People who love to watch ‘shooting stars’ might be disappointed as the meteor shower which occurs in the months of October and November – Orinid and Leonids respectively – might not be visible this year with the moon outshining their brightness.
Raghunandan Kumar, director, Planetary Society, India informed that as the distance of the moon from earth decreases, the brightness of the moon increases, which diminishes visibility of the meteor shower.
He further added during the Orinid meteor shower, which peaks in the end of October, 20-25 meteors can be seen in one hour while during Leonids, 15 meteors per hour can be seen. “As disappointing as this may be, the Geminids shower in December, a prominent meteor shower, will be a visual spectacle with around 120 meteors per hour being seen,” the director added.
Clearing the misconception that shooting stars are actual stars falling from the sky, Kumar says that meteors are in fact the debris of comets, which when passing through the earth’s orbit at a high velocity, burn up and shine – giving the illusion of a falling star. “The Orinid shower is actually the debris left behind by Comet Halley, while Leonids gets its name from the meteors that appear to radiate from the constellation Leo,” he shared.
Besides the bright moonlight eclipsing the visibility of the meteor showers, the high pollution levels and light waves are also adding to the depreciating visibility of the sky in general.
“In recent years, especially in urban areas, the haze of light pollution and other pollutants have been obstructing the view in the sky. People have to go to outskirts of a city to get a good glimpse of meteor showers,” said Kumar.
Well, tough luck with the meteor showers, but curious sky watchers may satiate their curiosity by watching planet Venus and Saturn in the West direction during evenings while Jupiter and Mars can be seen in the East direction before sunrise.
However, planet Saturn will disappear from the evening sky by the end of October and will be seen in morning sky from November. If all bright lights in the sky appear to be the same, the director further tells us how to differentiate between stars and planets. “While stars shine and twinkle, planets do not twinkle and can be seen with the naked eye.”
So get your telescopes out, and have fun star gazing.