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How to watch tonight’s Quadrantid meteor shower from anywhere

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For anyone who has clear skies in the early morning hours of Saturday, January 4, look up! You could catch a spectacular show from the Quadrantid meteor shower!

Right now, Earth is passing through a stream of rocky, icy debris in space, left behind by what is likely a shattered comet, as it travels through the inner solar system.

When these bits of rock and ice – collectively known as meteoroids – are swept up by Earth, they plunge into the atmosphere travelling at over 40 kilometers per second! At that speed, they compress the air in their paths, causing the air to glow. This shows up as streaks of light in the night sky known as meteors, and since these meteors are all from the same source, we call it a meteor shower.


The location of the Quadrantid radiant, on the night of January 3-4, 2020. Credit: Stellarium/Scott Sutherland

For this particular meteor shower, as the meteors streak across the sky, they appear to radiate out from a particular point in the sky – the ‘radiant’ – which happens to be near a defunct constellation known as Quadrans Muralis. Although this particular constellation is no longer used, it still lends its name to the meteor shower.

The Quadrantids is one of the strongest meteor showers of the year, producing up to 120 meteors per hour, under ideal conditions. Most viewers, if they have clear skies and they can get away from city light pollution, tend to see about half that number, as some of the meteors are just too fast or faint to see. Still, catching a meteor every minute is still very good!

612767main quadrantids lgThis false-color image of a rare early Quadrantid was captured by a NASA meteor camera in 2010. Credit: NASA/Meteoroid Environment Office/Bill Cooke

One complication for the Quadrantid meteor shower is its very sharp peak.

Most other meteor showers have a peak that lasts all night, or possibly even over a few days. The peak of the Quadrantids typically lasts for only around 6 hours. Thus, the best time to watch the Quadrantids tonight will be in the hours between midnight and dawn.

WILL WE SEE IT?

Although the phase of the Moon is timed well for this year’s Quadrantids – it is a first quarter Moon, which will set around midnight – the sky conditions are just not cooperating for most of Canada.

Quadrantids-CloudCover-Jan3

The best places to watch from, based on cloud cover, appear to be a thin swath of Alberta in the lee of the Rockies, as well as in parts of southwestern Saskatchewan.

HOW TO WATCH FROM ANYWHERE

Don’t despair if you are caught under cloudy skies tonight! There are other ways to watch this meteor shower, right from the comfort of your home.

First off, since the early morning hours are best to watch, there may be some clear breaks in the clouds through which to catch a few meteors. For example, there were cloudy conditions across southern Ontario for the 2019 Quadrantids, but the University of Toronto Scarborough all-sky cam still captured several fireball meteors over the area in the early morning hours.

If there are no breaks in the cloud, we can watch via Astronomy Live Stream on YouTube, which broadcasts the view of the night sky from near Denver, CO.

One of the more interesting ways to ‘watch’ the Quadrantids is via meteor radar, as shown below.

Geminids-meteorscan-Dec132019This sample image from MeteorScan.com shows multiple meteor detections at 21:19 UTC on December 13, 2019. Credit: MeteorScan

The coloured ‘spikes’ in the image above show the radar return signal when a meteoroid is detected passing by overhead. Since this radar is located in the United Kingdom, it isn’t the most ideal location during the peak, but will still pick up some Quadrantids during the night.

We can also ‘listen’ to the meteor shower, via the Meteor Echoes live stream, which presents the radar detections of meteoroid hitting the top of the atmosphere as high pitched audio chirps.

SHATTERED COMET?

The Quadrantids are known to originate from an asteroid known as 2003 EH1. That makes this only one of two known meteor showers to originate from a rocky body! The December Geminids is the other, originating from ‘rock comet’ asteroid 3200 Phaethon.

The interesting thing about 2003 EH1 is that it may be an extinct or shattered comet. So, long ago, it was a normal comet – a ‘dirty snowball’ in space, made of rock and ice, with a dark dusty coating. On each pass this comet made around the Sun, it blasted out jets of gas and icy debris, but eventually it either broke apart or it simply ran out of ice and gas.

Now, only the asteroid is left behind, continuing to orbit around the Sun along a trajectory more typical of comets.

Sources: IMO | NASA | With files from The Weather Network

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Dusty demise for NASA Mars lander in July; power dwindling – CGTN

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A NASA spacecraft on Mars is headed for a dusty demise. 

The InSight lander is losing power because of all the dust on its solar panels. NASA said Tuesday it will keep using the spacecraft’s seismometer to register marsquakes until the power peters out, likely in July. Then flight controllers will monitor InSight until the end of this year, before calling everything off. 

“There really hasn’t been too much doom and gloom on the team. We’re really still focused on operating the spacecraft,” said Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Bruce Banerdt, the principal scientist. 

Since landing on Mars in 2018, InSight has detected more than 1,300 marsquakes; the biggest one, a magnitude 5, occurred two weeks ago. 

It will be NASA’s second Mars lander lost to dust: A global dust storm took out Opportunity in 2018. In InSight’s case, it’s been a gradual gathering of dust, especially over the past year.

NASA’s two other functioning spacecraft on the Martian surface – rovers Curiosity and Perseverance – are still going strong thanks to nuclear power. The space agency may rethink solar power in the future for Mars, said planetary science director Lori Glaze, or at least experiment with new panel-clearing tech or aim for the less-stormy seasons.

