Posts Tagged ‘Astronomy’


The Great Solar Eclipse of 2017!

by Maeve Clark on August 9th, 2017

Something very exciting will happen on Monday, August 21.  We will get to witness a solar eclipse.  While we aren’t in the path for the total eclipse, at 1:12:42 thnasa_eclipse_mape moon will obscure 92.3% of the sun.   I witnessed a total solar eclipse in 1980 while I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Zaire, (Democratic Republic of Congo) and it was truly awe inspiring.  The day went black, the temperature dropped, the roosters crowed, the peafowl and other birds took to the trees.

There are hundreds of websites to find out information about this phenomenal astronomical event.   One of my favorite is from eclipseVOX.  It has a eclipse location function where you can type in your zip code and find out how much of the sun will be obscured.  NASA, of course, has excellent resources. NPR has run a couple of stories about the excitement around the eclipse including one on the first photograph taken of a solar eclipse.

The Children’s Department has programs on Sundays about the eclipse. On Monday, August 14 at 7 pm in Meeting Room A, Brent Studer, Adjunct Professor of Astronomy at Kirkwood Community College, will explain the circumstances under which eclipses occur and what you can do to be ready for the upcoming solar eclipse, the first total solar eclipse visible in the continental United States since 1979.   Join us on Monday, August 21 while we step outside the library to safely view the eclipse.  Another eclipse watching event will be hosted by the University of Iowa Sciences Library, the UI Museum of Natural History (Pentacrest Museums) and the UI Astronomy Club, on the Pentacrest lawns.

The library has books and videos galore for all ages on astronomy and the natural wonders of the sky.  Come learn more about the Great Solar Eclipse of 2017. We might just make an umbraphile out of you!

Orionid Meteor Shower reaches it’s peak tonight!

by Beth Fisher on October 21st, 2016

orionid nasaIf you’re not usually outside at night, you probably aren’t aware that something special is going at night this week.  Last night and tonight are the peak nights for viewing the 2016 Orionid Meteor Shower. The Orionid meteor shower began on October 16 and ends around October 27th.  It happens every year in late October when the earth passes through the stream of ice particles and rocks trailing Haley’s Comet.

haleys

Haley’s Comet has a highly elliptical 75.5 year orbit around the Sun. It last passed through the inner part of the solar system in 1986.  Each time it passes the Sun a bit of the ice on the comet melts and rocks and larger chunks of ice break off and join the stream of debris following the comet.

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The 2015 Perseid Meteor shower has begun.

by Beth Fisher on July 30th, 2015

perseid showerThis annual celestial event occurs each year in late Summer, with peak viewing near the 2nd week of August.  In 2015, the peak will be August 9-13 when up to 60 meteors an hour should be visible in the night sky, especially in the hours between midnight and dawn.

The Perseid Meteor shower is what we see when the Earth passes through the orbital path of the Swift-Tuttle comet.   Swift Tuttle orbits the Sun every 133 years, and each time it gets close to the Sun, small pieces break off and join the cloud of debris in the comet’s orbit.  Each year when the Earth passes through the Swift-Tuttle’s debris field,  the debris bounces off the Earth’s atmosphere creating the Perseid Meteor Shower.

Perseid_Vic_radiantsThe Perseids appear to originate from the top of the constellation Perseus. During August, Perseus will be found in the Northeastern part of the sky, left of the Big Dipper.   The point in space where the shower seems to originate is called a “Radiant”.   The map to the left, from Sky & Telescope, the radiant is shown in yellow text.   All the Perseid meteors will appear fly outwards from that point in the sky.

There are many great Astronomy websites with information about the Perseids.

stardateUniversity of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory’s web site “StarDate” has a lot of information for people new to star gazing and astronomy.  Clicking on the “Stargazing” tab on their homepage will give you a list of the things visible in the night sky this week.  This is also where you’ll find a link to their Meteor Shower page.

earth sky The Earth Sky website managed by Deborah Byrd, the host of the long running public radio series EarthSky: A Clear Voice for Science, is a great science web site for non-scientists.  The information about the Perseids   section of their website is easy to read and has lots of information about the origins of the Perseids as well as how and when to find them and general tips on viewing.

NASATo learn more about Comets, Meteors and meteor showers, the NASA website is a great place to start.   Plantes, asteroids, meteors, and comets – there are all sorts of neat things at NASA.

 

 

2015 meteor showers

There are many other regular meteor showers throughout the year if you can’t make the Perseids.   Some of the most common can be found on this table, from the University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory’s  StarDate website mentioned above.

Of course, the Iowa City Public Library has lots of material about Astronomy and Stargazing and the staff at any of the public service desks in the Library can help you find more information.