“Upstate NY Stargazing In October” Article Posted To newyorkupstate.com And syracuse.com

The fourth article in the series – “Upstate NY stargazing in October: Prominent constellations of summer and winter visible on Autumn nights” – is available for your reading and critical review at newyorkupstate.com and syracuse.com. The editors are still having a bit of fun with the word arrangement in the headline (I suspect the newest version was selected to get rid of the double “in” – but can’t speak to the seasonal capitalization preferences – I trust in my editors), but everything else is going fairly smoothly.


Mars to find other. Click for a larger view.

I lament the lack of any mention of the Orionid Meteor Shower, which won’t be impressive anyway thanks to the Moon, but should still have been included for monthly completeness. What would have been included in the article is provided below:

Meteor Showers: Orionids, Oct. 2 – Nov. 7, Peaking Oct. 20

Meteor showers are the result of the Earth passing through the debris field of a comet or asteroid. As these objects approach the warming sun in their long orbits, they leave tiny bits behind – imagine pebbles popping out the back of a large gravel truck on an increasingly bumpy road. In the case of meteor showers, the brilliant streaks you see are due to particles no larger than grains of sand. The Earth plows through the swarm of these tiny particles at up-to 12 miles-per-second. High in the upper atmosphere, these particles burn up due to friction and ionize the air around them, producing the long light trails we see. We can predict the peak observing nights for a meteor shower because we know when and where in Earth’s orbit we’ll pass through the same part of the Solar System – this yearly periodicity in meteor activity is what let us identity and name meteor showers well before we ever had evidence of what caused them.

The name of each meteor shower is based on the constellation from which the shooting stars appear to radiate – a position in the sky we call the radiant. In the case of the Orionids, the meteor shower radiant appears to be to the north/above of the belt and left shoulder of Orion, which rises from the east after 11 p.m. this month. The meteor shower itself is provided to us by Halley’s Comet, and is the best of the meteor showers associated with Halley’s debris field.

How to observe: Sadly, the Moon will be prominent in the late-night/early-morning sky during the days around the Orionid peak, making for a far less impressive display. The Orionids are not known for their impressive counts either, with 10 to 20 meteors per hour expected.

Orion marks the position of the meteor shower radiant, meaning the meteors themselves will seem to shoot roughly from the east to the west. To optimize your experience, lie flat on the ground with your feet pointed east and your head elevated – meteors will then appear to fly right over and around you. Counts and brightness tend to increase the later you stay out, with peak observing times usually between midnight and 4 a.m. The swarm of tiny particles is distributed broadly in orbit, meaning some people may shooting stars associated with the Orionids anytime this month.

Also, kudos to friend and fellow space trucker Prof. John McMahon for one orientational catch – the following:

Starting around mid-October, Jupiter will peak above the Western horizon just after 6:30 a.m.

should read:

Starting around mid-October, Jupiter will peak above the Eastern horizon just after 6:30 a.m.

The ability to iterate with the newspaper after providing the full content is perfectly encapsulated in a Charlie Rouse comment about Thelonious Monk in “Straight, No Chaser” – which I totally understand.

2016oct5_charlierouse“You know that you got to play correctly the first or second take or that’s it. He would take it anyhow. You mess up, well that’s it. You know, that’s your problem. You have to hear that all the rest of your life.”

For interested parties, this article also marks the second (and final) official mention (to the best of my knowledge) of our upcoming MOST/TACNY/CNYO hosting of International Observe The Moon Night on Saturday, October 8th. At present, the weather is looking less-than promising for even lunar observing, but plans are underway to handle the crowd either way.

If it rains Saturday night, then I recommend the following: