VANDALIA – Catch some shooting stars and a super Moon this month as October is host to several meteor showers and a close lunar approach.
The action could start as early as October 5th when the first of this month’s five meteor showers is predicted to begin. The first two are centered in the northern sky, but you shouldn’t worry about trying to finding the constellations. The best meteor viewing usually comes from simply looking straight up and keeping a large area in sight.
To get the best view you don’t need a telescope, just a wide open sky and the darkest spot you can find. A reclining lawn chair, or a blanket will keep you from getting a sore neck, and it’s a good idea to dress warm. Then, if the clouds cooperate you’re all set to watch the shooting stars.
Those streaks of light aren’t stars though, what you’re actually seeing are tiny bits of comet dust. Several comets pass Earth’s orbit as they come in towards the sun. When they approach, some of the ice melts and the comet leaves behind a giant trail of pebbles that collides with our atmosphere at tremendous speed. The light of the meteor that you see is actually an interaction with the air molecules only about 50 miles above your head.
Halley’s Comet is long gone now, last passed this way in 1986 its visits leave what we call the Orionid meteor shower which peaks on October 21st and should be your best bet.
The arch enemy of meteor viewing, moonlight, will peak on Sunday the 16th with the rising of the Hunter’s Moon. To make matters worse this full moon might seem a smidge larger in our sky thanks to it being at the closest point in its orbit.
To find out more about these events, or anything else that’s, “Up” feel free to call Scott Oldfield, at the Vandalia Planetarium, Smith Middle School at 241-6211, or, visit in person. The planetarium presents a free star show, open to the public the second Saturday of each month, showtime is 7:00pm. This month’s show is about the moon and will include telescope viewing weather permitting.
Scott Oldfield is a science teacher in the Vandalia-Butler School District and the Director of the Smith Middle School Planetarium. Reach him at 241-6211.