Eta Aquariid Meteor Shower Tuesday May 6 2014 around 4am

The Eta Aquariid Meteor Shower should peak Tuesday morning, the 6th of May at 07:00 Universal Time (or midnight Pacific Daylight Savings Time, or 1am Mountain Saving Time), but the best viewing times (due to the Moon and a low Eastern radiant) will a few hours before dawn Tuesday morning, around 4am to 5am.

At the peak, up to 55 meteors could be seen each hour. They’re pretty fast, at 66km/second, often bright with very long paths, and leave persistent glowing trails.

The source of the meteors is debris from Halley’s Comet. The Comet’s orbital path contains dust particles and ice (thinned out in spots by Jupiter). The Earth crosses Halley’s orbital path twice each year. In May we see it as the Eta Aquariid meteor shower and in October the Orionids.

The Eta Aquariids will be best seen early Tuesday morning. The Moon will have set by then, so it will be seen under a dark sky. The radiant is low in the Eastern sky, in Aquarius, which rises around 4am. So over half of the meteors will be unseen below the horizon.

If you miss the peak, they will continue to fall all week, slowly tapering off, with above 30 meteors/hr lasting from May 3 to Saturday May 10 2014.

For more information, see the International Meteor Organization Site at

ISON – In Memoriam

In Memoriam

“Born in a dusty and turbulent environment, comet ISON spent its early years being jostled and struck by siblings both large and small. Surviving a particularly violent first few million years, ISON retreated to the Oort Cloud, where it maintained a largely reclusive existence for nearly four billion years. But around 3-million B.C., a chance encounter with a passing star coerced ISON into undertaking a pioneering career as a Sungrazer. On September 21, 2012, ISON made itself known to us, and allowed us to catalog the most extraordinary part of its spectacular vocational calling”.  Karl Battams, CIOC (NASA’s Comet ISON Observing Campaign.

ISON ALIVE – the excitement continues

Saturday Nov 30, 2013

19:42 UTC : Bye Bye ISON? A “sublimated” Comet is now reduced to a cone of molecules (mostly H and O) being blasted as a cone away from the sun by the solar winds. I wonder if the Northern Lights will be affected over the next day or two (estimated time for molecules to arrive at earth)? 

00:19 UTC : ISON particles (after fragmentation) significant enough to track. Light reflects mostly from Oxygen. Usually tail points away from SUN towards future trajectory. Not in ISON’s case. Although not having a 3D image, it is hard to get a sense of the direction of the ISON sublimation blast cone. You can see here how the blast cone is unsymmetrical. To the left the particles are blasted out and away from the sun,but to the right the blast cone seems to be “pulled back towards the sun” by the turbulance.

Friday Nov 29, 2013 : Yesterday lunchtime at Cattle Point Urban Star Park, we bit our nails with excitement waiting for ISON to reappear from behind the sun (or SOHO’s sun cover). Google+/Youtube had carried the event live around the globe. It was an exciting build up.  I was even pleased with Phil Tait’s involvement as the BadAstronomer.

As the critical moment came, and as we waited and waited, ISON did not reappear. One of the panel stated he was sure ISON had disintegrated (or sublimed), and a look of disappointment came across all the faces of the show participants as each came to the conclusion he was likely right. One by one with their tails beneath their legs, all the Google+ participants left the show. By 1 pm the show was over and ISON was DEAD.

NASA, keen to get home to their turkey dinners, sadly and quickly announced that ISON had “sublimated” with all its molecules absorbed by the sun’s heat and gravity. I was thinking that maybe the solar wind would in fact blast the particles below a certain size out in a cone which might or might not reach the earth in 2 days time – and that might still happen on Saturday.

Well with Google/NASA on their way to dinner, the only people left was ESA (European Space Agency). About 13:30 a twitter from ESA announced  “Stay tuned, but it does seem that a remnant of ISON’s tail follows the comet’s trajectory. Images refresh here:

I couldn’t contain my excitement.

I twitter back to ESA :  the tail should point away from the SUN after the perihelion – so says all the blogs? True?

Their response was even more devasting : Our scientists have confirmed, comet is gone , thanks for sharing this comet-watching night with us

 I quickly updated my Facebook to delete my new ISON is ALIVE post. 

The evening and night passed slowly as I mulled over ISON’s demise. I was heartened by all the great science results people like Dr. Tony Remijan (ALMA) must have got and thought about Dr. Mike Mumma’s planned experiments which I expect will have produced many scientific advances ( see ) BUT will ALMA finally prove that the seeds of life itself are carried by the (already proven) water of the core of ISON. Hopefully. 

