The New York TimesJan 04, 2021 10:05:50 IST
All year long as Earth revolves around the sun, it passes through streams of cosmic debris. The resulting meteor showers can light up night skies from dusk to dawn, and if you’re lucky you might be able to catch one.
If you spot a meteor shower, what you’re really seeing is the leftovers of icy comets crashing into Earth’s atmosphere. Comets are sort of like dirty snowballs: As they travel through the solar system, they leave behind a dusty trail of rocks and ice that lingers in space long after they leave. When Earth passes through these cascades of comet waste, the bits of debris — which can be as small as grains of sand — pierce the sky at such speeds that they burst, creating a celestial fireworks display.
A general rule of thumb with meteor showers: You are never watching the Earth cross into remnants from a comet’s most recent orbit. Instead, the burning bits come from the previous passes. For example, during the Perseid meteor shower, you are seeing meteors ejected from when its parent comet, Comet Swift-Tuttle, visited in 1862 or earlier, not from its most recent pass in 1992.
That’s because it takes time for debris from a comet’s orbit to drift into a position where it intersects with Earth’s orbit, according to Bill Cooke, an astronomer with NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office.
The name attached to a meteor shower is usually tied to the constellation in the sky from which they seem to originate, known as their radiant. For instance, the Orionid meteor shower can be found in the sky when stargazers have a good view of the Orion constellation.
How to Watch
The best way to see a meteor shower is to get to a location that has a clear view of the entire night sky. Ideally, that would be somewhere with dark skies, away from city lights and traffic. To maximize your chances of catching the show, look for a spot that offers a wide, unobstructed view.
Bits and pieces of meteor showers are visible for a certain period, but they really peak visibly from dusk to dawn on a given few days. Those days are when Earth’s orbit crosses through the thickest part of the cosmic stream. Meteor showers can vary in their peak times, with some reaching their maximums for only a few hours and others for several nights. The showers tend to be most visible after midnight and before dawn.
It is best to use your naked eye to spot a meteor shower. Binoculars or telescopes tend to limit your field of view. You might need to spend about half an hour in the dark to let your eyes get used to the reduced light.
Stargazers should be warned that too much moonlight and the weather can obscure a meteor shower. You can check the phase of the moon, and your local weather report, to see if you’ll get a good show.
If your local skies don’t light up, there are sometimes meteor livestreams online, such as those hosted by NASA or Slooh.
While the International Meteor Organization lists a variety of meteor showers that could be seen, below you’ll find the showers that are most likely to be visible in the sky this year. Peak dates may change during the year as astronomers update their estimates.
Active from 28 December to 12 January. Peaks around 2-3 January.
The Quadrantids give off their own New Year’s fireworks show. Compared with most other meteor showers, they are unusual because they are thought to have originated from an asteroid. They tend to be fainter with fewer streaks in the sky than others on this list.
Active from 14 April to 30 April. Peaks around 21-22 April.
There are records from ancient Chinese astronomers spotting these bursts of light more than 2,700 years ago. They blaze through the sky at about 107,000 mph and explode about 55 miles up in the planet’s atmosphere. This shower comes from Comet Thatcher, which journeys around the sun about every 415 years. Its last trip was in 1861 and its next rendezvous near the sun will be in 2276.
The Eta Aquariids
Active from 19 April to 28 May. Peaks around 4-5 May.
The Eta Aquariids, also sometimes known as the Eta Aquarids, are one of two meteor showers from Halley’s comet. Its sister shower, the Orionids, will peak in October. Specks from the Eta Aquariids streak through the sky at about 148,000 mph, making it one of the fastest meteor showers. Its display is better seen from the Southern Hemisphere where people normally enjoy between 20 and 30 meteors per hour during its peak. The Northern Hemisphere tends to see about half as many.
The Southern Delta Aquariids
Active from 12 July to 23 August. Peaks around 28-29 July.
They come from Comet 96P Machholz, which passes by the sun every five years. Its meteors, which number between 10 and 20 per hour, are most visible predawn, between 2-3 a.m. It tends to be more visible from the Southern Hemisphere.
Active from 17 July to 24 August. Peaks around 11-12 August.
The Perseids light up the night sky when Earth runs into pieces of cosmic debris left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle. The dirty snowball is 17 miles wide and takes about 133 years to orbit the sun. Its last go-round was in 1992.
Usually between 160 and 200 meteors dazzle in Earth’s atmosphere every hour during the display’s peak. They zoom through the atmosphere at around 133,000 mph and burst about 60 miles overhead.
