The Orionid meteor shower: Coming to a sky near you!

As Earth intersects with the orbit of Halleys comet an amazing meteor shower will be visible from many parts of Britain (weather dependent unfortunately). The comet itself hasn’t been visible from Earth since 1986 and only appears in the inner solar system every 76 years, but we see the Orionid Meteor Shower every Autumn.

The meteor shower is a result of dust and residual chunks from the comet burning up on entry into Earth’s upper atmosphere, creating up to 25 shooting stars an hour!

The best time to see the meteor shower is between midnight and dawn during October 20th and 21st, but it might be possible to see meteors until November 7th. Unfortunately, this year the shower doesn’t seem to be as intense in past years where we’ve observed up to 70 meteors per hour.

To see the Orionid Meteor Shower look just north of the constellation Orion, which gives its name to the shower as it seems to radiate from this constellation.

Orion is one of the most recognisable constellations, observable in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres (Note: he stands on his head if you’re looking from “down under”). To find Orion, look in the Southwestern sky if you are in the Northern hemisphere or the Northwestern sky if you’re in the Southern hemisphere and look for three bright stars that form an almost-straight line. These stars are his belt. This website is also a fantastic tool for finding your way around the stars, as well as some pretty good mobile apps (Skymap is the one I use).

Image credit: http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/earthskys-meteor-shower-guide

‘We are made of star stuff’ – #2 – The Big Bang

After recently becoming fascinated with astronomy, I thought I would expand on my original article – about the creation of atoms in the heart of dying stars – and make a mini blog series on astronomy. While it is my intention to write about all things space and physics that fascinate me, there is a LOT of ground to cover. It will therefore be a very brief and perhaps superficial look.

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Continue reading ‘We are made of star stuff’ – #2 – The Big Bang

‘We are made of star stuff’ – Carl Sagan

The fact that the elements that make up our bodies, our animals and our ‘apple trees’ were created in the interior furnaces of stars and then catapulted across the universe in violent stellar explosions was said with great poetic beauty by Carl Sagan in 1973. In his book: “The cosmic connection: an extraterrestrial perspective” he said:-

‘Our sun is a second- or third-generation star. All of the rocky and metallic material we stand on, the iron in our blood, the calcium in our teeth, the carbon in our genes were produced billions of years ago in the interior of a red giant star. We are made of star-stuff’

Continue reading ‘We are made of star stuff’ – Carl Sagan