In Our Skies, November 2023: Meteor Showers

by Shaphan Shank | Nov 1, 2022 | 0 comments

The second total lunar eclipse of 2022 will take place on the night of November 7–8. The eclipse will be most visible from eastern Asia, Oceania, and western and central North America. The eclipse will also be mostly visible from the eastern United States and Canada, but in these areas, the Moon will set before the eclipse is finished. Totality will last for about 85 minutes, beginning at 10:16 a.m. UTC and ending at 11:41 a.m. UTC on November 8. The Moon will be partially eclipsed for more than an hour before and after totality.

On the same night as the lunar eclipse, the Moon will pass between Earth and Uranus, temporarily blocking the distant planet from view. This phenomenon is called an occultation. The November 8 occultation will be visible from eastern Asia, where it will occur during the lunar eclipse, and from Alaska, where it will occur shortly after the eclipse.

The Leonid meteor shower will peak on the mornings of November 17 and 18. This shower is famous for occasionally producing phenomenal meteor storms, but most years it produces a ZHR (zenith hourly rate) of only 10 or 15. Unfortunately, the next Leonid meteor storm is not predicted to occur until 2099; this year’s shower will likely be a typical Leonid display. Like most other meteor showers, the Leonid shower performs best in the early morning hours. This year, the Moon will rise in the middle of the night on the 17th and 18th, interfering with early morning meteor observation.

Mars will reach opposition on the night of December 7–8. On this night, Mars will be on the opposite side of Earth from the Sun, rising around sunset and setting around sunrise. Opposition is also when Mars and Earth are closest together, so Mars will appear larger and brighter than it does at other points in its orbit, making this an ideal time for viewing the Red Planet. The most extraordinary part of this opposition is that the Full Moon will occult Mars on the night of the opposition. The occultation will be visible to most of the United States and Canada on the evening of the 7th, and it will be visible in Europe before sunrise on the 8th. The Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic states are just outside of the area where the occultation will be visible, but the Moon will still pass very close to Mars as seen from these areas.

The Geminid meteor shower will peak on the nights of December 13 and 14. This shower is the best and most reliable meteor shower of the year, with a predicted peak ZHR of 150. Unlike most other meteor showers, the Geminids perform well in both the evening and morning hours. This year, the Moon will rise in the late evening on the peak nights, so the best time to observe the shower will be in the evening before moonrise.

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