Well suddenly at  09:45 Friday Nov 29, we get the great news in an @ScienceChannel twitter that ISON (at least the tails and fragmented core) may have survived its trip around the sun : 1h . Comet ISON may have survived its trip around the sun! Here’s the latest:

What a roller coaster you are ISON. And “what next?” we are all asking  🙂

Predictions (in fun) :

  • Great Northern Lights tomorrow + some satellite and radio issues starting tomorrow (as particles carried by solar wind reach earth)
  • Great views of comet ISON starting in 2-3 days as the remnants shoot off to the Oort Cloud and possibly to another star. Early morning (6:30 am) in ESE.
  • Exciting meteor showers mid-January (as earth passes close to the tail-end of the still surviving tail 

Apparently Oxygen is the key element which gives bright light from a comet. So the trailing tail could be oxygen or even actually water vapour. 

Question : Strange. The 2 tails are meant to point away from the sun after the perihelion. What are we seeing here? Could it be sunlight reflecting off the debris trail? Clearly a debris train containing much oxygen. So is it possible if ISON had not had this sublimation event that the tails would point in the opposite direction away from the Sun? But bright light means oxygen. So has disintegration caused trailing particles containing oxygen. My bet is this is mostly water (ie big particles), as if it was oxygen molecules the solar wind would have blasted the molecules AHEAD of ISON by now. Interesting. I await NASA/CIOC explanation. 

I believe this image might show that the trailing 2 tails of ION’s and Dust, are replaced by a “cone” of particles being blasted out and away from the point of disintegration. Could this be what we are seeing? i.e. what leaves the “black circle”  is quite different from what entered. 

Paul Wiegert University of Western Ontario predicts possible Jan 12, 2014 meteors?

Veteran meteor researcher Paul Wiegert of the University of Western Ontario has been using a computer to model the trajectory of dust ejected by Comet ISON, and his findings suggest that an unusual meteor shower could be in the offing.

“For several days around January 12, 2014, Earth will pass through a stream of fine-grained debris from Comet ISON,” says Wiegert. “The resulting shower could have some interesting properties.

According to Wiegert’s computer models, the debris stream is populated with extremely tiny grains of dust, no more than a few microns wide, pushed toward Earth by the gentle radiation pressure of the sun. They will be hitting at a speed of 56 km/s or 125,000 mph. Because the particles are so small, Earth’s upper atmosphere will rapidly slow them to a stop.


“Instead of burning up in a flash of light, they will drift gently down to the Earth below,” he says. 

Best site to keep current :  Click here


Waiting for Comet ISON

So now we have three hypotheses for the COMET ISON as it approaches and passes the perihelion over the next 28 days (Nov 28th is the date) : 

  • NASA Frozen Ice : predicts extreme temperature and pressure might (50-50) cause disintegration of the shell and evaporation of the core. Good news : the 2 tails do not intersect earth’s orbit even after any explosion.
  • Hoyle Wickramasinghe’s Panspermia Model : predicts “seeds of life” carried in comet. Might be possible to test in stratosphere when earth is closest to ISON trajectory in late January. BUT if COMA does “explode” it is likely any matter is vaporized.
  • James McCanney’s Plasma Discharge Comet Theory : predicts serious effects on the sun, the earth’s magnetic field and the sun’s own solar wind. Potential effects on earth/satellite communication is unknown but worrisome.

Question from BCMETEORS.NET to STScI OPOPlease could you comment on the best time amateur meteor watchers should look for meteors from ISON’s dust tail.

Answer :  Hello Bill: One study indicates that there will be very little chance of meteor activity related to Comet ISON:

Nevertheless, it looks to me like possibly the best chance to look for any meteor activity would be in mid-January, when the Earth passes “near” where the comet had travelled earlier in its orbit (NB the earth never passes directly through the path of the comet).  These simulations nicely show the path of the comet and the planets through the Solar System.  Zolt Levay STScI OPO


Question : Hi Zolt : last quick question : The missing possibility (at least from the abstract) is what would be the affects of  disintegration (estimated at 50%) . Depending on how this might occur? I assume it would be caused by  gravitational stress (+ heat) on the shell. If the shell shatters the resulting “explosion” surely would be similar to the Chelyabinsk explosion (even though this was caused by air friction and heat). When this occurs would not energy (and particles – water etc)  dissipate initially spherically and then conically? Or away from the sun? or what?

Answer : Hi Bill, I’m not an expert in this area, so I can’t comment in detail on the mechanics of exploding comets or meteors.  However, yes I suppose that if the comet disintegrates, I suppose the material would drift apart and be spread over a larger volume, whether its explosive or more gradual.  I wouldn’t be able to estimate how much larger.  

If the comet does disintegrate as it approaches the Sun, those smaller pieces would heat more quickly and be much more likely to completely dissipate.  I guess that material has to go somewhere, but much of it will totally vaporize — becoming gas instead of pebbles — and be spread over an extremely large volume at very low density, and with little chance of intersecting with anything else in the Solar System.  Seems a little anticlimactic I admit.  Nevertheless, it certainly doesn’t hurt to look for extra meteors. 


(Sen) – One of the most eagerly awaited comets in history is livening up as it heads for its rendezvous with the Sun later this year.

Comet ISON has already been monitored by the Hubble Space Telescope and the Swift satellite as it races in between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars. Now another orbiting observatory, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, has taken its own close-ups.

Images newly released show the comet, officially labelled C/2012 S1, as it appeared with Spitzer’s infrared array camera on 13 June when it lay about 500 million km from the Sun. It was clearly already fizzing with activity.

The picture on the left, taken at a wavelength of 3.6 microns, shows a tail of fine rocky dust being ejected from the comet’s head and being blown away by the pressure of the solar wind.

UK astronomy populariser Stuart Atkinson has setup a blog, Waiting for ISON, with observing advice and star maps to help people view the comet. He told Sen: “These are fascinating observations from Spitzer. We’re all crossing our fingers that this is a good sign and that ISON will become very active as it approaches and rounds the Sun.

“Hopefully it means ISON will captivate us all in early December, but of course everyone should just try and stay calm and not get too carried away. ISON might dazzle and delight us, or disappoint and depress us, it’s too early to say yet, no matter what anyone tells you.

“It’s often said that comets are like cats but I think they’re more like politicians: sometimes they promise us the world at first, to get our attention, and then let us down! But let’s hope for the best!”

The comet has an orbit that is close to a parabola, which suggests it may be on its first journey into the inner Solar System from the Oort cloud of icy bodies that is thought to surround it. It has the consistency of a dirty snowball, being made up of dust and gases such as water, ammonia, methane and carbon dioxide left over from the formation of the planets 4.5 billion years ago.

Cranbrook College Meteor – Aug 2013

Hot News from Rick Nowell:  Cranbrook College of the Rockies meteor camera picked up a very long and slow meteor graze or something re-entering the atmosphere.   Slow, it takes 30 seconds to cross the sky.  That happened on Tuesday 6 Aug 2013 at 4:52 am Mountain Daylight Time (or 10:52 Universal Time).




This is a composite photo with the 30 seconds of video frames superimposed.  This has been enhanced in IRIS by subtracting a camera dark frame to remove background hot pixels, offsetting 10 from the bottom amplitudes and applying an adaptive filter to remove some hiss, then taking a logarithmic stretch to bring up background stars, like Vega, Capella and Jupiter.  (Altair seems too low when I compare to a starmap though).  Note two reference points, a beacon to the North at Alt/Az (1.0, 3.1º), and another beacon to the NW at (3.0º, 309º).

The object kind of sputters and leaves a short smoke trail behind it.   Fast at first, then slowing down.  But no chunks falling off.  It comes out of a thin cloud haze on the West, and vanishes in a band of clouds to the Northeast, into the morning twilight glow.  But the sky appears clear in between. 

Thin clouds could make it appear to sputter, but the sky appears clear overhead.  Here in the attached SlowGraze_6Aug2013_600s.PNG I composited 600 seconds of video trying to enhance cloud structure.  The object passes between two bright stars, Deneb and Vega.  Capella is visible over the vent,  but the rest of the dots are hotpixels.  (See attached Mask_Boundary Hotpixels.JPG).  You can see Jupiter rising in East, close beside the vent.



(We put the camera beside the vent to shade it from light from some windows to the East.) Jeff Brower’s meteor camera in Kelowna also picked it up.

Esko Lyytinen in Finland tells Jeff that it has been uploaded to a number of websites, even one in Japan, and Jeff says it has received attention in the press.

For the video see:

College of the Rockies, Cranbrook, BC, Canada  49°31’03″N, 115°44’37″W, 940m


Hi all, Esko Lyytinen, of Finland, was once again kind enough to work on our images overnight. He has a preliminary result and he does emphasize he will be refining his modelling once he receives Rick’s cvs file for the event. That will hopefully determine if the meteor skipped back into skip or entered earth’s lower atmosphere. If we hear from the Albertan cameras, then we may have a much clearer picture of the final path.  I did send Rick’s lat/lon/el to Esko so that will refine the original data. So with those caveats here is what Esko came up with. (I quote with his permission):


Analysis from Finland

Jeff,  I calibrated your camera by means of then stars. And I measured 15 mutually timed positions (of the fireball) in the one second images, with a time span of 16 s ( two missing in between, because not well measurable).

