Sky Spy: Bright moon will dim Leonids this weekend

2013-11-14T00:00:00Z 2014-07-03T11:43:52Z Sky Spy: Bright moon will dim Leonids this weekendBy Tim Hunter SPECIAL TO THE ARIZONA DAILY STAR Arizona Daily Star

A bright moon will occupy most of the night sky for the next week or so. While the moon is beautiful and fun to observe, it can be an annoyance for astronomers who want a dark sky.

I write about meteors in August for the Perseids, in November for the Leonids, and in December for the Geminids. These are  predictably good meteor showers every year, weather and moon permitting.

The Leonids are bits of debris from Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, which was discovered independently by Ernst Tempel (1821-1889) and Horace Parnell Tuttle (1839-1923) on Jan. 6, 1866. This comet is a periodic comet — hence the “P” in its name — and it returns to the inner solar system every 33 years. It is not a particularly large or bright comet, but its debris gives us a usually good meteor shower every year and a spectacular meteor shower from time to time.

Unfortunately, the moon this year will brighten the sky enough to significantly hinder viewing of the Leonid meteor shower. The shower is predicted to be best after midnight on Sunday morning when the moon is full. Only the brightest meteors will be visible, but meteor viewing is worth a try early on Sunday morning before astronomical twilight starts at 5:30 a.m. (sunrise is at 6:55 am).

Leo will be high above the eastern horizon, and the moon will be low in the west. Get out a lawn chair, face it toward the east, bundle up well and lean back and hope for bright meteors that sometimes occur with the Leonids.

Contact Tim Hunter at skyspy@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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