Active from 2 October. to 7 November. Peaks around 19-20 October.
The Orionids are an encore to the Eta Aquariid meteor shower, which peaks in May. Both come from cosmic material spewed from Halley’s comet. Since the celestial celebrity orbits past Earth once every 76 years, the showers this weekend are your chance to view the comet’s leftovers until the real deal next passes by in 2061.
Active between 6 November and 30 November. Peaks around 16-17 November.
The Leonids are one of the most dazzling meteor showers, and every few decades it produces a meteor storm where more than 1,000 meteors can be seen an hour. Cross your fingers for some good luck — the last time the Leonids were that strong was in 2002. Its parent comet is called Comet-Temple/Tuttle and it orbits the sun every 33 years.
Active from 4 December to 20 December. Peaks around 13-14 December.
The Geminids, along with the Quadrantids that peaked in January, are thought to originate not from comets, but from asteroid-like space rocks. The Geminids are thought to have been produced by an object called 3200 Phaethon. If you manage to see them, this meteor shower can brighten the night sky with between 120 and 160 meteors per hour.
Active from 17 December to 26 December. Peaks around 21-22 December.
The Ursids tend to illuminate the night sky around the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. They only shoot around 10 to 20 meteors per hour. They appear to radiate from Ursa Minor and come from Comet 8P/Tuttle.
Nicholas St. Fleur c.2021 The New York Times CompanyMete
How to watch SpaceX launch 100-plus satellites on a Falcon 9 rocket today – CNET
SpaceX will transform one of its Falcon 9 rockets into the space equivalent of a crowded Uber when it launches its Transporter-1 ride-share mission from Cape Canaveral in Florida as soon as Sunday. The payload for this mission includes a cornucopia of small satellites from government and commercial entities, along with 10 of SpaceX’s own broadband satellites.
We learned Thursday that the cargo will include 48 SuperDove satellites for Planet Labs, bringing the total to a record-breaking 133 satellites in a single launch.
SpaceX has confirmed the total number of satellites in the ride-share payload. There was some last-minute shifting around after two DARPA satellites were accidentally damaged earlier this month at a processing facility. The Starlink satellites were also a last-minute addition. The payload includes several small spacecraft from Nanoracks and more from the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the US Department of Defense and many others.
The launch was originally scheduled for December, but has been postponed a handful of times, including from Saturday, when weather pushed it back to Sunday.
The Falcon 9 booster will be making its fifth flight and is expected to land on a droneship stationed in the Atlantic not long after flight. SpaceX is also likely to attempt to recover the fairing, or nose cone, a move that’s becoming a more routine part of each mission.
The launch is set for as early as 7 a.m. PT (10 a.m. ET) with a 22-minute launch window. The entire mission will be livestreamed as usual by SpaceX. You can follow along below starting about 10 minutes before launch.
SpaceX to launch dozens of satellites on Transporter-1 flight Sunday and you can watch it live – Space.com
Update for Jan. 23, 9:35 a.m. ET: Poor weather conditions forced SpaceX to scrub the launch this morning. The company is now targeting launch at 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT) liftoff on Sunday, Jan. 24. You can read our new story here.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX is preparing one of its veteran rockets to launch 143 satellites into space on Saturday (Jan. 23). You can watch the fiery action live online.
A two-stage Falcon 9 rocket flight is scheduled to take off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station here in Florida. Liftoff is expected during a one-hour window that opens at 9:40 a.m. EST (1440 GMT).
Perched atop the 230-foot-tall (70 meters) launcher will be dozens of satellites as part of a dedicated rideshare mission. This cosmic carpool, known as Transporter-1, will also be ferrying 10 of the company’s own Starlink satellites into space and depositing them in a polar orbit — a first for the growing network of broadband satellites. Other payloads include 48 Earth-observing SuperDove satellites for Planet and one small nanosatellite called “Charlie” for Aurora Insight.
Saturday’s launch marks the third mission of 2021 for SpaceX and the second in just two days from Florida’s Space Coast. The California-based rocket manufacturer launched a different Falcon 9 on a record-breaking flight on Wednesday (Jan. 20) to deliver a full stack of 60 Starlink satellites into orbit.
The booster used on that mission became the first in SpaceX’s fleet of frequent fliers to launch and land eight times. (The previous record was seven, which was held by two different first-stage boosters.)
Following liftoff on Saturday, the Transporter-1 Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage is expected to land on SpaceX’s drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You,” which is waiting out in the Atlantic. If successful, it will mark the 73rd recovery of a first-stage booster for SpaceX.
