Sunday 10 December 2023

Geminid Meteor Shower

 Get set for the Geminid meteor shower: a shooting star spectacular for the end of the year! Many people look out for the annual Perseid meteor shower, which occurs in August. It is, however, not the most spectacular meteor shower. The Geminids hold that title and they can be seen this month. The Geminids reach maximum on the nights of December 13/14 and December 14/15 when up to 120 meteors per hour might be seen.

Meteors are connected with comets. As a comet, which is essentially a dirty snowball, travels around the Sun, it leaves a trail of dust behind it. If the Earth happens to pass through such a trail we see a meteor shower. The Earth passes through many such streams each year. Some of the meteor showers are spectacular; others less so, but they are all predictable. The Geminids are so called because the meteors all seem to come from the constellation of Gemini the Twins. They are special because they are associated not with a comet but with an asteroid, called Phaethon.

The pieces of dust produced by asteroids are slightly larger than those produced by comets and because of this they travel through the Earth’s atmosphere more slowly, making them much brighter than the usual meteors. The Geminids travel at about twenty miles a second, while most other meteors travel at speeds closer to forty miles per second. The dust particles burn up due to friction in the Earth’s atmosphere.

If there are no clouds we should be in for a spectacular event. If you see a meteor or shooting star in the sky, remember to make a wish!


Saturday 9 December 2023

Transit of Venus seen from India in 1874


Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser

Friday 11th December 1874

Transit of Venus

This station (Roorkee) is in fact a contribution made by the Government of India at the suggestion of Colonel Tennant B.E, ( Bengal Engineers), who in and since 1865 has rendered valuable aid in the observations of many interesting astronomical phenomena visible in Indian territory, especially the total eclipse of 1868 and 1871.

The suggestion of Colonel Tennant was at once warmly taken up by the viceroy in conjunction with the home government with a view to their future use in subsequent inquiries. The instruments sent out by Colonel Strange, of the India Stores Department are of the utmost precession and delicacy.

The temporary observatory erected by Col. Tennant at Roorkee, the seat of the Indian Civil Engineering College at the foot of the Himalayas, now contain a refractor of 6 inch aperture made by T Cooke & Sons York.

Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser

Saturday 12th December 1874

Colonel Tennant from Roorkee says that during the transit one hundred photographs of the planet had been taken.

Probably if nothing else had been done, this would have secured to England an honourable place in the record of investigations.


Friday 8 December 2023

Sun Pillars seen at the Harrogate Observatory in 1902

At the Harrogate Corporation Observatory on January 7th 1902 Sun Pillars were seen. Earlier displays were seen on December 3rd 1901. On both occasions the following was noted:-

a) The presence of Cirrus Cloud.

b) These clouds must be in a banded or striated form.

c) They must lie at right angles to the path of the Sun.

d) These clouds must of course be present in the immediate neighbourhood of the setting Sun.

The altitude of this station is 480 feet Latitude 54 degrees North, 1 degree 36 minutes west.

G.Paul Corporation Observatory, Harrogate

Wednesday 6 December 2023

Halley’s Comet is furthest from the Sun on December 9th 2023

Possibly the most famous comet, it was observed by Edmond Halley in 1682 who realised that it seemed similar to the comets of 1531 and 1607. He predicted it would return in 1758, Halley himself died in 1742,. Then on Christmas night 1758 the comet was seen right on schedule. It has since been known as Halley’s comet.

Although on average it takes 76 years to orbit the Sun, the orbit of comet Halley can vary between 75 to 79 years.

A comet is really like a giant snowball travelling around the Sun, as it approaches the Sun it heats up, and gas and ice are melted off the comet producing the wonderful tail that people associate with comets.

As a comets travels around the Sun it leaves a trail of dust behind it. If the Earth happens to pass through any of these dust streams we see what astronomers call a meteor shower. There are several well known ones each year. Meteors or shooting stars as they are often referred to are grains of comet dust burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

The Earth passes through the stream of dust left behind by comet Halley not one but twice a year. In May we have the Eta Aquarid meteor shower and in October we see the Orionid meteor shower. If you see any meteors from these showers you are looking at tiny grains of dust from comet Halley burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

So on December 9th 2023 comet Halley is at its furthest point from the Sun in its orbit. A point that is referred to by astronomers as its point of Aphelion. In fact at the moment Halley’s comet is actually beyond the orbit of the planet Neptune.

After that it will begin its journey back to the inner solar system reaching its closest point or Perihelion point to the Sun on July 28th 2061


Monday 4 December 2023

The Astronomy Show

 Join me, Martin Lunn tonight and every Monday evening from 7.00 pm-9.00 pm on the Astronomy Show, probably the only regular astronomy show on any radio station in the country.

I will take my weekly look at the night sky and look at all the latest news in astronomy. There will be the astronomical anniversaries this week plus the A-Z of Constellations and Astronomy in Yorkshire - God’s Own Country.

The Astronomy Show every Monday evening only on Drystone Radio live on line at DAB radio in Bradford and East Lancashire, or 102 and 103.5 FM and can also be heard later on the Drystone Radio Podcast.

Large fire near Dunsink observatory in 1895

Bradford Daily Telegraph Monday 7th October 1895

A fire occurred on Saturday October 5th at Rathbone’s candle factory near Dunsink Observatory, county Dublin, and properly estimated £80,000 was destroyed. The heat was so intense that it was found impossible to reach a water tank in the yard attached to the premises, and the only supply available was procured from an old quarry nearby. Tons of finished candles were and the buildings completely destroyed.


Sunday 3 December 2023

An astronomical observatory for Grimsby in 1899?

 Bradford Daily Telegraph Wednesday 24th May 1899

The Mayor of Grimsby has promised to erect an observatory in the public park. The observatory is to have an approach of 80 steps to correspond with Her Majesty’s years of life.