It has been a particularly good week for gazing at a cloudless night sky and there’s been plenty to see. First, a large batch of Starlink Satellites and then the Lyrid Meteors – all surprisingly clearly seen with the naked eye.
From October 2 to October 4, all being well, Marlborough will be hosting its first festival of arts and science dedicated to celebrating the night sky. Entitled Marlborough Dark Skies Fest, there will be stargazing workshops, solar astronomy, an interactive planetarium and more.
In preparation, Marlborough Town Council are posting ideas for night sky gazing on their Facebook page and on a dedicated Dark Skies Fest Facebook page.
While the Lyrid Meteors can be seen all week the peak was at 2am this morning, Wednesday April 22, according to the Go Stargazing Facebook page. This page was set up by an independent group of amateur astronomers who are eager to share their enthusiasm of astronomy with as wide an audience as possible.
This is what they had to say about the Lyrid Meteors :
“On this day each year as Earth orbits the Sun it passes through the left over dust particles of Comet Thatcher. As these particles hit the outer atmosphere, friction heats them (and the air around them) and they are often vapourised. The glowing column of air along the flight path is what we see as a meteor, or shooting star, streaking across the sky.
Even though shooting stars are particles of dust often no bigger than a grain of sand, the high speed of impact equates to an incredible amount of energy, which is why they can be so small yet so bright!
To see them scan the whole sky using your peripheral vision rather than looking in any specific direction and catching them out the corner of your eye. You may see about ten meteors per hour, perhaps as many as twenty if lucky and you have dark skies. Whilst there is a good chance of seeing some any time from dark the absolute best time to see them is 2am Wednesday morning when the Earth rotates in towards the dust cloud.
Note that these meteors are completely unrelated to the Starlink satellites and, when you see one, are far more impressive!
Have fun folks! Clear skies!”
And about the Starlink satellites :
“A batch of 60 satellites will be launched every two weeks or so. Soon after launch they appear much closer to each another, brighter and more impressive to see. These bright “trains” of freshly-launched Starlink satellites will become a common sight with a network of 12,000 of them planned over the coming years.
There is no avoiding the damage Starlink will inflict on the night sky. At full capacity, casual stargazers will be distracted by constant dots of motion in the sky. Amateur astronomers will find it difficult or impossible to take photos without streaks across each exposure. And professional astronomers and billions of dollars’ worth of equipment will become significantly less useful.”
For more information and insight into the problems “satellite constellations” will bring see https://www.iau.org/public/themes/satellite-constellations