Comet and Meteor shower, Day 3

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Day three of observation the comet lovejoy (C/2014 Q2 ). The night, early morning of 3rd/4th of January 2015 was less cold than the other 2 previews nights. The temperature didn’t reach zero Celsius or less (haven’t reach 32F degree or less).

There was little to no wind, and the humidity level was high. The local weather station reported humidity of 89%. Therefore, the visibly of the comet was poor. The humidity added light glare to the ambient background, and almost washed the green color of the comet. However, this night, the comet seems to be brighter relatively for it took less exposure time to be captured in on the digital camera.

The winter constellations over Simi Valley
The winter constellations over Simi Valley
The two major events this night was the comet as usual, and the Quadrantids meteor shower. The meteor shower wasn’t as strong as usual due to the present of the nearly full Moon in the sky and humidity. There was one fireball crossed the sky from north east, to south west, crossing between Orion and Taurus constellation.

The Moon on 3rd/4th of January 2015
The Moon on 3rd/4th of January 2015
 The stargazing location also played a role, although Santa Susana Pass area is better than the city I live in, it is still not to be considered a dark night site. However, the location is still darker than the city, and witnessed many meteor showers before in it.

The washed out color of the comet Love Joy ( C/2014 Q2 )
That night washed out color of the comet Love Joy ( C/2014 Q2 )
Near Sunrise, Jupiter was high in the sky, with is moons, and the temperature of the location reached the dew point, as I saw dew drops on my car.

 

January 3rd/4th 2015

Santa Susana Pass, California

-Ahmad

Perseid Meteor Shower 2014

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This morning, the Perseid meteor shower preformed really well even with present of nearly full Moon. The observations were made near Castaic Lake at elevation of ~2500 feet (760 meter).

The weather cooperated in the last minute. There were clouds in the Los Angeles area, however, about 60 miles north, the clouds were non existence and the sky was clear. The temperature was cold compare to the summer daytime. Humidity was less than it was in Los Angeles. The meteor shower was relatively strong and did not disappoint.

The Moon was really bright, and effected the observation. The majority of the meteors were very faint, and there were no fire balls.

Perseids 2014 -2
A meteor

The average was about 40 meteors an hour. Most of them were observed from the north east side of the sky, however, some were on the south and very few from the west. The peak was between 3 am to 4 am.  This is almost third of the amount of meteors compare to last year.

The camera captured 8 meteors. One was bright enough to outshine the brightest stars.

Perseids 2014 -3
Orion Constellation over Castaic Lake
Orion Constellation, Taurus constellation and Pleiades.
Orion Constellation, Taurus constellation and Pleiades.
 

Orion constellation rose in the east majestically declaring the stargazing session end is near.

Venus was present, and Jupiter was covered by the distance mountain tops in the eastern horizon.

The planet Venus rising, mistakenly known as the morning star.
The planet Venus rising, mistakenly known as the morning star.

Until Next Year…

 

August- 13th– 2014

Castaic Lake, CA

-Ahmed

A day before Perseid meteor shower

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The Perseid meteor shower will peak tonight and the morning of August the 12th, and the 13th. This year, the meteor shower will go against the brightness of the nearly Full Moon. Also, the weather for the people who are in south California will be partially cloudy to heavily cloudy with thunderstorms.

I have been observing the Perseid meteor shower last night the 11th of August, to early morning of the 12th, a day before the peak this year. The location I picked was Rocky peak at Santa Susana Pass, for I had a great experience last year with it and for the fact that a long drive in a cloudy weather is not efficient for time and energy.

Looking south. Clouds and bright near full Moon.
Looking south. Clouds and bright near full Moon.

Last year the peak was between the 11th to the 12th of August. This year, the peak will be from the 12th, to the 13th of August.

The clouds this year were heavy, and they were coming from the south going north. The temperature was much warmer than last year at the exact time, and the winds at lower altitude were week. However, from the speed of the passing clouds, the upper winds were going at a much faster rate. The low altitude clouds that were around 5~ 6 thousands feet were covering the bright Moon light. There were higher altitude clouds also.

Even with all those factors, I managed to spot two faint meteor shower, and one extremely bright, it wasn’t a fireball for it was fast moving, and smaller, but the luminosity was great, and it was from the radiant center to the east. So the total number was 3 shooting stars. None was capture in camera.

Tonight, at the peak, an observation will be made in a different location, and further away from the light pollution, with the hope of a better weather. Although, light clouds might add up more beauty if a picture was captured of a shooting star that will cast some of its luminosity on the clouds.

Looking toward North east. The constellation Cassiopeia is peaking between the clouds.
Looking toward North east. The constellation Cassiopeia is peaking between the clouds.