As to the Cranbrook camera coordinates, I may not have these as accurate. I have these: 0.427 km,    115.7 W ,  49.6 N .
And as judged from the decimals count, these are only approximate.

I have these early results of the fireball. The radiant azimuth is 230.9  and elevation 4.2 . The reference horizon and meridian for these is 118.0 W, 49.5 N  (not so fare from the beginning, rought 70 km after this) .
The entry velocity is 17.1 km/s.

It came in your camera at the height of 85.6 km and to Rick’s camera at 82.0 km. The last measured in your camera is at 64.4 km and Rick’s 58.7 km.

Because going away, the velocity near the end will not be accurately derived near the end. This data would even give some negative deceleration, which of course can not be true (but may actually be close to zero, mening quite a big meteoroid). If getting from Rick’s camera timed data also, might tell this better.

The most low “point” of the track would be maybe 10 seconds after last seen in Rick’s camera. It depends on the deceleration if the escaped back to space or not. Because no deceleration is visible in your data, I think it maybe probable that it did escape back to space. It may have been quite big (?)

As told, the precise coordinates of Rick’s camera are desirable.  And if this would allow for internally timed could probably tell better on the velocity near the end. I see the video in the net, but if timed data does not exists in a more concise form, then the original video would be desirable.


Great work Esko and thanks from everyone at,  from Jeff Brower, BC Canada

144 Billion Earth-like Exoplanets in our Galaxy

June 2013 : Kepler Mission updated its estimates. Here are these latest numbers right from the horses-mouth (Professor Ravi Kopparapu). As at 20 June 2013, Dr. Kopparapu, expert with the Kepler Mission estimates :

  • Stars in the Galaxy : 400 billion
  • The number of habitable earth-like exoplanets in our Milky Way Galaxy : 144 billion (> 1011).
  • The OORT Cloud around our Sun (it is also hypothesized by some astronomers that most suns have OORT clouds) is estimated :
      • to contain : several trillion individual asteroids (objects) larger than 1 km (0.62 mi).
      • to reach 1 ly towards the next closest star just 4 ly away – Proxima Centauri.

Comets have a wide range of orbital periods, ranging from a few years to hundreds of thousands of years. Short-period comets originate in the Kuiper belt (eg Halley’s Comet – orbit 75 years). Longer-period comets are thought to originate in the Oort cloud (Orbit – thousands of years). The latest theory is that they are mostly water, with a frozen, dust-encrusted shell. This would explain why objects like the Chelyabinsk, in February 2013, often leave few meteorites (rock fragments).

This year (In 2013), ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA))  – which CANADA is part of – managed from Herzberg Institute in Victoria, BC) has confirmed that researchers have discovered an important pair of prebiotic molecules in the icy particles in interstellar space (ISM). ISM is the empty part of the spiral arms.

The chemicals, found in a giant cloud of gas about 25,000 light-years (half way to centre of the galaxy) from Earth in ISM, may be a precursor to a key component of DNA and the other may have a role in the formation of an important amino acid.

Researchers found a molecule called cyanomethanimine, which produces adenine, one of the four nucleobases that form the “rungs” in the ladder-like structure of DNA. The other molecule, called ethanamine, is thought to play a role in forming alanine, one of the twenty amino acids in the genetic code.

Previously, scientists thought such processes took place in the very tenuous gas between the stars. The new discoveries, however, suggest that the chemical formation sequences for these molecules occurred not in gas, but on the surfaces of ice grains in interstellar space.

In February 2013, NASA ALMA spokesman announced : “Finding these molecules in an interstellar gas cloud means that important building blocks for DNA and amino acids can ‘seed’ newly-formed planets with the chemical precursors for life.” 

See Video Interview and Animations with Dr. Anthony Remijan of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

 “…..Microbiology may be said to have had its beginnings in the nineteen-forties. A new world of the most astonishing complexity began then to be revealed. In retrospect I find it remarkable that microbiologists did not at once recognise that the world into which they had penetrated had of necessity to be of cosmic order. I suspect that the cosmic quality of microbiology will seem as obvious to future generations as the Sun being the centre of the solar system seems obvious to the present generation…..”

Sir Fred Hoyle