It will also mark the first catch of the year for the veteran drone ship, which has sat out the past two missions while being refurbished.
SpaceX’s very big year: A 2020 of astronaut launches, Starship tests & more
The Falcon 9 rocket for the Transporter-1 launch is a four-time flier and a record-setter as well. Known as B1058, this flight proven booster will embark on its fifth flight and, if all goes according to plan, will be able to stick its landing at sea.
B1058 made history in May when it launched two NASA astronauts — Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken — to the International Space Station on the first crewed flight to launch from U.S. soil since the retirement of the space shuttle program in 2011.
Emblazoned with NASA’s iconic worm logo, the booster also ferried a communications satellite for South Korea’s military, a batch of Starlink satellites and a Dragon cargo capsule to the ISS for SpaceX’s 21st cargo resupply mission.
For its next mission, the veteran will serve as a kind of space Uber, delivering a group of small satellites into orbit as part of SpaceX’s rideshare program, which aims to help smaller satellites get into space by sharing a ride much like an Uber pool.
SpaceX announced the program in August 2020, offering rides on a Falcon for $1 million a pop. The launch slots are booked through the company’s website and are offered on regular intervals approximately four times per year.
Rideshares missions are not exactly new for SpaceX as the company launched more than 60 satellites from its California launch pad in December 2018. That mission, dubbed SSO-A, delivered a small armada of satellites into low-Earth orbit through a carefully choreographed orbital ballet so that the satellites did not collide with one another.
SpaceX’s two net-equipped boats — called GO Ms. Tree and GO Ms. Chief — will be part of the recovery team deployed for this mission. They will attempt to recover the two pieces of the rocket’s nose cone, known as the payload fairing, after they fall back to Earth.
The dynamic duo supported the Starlink mission earlier this week and are currently en route to the Transporter-1 mission’s designated landing zone. (Each fairing half is equipped with parachutes and on board navigation software that steers it to a specific landing zone out in the Atlantic Ocean.)
For the Starlink mission, the boats scooped the pieces out of the water and will likely do the same thing for this mission. That determination will be made officially on launch day.
Currently, weather forecasts predict an 60% chance of good conditions for the launch opportunity on Saturday, with the only weather concerns being the potential for thick clouds over the launch site.
Follow Amy Thompson on Twitter @astrogingersnap. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.
Hot enough for you? 2020, 2016 tie for warmest years on record – NewmarketToday.ca
It’s official: 2020 was tied with 2016 as the warmest year on record, the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) is reporting.
Last year, 2020, matches the 2016 record despite the cooling effects of a La Niña event whereas 2016 began with a strong warming El Niño.
The six years beginning in 2015 are the hottest six years and 2011 to 2020 was the warmest decade recorded. 2020 was 0.6°C warmer than the baseline 1981-2010 reference period and 1.25°C above pre-industrial temperatures.
Some of the largest annual temperature rises occurred in the Arctic and northern Siberia regions, with temperatures reaching over 6°C higher than the baseline in some areas.
There was an unusually active wildfire season in Northern Ontario, with that released a record 244 megatonnes of carbon dioxide in 2020, more than a third higher than the 2019 record. Arctic sea ice was significantly lower than average during the second half of the year with the lowest extent of sea ice on record for the months of July and October.
“2020 stands out for its exceptional warmth in the Arctic and a number of tropical storms in the North Atlantic,” commented Carlo Buontemp, director of C3S. “It is no surprise that the last decade was the warmest on record, and is yet another reminder of the urgency of ambitious emissions reductions to prevent adverse climate impacts in the future.”
Concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide continued to rise despite the approximately seven percent reduction of fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions due to COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns around the world.
An initial pandemic-related 17 per cent reduction in emissions was followed by record high carbon dioxide levels in May. While the overall rise was slightly less than in 2019, scientists warn this should not be cause for complacency. Until net global emissions are reduced to zero, carbon dioxide will continue to accumulate and drive further climate change, said Vincent-Henri Peach, director of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service.
Countries that signed onto the 2015 Paris climate agreement committed to limiting warming by no more than 1.5°C with a goal of less than 2°C. Scientists say this will require countries to commit to a more rapid transition away from fossil fuel dependency by investing in renewable energy.
“The extraordinary climate events of 2020 and the data from the C3S show us that we have no time to lose,” said Matthias Petschke of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Defence Industry and Space. “We must come together as a global community, to ensure a just transition to a net zero future. It will be difficult, but the cost of inaction is too great.”
– Lori Thompson, Local Journalism Initiative, Manitoulin Expositor
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