If Perseus constellation was difficult to locate, try to look for Cassiopeia constellation, and look under a little under it for the radiant center of the meteor shower. The Pleiades and constellation Taurus can serve as a way point to locate east between the clouds.

Here are two links for last year experience with the Perseid meteor shower:

1-      A short report an hour after from the peak of the meteor shower 2013.

2-      A longer journal entry of the peak of the meteor shower 2013

 

Santa Susana Pass, California

August 11th~12th 2014

-Ahmed

Perseids Journal 2013

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There are not many other meteor showers that can deliver a good show more than the Perseid meteor showers in my own humble experience. I’ve seen the shower for many years, and the year 2013 was no different.

It was the 1st time I get the chance to view it at one of my favorite sites, Santa Susana pass. The site is not the darkest by any mean, however, it has its own romance.

I drove there after 2 am from where I live, the San Fernando Valley, California.  I left my car at the empty parking lot while appreciating the solitude of the place. Most people who get up to view the event or spend the whole night awake with groups for it are in other much darker places than the one I went to.

A look up as I was ascending to my distention rocky peak revealed a rain of shooting stars. They were raining almost twice a minute from the moment I stepped out of my car. I wasn’t disappointed at all.

There were no noises from other nearby human observers as far as I know. I’m sure though the wild life was observing me carefully even at this hour. So I was careful not to step on any snake, frog, or a rabbit.

The Moon sets a couple of hours before midnight, a great condition for when the peak happen after 3 am in the morning until sunrise which is around 6 am at this time of the year, and location I was in.

Cassiopeia constellation was on the north east, and I can see clearly the Pleiades and Taurus on the rise. The peak of the event is near, and surprisingly, the night was dark enough to see a hint of the Milky Way galaxy band.

Faint meteor (shooting star) right under the constellation Taurus
Faint meteor (shooting star) right under the constellation Taurus.

This year, I had another advantage, I had the SLR camera with me, and since there was no one around, I didn’t have to deal with an angry observer for ruining their night vision with the light coming from the LCD camera screen.  So, with all those shooting stars falling down, I knew I will get lucky that night, and capture a meteor on camera.

It wasn’t easy. As if they had a brain of their own, the meteor shower was camera shy. They appeared exactly before taking the image, or right after the camera turn its shutter closed after a long exposure. It was frustrating, yet, I haven’t lost hope.

This didn’t make the experience any less enjoyable though. The shower was extremely strong, and I guessed it is even more beautiful in a darker site.

The shooting stars were falling constantly, it felt as if I was on the roof of a space ship and the meteors were hitting us and gliding across the transparent ceiling (the atmosphere) from its radiant center near the constellation Perseus in the east and converge to the west.

I got a faint one on camera, not a strong one, and for the untrained eye, the image of the meteor can be easily mistaken for an airplane light. I turned the camera toward the west, and I start taking some more, and suddenly, a very bright one light up the sky, while the camera shutter was open. After the brightness went away, I heard the shutter closing.

The bright meteor (shooting star) on the west direction.
The bright meteor (shooting star) on the west direction.

I did it!!! I finally I got one! I turned the camera off, no more pictures, I have to enjoy it now with my own eyes only, and when I saw the 1st light of dawn, I grabbed my camera and prepared to leave.

When I get back home, I right away posted the image in this site. The post can be viewed here.

It was a beautiful meteor shower. Later I read the world wide reports, and average number of shooting stars per hour wasn’t as strong as every year to my surprise. I got lucky then, because I saw about 2 meteors a minute, which average to 120 meteors an hour.

Santa Susana Pass, California

August – 12 – 2013

-Ahmed

Aquariid Meteor Showers

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The summer most prominent meteor shower the Perseids is in mid august, however, a less famous meteor shower is at the end of the month of July, and the start of August. The name of this shower is Southern Delta Aquariids, also known as Delta Aquarids.

Delta Aquarids meteor shower radiant (or its source) is at the constellation Aquarius. The constellation is located in the southern direction in the night sky.

The best time to observe the meteor shower is a couple of hours before Sunrise where the location of the radiant is nearly at its peak from the horizon.

This location of the night sky features a list of other meteor showers that span in different times throughout the year.

The source of this particular meteor shower is believed to be from an old single piece comet that broke a part to be Marsden and Kracht comets. These two comets type is Sun grazing comet. This type of comets usually gets really close to the sun at its lowest point (the perihelion) of its orbit.

There are many other Sun grazing comets that have similar orbital characteristic come from the same source and the majority of them listed as Kreutz group. The space craft SOHO discovered a lot of them.

Aquariid Meteor Showers-1
The view from the eastern horizon.