InSight currently is generating one-tenth of the power from the sun that it did upon arrival. Deputy project manager Kathya Zamora Garcia said the lander initially had enough power to run an electric oven for one hour and 40 minutes; now it’s down to 10 minutes max. 

The InSight team had anticipated this much dust buildup, but hoped a gust of wind or dust devil might clean off the solar panels. That has yet to happen, despite several thousand whirlwinds coming close. 

“None of them have quite hit us dead-on yet enough to blow the dust off the panels,” Banerdt told reporters. 

Another science instrument, dubbed the mole, was supposed to burrow 16 feet (5 meters) underground to measure the internal temperature of Mars. But the German digger never got deeper than a couple of feet (a half-meter) because of the unexpected composition of the red dirt, and it finally was declared dead at the beginning of last year.

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Blood moon, big city: Skywatcher captures total lunar eclipse over New York (photos) – Space.com

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The eclipsed moon burns red high above the bright lights of New York City in gorgeous photos captured by amateur astronomer Alexander Krivenyshev.

Krivenyshev, the president of WorldTimeZone.com, snapped images of the total lunar eclipse on Sunday night (May 15) from Guttenberg, New Jersey, which is across the Hudson River from the Big Apple. 

He persevered through cloudy conditions, Krivenyshev told Space.com via email, to get shots of the blood-red moon shining like a beacon in a light-polluted sky.

Related: Amazing photos of the Super Flower Blood Moon of 2022

A closeup of the eclipsed moon on May 15, 2022, as photographed by Alexander Krivenyshev. (Image credit: Alexander Krivenyshev, WorldTimeZone.com)

The eclipse began at 9:32 p.m EDT on Sunday (0132 GMT on May 16) when the moon nosed into the light part of Earth’s shadow, known as the penumbra, and ended five hours later. The total eclipse phase, in which the moon was completely darkened by Earth’s heavier umbral shadow, lasted 85 minutes, the longest of any lunar eclipse in 33 years.

Earth’s nearest neighbor temporarily turns a coppery red during total lunar eclipses. This “blood moon” effect is caused by Earth’s atmosphere, which bends some red light onto the lunar surface while scattering away shorter-wavelength light. (No sunlight is hitting the moon directly at this point, of course; Earth is blocking the sun from the moon’s perspective.)

Another series of shots of the total lunar eclipse over New York City, photographed by Alexander Krivenyshev on May 15, 2022.  (Image credit: Alexander Krivenyshev, WorldTimeZone.com)

Related stories:

Last weekend’s sky show was best observed from the Americas and parts of Western Europe and West Africa. It was the first total lunar eclipse of the year, but it won’t be the last; another one will occur on Nov. 8. The Nov. 8 lunar eclipse will be best observed from Australia, eastern Asia and the western United States. 

If you’re hoping to photograph the moon, or want to prepare for the next total lunar eclipse, check out our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography. Our guides on how to photograph a lunar eclipse, and how to photograph the moon with a camera, also have some helpful tips to plan out your lunar photo session.

Editor’s Note: If you snap an amazing lunar eclipse photo (or your own eclipse webcast) and would like to share it with Space.com’s readers, send your photo(s), comments, and your name and location to spacephotos@space.com.

Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.  

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NASA's Mars InSight mission coming to an end as dust covers solar panels – CBC News

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A NASA spacecraft on Mars is headed for a dusty demise.

The Insight lander is losing power because of all the dust on its solar panels. NASA said Tuesday it will keep using the spacecraft’s seismometer to register marsquakes until the power peters out, likely in July. Then flight controllers will monitor InSight until the end of this year, before calling everything off.

“There really hasn’t been too much doom and gloom on the team. We’re really still focused on operating the spacecraft,” said Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Bruce Banerdt, the principal scientist.

Since landing on Mars in 2018, InSight has detected more than 1,300 marsquakes; the biggest one, a magnitude 5, occurred two weeks ago.

It will be NASA’s second Mars lander lost to dust: A global dust storm took out Opportunity in 2018. In InSight’s case, it’s been a gradual gathering of dust, especially over the past year.

WATCH | NASA scientists discuss InSight’s goals on Mars: [embedded content]

Rethinking solar power

NASA’s two other functioning spacecraft on the Martian surface — rovers Curiosity and Perseverance — are still going strong thanks to nuclear power.

The space agency may rethink solar power in the future for Mars, said planetary science director Lori Glaze, or at least experiment with new panel-clearing tech or aim for the less-stormy seasons.

InSight currently is generating one-tenth of the power from the sun that it did upon arrival.

Deputy project manager Kathya Zamora Garcia said the lander initially had enough power to run an electric oven for one hour and 40 minutes; now it’s down to 10 minutes max.

The InSight team anticipated this much dust buildup, but hoped a gust of wind or a dust devil might clean off the solar panels. That has yet to happen, despite several thousand whirlwinds coming close.

“None of them have quite hit us dead-on yet enough to blow the dust off the panels,” Banerdt told reporters.

Another science instrument, dubbed the mole, was supposed to burrow five metres underground to measure the internal temperature of Mars. But the German digger never got deeper than a half-metre because of the unexpected composition of the red dirt, and it finally was declared dead at the beginning of last year.

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