/Sky Events
Sky Events 2017-11-17T21:34:18+00:00

What’s Going on in the Night Sky

  • Native American gazing at March Full Moon. March Moon Names.

March Moon Names

March 10th, 2017|0 Comments

March Moon Names

March is a month of transition. The seasons are changing from winter to spring in the Northern Hemisphere. South of the equator it’s moving from summer to fall. All around the world, change is prevalent. This change is no better illustrated than in the names the Native American’s had for the March moon.

Days grow longer as we progress into spring. The sun makes its way a little higher into the sky every day. For the tribes of the Northern and Great Plains, this could cause a problem. The bright sun would reflect off the white snow and could sunburn their eyes. This can cause a painful condition known as snow blindness. This inspired the Souix to name the March moon, the “sore eye moon”.

In the Great Lakes region, the warming days and chilly nights caused the snow to constantly start to melt and refreeze.   An icy crust would form on top of the snow. Because of this, the Chippewa and Ojibwe tribes called the March moon the “snow crust moon.”

As the ground starts to thaw in many places, earthworms become active. In the American Northeast, the Alqonquins used the name “worm moon.” And worms make great fish bait, so it was also known as the “catching fish moon.”

The changes in the trees were also noted by many of the Native Americans. The Shawnee called the March moon the “sap moon” because the sap in the maple trees would start to run. In the American Southwest the signs of spring are a little further along. Leaves are starting to return to the tree branches. The Pueblo Indians of this region used the name “moon when the leaves break forth.”

Crow Perched on Rock Many northern Native American tribes view the cawing of crows as a sign that spring was coming.

Birds are also well represented in Native American moon names for March. Many northern tribes saw the cawing of crows as a signal that winter was over, so we have “crow moon”. Other bird related moon names are “eagle moon” (Cree), “moon of the crane” (Potawatomi) and “noisy goose moon” (Haida).

In the Southern Hemisphere, the seasonal transition is opposite. The hot days of summer are turning to the cooler temperatures of fall. There the moon names for March are “harvest moon” and “corn moon.”

This sample of Native American moon names gives us a small taste of the richness of their cultures.   Their keen observation of the weather, plants and animals and tying them to cycles of the Earth and Moon demonstrates their deep connection with the natural world.

  • Fireballs Enter the Earth's Atmosphere

Here Come the Fireballs!

March 4th, 2017|0 Comments

Here Come the Fireballs

The few weeks surrounding the March Equinox are a great time to gaze into the night sky and search for incoming fireballs.

“The Earth getting bombarded by fireballs? Sounds disastrous. Is this the evil doing of some cosmic wizard or stellar sorcerer? “

No need to worry. As far as we know, no one has ever been killed by a fireball from space.

So what is a fireball?Fireball Meteor streaks across the night sky.

A fireball is just a particularly bright meteor. It has an apparent magnitude of at least -4, so it is about as bright, or brighter than the planet Venus. The brighter the fireball, the more rare they are.

Fireballs that are especially bright and explode in the atmosphere are commonly known as bolides. A bolide that detonates into a burst of visible fragments is a visual treat that you won’t soon forget.

More than a thousand fireballs enter our atmosphere every day.  Sounds like there’s a great chance to see one.

Unfortunately the vast majority occurs over the oceans or uninhabited areas, during daylight hours, behind clouds or behind our backs (sneaky little buggers!)

The good news? During the spring the nightly fireball rate climbs by up to 30%, giving you a better chance to observe the fireworks!

On average, an experienced observer might see one fireball with the apparent magnitude of about -4 for every 20 hours of observing.

So why are fireballs more common around the March Equinox than at other times? No one is exactly sure. But one theory, suggested by NASA, is that more debris capable of creating a fireball litters this part of the Earth’s orbit.

Another possibility is that it may have to do with the antapex radiant. The antapex radiant is the point that our solar system is moving away from as we orbit the sun. In his book Meteors and How to Observe Them, Robert Lunsford points out “Studies have shown that during the period from mid-February through mid-April, when the antapex radiant lies highest in the sky, fireball rates peak as seen from the northern hemisphere.”

No matter what the reason for the fireball increase is, now is a good time to try to spot one.

Good time to view the Zodiacal Light

October 10th, 2015|0 Comments

Good Time to View the Zodiacal Light

Fall is officially here and with that a good time to see the zodiacal light, and with the Moon absence from the morning sky for the next couple weeks it makes a particularly good time to get a glimpse.

zodiacal light viewed near observatory

What is zodiacal light and what causes it? It is a pyramid-shaped glow that appears in the eastern sky before dawn or western sky just after sunset. This phenomenon is caused by sunlight reflecting off the dust particles that move in the same plane as the Earth and other planets as they orbit the Sun. The zodiacal light appears brighter the closer you get to the equator.

At this time of year you can see the zodiacal light an hour or two before dawn in the eastern sky. Observers in the Southern Hemisphere can see it after sunset. Dark skies will be needed to see it, so try to get far away from the city lights.