This summer Delta Aquarids meteor shower featured a moonless night, which is a great condition to observe such event. Sadly, from my location on Earth, this year, the weather didn’t cooperate, and it was cloudy for several nights which prevented the observation.

This wasn’t really bad to the residents of California State, since the state is having the most severe drought in record.

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Constellation Cassiopeia between the clouds.
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The clouds reflecting light pollution from Santa Clarita town, CA.
 

Both nights of the 28th, and the 29th had many clouds from my locations of Santa Susana pass, and Castaic Lake.

The night of 1st, and 2nd of August featured a less frequent meteor shower called Alpha Capricornids. The radiant source of this shower is the constellation Capricornus.

Both constellations the Capricornus and the Aquarius can be located using the relatively bright star Fomalhout, which is an Arabic name that translates literary as the mouth of the whale. (Fom = mouth, al = the, hout = whale)

Aquariid Meteor Showers-4
The North West horizon.

The observations of those nights were also covered by clouds, and the marine layer, and no meteors were observed.

The next major meteor shower, the Perseids, will be in a full moon night. This meteor shower is strong, and from personal experience, I won’t miss the event even if observation were made in a light polluted area.

 

Santa Susana Pass/Castaic Lake, California.

July 28th to August 2nd

-Ahmed

Camelopardalids Meteor Shower

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It was predicted by Astronomers around the world of a new meteor shower on May 23rd/24th -2014 that will radiant from the north part of the sky from the constellation Camelopardalids.

The predilections estimated a strong meteor shower of 200 shooting star per hour and possible a meteor shower storm that could reach easily more than a thousand shooting stars per hour.

The meteor would not be as active normally, however, this year, Earth would pass the path of a faint dim comet (magnitude 12 at best) where it left some of its debris. The inclination of the comet is nearly 20 degree according the calculation made by the observatories that were observing the comet with the massive equipment that can reveal faint comets.

The comet was 1st discovered autonomously in February 2004 by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research project (LINEAR), and was given the title 209P/LINEAR. It was confirmed to be a comet a month after by human eye.

There were controversy in the prediction, and few astronomers disagree with it, and thought the dates that the meteor shower might be active would be 2019 instead of 2014.

Camelopardalids Meteor Shower -1

 

I went to observe the meteor shower on darker location than where I live, so I head north near Castaic lake. The dark site normally has no big crowed, and sometime I see and meet few other astronomers or stargazer near me, but nothing like what I saw that night on May 2014. I arrived to the scene a couple of hours before midnight, and yet, I couldn’t find a place to park my car. The place was filled with people who gathered to check the event. They were well prepared with food and picnic chairs. The place usually is very quiet, yet, that night, it felt like musical concert was going to play its music any minute.

I was happy and shocked at the same time to see the number of people that showed up. I am glad to see much enthusiasm. So I parked a little further than the crowds where I still can hear them, but far enough not to disturb each other.

Camelopardalids Meteor Shower -3

 

After setting up the camera and the chairs for my fiancé and I, I tried to locate the Camelopardalids constellation. The constellation is very dim, and its brightest star is nearly of  4th magnitude. Camelopardalids locate between Ursa Major and the constellation Cassiopeia and opposite of Draco if the North Star was used as a center point of reference.  The constellation was low in the horizon and was covered by the dark hills in front of me. This won’t stop the observation, since the constellation serves as an indicator where the meteor will radiate from.

The constellation Camelopardalids (Giraffe) or Cameloparous was well known to the ancient Chinese astronomers, and was start to grab attention of the western world in 1614 where it was given its name by the astronomer Bartschius. In his words, the constellation reminded him of the camel that carried Rebecca to Isaac.

On the nights of the 23rd and 24th, I only saw two small dim shooting star. The highlight event however, was a bright long lasting fire ball that crossed the sky from the North Star to the big dipper leaving a long trail of smoke. It was my fiancé 1st fireball observation.

Camelopardalids Meteor Shower -5

 

Nothing else was observed after. It was fewer meteors than a normal night where I normally see at least one meteor an hour. That wasn’t the case that night where I spend more than 4 hours. Few patchs of clouds might covered some. The marine layer was present from the nearby lake and covered much of the light pollution of the area where I actually can see dimmer stars than I normally do in that particular location.

Camelopardalids Meteor Shower -4

Camelopardalids Meteor Shower -2

 

The observation reports from across the world were posted after in the internet with big disappointments. This is normal to have a disappointment like this for any sky related activity. It is hard to predict with so many direct and indirect variable in hands. My fiancé and I personally were happy with the fireball.

Castiac Lake, CA.

May 23rd/24th -2014

-Ahmed