Wednesday, August 17, 2022

The Booties, Lottery Ticket Meteor Rain, Peaks Now

The Perseid meteor shower is the main event of the summer shooting star-spotting season in the Northern Hemisphere, but its peak is still several weeks away. Luckily there are some warm-up tasks in between now and then to sharpen your skywatching skills.

Sunday nights and Monday mornings provide a perfect opportunity to go out and catch the Bootyid meteor. The June Bootyid meteor shower is considered a minor meteor shower that is weaker than the big-name showers, but conditions are ideal in 2022 and there is always a chance that the Bootyids could blow up.

The peak of this year’s activity for the shower is centered on June 27, which is also when the Moon is new, meaning it will darken in the sky and wash away any visible meteors.

Among astronomers, June bootids are extremely unpredictable. The shower is weak for most of the year, producing few – if any – slow-moving meteors. But from time to time we get a bootleg explosion that results in a flurry of a hundred or more visible meteors per hour.

Such eruptions have been recorded in 1998, 1916, 1921 and 1927, making the shower the equivalent of buying a skywatching lottery ticket. However, the odds are actually much better than in any lottery.

The ideal time to see the bootids is on a Sunday or Monday evening when the sky is completely dark. This is when the radiation that the meteorite would seem to emit is highest in the sky.

The source of these particular meteors can be traced back to comet 7P/Pons-Winnecke, which orbits the Sun once every 6.37 years. Each time it passes through the inner solar system it leaves behind a stream of dust and debris that hits Earth’s atmosphere every June.

If you’re feeling lucky, head out around twilight and give your eyes time to adjust. You’ll want to allow at least an hour of total observation time to give yourself any real chance of seeing anything.

Choose a location away from light pollution and with a wide view of the sky. If you can, orient yourself toward the constellation Bootes, but that’s not really important if you have a wide view of the dark dome’s upper part.

Relax, enjoy some time outside and hope 2022 is a lucky year…

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