 

Astronomical Events 2017

Date Event Notes
January Night Sky Events
January 3-4 Quadrantids Meteor Shower At its peak watchers can view up to 40 meteors per hour.
January 12 Full Moon Known as Full Wolf Moon, Old Moon and Moon After Yule.  Full Moon begins at 11:34 UTC.
January 12 Venus at Greatest Eastern Elongation Look for the bright planet in the western sky after sunset.
January 19 Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation Look low in the eastern sky before sunrise.
January 24 New Moon The New Moon phase begins at 00:07 UTC.
February Night Sky Events
February 11 Full Moon Known as the Full Snow Moon and Full Hunger Moon.  Full Moon begins at 00:33 UTC.
February 11 Penumbral Lunar Eclipse This lunar eclipse will be visible throughout eastern South America, eastern Canada, Europe, Africa and western Asia. Here is a Map of the Lunar Eclipse.
February 26 New Moon The New Moon phase begins at 14:59 UTC.
February 26 Annular Solar Eclipse This solar eclipse will be visible from southern Chile and Argentina, across the southern Atlantic Ocean and into Angola and Congo in Africa. Here is a Map of the Solar Eclipse.
March Night Sky Events
March 12 Full Moon Known as Full Worm Moon, Full Crow Moon, Full Crust Moon, Sap Moon and Lenten Moon.  Full Moon begins at 14:54 UTC
March 20 March Equinox The equinox occurs at 10:29 UTC, marking the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of autumn in the Southern Hemisphere.
March 28 New Moon The New Moon phase begins at 2:58 UTC
April Night Sky Events
April 1 Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation Mercury will be visible low in the western sky after sunset.
April 7 Jupiter at Opposition Jupiter reaches its closest approach to Earth, making it appear its brightest.
April 11 Full Moon Known as Full Pink Moon, Sprout Grass Moon, the Growing Moon, Full Fish Moon and the Egg Moon.  Full Moon begins at 6:08 UTC.
April 22-23 Lyrids Meteor Shower At its peak watchers can view up to 20 meteors per hour.
April 26 New Moon The New Moon phase begins at 12:17 UTC.
April 29 International Astronomy Day - Spring  Find out more about International Astronomy Day.
May Night Sky Events
May 6-7 Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower At its peak watchers can view up to 30 meteors per hour.
May 10 Full Moon Known as Full Flower Moon, Full Corn Planting Moon and the Milk Moon.  Full Moon begins at 21:42 UTC.
May 17 Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation Look low in the eastern sky before.
May 25 New Moon The New Moon phase begins at 19:45 UTC.
June Night Sky Events
June 3 Venus at Greatest Western Elongation Look in the eastern sky before sunrise.
June 9 Full Moon Known as Full Strawberry Moon, Full Honey Moon and Full Rose Moon.  Full Moon begins at 13:10 UTC.
June 15 Saturn at Opposition Saturn reaches its closest approach to Earth, making it appear its brightest. Great time to photograph Saturn and its moons.
June 21 June Solstice The solstice occurs at 04:24 UTC, marking the first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of winter in the Southern Hemisphere.
June 24 New Moon The New Moon phase begins at 2:31 UTC.
July Night Sky Events
July 9 Full Moon Known as Full Buck Moon, Full Thunder Moon and Full Hay Moon.  Full Moon begins at 04:07 UTC.
July 23 New Moon The New Moon phase begins at 09:46 UTC.
July 28-29 Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower At its peak watchers can view up to 20 meteors per hour.
July 30 Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation Look low in the western sky after sunset.
August Night Sky Events
August 7 Full Moon Known as the Full Sturgeon Moon, Green Corn Moon and Grain Moon.  Full Moon begins at 18:11 UTC.
August 7 Partial Lunar Eclipse This partial lunar eclipse will be visible throughout most of eastern Africa, central Asia and Australia.  Here is a Map of the Lunar Eclipse.
August 12-13 Perseids Meteor Shower At its peak watchers can view up to 60 meteors per hour.  One of the best meteor showers of the year.
August 21 New Moon The New Moon phase begins at 18:30 UTC.
August 21 Total Solar Eclipse This total solar eclipse will be visible across the center of the United States.  Here is a Map of the Solar Eclipse.
September Night Sky Events
September 5 Neptune at Opposition Neptune reaches its closest approach to Earth, making it appear its brightest.
September 6 Full Moon Known as Full Corn Moon and Full Harvest Moon.  Full Moon begins at 07:03 UTC.
September 12 Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation Look low in the eastern sky before sunrise.
September 20 New Moon The New Moon phase begins at 5:30 UTC.
September 22 September Equinox The equinox occurs 20:02 UTC, marking the first day of Autumn in Northern Hemisphere and the first Day of Spring in Southern Hemisphere.
October Night Sky Events
October 5 Full Moon Known as Full Hunters Moon, Travel Moon and Blood Moon.  Full Moon begins at 18:40 UTC.
October 7 Draconids Meteor Shower At its peak watchers can view up to 10 meteors per hour.
October 19 New Moon The New Moon phase begins at 19:12 UTC.
October 19 Uranus at Opposition Uranus reaches its closest approach to Earth, making it appear its brightest.
October 21-22 Orionids Meteor Shower At its peak watchers can view 5-10 meteors per hour.
November Night Sky Events
November 4 Full Moon Known as Full Beaver Moon and Frosty Moon.  Full Moon begins at 05:23 UTC.
November 4-5 Taurids Meteor Shower This meteor shower peaks after midnight with an average of 40 meteors per hour.
November 13 Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter Venus and Jupiter appear only .3 degrees apart in the eastern sky before sunrise.
November 17, 18 Leonids Meteor Shower This meteor shower peaks after midnight with an average of 40 meteors per hour.
November 18 New Moon The New Moon phase begins at 11:42 UTC.
November 24 Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation Mercury will be visible low in the western sky after sunset.
December Night Sky Events
December 3 Full Moon/Supermoon Known as Full Cold Moon, Full Long Nights Moon and Moon Before Yule.  This is the the only supermoon of the year.  Full Moon begins at 15:47 UTC.
December 13, 14 Geminids Meteor Shower One of the best meteor showers.  At its peak watchers can view up to two meteors per minute.
December 18 New Moon The New Moon phase begins at 6:30 UTC.
December 21 December Solstice The solstice occurs at 16:28 UTC, marking the  first day of Winter in Northern Hemisphere and the first Day of Summer in Southern Hemisphere.
December 21, 22 Ursids Meteor Shower This meteor shower peaks at 5-10 meteors per hour.