaks from December 18-25, right in time for the holidays.  It’s also important, when looking at her, not to expect to spot the Milky Way.  When her hair is high in the sky, the Milky Way is lower in the sky, on or near the horizon.

And speaking of meteor showers, in mornings you’ll find the Lyrids, or meteor showers occurring near the constellation Lyra.  Those occur at the end of April, peaking between April 22-25.  The radiant is where to look; the meteors seem to be originating from that point.



Now, get off that couch, stop texting, get outside and go have yourselves a great look at the nighttime sky!



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