Gazed and Confused? What to see in the Connecticut Sky

A meteor streaks past the faint band of the Milky Way galaxy above the Wyoming countryside early Tuesday morning north of Cheyenne. The past  couple nights were the peak of the Perseids Meteor Shower, which run from mid-July through mid-August. The shower, which gets its name from the constellation, Persus, are the remants from the comet Swift-Tuttle, which last past through in 1992 and won't pass by again until the year 2125. Blaine McCartney/staff
A meteor streaks past the faint band of the Milky Way galaxy above the Wyoming countryside early Tuesday morning north of Cheyenne. The past couple nights were the peak of the Perseids Meteor Shower, which run from mid-July through mid-August. The shower, which gets its name from the constellation, Persus, are the remants from the comet Swift-Tuttle, which last past through in 1992 and won't pass by again until the year 2125. Blaine McCartney/staff


(WTNH) — Gazing upon the sky any winter night can surely be a delight, but there are some extraordinary sights that can be enjoyed this winter if you know where and when to look.  In general, wintertime is the best time to observe the heavens due to cold, dry, and clear air dominating the forecast.  Less daylight in the winter is seen by many as a negative, but it does which give the star gazing observer more time to check out the stars at their convenience.  If you are curious about looking up to the sky this winter, here a list of some notable upcoming astronomical events that can be seen from Connecticut:

  • November 14Full Moon, Supermoon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 13:52 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Beaver Moon because this was the time of year to set the beaver traps before the swamps and rivers froze. The Moon will be at its closest approach to the Earth and may look slightly larger and brighter than usual.
  • November 16, 17Leonids Meteor Shower. The Leonids is an average shower, producing up to 15 meteors per hour at its peak. This shower is unique in that it has a cyclonic peak about every 33 years where hundreds of meteors per hour can be seen. The shower runs annually from November 6-30. It peaks this year on the night of the 16th and morning of the 17th. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Leo, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • December 11Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky. Look for the planet low in the western sky just after sunset.
  • December 13, 14Geminids Meteor Shower. The Geminids is the king of the meteor showers. It is considered by many to be the best shower in the heavens, producing up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by debris left behind by an asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon, which was discovered in 1982. The shower runs annually from December 7-17. It peaks this year on the night of the 13th and morning of the 14th. The nearly full moon will block out many of the fainter meteors this year, but the Geminids are so bright and numerous that it could still be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Gemini, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • December 14Full Moon, Supermoon. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Cold Moon because this is the time of year when the cold winter air settles in and the nights become long and dark. This moon has also been known as the Full Long Nights Moon and the Moon Before Yule. The Moon will be at its closest approach to the Earth and may look slightly larger and brighter than usual.
  • December 21, 22Ursids Meteor Shower.  It peaks this year on the the night of the 21st and morning of the 22nd.  Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Ursa Minor, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • January 3, 4Quadrantids Meteor Shower. The Quadrantids is an above average shower, with up to 40 meteors per hour at its peak. The shower runs annually from January 1-5. It peaks this year on the night of the 3rd and morning of the 4th. The first quarter moon will set shortly after midnight leaving fairly dark skies for what could be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Bootes, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • January 12Full Moon.  This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Wolf Moon because this was the time of year when hungry wolf packs howled outside their camps. This moon has also been know as the Old Moon and the Moon After Yule.
  • January 12Venus at Greatest Eastern Elongation. This is the best time to view Venus since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky. Look for the bright planet in the western sky after sunset.
  • January 19 Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky. Look for the planet low in the eastern sky just before sunrise.
  • February 11Full Moon. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Snow Moon because the heaviest snows usually fell during this time of the year. Since hunting is difficult, this moon has also been known by some tribes as the Full Hunger Moon, since the harsh weather made hunting difficult.
  • March 20March Equinox. The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the Southern Hemisphere.

If you have a lot of trees your backyard or you simply are not getting the view that you want there are several places around Connecticut that offer public telescope viewing sessions.  Here is a list of just some of the observatories near your hometown that offer public viewing sessions:

  • Leitner Family Observatory, New Haven
  • Van Vleck Observatory, Middletown
  • Westside Observatory, Danbury
  • Olin Observatory, New London
  • Rolnick Observatory, Westport

The Supermoon coming up next Monday, November 14th will be a quite a sight but it will not be the only super spectacle of the 2016-2017.  Enjoy the views and remember that the expression “keep an eye on the sky” can be about more than just the weather.

 

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